This is the research the mainstream media wouldn’t do, and didn’t report, on the hyper-partisan, overtly political actors who turned local government employees into their private campaign staff when they took over Wisconsin elections in 2020
Sep 8, 2022
We’re rapidly approaching another November election and, as the state continues to grapple with election integrity problems exposed in the 2020 cycle, it’s worth reviewing the unreported and underreported aspects of how the deeply partisan Zuckerbucks takeover of election administration in our largest population centers caused – and exposed – shortcomings in the transparency and security of our elections.
How the mainstream media reported it:
This merry band of incredibly kind, non-partisan, charitable do-gooders sort of all independently were really worried about a mask shortage for poll workers and voters, and how any municipality could ever possibly afford prohibitively expensive pieces of plexiglass – and honestly theses guys never had a thought about partisan politics even once in their lives, they are just totally, totally good souls – so they stumbled upon each other and went out and found this nice man from Facebook who would give them a few bucks so they could invest in the safety of Wisconsinites as they exercised their right to vote.
Because really, who doesn’t love Wisconsin?
How it really went down:
Extreme partisans, trained and seasoned campaign strategists, election clerks who had to be sued to follow their own state’s laws, backed by groups whose stated goals were to decrease election security and increase turnout of democrat voting blocks, came into Wisconsin – consistently one of the top couple states with the highest voter turnout – dumping millions into our large cities – as much as $53 per voter in some places – in a pay-to-play scheme requiring largely willing partisan local election officials to use their cash and their data expertise in very specific contractually guaranteed ways to target certain voters in a first-in-Wisconsin government-executed, Get-Out-The-Democrat-Vote campaign exercise.
Because really, if you don’t boost Democrat margins in your biggest population centers, how are you going to deliver a Democrat win?
The Rest of the Story
The money poured in to 5 key vote-rich cities in a high-turnout, high-stakes, highly purple state, cities that almost exclusively had highly partisan Democrat local officials who were willing to flout state election laws, and cede the responsibilities of their office to more skilled campaign strategists in order to “deliver just the margin needed” as one such admiring former Cook County, Illinois (bastion of election skullduggery) election staff praised Milwaukee’s clerk for doing.
Opportunistic Takeover of Wisconsin’s Election Administration
What they pulled off is part of a long-range, coordinated effort, and these groups and their funders are not done meddling in elections to achieve partisan goals.
The groups were working toward the shared goals of increasing mail-in voting, decreasing election security, and leveraging data – using the power of big tech to turn data points into democrat votes well before the 2020 cycle.
Hundreds of millions of Zuckerbucks simply enabled them to implement their agenda at the speed of light on a grand scale by turning local election officials into campaign operatives using data and dollars to turn out select demographic groups.
Two years ago this week, a highly organized, well-funded, interconnected coalition of democratic campaign strategists and partisan activists were in the process of taking over election administration in Wisconsin’s largest cities. Under the pretense of helping underfunded local election offices afford PPE and other measures to ensure voters and poll workers were able to vote “safely,” money poured into Wisconsin, with strings attached.
The groups had innocuous-sounding names; The National Vote at Home Institute, The Center for Tech and Civic Life, and The Elections Group. Their funding, $328 million, came from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation.
While the media, mainstream and otherwise, occasionally noted that the staff and founders of these groups “leaned left” or had “liberal ties” there was no attempt to do a real dive into the background and expertise of these partisan operatives or their goals. These strategists executed an audacious takeover of the largest election offices across the state, stunning in its scope and complexity, guaranteeing the compliance of elections officials with contracts requiring the election would be conducted according to their rules.
This was not a group of charitable-minded do-gooders who just wanted to make sure voters and poll workers had masks; the intensely partisan operatives, every one of them Democrat-only campaign financiers, included:
It’s unlikely readers know about Hillary Hall’s role in obstruction of election integrity in her home state or in Wisconsin, because the mainstream media never bothered to cover it.
A former Boulder County election clerk and Democrat Party chair who was sued twice, in 2021 and 2014, for refusing to comply with Colorado election transparency law and denying observers reasonable access to view the counting of mail-in ballots. The Libertarian who sued Hall in 2012 for these violations said she was using her position as election administrator to “tilt the playing field” toward her party, giving them an advantage in voting.
The 2014 case against Hall said she stood apart from all other clerks in the state in refusing to give poll watchers access to observe, as well as setting up a system where no election judge or observer is allowed to witness the handling of overseas and military votes, making it impossible to tell whether they have been properly counted.
Not surprising then that Hall’s intervention and advice in Milwaukee was also a site where observers say that, like the voters in Colorado during Hall’s tenure, they also were kept from observing the process. Hall was so intimately involved in the Milwaukee election administration that she reviewed RFPs put out by city government. She’d begun to work with the Milwaukee clerk before the dollars arrived, steering them toward drop box and absentee ballot automation vendors. When the money began to flow, Hall placed staff on the ground here to make sure their rules were followed.
