New Texts: Milwaukee Election chief leads suspect GOTV effort
Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 6, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — New text messages obtained by Empower Wisconsin highlight Milwaukee Election Commission Administrator Claire Woodall-Vogg’s leading role in a controversial get-out-the-vote effort and the deeper involvement of a far left group and a well-known Democratic Party operative.
The new communications tied to “Milwaukee Votes 2022” are included in documents from an open records request filed by state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls).
Brandtjen, chair of the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee, sought additional communications after a previous request uncovered long-time Dem operative Sachin Chheda orchestrating the GOTV campaign from behind the scenes — apparently pulling the strings in Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s office.
“Hi Mayor, talked to G. about our desire to continue with the coalition but with community orgs receiving the funding. It was not well-received by the Center for Secure and Modern Elections (CSME),” Woodall-Vogg wrote in a June 17 text to Johnson.
CSME is the well-heeled liberal voting activist group with close ties to the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life that dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into 2020 “safe election” grants. Chheda in one text informed the mayor’s office that “we have been approved” for a $1 million grant from CSME to support Milwaukee Votes 2022.
It isn’t clear who “G” is. Woodall-Vogg did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment. But the elections official told the mayor that she explained to G. the concerns of city leaders about the Election Commission receiving funding that is “exclusively for voter education and outreach efforts (especially in an obscurely funded way through Souls to the Polls)…”
Souls to the Polls is funded by a partnership between the left-leaning lobbying organization PowerPAC and Vote Save America, an online voter guide operated by the left-of-center political media company Crooked Media. They are all about getting Democrats elected.
Woodall-Vogg in her text to Johnson expressed appearance concerns, especially “in this political climate when the city is trying hard to get the state to assist us with our budget crisis.”
“It’d basically be a [middle finger icon],” she wrote. “I have asked Jim B. [presumably Jim Bohl, the mayor’s chief of staff] if he would meet with me to check in and then talk with me and G. G is very adamant that the voter mailings and messaging be directly from the city.’
The election administrator said she sees all sides of the issue but added that it was up to the mayor on “whether there would be another department to fund.”
“I am going to have a 40% vacancy rate in my office in two weeks time and feel like the accurate administration of both elections and training staff is going to take the forefront for me,” Woodall-Vogg wrote.
She had been very busy spearheading the city’s involvement in the GOTV effort, despite the fact that such efforts are not in the purview or really the legal domain of cities.
The latest emails obtained go back to April, when Woodall-Vogg was laying out plans for a press conference launch of Milwaukee Votes 2022 held in late May. She sought partnerships with the business community, left-leaning nonprofits and Milwaukee’s two major universities.
“I am happy to make the call to the League of Women Voters and Souls to the Polls. I have no doubt they will participate,” she wrote in an April 27 email to Jeff Fleming, the mayor’s communication director, and Alexis Perterson, special assistant to Johnson. “I could also make some initial calls to UWM and Marquette, but may need help if the president of either would need convincing or just need a quick chat with the mayor before committing.”
Working behind the scenes, longtime Dem operative Sachin Chheda, a former official with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, aide to high-ranking Democrats, and consultant for liberal political campaigns. Also tied into the “nonpartisan” effort is Melissa Baldauff, Gov. Tony Evers’ former comms director and principal with GPS Impact, a marketing outfit that boasts it has helped “Democrats, progressive organizations and initiatives, and elected officials win in red states.”
Perhaps “G” is GPS Impact.
As Empower Wisconsin first reported, texts show Chheda calling the shots, setting up meetings at City Hall — in the Election Commission office — and talking about coordinating with the mayor’s office.
While the mayor and his staff, under the direction of Chheda, have said Milwaukee is not receiving any private funding for the effort, the city is coordinating with left-wing groups (using city resources) in what looks like an expensive effort to influence the outcome of November’s election. And, based on Woodall-Vogg’s texts, there was an effort to have the city receive private election funding, just as it had in the highly suspect CTCL grants of 2020 — funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against the city, but the GOTV initiative goes on.
“It’s just shocking the level of coordination that is used by nonprofits to get out the vote in Milwaukee compared to other communities,” Brandtjen said. “The staff, the IT department, clerks, all of these people within the city itself using resources not to have an election, but to make sure they get everybody out to vote in a process that guarantees Democratic Party turnout.”