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The Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit seeking an order barring the state Legislature from impeaching Justice Janet Protasiewicz, a new member of the court whose election this spring shifted the court’s balance of power in favor of liberals.
The court decided not to hear the lawsuit on Tuesday, issuing an order without comment. Protasiewicz was not involved in the decision-making process.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has suggested impeaching Protasiewicz if she does not recuse herself from hearing two redistricting lawsuits. Protasiewicz has not decided whether to recuse himself, and the court has not decided whether to hear the cases.
“Republicans are worried that the liberal-controlled court will order that GOP-drawn maps that have solidified their majorities over the past 12 years must be redrawn. They contend Protasiewicz can’t fairly hear the cases because she called the maps rigged and unfair during her campaign,” the Associated Press reported.
“The lawsuit, filed by former liberal Supreme Court candidate Tim Burns, argued that proceeding with impeachment would violate the constitutional rights of voters who elected Protasiewicz. It also argued that the reasons given by lawmakers for considering impeachment do not meet the constitutional requirements. The Wisconsin Constitution limits impeachment only to those who have engaged in corrupt conduct in office or committed crimes,” the outlet added.
The lawsuit requested that the court order the Legislature not to pursue impeachment proceedings against any justices unless a majority of the court rules that the constitutional standards for impeachment have been met.
In an email sent Thursday, Burns stated that he does not intend to pursue the lawsuit in lower court.
The Wisconsin Ethics Commission launched a 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.