MacIver News Service | August 4, 2011[Milwaukee…] It appears that the BBQ for votes incident will not be subject to vigorous investigations by either state or local authorities.
The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office tells the MacIver News Service that the nature of the complaint makes them reluctant to go after a liberal group that offered free food and prize giveaways in conjunction with rides to the polls on Monday. Two separate complaints allege the group illegally assisted State Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) in the August 9 Recall Election of State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).
Wisconsin Jobs Now! advertised voter block parties on its website, where there would be free Speed Queen barbecue and prize drawings. There were also vans there to take people to the polls to vote absentee.
“Let’s stand strong and united for good jobs and against massive budget cuts and tax breaks.” their website invitation urged.
Darling voted for the 2011-12 state budget and a co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance played a key role in putting the plan together.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin and Media Trackers, a conservative non-profit, non-partisan investigative watchdog, filed complaints about the block parties. According to Media Trackers,
On August 1, a source who wishes to remain anonymous attended a Wisconsin Jobs Now! “block party” and witnessed a number of illegal activities firsthand. Upon checking in, the source was given a free meal ticket and a raffle ticket for a prize drawing before being whisked away in a white van to Milwaukee City Hall. At Milwaukee City Hall, personnel wearing Wisconsin Jobs Now! t-shirts explained the ballot and assisted voters with registration forms all from inside the Milwaukee Election Commission office, a polling location.
The Media Trackers complaint alleged Wisconsin Jobs Now! violated two sections of Chapter 12 of the Wisconsin statutes: those covering election bribery and electioneering at a polling place.
Earlier this week, Peter Pickett of the Government Accountability Board told the MacIver News Service it would be illegal to give people anything of value before giving them rides to the polls. It is also illegal to combine giveaways with transportation to the polls.
“If they walk in with a sticker that says ‘I voted ‘that’s one thing, but if they eat before they vote that’s a problem,” Pickett said. “It’s still a questionable practice on way or the other.”
The Republican Party of Wisconsin and Media Trackers filed formal complaints with GAB about this incident.
In addition to the online posting, the event was also captured on video by multiple media outlets.
A GAB official told the MacIver News Service it had discussed the complaints with the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office and that it was then up to the DA to take further action. The District Attorney’s office confirmed receipt of one of the complaints.
“We take these things very seriously,” Bruce Landgraf, Assistant District Attorney, said. “It’s under review.”
Wisc. Jobs Now! Vans Parked Outside Milw. City Hall
However, ADA Landgraf claims the office can’t do much about this potential criminal activity because the person who witnessed the transactions detailed in Media Trackers’ original report is unwilling to publicly disclose his or her identity.
“The police are at a disadvantage trying to investigate these things after the fact,” Landgraf said. “The people who got the free stuff are never very cooperative.”
Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty told MacIver News that it appears the District Attorney’s office isn’t taking the complaint very seriously, despite Landgraf’s claim.
“Look, if you have an anonymous tip that someone is engaging in criminal activity, your investigation isn’t necessarily contingent on that person going public,” said Esenberg, who also serves as an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School.
Esenberg said that merely based on media accounts and archives of Wisconsin Jobs Now!’s own website, The District Attorney should have more than enough evidence from the picnic/prize give away/absentee ballot block parties to begin conducting a thorough investigation.
“Here you have a public invitation to come and be provided with goodies and a ride to the polls,” he said. “That’s ample evidence to warrant him to at least pick up the phone or have the cops pick up the phone.”
A review of campaign finance data available on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s website indicates Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm is a major donor to Pasch, having contributed $350 to her in 2008.