American Oversight recently obtained records of communications from Wisconsin state Rep. Janel Brandtjen regarding investigations into the 2020 election. Brandtjen, the chair of the State Assembly’s Campaigns and Elections Committee, has falsely claimed that Donald Trump won Wisconsin (Biden won by just over 20,000 votes) and has criticized the partisan and baseless investigation currently being conducted by attorney Michael Gableman for not going far enough.
The documents were released in response to a public records request filed by American Oversight and include emails in which Brandtjen asked the state’s bipartisan election agency for basic information about statewide election laws and voter-roll administration. The records also contain a memo from the Wisconsin Legislative Council requested by Brandtjen regarding the validity of subpoenas issued by Gableman as part of the Assembly’s taxpayer-funded partisan investigation.
In June, Brandtjen led three other Assembly Republicans on a trip to Phoenix to observe the Arizona Senate’s widely discredited “audit” of ballots cast in Maricopa County, which was conducted by the firm Cyber Ninjas. The next month, she called for a “full, cyber-forensic audit” of Wisconsin election results along the same lines as the sham Arizona review.
Brandtjen has also slammed Gableman’s investigation, arguing that the inquiry should be expanded and criticizing subpoenas Gableman issued to election officials in various cities that were not approved by her committee. Brandtjen objected to Gableman’s offer of immunity to city officials who granted him interviews, though no evidence has been presented of city officials having committed any crimes in their administration of elections. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman to lead the investigation under a contract for $676,000, signed off on Gableman’s subpoenas.
The documents American Oversight obtained include a memo, dated Oct. 6, that Brandtjen had requested from the Wisconsin Legislative Council regarding the validity of Gableman’s subpoenas to officials in Green Bay and Milwaukee. The memo said Gableman’s subpoenas “were signed and served in accordance with the statutes,” noting that they had been signed by Vos and the Assembly’s chief clerk.
On Aug. 6, Brandtjen had issued her own subpoenas to clerks in Milwaukee and Brown counties for election materials, including ballots and voting machines. The subpoenas, which were rejected when Vos refused to sign them, appeared nearly identical to a letter sent a month earlier by Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a vocal Trump ally, requesting election materials from York County, Pa.
American Oversight also obtained a July 15 email from Reid Magney, then a spokesperson for the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, to Brandtjen in which he corrected claims she’d made about Wisconsin’s ballot design in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio. During the interview, Brandtjen claimed that Meagan Wolfe, the nonpartisan administrator of the commission, told her that ballots are designed by third-party groups, including some located out of state.
“WEC staff do not recall informing your office of any third-party involvement in the ballot design process, and frankly the process does not provide for that type of involvement,” Magney wrote. He then provided Brandtjen with a “summary of the requirements and procedures for ballot design.”
On Aug. 19, Brandtjen sent an email to Wolfe requesting information about “the requirements for the state of Wisconsin to be part of ERIC [the Electronic Registration Information Center] and what benefits ERIC provides to us.”
ERIC is a nonprofit program used by 31 states and the District of Columbia to keep voter records up to date. Wolfe explained that the program uses information from the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Post Office that the state would otherwise be unable to access, and outlined the relevant state statute in her response, writing that “Wisconsin election officials would lose access to information coming from other member states” without ERIC membership.
The records also include an Oct. 24 email sent to Brandtjen by election conspiracy theorist Nick Moseder, who has espoused baseless voter fraud claims, called for new election audits on social media, and in November criticized the Arizona “audit” following a conversation with Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan. In the email, Moseder accused Brandtjen of “sitting on subpoenas for months” and “knowingly making foolish decisions” in her attempts to investigate the election.
On Dec. 1, Gableman gave a report to Brandtjen’s committee in which he finally revealed the names of all but one of the staff members he had hired for his inquiry. During the committee hearing, Gableman accused city officials of dodging subpoenas he filed in Madison, Green Bay, and Milwaukee. The leaders of those largely Democratic cities have refused to testify in private, as requested by Gableman, out of concern about lack of transparency, and Gableman reiterated during the hearing that he had no intentions of holding the depositions in public. Brandtjen voiced support for Gableman’s call to gather testimony in private, though she maintained that his investigation is separate from the work being done by her committee.
Over the past year, Brandtjen has used her position to hold multiple hearings to examine the state’s 2020 election results, earning Trump’s praise and continuing to push baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud. In January 2021, the day before a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, Brandtjen was one of 91 Republican lawmakers who signed a letter urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election.
You can read more about our investigation into attempts to cast doubt on the results of Wisconsin’s 2020 election here.
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