MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has refused to provide assistance in criminal investigations of political corruption by the campaigns of Republicans or investigate leaks about the criminal probe. He has even declared that a blatant example of “pay-to-play” in which a Republican wrote legislation to personally benefit a major campaign contributor was not worthy of investigation but in Schimel’s words, “the essence of representative government.” But today Schimel announced he would be deploying agents from the Department of Justice as part of his “election integrity” effort.
“With his record he simply can’t be trusted with something so important as guaranteeing every legal voter in Wisconsin has the opportunity to cast their vote and to have that vote counted,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Instead of fairly enforcing the laws, Attorney General Brad Schimel has been an outrageous partisan looking the other way time and again as his fellow Republicans flouted the laws”
To justify his proposed dispatching of agents from the Department of Justice, Schimel echoed the familiar phony allegations his fellow Republicans have used to justify a decades-long campaign against voting rights: fraud. Yet on multiple occasions in litigation on voting rights, Schimel’s Department of Justice has failed to provide any evidence of widespread voting impropriety in Wisconsin. In fact, federal district court Judge Lynn Adelman wrote that in a 2014 decision on the GOP voter ID law that, “… defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”
In the case One Wisconsin Institute, et. al. v. Thomsen, et. al. Schimel defended GOP-passed laws that make voting harder and more complicated to vote, including limits on early voting dates, hours and locations. Judge James Peterson, ruling against Schimel on multiple issues including the state’s administration of its strict voter ID law, wrote that, “The evidence in this case casts doubt on the notion that voter ID laws foster integrity and confidence” and that the “… voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.”
Schimel is not the first Republican Attorney General in Wisconsin to attempt to use the office to provide his party with an electoral advantage. His predecessor in the office, J.B. Van Hollen, as state chair of the McCain for President campaign in 2008, and in consultation with the state Republican Party, used the Attorney General’s office to file a lawsuit in an unsuccessful effort to purge state voter rolls of legal voters.
Nor is Schimel the first high ranking Republican to try to organize voter intimidation efforts in polling places. In 2002, the state Elections Board enacted new guidelines for poll-watchers in response to former head of the Wisconsin Republican Party and now Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus’s leading a racially-charged voter intimidation scheme in Milwaukee. In 2008, Priebus’ Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out an email recruiting volunteers for alleged ‘inner city’ voter intimidation in Milwaukee. And in 2010, Priebus was cited by name, in an aborted voter caging plot targeting minorities and college students involving the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity and Wisconsin’s Tea Party leaders.
Finally, a voter intimidation billboard campaign around Milwaukee in 2010 and 2012 turned out to be financed by Republican donors, including one year in which the billboards were financed by the Bradley Foundation, then run by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign chair, Michael Grebe.
Ross concluded, “The only fraud in Wisconsin is partisan politicians like Brad Schimel, Scott Walker and the Republican legislature using their power and manipulating the rules on voting to give themselves an unfair advantage. Far from guaranteeing election integrity, Schimel’s involving himself in monitoring this election is a harbinger of shenanigans.”