Free BBQ and Prizes for Voters Raise Questions of Legality, Collusion

MacIver News Service | August 1, 2011

Image from the Wisconsin Jobs Now! website

[Milwaukee, Wisc…] Two events held in Milwaukee today aimed at rewarding absentee voters could run afoul of Wisconsin law a state election official said today.

The group, Wisconsin Jobs Now! describes itself as a “coalition of community groups, neighborhood associations, faith based organizations and labor united in an effort to bring good jobs to Wisconsin now.”

At two events in the city Monday, Wisconsin Jobs Now! offered free BBQ and prize drawings to people who participate in their absentee voting drive. They promoted the events on their website,

Wisconsin statutes forbid “election bribery,” under 12.11.  This includes giving or offering anything of value in exchange for going to the polls.

Steve Pickett, an elections specialist with the Government Accountability Board, told the MacIver News Service that whether this event is legal or not could come down to timing.

“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.”

Photo of GOTV van from Wisconsin Jobs Now! Facebook page

In a scheme that brought national attention to the issue several years ago, Connie Milstein, a Democrat volunteer from New York handed out cigarettes to the homeless in Milwaukee in 2000, apparently in exchange for going to the polls on Election Day. She later agreed to pay a $5,000 civil forfeiture for the offense.

Pickett said in the past GAB has previously looked into bars offering free beer if patrons came in with an “I Voted” sticker.  In those cases the Board eventually decided that was okay.

“Nothing says they can’t, because it’s after,” said Pickett.

Their website has been highly critical of Republican Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), and in addition to the get out the vote parties, the organization has been organizing and shuttling voters to Milwaukee’s city hall.

Earlier on Monday, the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the GAB alleging illegal coordination between Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the campaign of Sandy Pasch (D-Millwaukee), Darling’s challenger.

The RPW complaint comes on the revelation by Media Trackers that Pasch sits on the board of directors of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.  The Republican Party asked the Government Accountability Board to conduct investigation into whether Sandy Pasch’s membership on the Board of Directors for Citizen Action of Wisconsin violated Section 11.06(7) of the Wisconsin statutes concerning illegal coordination between candidates and independent expenditure organizations.

CAW has been active in organizing for the recalls and get out the vote efforts across the state and has been making independent expenditures in support of Pasch and against Darling in recent days.

In what could be another indication of coordination between the various groups, the MacIver News Service discovered that the address and phone number for Wisconsin Jobs Now! and Citizen Action of Wisconsin are the same. Matthew Brusky is listed as the treasurer of Wisconsin Jobs Now.  A Matthew Brusky is also listed as the political director at Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

We attempted to reach representatives for both Citizen Action and Jobs Now! but were unsuccessful. A message left with someone who answered  a call made to their shared telephone phone number, went unreturned.