Similarly, the mainstream media never spent a moment talking about how a rank partisan from MA, the kind of hyper-liberal candidate who shows up to rev up the crowd at Socialist rallies, waltzed in to Green Bay’s city hall two months before election day and took over key elements of election administration there, and acted to intimidate local election observers.
An uber-liberal Massachusetts Democrat activist, delegate to the Democrat National Convention, state senate candidate repeatedly fined for ignoring campaign finance report requirements, and anti-Trump organizer, Rivera-Wagner was placed in a Green Bay city government position 2 months before the election.
Rivera speaks at a 2018 Socialist rally against fascists, the alt-right, capitalists, white people perpetuating white supremacy, the capitalist white supremacist state, the oppression of imperialists, and Other Terrible People
From his position, Rivera-Wagner provided false credentials to outside operatives, blocked poll workers from talking to the elected clerk, directed ED logistics, and called the police to silence election observers who expressed concern with Election Day operations, in a clear act of intimidation.
This out-of-state, hyper-partisan activist with just weeks of tenure with the city, was the last person to leave central count on election night. And he was nicely rewarded for his work when Democrat Mayor Genrich appointed him chief of staff.
There are a few more mentions of Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein simply because he was so aggressive and so omni-present, and so arrogant that he didn’t care about the paper trail he left proving his improper, illegal involvement in our elections. But even though it took nearly no effort on their part to read the paper trail, the mainstream media gave short-shrift to even Spitzer-Rubenstein.
A former Obama campaign staffer and BLM supporter from NY who controlled every aspect of Green Bay election administration from the redesign of absentee voting to sign placement, from their ballot tracking system to possession of the keys to the ballot storage location and the sole authority over access to the “secure” ballot location.
He prepared voter instructions, reviewed RFP submissions, managed the internet security arrangements for central count, created the training manual for poll workers, designed staffing levels for central count and the physical layout of the room. He was given daily access to the poll list updates, something outside groups must pay for.
Tiana Epps-Johnson and Whitney Mays
Alums of the hyper-partisan progressive campaign operative training group the New Organizing Institute (NOI) who founded Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and developed contracts binding Wisconsin election officials to implement CTCL’s Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) strategy. The contracts were equal parts CYA for the locals (‘oh golly we didn’t have a choice, we had to engage in campaign activity targeting Democrat voters or they’d take away our mask money and everyone would probably die’) and a big stick to bludgeon any potentially recalcitrant local government.
For years leading into the 2020 cycle, Obama darling and Fellow Epps-Johnson and Mays hosted Ballot Data Convening events partnering with Democracy Fund, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project (recently exposed for faking redistricting data to benefit Democrats), the League of Women Voters, and We Vote (which collects personal data on issues including climate change and animal rights, to produce “ballot recommendations”) to set common goals on the data-mining of ballot, personal, school, utility and issue data; provide “authoritative” information to voters; and co-opt local election officials to pressure their vendors to assist the coalition.
Ryan Chew and Noah Praetz
Former Cook County, IL election officials, these partisans were experts in drop box implementation, absentee ballot processing, and ballot curing. The thing is, drop boxes and ballot curing are illegal in Wisconsin, Illinois doesn’t require voter identification, and their votes are counted behind closed doors without observation. So their expertise didn’t apply to lawful Wisconsin elections, but rather Chicago-style maneuvering.
The Pay-to-Play Takeover of Wisconsin Elections was Deeply Partisan, Opportunistic and Efficient
These groups and their people took control of Wisconsin’s largest election offices within a period of days. They knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish, and they didn’t leave anything to chance. They secured contractual agreements containing the threat of monetary claw-back. They embedded their staff in not only in every aspect of the election process, positioned to receive access to offices, information, and decision making that were not available to the public. In the case of Green Bay, with conservative city and county elected clerks, the groups knew they needed to up the ante with a physical presence, so with the help of the liberal mayor’s office, two East coast operatives were physically put in place there. They bulldozed, bamboozled, beguiled, or bullied the local staff as required, although mostly the cold hard cash bought them a welcome mat and starstruck admiration from their fellow partisans.
The CTCL funding rules put local government officials squarely in the role of campaigners. Geographic targeting and advertising designed to turn out only specific groups of voters is the wheelhouse of candidates, campaign committees, and outside groups and are heavily regulated (with substantial reporting requirements) for the purpose of transparency, ethics, and legal compliance. But if they wanted the cash – and what local official isn’t constantly begging for more money – they had to become campaigners. They willingly threw off the yoke of public trust and state statute.
And this is how the votes changed:
We Haven’t Seen the Last of These Campaign Activists’ Election Interference
CTCL plays the long game. Once the groundwork was laid, they could count on their partisan allies to dig in and knew their party’s Governor Evers would never sign legislation to restore election integrity. They knew the changes they set in motion would become entrenched for a number of elections beyond 2020. And here we are two years later; municipalities still have not taken down ballot drop boxes, clerks are still altering ballot certifications, and Racine is still using an RV purchased with CTCL dollars as a mobile “voting location.” Governor Evers vetoed legislation to ban private, outside, partisan money flowing into local government coffers in return for local officials violating election laws.
