A complaint filed before the Wisconsin Elections Commission last week alleges that Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl have violated the state election bribery law.
The complaint was filed by attorneys with the public interest law firm Thomas More Society on behalf of a private citizen and Madison voter. The case claims the city officials broke the bribery law by accepting private funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to enhance in-person and absentee voting procedures.
The statute that was allegedly violated is similar to anti-bribery laws that have been enacted in 16 states. Those laws regulate or prohibit public election officers from accepting private funds.
The complaint alleges that the mayor and city clerk entered into a contract with the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a special interest partisan organization. The group is based in Chicago and is staffed with Democratic activists and was heavily funded by Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
The agreement involved the officials accepting more than $1.2 million to modify in-person and absentee voting in Madison in violation of Wisconsin state law. The Thomas More Society attorneys have also filed complaints in Wisconsin for similar violations by officials in Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, and Green Bay.
The complaint describes how the Center for Tech and Civic Life convinced officials in large cities in Wisconsin to execute “gift” agreements for funds described as COVID-19 grants. In return, the officials agreed to move forward with the “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan.” The plan had nothing substantive to do with public health but outsourced election administration to partisan private “experts.”
Thomas More Society attorney Erick Kaardal said the complaint reveals a statewide scheme by the Center for Tech and Civic Life to directly and illegally influence the outcome of the 2020 election in Wisconsin. He said that the group used the pretense of controlling COVID-19 to funnel money to its “partners” in the state.
He said that although the damage done to the 2020 election cannot be undone, it is his firm’s duty to ensure that election corruption is rooted out and integrity is returned to the process. He added that voters deserve to know that elections are fair and honest going forward, and that the “snakes in the grass have been hunted down and eliminated.”
Kaardal went on to say that voting is not something “to be sold to the highest bidder.” He said that the Madison officials “exchanged freedom for cash” by selling control of the 2020 election to a coalition of special interest groups. Kaardal said, “That’s election bribery, pure and simple — and it’s wrong.”