• Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Bipartisan Wisconsin Business Coalition Backs Wisconsin Elections Commission Chief | local government

ByChad J. Johnson

Feb 7, 2022

SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

Bipartisan group of prominent Wisconsin business leaders voice support for state struggling election administratorher staff and local election officials, released a letter supporting Meagan Wolfe on Monday even as Republicans called for her resignation and conducted investigations into the conduct of the 2020 election.

The Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy Coalition, formed last year, sent letters offering “heartfelt gratitude and full support” to Wolfe, the Wisconsin Election Commission and more than 1,800 city clerks who run elections in the state of the battlefield.

“This is such a critical issue for me and others in this group,” Tom Florsheim, Milwaukee-based Weyco Group president and CEO and letter signatory, said in an interview. “For me, I’m coming out publicly for the very first time maybe because I see this as so critical in terms of what’s going on here threatening democracy.”

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Florsheim, a Democrat, said the group intentionally reached out to business leaders who had voted and donated to Republicans in the past, including Husco CEO Austin Ramirez and PS Capital Partners partner Paul Sweeney.

Other signatories included Peter Feigin, president of the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum; Matthew Levatich, former president and CEO of Harley-Davidson; and Sachin Shivaram, CEO of Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry.

Florsheim said he hopes the Republican-controlled legislature takes notice and can “rethink some of what they’re trying to do.”

“We just see it as an existential threat to stability here in the state,” Florsheim said of the attacks on the integrity of the election. “If we have people questioning every election and we go through all this turmoil, it’s going to make our state look bad and it’s going to affect businesses.”

Republican pressure on state and local election officials grew exponentially after Donald Trump refused to concede defeat to President Joe Biden in Wisconsin. Biden won nearly 21,000 votes, a result that has stood up to recounts, investigations and lawsuits. There is no evidence of widespread fraud, as Trump and others have falsely claimed.

Yet Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature have called for abolition of the bipartisan electoral commission, created by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2016, forcing the commissioners to resign and oust Wolfe. Republican gubernatorial candidates also support disbanding the state commission.

Republican candidates for Secretary of State run on the platform of relocation of election administration functions back to that office, a job he hasn’t had in over 40 years. There is also a course Investigation ordered by Republicans in the 2020 election which is embroiled in numerous court battles. The Elections Commission is fighting a subpoena it received to obtain a vast array of data and a private interview with Wolfe.

Florsheim denounced the investigation led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, accusing him of harassing and threatening election officials.

“It just makes you shake your head and wonder what’s going on here,” Florsheim said.

Wolfe refused to resign and called the attacks on her “baseless”. She was named director by the commission in 2019 and unanimously confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate for a term ending in mid-2023.

Current and former election officials have repeatedly warned that relentless attempts to discredit Biden’s victory have led to an erosion of public confidence in the election and threats of physical violence against election workers. They fear long-serving election officials will be pushed out of their jobs, creating an experience vacuum that, in some cases, could be filled by partisan actors.

“We will continue to call on our colleagues and peers to support us, support the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and engage in efforts that defend our democracy from further attack,” the letter reads.

The letter follows a similar letter sent last year by a bipartisan group of more than 50 election experts from across the country calling Wolfe “one of the nation’s most skilled election administrators.”

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