Republicans, former Brown County clerk blast Green Bay election in Assembly hearing
MADISON - Republican lawmakers and election observers went after Green Bay leaders in a hearing Wednesday, arguing the city improperly allowed a consultant with Democratic ties to play a central role in planning for the November election.
The meeting of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections came one day after the conservative Wisconsin Spotlight website, citing hundreds of emails, published an article that claimed Mayor Eric Genrich and his staff pushed the clerk's office aside, allowed "former Democratic operative" Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein to run the election and gave him improper access to absentee ballots.
The report followed an investigation by the Green Bay Press-Gazette that found former City Clerk Kris Teske complained for months before she resigned that the mayor's office had overtaken election planning. City officials disputed her account.
Assembly Republicans raised similar issues Wednesday as they heard testimony from former Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno, election observers and an attorney who possibly faces discipline for making baseless claims in a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's election results.
"In Green Bay, there’s no trust," said Matt Roeser, a resident who volunteered as an election observer. "There’s no trust in our government."
Wednesday's hearing centered on Spitzer-Rubenstein's work in Green Bay through the National Vote at Home Institute. The city hired him as a consultant with grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which used donations from Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to help cities across the country conduct elections during the pandemic.
According to his LinkedIn page, Spitzer-Rubenstein spent seven months in 2012 "running email campaigns" for two Democratic congressional campaigns and Bermuda’s Progressive Labour Party.
Election observers at Wednesday's hearing said they had uncomfortable interactions with city staff on Election Day and saw Spitzer-Rubenstein answer questions for poll workers at the KI Convention Center, where the city tallied absentee ballots. Juno, a Republican, accused poll workers of processing ballots inconsistently and not properly curing them, or fixing problems such as a mismatched or missing signature.
"With this money, there was no accountability. ... I just felt like we're going down the wrong road with where we want to be with elections," Juno said.
Genrich dismissed the Wisconsin Spotlight report, which prompted Republicans to call for his resignation, and said in a statement Tuesday that it "made egregious and false allegations." City officials weren't called to testify in Madison Wednesday and declined an interview request from the Press-Gazette.
Democrats on the committee did not attend in person or question the witnesses. In a statement after the hearing, Reps. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, and Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, said Republicans were fueling "conspiracies and falsehoods" about the November election.
The statement also contended that the committee relied on testimony from "Republican activists" who backed former President Donald Trump.
"It seems Republicans are scared of having an open conversation where it will be clear that their conspiracy theories are just that — innuendo, misunderstandings, and lies," the Democrats said.
Doug Schneider of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contributed to this report.
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