AP

Lawsuit seeks $2.4M damages from Wisconsin fake GOP electors

May 17, 2022, 9:10 AM | Updated: 12:38 pm

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Wisconsin Democratic electors and a voter on Tuesday sued Republicans who attempted to cast electoral ballots for Donald Trump in 2020 despite Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state.

Their lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court alleges a conspiracy by Trump and his allies to overturn his loss in the presidential race, calling it “as legally baseless as it was repugnant to democracy.” It seeks up to $2.4 million in damages as well as disqualifying the Republicans from ever serving as electors again.

The plaintiffs say it’s the first such lawsuit in the seven swing states where GOP electors falsely declared Trump the winner and cast their votes for him in December 2020.

“It’s essential to have accountability and to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Jeffrey Mandell, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “We have heard in the more than a year since the fraudulent electors met the excuse that what they did was not wrong, it was totally fine. We want a court to make clear that is not true.”

Republican electors named in the lawsuit who have spoken publicly about what they did have long argued that they weren’t trying to change the Wisconsin result. Instead, they said, they were trying to preserve all their legal options in case a court ruled in favor of Trump.

A Trump campaign official, Stephen Miller, said on Fox News in December 2020 that the GOP slate of electors sent their results to Congress to “ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open.”

The lawsuit names 10 Republican electors and two attorneys who the lawsuit said aided their efforts. The attorneys are Boston-area lawyer Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis, who was Trump’s attorney in Wisconsin. The lawsuit cites a memo Chesebro sent to Troupis in November 2020 detailing the elector plan.

In that memo, Chesebro wrote that “It may seem odd that the electors pledged to Trump and (Vice President Mike) Pence might meet and cast their votes” but a fair reading of federal law “suggests that this is a reasonable course of action.”

Chesebro, when reached by phone and told of the lawsuit, said “Thank you for letting me know. I will check into that.” He then hung up. Troupis did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Robert Spindell, one of the 10 GOP electors and also a member of the state elections commission, said he wasn’t surprised a lawsuit has been filed and that he stands by his prior comments defending his action as keeping all options open for Trump.

Kelly Ruh, another defendant, said she was not aware of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, working from an analysis by the state’s Department of Justice that generally accepted that argument, earlier concluded that the Republicans did not break any election laws. But the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is also looking into the actions of GOP electors, and has sent subpoenas to at least 20 people who were part of the Republican effort in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The U.S. Department of Justice also is investigating.

Biden defeated Trump in Wisconsin by just under 21,000 votes. That outcome has withstood recounts Trump ordered in the state’s two largest counties, multiple state and federal lawsuits, an independent audit and a review by a conservative law firm. An investigation by The Associated Press of potential voter fraud cases in the battleground states where Trump challenged the results found far too few to affect the outcome of the race.

The lawsuit asks that the Republican electors and the attorneys be fined $2,000 each and pay up to $200,000 each in punitive damages. The lawsuit calls for punitive damages to go to plaintiffs. Mel Barnes, an attorney for Law Forward, said the goal is deterrence, not profit.

“No one joined this lawsuit for the personal gain,” she said.

Electors in the seven states signed certificates falsely stating that Trump, not Biden, had won their states. They mailed those certificates to the National Archives and Congress, where they were ignored. However, several of Trump’s Republican allies in the House and Senate used them to justify delaying or blocking the certification of the election during the joint session of Congress.

On two of the certificates, from New Mexico and Pennsylvania, the Republican electors added a caveat saying the certificate was submitted in case they were later recognized as duly elected, qualified electors. That would only have been possible if Trump had won any of the several dozen legal challenges he filed in the weeks after the election. Instead, he lost them all.

Wisconsin Republicans gathered on Dec. 14, 2020, in the state Capitol in Madison. The state’s 10 Democratic electors, which included lawsuit plaintiffs Khary Penebaker and Mary Arnold, were meeting in the building at the same time. The third plaintiff, Bonnie Joseph, is identified simply as a voter “who objects to Defendants’ unlawful interference” in the Electoral College.

The lawsuit argues the Republicans made unlawful use of public resources when they met at the Capitol.

The Democratic electors who brought the lawsuit are represented by the liberal Law Forward law firm and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at the Georgetown University Law Center. It was Law Forward that earlier brought the complaint that was rejected by the state elections commission.

The groups said they had no immediate plans to file similar lawsuits in the other swing states.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

1 day ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

3 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

10 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

11 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

12 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Lawsuit seeks $2.4M damages from Wisconsin fake GOP electors