Kenosha, Wisconsin voters unwilling to tolerate government officials who oversee elections accepting funds from private partisan interests have lodged a sworn complaint against the city’s mayor and former city clerk. On February 23, 2022, Thomas More Society attorneys filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Election Commission on behalf of the voters who assert that Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and former City Clerk Matt Krauter violated state election law prohibiting bribery by entering into an agreement with the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a partisan, special interest organization, to accept more than $860,000 for the purpose of facilitating in-person and absentee voting in targeted areas of the city. The non-profit Chicago-based organization was led and staffed by former Democratic activists and funded in the amount of over $400 million by billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to influence the 2020 election.
This latest complaint before the commission follows a previous complaint against Kenosha, and four other Wisconsin cities, Racine, Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee. The first round of complaints alleged that these cities each selectively facilitated an increase in in-person and absentee voting by accepting private funding from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. These complaints were dismissed by the commission and are on appeal in the circuit courts in these cities. The current complaint against Kenosha follows two separate filings against the mayors and clerks of Racine and Green Bay on January 27, 2022, and February 11, 2022, respectively.
Erick Kaardal, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, described that the complaints assert – based on documented evidence – that the Center for Tech and Civic Life persuaded officials of Wisconsin’s five largest cities to sign contractual “gift” or “grant” agreements for funds publicly billed as COVID-19 response grants.
Kaardal explained, “These contracts bound the municipal officials to quid pro quo reciprocal duties, including ‘clawback’ provisions requiring repayment of the grant monies to the Center for Tech and Civic Life if the organization disagreed with how the cities spent the money and conducted their 2020 elections.” According to the complaint, officials were restricted to use the huge dollar investments to increase voter turnout in a discriminatory way favoring urban areas over rural communities. One stipulation in the grant agreement required Center for Tech and Civic Life-funded absentee ballot drop boxes to be placed in targeted areas; however, Wisconsin law prohibits absentee ballot drop boxes.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life overall dispensed $8.8 million to the five Wisconsin cities, which later became known as the “Wisconsin 5.” The cities were required to outsource many of their election processes to the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s designated activists, who then oversaw and administered the election in conflict with Wisconsin state election laws. Other conditions for accepting the grants included employing “voter navigators” to help voters “complete their ballots.” These “voter navigators” later acted as election inspectors. These cities were also directed to use paid social media and print and radio advertising to persuade minority voters to request and complete absentee ballots.
“This is a blatant abuse of election law,” Kaardal declared. “The mayor of Kenosha and the city clerk joined city officials of Racine, Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay to obtain huge so-called ‘gifts’ or ‘grants’ from private partisan interests to take over the administration of a core traditional governmental function that from the beginnings of our nation has been intended to be nonpartisan and public. These officials gave away the administration of the election process in exchange for cold, hard cash.”
Kaardal added that Kenosha common council members were not involved in the process.
“Mayor Antaramian and former City Clerk Krauter, without knowledge or participation of common council members, entered a contractual agreement to adopt and abide by ‘election plans’ designed by the Center for Tech and Civic Life. These so-called plans targeted specific demographic populations for increased efforts to boost in-person and absentee voting. In exchange for this selective voter targeting, Kenosha received more than $860,000 in grant monies subject to oversight by the Center for Tech and Civil Life. The fact that Antaramian and Krauter accepted money to allow the Center for Tech and Civic Life to direct their city’s election process makes it election bribery. Private organizations don’t have the right to influence elections by dumping money into a process that is intended and required to be run by governmental entities in an impartial, non-discriminatory fashion. That is at the root of our democratic self-governing republic, and why we’ve fought for civil rights.”
Kaardal added, “It doesn’t matter if election bribery was intended to benefit Republicans or Democrats. Whatever the partisan intent, this illegal activity undermines the trust of Wisconsin voters in the outcome of our elections. State and election administration officials should be held accountable and punished. The Wisconsin Election Commission appears blind to this but Wisconsin voters want it stopped.”
Kaardal noted that the voters’ complaints have prompted a response from the Washington D.C.- based Election Official Legal Defense Network, a group led by individuals with ties to Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, the Obama White House, and Mark Zuckerberg. At a December 13, 2021 press conference in Madison, the group offered pro bono legal services to defend Wisconsin officials against charges of wrongdoing in the 2020 election. Kaardal explained that “The Election Official Legal Defense Network website lists Bob Bauer, David Becker, and Ben Ginsberg as its leaders. Bob Bauer was Barack Obama’s White House counsel, and founder of Perkins Coie’s Political Law practice which he headed for 28 years before leaving Perkins Coie in 2018. He served as a senior advisor to Joe Biden’s 2020 Presidential campaign. David Becker is a founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), which received $69 million from Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation in 2020 and contributed $12 million to the Michigan Center for Election Law and Administration (MCELA) founded by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Ben Ginsberg was appointed by Barack Obama to co-chair with Bauer Obama’s Commission on Elections.”
A poll released by Rasmussen Reports on December 23, 2021, reveals that 70% of likely voters think Zuckerberg’s use of money to influence the 2020 presidential election was a bad thing for democracy. The published summary, Voters Against ‘Zuckerbucks ’ Influencing Elections , reports that most still believe that cheating influenced the outcome. Notably, by a more than 2 to1 margin, American voters believe it is more important to make sure there is no cheating in elections. Almost two-thirds, 65%, ranked election integrity as a category above the ease of voting. That opinion was supported by a majority across all racial demographics: 67% of White voters, 59% of Black voters, and 60% of other minority voters ranked the prevention of cheating in elections as taking priority over voter convenience (32%).
Ten states including Florida, Texas, and Arizona, have recently passed laws prohibiting private funds from being used to fund administration of public elections, according to a report by the Capital Research Center. However, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers vetoed Wisconsin Assembly Bill 173 on June 30, 2021, which would similarly have prohibited private funding of elections in Wisconsin. As Kaardal notes, “Wisconsin’s clear election bribery statutes enable prosecution of this illegal behavior currently. Other states may see Wisconsin as the gold standard and adopt their own election bribery laws to create the appropriately strong penalties that deter this behavior in the future.”
“It’s no wonder that Kenosha voters are angry,” said Kaardal. “Voting is an important privilege of democracy. To have it tampered and interfered with by an obviously partisan special interest organization is something that American citizens will not tolerate.”
Read the Complaint filed February 23, 2022, in the State of Wisconsin before the Elections Commission by Thomas More Society attorneys, on behalf of Wisconsin voters against the mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin, here.
Read the two Complaints filed January 27, 2022, and February 11, 2022, in the State of Wisconsin before the Elections Commission by Thomas More Society attorneys, on behalf of Wisconsin voters against the mayors of Racine and Green Bay:
Racine Election Bribery: here.
Corrected Green Bay Election Bribery: here.
Read the five Complaints Seeking Review of WEC Decisions, filed January 5, 2022, in the Wisconsin Circuit Courts of Brown, Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine Counties by Thomas More Society attorneys, on behalf of groups of Wisconsin voters against the Wisconsin Elections Commission here:
- Carlstedt et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission (Brown County)
- Liu et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission (Dane County)
- Thomas et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission (Kenosha County)
- Werner et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission (Milwaukee County)
- Prujansky et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission (Racine County)
SOURCE Thomas More Society