Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 11, 2021
By M.D. Kittle
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has withdrawn its objections to the expenses charged by Dane and Milwaukee counties to administer the presidential recount, but concerns persist about inflated costs and poor stewardship of campaign funds by liberal elections officials.
JFC’s move clears the way for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to reimburse the counties some $2.5 million to cover their reported costs. President Donald Trump’s campaign, too, will be reimbursed the difference on the approximately $3 million it was forced to pay upfront to conduct the partial state recount.
The counties were slow to turn in receipts, lawmakers say, causing the committee to pause before approving the expenses.
“Although the receipts from Dane and Milwaukee counties have raised concerns, we now have the information we need to approve their request,” JFC Co-chair, Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) said in a press release.
The committee still has questions about “the high hourly rate paid to workers, expensive rental costs when we have county-owned buildings sitting empty and inflated operational expenses,” according to JFC Co-chair Howard Marklein.
“My overarching concern is that people tend to spend other people’s money more liberally than their own,” the Spring Green Republican told Empower Wisconsin.
The CPA-lawmaker said Milwaukee and Dane counties reported significantly higher expenditures for the Trump recount than they did in the 2016 recount sought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. It cost Stein’s campaign north of $2 million for a statewide effort, nearly a half-million dollars less than Trump paid for the two-county recount.
Hourly rates for election workers, for instance, soared from $20 an hour four years ago to $30 an hour in the most recent recount. Dane County paid $243,000 for the temporary workers.
Marklein also questions why Dane County didn’t use the empty county-owned Alliant Energy Center at a nominal cost. Instead, elections officials rented space at Madison’s posh Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center, accounting for a decent chunk of the county’s $730,000 recount bill.
Did the liberal elections officials try to stick it to Donald Trump, the left’s mortal enemy?
“I can’t ascertain somebody’s motives but I certainly look at the results … that lead you to that suspicion,” Marklein said.
Scott McDonnell, Dane County’s highly partisan clerk, did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment Friday. He did fire off a snotty response to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Marklein’s statement that JFC would “protect the state’s checkbook.”
“What ‘state checkbook’ are they talking about? The recount was funded by the Trump campaign. They can’t go five sentences without lying,” McDonell wrote in an email to the newspaper.
He said recount workers received pay premiums, coronavirus hazard pay, if you will.
There’s a bigger problem, Marklein said.
“Another concern is, who cares? Who is watching this? What is the Wisconsin Elections Commission role in saying what is reasonable.”
The senator said the finance committee will “consider options” moving forward.