CTCL is not done with its electioneering activities. Earlier this year, they launched their new “Alliance for Election Excellence” which plans to “partner” local election officials with “world-class experts” to make up for being under-resourced. Local officials who commit to practices and procedures that will “enhance” voter experience are welcome. Translation: they’ve come up with a new way to co-opt local officials, they’ve got the funding to do it, and they are looking for election officials who will do things their way.
So much has been written about the failure of WEC in preventing the CTCL/Facebook hijacking. But the story goes beyond WEC’s delinquency, and the blame goes much further.
The Locals Failed
The clerks failed to do their jobs. Local officials traded their integrity and compromised election integrity for money, partisan advantage, and ego-stroking. The Clerk’s Association, the League of Municipalities, the Towns Association, and the Counties Association took no action to back clerks and other local officials whose duties were being usurped. Instead, they created and paid for an ad campaign to tout the integrity of elections. Worse, the clerk’s association opposed legislation to require nondiscriminatory access to observe elections and to tighten election security, including eliminating some exemptions from Photo ID requirements – legislation that would have helped restore a little of the integrity they did nothing to preserve.
The Mainstream Media Failed
The media failed to exercise any diligence in looking at the agendas and partisanship of the individuals, groups, and the funders that usurped local control of elections in our most populous counties. When a former clerk who faced repeated lawsuits for limiting election transparency and observation pays a Wisconsin clerk’s office for access and that clerk then takes similar actions, the media should be reporting it.
You can search in vain for mentions of Hillary Hall and her background in blocking Libertarian and Republican election observers and fighting legal challenges to her actions. But Hall is mentioned only once in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage of Election 2020, as a “colleague” the Milwaukee clerk spoke to. Similarly, nobody questioned why a radical politician from Massachusetts with a pattern of violating campaign finance law was suddenly, as a partisan appointee of the mayor, put in a position of power over ballot handling. You won’t find even the tiniest musing about why, with the miserable reputation of Chicago election integrity, former Cook County election officials were allowed to have a voice.
And the mainstream media never really bothered to report on the hyper-partisan groups that took up residence here and took up the reins of authority in Wisconsin, transforming election offices into campaign headquarters.
Even if journalism schools spend the time formerly used to teach research skills on teaching liberal spin instead, there are ample opportunities for media outlets to get research training for reporters. Assuming they place any value on investigation, which seems unlikely, it’s beyond shameful that these outlets clearly did not spend even 5 minutes doing a minimal amount of research on the outside partisan groups that executed this unprecedented takeover of government elections.
CTCL was founded within NOI auspices and offices in 2014. NOI was an unapologetically campaign-focused left-wing group called the “Democrat Party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry” and the “Left’s New Death Star.” They trained democrats on campaign management, GOTV strategy, and logistics. And then they trained Wisconsin election officials in the same.
NOI staff founded CTCL, using their expertise to shape a sophisticated data collection operation, supplying ballot data to big tech. They also began “training” election officials on scaling up mail-in voting. In early 2020 CTCL was providing webinars, with collaborators NVHI, on targeting discrete demographic groups for turnout by ensuring equity and inclusion of only those specific groups, and organizing ballot drop-offs.
After contracts had been inked with Wisconsin election officials to adhere to CTCL guidelines, they put out a webinar on Election Misinformation, pointing to Donald Trump as a source, and pushing election officials to report – to CTCL-funder Facebook and others – social media posts they found upsetting, and encouraging officials to co-opt mainstream media to spread the CTCL party line.
CTCL partners with front groups for the New Venture Fund and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a group the Atlantic called the “heavyweight of Democratic dark money” shuffling massive amounts of untraceable money to progressives.
The National Vote at Home Institute (NVHI)
The chair and director of NVHI, a partner of Field Team 6 (Mission: Register Democrats, Save the World), is the former Democrat Secretary of State who ushered in the first mail-in voting system in the US. Also on the board: liberal mega-donor Stephen Silberstein.
NVHI rejects voter ID and ballot security measures as “burdensome” and pushes the proliferation of ballot drop boxes. They also advocate practices, like processing of absentee ballots more than 2 weeks before election, when there is little to no transparency or poll-watching oversight.
This Is Just The Beginning
The liberal groups that want to eliminate transparency and security in our elections got a huge boost from the hundreds of millions of Zuckerbucks, and Wisconsin elections are still impacted by their pay-to-play tactics of 2 years ago. Though numerous, costly lawsuits have worked through the courts and continue to be brought, their efforts will continue, because they’re playing the long game. With a governor who will shoot down legislation to tighten security and restore trust in the election system, voters can expect legal wrangling to continue. These groups play the long game, and their brazen, partisan takeover of our elections both emboldened and empowered them to continue their work.