OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A left-wing Supreme Court justice is currently under investigation, with implications that could reach throughout the state.
The Wisconsin Ethics Commission launched its probe into Justice Janet Protasiewicz’s campaign over allegations of money laundering and fraud, according to WISN’s Dan O’Donnell, a talk radio host and editor of Common Sense Central.
“A complaint accuses the campaign of ‘smurfing’–the illegal practice of laundering big money donations through unaware small-dollar donors,” he wrote.
“The total amount identified to date of illegally laundering money into Janet For Justice’s campaign comes to $1,038,705.93,” the complaint, which was filed earlier this month by Election Watch, alleged. “It appears individuals, or those being smurfed, are largely used to aggregate mostly less than the $200 reporting limit of individuals to avoid detection.”
O’Donnell notes further:
According to Investopedia, smurfing (named after popular cartoon characters) is “a money-laundering technique involving structuring large amounts of cash into multiple small transactions. Smurfs often spread these small transactions over many different accounts, to keep them under regulatory reporting limits and avoid detection.”
Election Watch claimed in its complaint to have identified thousands of ultra-small-dollar donations made in the names of hundreds of mostly elderly donors, none of whom had any idea that they had made such donations when a private investigator asked about them.
“The Federal Election Commission states the average number of political donations an individual makes, if donating, is 1.4 per year,” says the complaint against Janet for Justice. “239 [donors] donated more than 10 times [each] to Janet for Justice.”
One example of an alleged smurf is an 84-year-old man residing in Whitewater. He contributed a total of $856.75 to Janet for Justice, with these contributions made in 71 separate transactions, some as small as $1.67 each. According to Federal Election Commission data, this donor has made an astonishing 15,620 separate donations, totaling $62,410.01, across the past three election cycles, O’Donnell noted.
“He did not make anywhere near these number of contributions or dollar amounts,” said Election Watch, noting that the man confirmed all of that to a private investigator.
Another individual suspected of engaging in smurfing is a 70-year-old woman from Sturgeon Bay. She contributed a total of $58.50 to Janet for Justice through multiple small donations over the span of three months earlier this year. As outlined in the complaint, her donation pattern raised concerns due to its unusual nature, O’Donnell noted. For instance, she made a $3.33 donation on January 3rd, followed by a separate $6 donation later on the same day. She continued with a $3 donation on January 23rd, a $12 donation.
“She was interviewed, and she also denied making these volumes of donations,” says the complaint.
“There are thousands of irregularities that need to be investigated in the Janet for Justice campaign…that amount to thousands if not millions of fraudulent monies,” Election Watch noted in its complaint. “The campaign potentially [committed] several state and federal crimes, including, but not limited to, [violating] Wisconsin campaign finance laws. Also, federal and state misappropriation of funds.”
Election Watch, in collaboration with the O’Keefe Media Group, an organization established by former Project Veritas journalist James O’Keefe, has been conducting an investigation into smurfing activities nationwide over the past several months. They claim to have identified over 10,000 potential cases distributed across every state in the country.
“The organization has planned to file additional complaints with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission over alleged smurfing activity in several other statewide campaigns,” O’Donnell wrote.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Assembly Speaker Robin Vos issued a new threat to Protasiewicz last month if she chooses not to recuse herself from certain upcoming cases.
During an interview with WSAU Radio on Friday, Vos contended that statements made by Protasiewicz on the campaign trail, where she referred to Wisconsin’s electoral maps as “rigged” and in need of rectification, should morally render her ineligible to participate in voting on those maps.
“If there is any semblance of honor on the state Supreme Court left, you cannot have a person who runs for the court prejudging a case and being open about it, and then acting on the case as if you’re an impartial observer,” Vos said.
In April, Protasiewicz achieved a groundbreaking victory in an election that shattered records, besting former Justice Daniel Kelly to secure the highly sought-after position on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, shifting it to the left.