Lawmakers Renew Call for Investigation Into Zuckerberg-Funded Green Bay, WI Election Grant

  • by:
  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin, led by Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), are again calling for an investigation into how Green Bay managed the November election. Additionally, Roth is calling for the city's mayor, Eric Genrich, to resign. The renewed effort comes after hundreds of pages of documents and emails obtained by the Wisconsin Spotlight expose that $6.3 million in grant money, largely funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, resulted in Democrat activists infiltrating the November presidential election in Wisconsin's five largest cities—Green Bay, Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, and Racine—aka “the Wisconsin 5.”

The $6.3 million came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a left-leaning "safe elections" group that received $400 million in funding from Zuckerberg and his wife. CTCL then used much of the private donation for grants to "support election administration in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic." 

But the grants came with strings. Recipients had to consent to specific conditions, or they would have to return the money. Eric Kaardal, attorney for the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, which has challenged the outside groups' involvement in election administration across the country, alleges that is the point where CTCL allowed its liberal partners' entry to run the show. The Wisconsin 5 were instructed to bring in groups like the National Vote at Home Institute. Green Bay's mayor and staff appeared more than happy to give the liberal groups wide-ranging access.

The Wisconsin Spotlight's investigation into the emails found:

  • A former Democratic operative, Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, the Wisconsin state leader for the National Vote at Home Institute, served as a de facto elections administrator and had access to Green Bay's absentee ballots days before the election.
  • Spitzer-Rubenstein asked Green Bay's clerk if he and his team members could help correct or "cure" absentee ballots as they did in Milwaukee.
  • Green Bay's clerk grew increasingly frustrated with her department's takeover by the Democrat Mayor's staff and outside groups.
  • Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said the contract stipulated that Spitzer-Rubenstein would have four of the five keys to the KI Center ballroom where ballots were stored and counted.
  • Brown County's clerk said the city of Green Bay "went rogue."
  • Election law experts said the city illegally gave left-leaning groups authority over the election.

Green Bay city officials have repeatedly maintained the presidential election was "administered exclusively by City staff" and emphasized that Spitzer-Rubenstein did not have access to absentee ballots leading up to and through the November presidential election. However, emails show Spitzer-Rubenstein engaged in every aspect of Green Bay election administration, from writing the manual for the city’s Central Count operations to moving ballots and giving out orders at Central Count on Election Night. As their point of contact, he held keys to the convention room at the Green Bay's Hyatt Regency and KI Convention Center, where the absentee ballots were kept. He also had extensive contact with election officials and was given access to "hidden" identifiers for the internet network at the hotel and convention center, where the city's Central Count took place on election day. Trent Jameson, director of Event Technology at the hotel, wrote to Spitzer-Rubenstein in an Oct. 27 email: 

"I'll have my team create two separate SSID's for you. One SSID will be hidden and it's: 2020vote. There will be no password or splash page for this one and it should only be used for the sensitive machines that need to be connected to the internet. The other SSID will be: gbvote and that one can be seen in the settings app of your phone or laptop under 'networks' and should be used for the poll workers who need internet."

To explain further, an SSID (Service Set Identifier) is an internet network's name. Hiding an SSID keeps the network available for use, but the name is hidden from being publicly broadcast. The email to Spitzer-Rubenstein (which was forwarded to Celestine Jeffreys, Mayor Eric Genrich's chief of staff, on Oct. 30) indicated a third SSID would be set up for use by media or other guests who were not part of Spitzer-Rubenstein's team. Included in the email were Amaad Rivera-Wagner, the mayor's community liaison; Jaime Fuge, Green Bay's chief election inspector at the time; Shelby Edlebeck, multimedia communications specialist; and Mike Hronek, the city's Information Technology Services administrator.

Two days before election day, Spitzer-Rubenstein wrote to city officials:

“Are the ballots going to be in trays/boxes within the bin? I’m at KI now, trying to figure out whether we’ll need to move the bins throughout the day or if we can just stick them along the wall and use trays or something similar to move the ballots between stations.”

An Election Day procedures plan shows Spitzer-Rubenstein overseeing several areas at Central Count, including the portable dropbox, printer, a list of assignments, and training materials, among other duties. It also seems to confirm that he was in charge of supervision and check-in.

Green Bay elections observer Andrew Kloster, who served on behalf of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, wrote in a sworn affidavit that Spitzer-Rubenstein was ordering around poll workers, handling absentee ballots, and making life miserable for election observers. 

Sandy Juno, former Brown County Clerk and an election official for 22 years, was among five witnesses to testify earlier this month at an Assembly Campaign and Elections hearing into the control Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich's office yielded to private, left-leaning groups and Spitzer-Rubenstein. Juno commented she had never seen anything like what she saw in Green Bay during the 2020 presidential election. She told the committee:

“I felt it put a taint on the integrity of the election. And I come to find out later he (an outside ‘consultant’) had all four keys and access to the (absentee) ballots days prior to the election. How can we be bringing in people from outside organizations to be working on our elections with third-party money? That really doesn’t meet the smell test.”

Offering no comment on the damning emails and documents, Democrats on the Campaigns and Elections Committee and Green Bay Mayor Genrich's office scowled at the Republican lawmakers who have called for Genrich to resign and for an investigation into Green Bay's handling of the election. Repeating the left-leaning, legacy media catch-phrase, Democratic Reps. Mark Spreitzer, of Beloit; Lisa Subeck, of Madison; and Jodi Emerson, of Eau Claire, said in a statement, “This discussion is not a new one, and it follows the same pattern from the last hearing on the 2020 election: wild accusations, no evidence of wrongdoing, and implications of impropriety that run far ahead of the facts.”

How do Green Bay city officials explain the emails establishing Spitzer-Rubenstein had access to absentee ballots? Quite simply, they don't, and most media outlets reporting on the story haven't asked them for an explanation.

Not giving up on the importance of election integrity, Republican committee members say the emails are alarming. State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), chair of the Campaign and Elections Committee, said reviewing what happened in Green Bay isn’t about the 2020 presidential election. It’s about making sure Wisconsin’s elections are fair and transparent moving forward. In a statement following the hearing earlier this month, Brandtjen said:

“I think today’s emails and personal affidavits are the beginning of the Green Bay investigation. It’s clear that more hearings are needed to address the third-party investments in Wisconsin elections. We plan to hear from all involved parties.”

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