Some of the most effective warriors in the war on election integrity are card-carrying members of the Grand Old Party.
In Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, according to his conservative critics, has ground to a halt a resolution that aims to impeach controversial Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe. The state’s top election official, who is accused of committing a raft of election integrity transgressions in her turbulent tenure, has been effectively squatting in the post since the Republican-controlled state Senate voted to boot her last fall — albeit “symbolically.“
It’s a big deal. Wolfe isn’t just Wisconsin’s problem. As it stands, she is the chief administrator of elections in the battleground Badger State, one of a handful of swing states that enjoyed outsized power in deciding the 2020 election — and is poised to do so again in November.
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, a Milwaukee-area Republican who has suffered Vos’ slings and arrows for being a thorn in the speaker’s side on election integrity, claims the man some conservatives derisively call “Boss Vos” is slow-walking Assembly Resolution 18 to its ultimate demise. The Assembly is expected to wrap up floor business by the end of the month, per the usual truncated election-year schedule.
There’s ample evidence to suggest as much. The speaker’s religiously obedient No. 2, Majority Leader Tyler August, claimed last month there’s just not enough support from rank-and-file Republicans to move the proposal out of committee, let alone to pass it in an Assembly controlled by a near supermajority of Republicans.
August snidely dismissed the resolution to open up the impeachment process.
“Our caucus is focused on real things, not grifting, and not making a big show for the cameras. And that’s all she’s interested in doing,” he said of Brandtjen.
Interestingly, the rotund but politically flexible majority leader has been a vehement critic of Wolfe and the commission she advises. In October 2021, after the Racine County Sheriff announced staff at a southeast Wisconsin nursing home “may have illegally voted on behalf” of eight cognitively impaired residents who were legally barred from voting, August called WEC a “rogue agency.”
But election integrity has become a double-edged sword for establishment Republicans in particular. It’s still immensely important to grassroots conservatives, but going after the Madison swamp doesn’t seem to pay the bills for Vos and crew. And Vos, by all accounts, is a master of reward and punishment with campaign funds.
The speaker took a lot of heat from the usual suspects on the left and their public relations agents in the accomplice media after he tapped former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to investigate the 2020 elections. Gableman, a conservative firebrand long loathed by the left, was eviscerated in the press from day one of the investigation. Democrats and their allies have done everything in — and outside — their power to silence criticism of the election that brought them a sweeping victory in the House, the Senate, and the presidency.
Looking to distance himself from what he clearly saw as a political liability, Vos ultimately sacked Gableman. The corporate media stories jubilantly declared that the 13-month, taxpayer-funded probe found no evidence of voter fraud, while shrugging off the suspect decisions by Wolfe, her staff, and the elections commission.
In late 2022, Vos removed Brandtjen from the elections committee she chaired. After months of public feuding, Vos said the outspoken lawmaker was “unqualified to have the job any longer.” He vilified her as the “one bad actor” out of the Assembly’s 64-member Republican caucus, which ousted Brandtjen in November 2022. She was labeled an “election denier” who promoted “misinformation” by the left and some of the more weak-kneed members of her own party, despite her exhaustive efforts in bringing alarming information to light.
Impeachment Vote ‘Unlikely’
Interestingly, the reprisals came after Brandtjen campaigned for the boss’s opponent Adam Steen in a heated 2022 primary and general election. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Steen after Vos rejected Trump’s call to decertify Wisconsin’s 2020 election results following the state Supreme Court’s finding that the use of ballot drop boxes violated state election law. Trump called Vos a RINO — a Republican in name only — and lambasted the speaker for what the former president saw as Vos’ tepid response to election malfeasance.
Vos squeaked out a narrow victory in the primary against his unknown opponent, but went on to trounce Steen’s write-in campaign in the general election.
So with all that bad blood and political baggage, the initiative to impeach the recalcitrant state elections chief — initially introduced in November — has indeed seemed to stall. Vos did move the resolution to committee, two days after conservative election integrity activists hit the airwaves with a TV ad demanding the speaker act.
State Rep. David Steffen, a Green Bay Republican who chairs the committee that holds the resolution, told The Federalist he could not comment on the proposal’s status. He claimed Brandtjen was “taking point” on the resolution. Steffen would not comment on whether leadership is trying to kill the impeachment drive. He has signed on as a cosponsor of the resolution and could recommend it be voted on.
Vos has said an impeachment vote was “unlikely” because Republicans were “nowhere near a consensus.” He has also insisted that the Assembly’s hands are tied by ongoing litigation. A leftist Madison judge’s temporary injunction in October blocked senators from firing Wolfe while a legal battle plays out in court.
“I think she should be replaced, but we now have to wait for the court process to work,” Vos told Wispolitics in early November.
The speaker did not return The Federalist’s requests for comment.
Reasons to Impeach
There is support for Wolfe’s impeachment, obviously in the Senate and among Brandtjen’s colleagues in the Assembly. But to date, just five other Republicans have signed on to the resolution that includes 15 articles spelling out “allegations of maladministration in office and potential violations of election laws.”
The resolution claims Wolfe advised the six-member commission on a policy allowing election clerks to “cure” or correct missing information and errors on absentee ballot envelopes. A Waukesha County circuit court declared the practice violated state election law.
The accomplice media has sprung to Wolfe’s defense, falsely asserting that the election administrator merely communicates the policy of the commission to local election clerks. Wolfe and her team of unelected bureaucrats advise the politically even commission — staffed by three Democrats and three Republicans — on election law and policy and the go-along commission often signs off on that guidance.
The resolution alleges Wolfe failed to secure Wisconsinites’ “confidential and personal information as mandated by state statutes,” that she guided the commission in ignoring the requirement to dispatch special voting deputies to nursing homes under the cover of Covid, and neglected the “safeguarding” of the votes of military voters.
Wolfe, who has now far exceeded her original four-year term, has called the drive to remove her “baseless” and steeped in “partisan politics.”
Brandtjen said the violations of law continue unchecked under Wolfe’s dubious leadership.
The impeachment resolution followed Senate President Chris Kapenga’s call in early October for the Assembly to impeach Wolfe. In a vote of no confidence in September, the Senate’s 22 Republicans voted to hand the state elections administrator her walking papers. Wisconsin Democrat Attorney General Josh Kaul and the legislature’s attorneys claimed the Senate “did not have the authority to do so,” even though the task is a clear constitutional duty of the upper house. The Elections Commission had previously voted 3-0 (all Republicans) to send Wolfe’s reconfirmation to the Senate, but the three Democrats refused to vote, putting into question the legitimacy of the decision.
Senate Republican leadership ultimately conceded that their vote was merely “symbolic.” The commission’s disputed vote is the subject of a legal challenge.
But the Assembly clearly has the power to impeach, as Kapenga pointed out in October. The Republican senator did not return The Federalist’s request for comment.
Brandtjen issued a statement late last week saying “Wolfe must go.” The Assembly is scheduled to be on the floor again Tuesday, and Assembly rules allow a resolution to be brought to the floor for a vote. Silenced last month, Brandtjen said she will “once again try to get a floor vote on AR 18 to start an impeachment investigation” into Wolfe.
The lawmaker said it doesn’t have to be her resolution, but a proposal to initiate the impeachment process should be given an up or down vote. Brandtjen said there’s too much at stake to allow Wolfe to continue to lead Wisconsin’s election administration.
“It puts the republic and the Wisconsin voting public in peril by the Legislature shirking its responsibility,” she said. “For us not to use the impeachment process guarantees that Meagan Wolfe has a lifetime appointment even as her background of questionable administration puts our elections in question in 2024.”