Saturday, May 28, 2022
Saturday, May 28, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Vos Strips Timothy Ramthun of Staffer With GOP Leaders’ Support; Vos/Wichmann Trade Words

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stripped Representative Timothy Ramthun, a Republican from Campbellsport, of his staff member this week, sources say, in a dramatic action that prompted a war of words between Vos and a Republican candidate for governor, Jonathan Wichmann. The Republicans in Assembly Leadership then sent out an extraordinary letter obtained by Wisconsin Right Now, which you can read in full below, defending Vos and accusing Timothy Ramthun and his staffer of spreading “lies.”

It’s the second time this week that Vos has publicly gone after one of former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s Republican opponents in the governor’s race. Earlier this week, Vos went after U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson, who will be entering the Republican primary for governor within days; he praised Kleefisch and suggested Nicholson stay out of the race, which caused Nicholson to tell Vos to focus on doing his own job.

Was Vos right to remove Ramthun’s staffer? Or wrong? Take our poll:

Coming Soon Timothy ramthun
Should Speaker Vos Have Removed Timothy Ramthun's Staffer?
Should Speaker Vos Have Removed Timothy Ramthun's Staffer?
Should Speaker Vos Have Removed Timothy Ramthun's Staffer?

Vos’s action against Ramthun was promptly criticized by Republican gubernatorial candidate Wichmann, who, as Nicholson is expected to do, is running an anti-establishment campaign; that in turn prompted Vos to insult Wichmann’s level of support in the governor’s race.

Timothy Ramthun has been a leading critic of the 2020 presidential election, introducing a resolution to decertify the election and claiming President Donald Trump won. He has been trying to legislatively pave the way for elections to be done over. Ramthun has become the target of liberal-funded “news” sites like the Wisconsin Examiner and Up North News as a result of his election criticism.

In a press conference, Vos said, “Jonathan Wichmann also if you read his Facebook page said that somehow if he becomes governor, he was going to have control of the Legislature, which just a basic reading of the Constitution says we have three separate co-equal branches of government.”

Vos added: “Mr. Wichmann, I think he’s probably — what? — at one percent. He has the right to say whatever he wants, but I will stand with my colleagues. I think I’m in pretty good shape. I think most people appreciate what we’re doing and that we need to focus on the future, not on trying to decertify the election and focus on the past.”

Vos said he thinks “most people appreciate what we’re doing.”

We asked Wichmann for a response, and he said, “Robin Vos is flat out lying. I never said verbally or on my Facebook page that the Governor has control over the legislature. I am fully aware of the 3 branches of Government, but I do believe the role of the speaker has too much power to remove staffers as a form of discipline from a Representative who is trying to do the work of the people of Wisconsin.”

Wichmann added: “In regards to Robin Vos stating that I have only 1 percent of the vote: Robin Vos cannot produce concrete evidence that I am only at 1%. Please reference this non-bias poll showing that I am only 7 points off of Tony Evers prior to my General Michael Flynn endorsement. I have further gained even more support in the months from this September 2021 poll until now.”

A new poll indicates that Vos and his fellow Republican leaders may be on thin ice with the electorate in taking such an unusual stance against a 2020 election critic, Ramthun, although they claim it was over specific statements he made about Vos they say are false; a January 2022 poll of likely voters in Waukesha County by Take Back Action Fund for WisRedPAC found that election integrity was the issue that concerns voters most. [You can read that poll here: FINAL Results of Waukesha County Likely Voters; it also shows deep dislike for Tony Evers, Joe Biden, and Milwaukee DA John Chisholm.]

It’s also an interesting choice for Vos, who is controversial even in his own party, to go so publicly at two outsider Republican candidates for governor, considering the criticism that already exists in the anti-establishment wing of the conservative movement against Kleefisch, whom some patriot groups have painted as a “RINO.” Thus, Vos’s criticism could harden that narrative against her, and it may point to a continued fracture within the party. It’s hard to see how his action against Ramthun will do anything to heal those rifts; it’s likely to exacerbate them.

“There are some who believe — there’s one who believes — that we somehow have the right (to withdraw electoral votes) even though every lawyer that we have worked with in Wisconsin says we cannot undo the 2020 elections,” Vos said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of Rathmun. “You know, Rep. Ramthun has that belief. That’s his right. But I think that what we’re focusing on is not the past. We are looking at the past to learn from it.”

We contacted Vos for comment, but he didn’t get back to us. Neither did Timothy Ramthun.

Sources say, and the GOP leadership’s letter confirms, that Vos was enraged because he argued Timothy Ramthun was making false comments about him relating to ballot dropboxes and the Hillary Clinton campaign that ended up on the national conservative website Gateway Pundit. We will get more into that in a minute. But first the GOP leadership’s letter:

The Assembly Republican leadership responded to Vos’s action by releasing a joint statement on “reallocation of Tim Ramthun’s staffer” on January 20, 2022.

Timothy ramthun

It reads,

“In order to ensure the safety and security of the 2022 election, the Assembly Republican caucus has been united in our desire to get to the bottom of any 2020 election regularities and fraud. It is why we appointed Justice Gableman as special counsel to oversee the investigation.”

They continued, “The word ‘misinformation’ is too often used in today’s political discourse as a way to completely discount your opponent’s position. However, adhering to the true sense of the word, Rep. Ramthun and his staffer are spreading misinformation.”

“Speaker Vos has never worked with Hillary Clinton’s attorney to authorize drop boxes across the country. His involvement in NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) did not involve anything having to do with drop boxes. In fact, Rep. Ramthun himself has sponsored legislation that would allow for a ballot to be returned to a drop box. With the exception of one person, credible attorneys everywhere have come up with the same legal theory: We do not have the authority to decertify the 2020 election. Working with the Trump Campaign, all of us worked to Stop Madison’s illegal ‘Democracy in the Park’ ballor harvesting operation.”

The statement continues, “We support Speaker Vos’s actions. No matter how much Rep. Ramthun and his staffer believe what they are saying is true, it does not make it so. Sending out communications full of lies is doing disservice to all voters. With so much information to parse through on the Internet and in traditional media, we all must do a better job of listening and communicating.”

It is signed by Majority Leader Jim Steineke, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Petersen, Caucus Vice-Chair Cindi Duchow, Caucus Sargent at Arms Sam Kerkman, JFC Vice Chair Amy Loudenbeck, JFC member Tony Kurtz, JFC member Shannon Zimmerman, Speaker Pro-Tempore Tyler August, Caucus Chairman Tyler Vorpagel, Caucus Secretary Jesse James, JFC Co-Chair Mark Born, JFC Member Terry Katsma, and JFC member Jessie Rodriguez.

Wichmann vs. Vos

Wichmann unloaded on Vos in a podcast and then on Facebook and in a statement to Wisconsin Right Now.

“Showing his true character, Speaker Robin Vos removed Representative Timothy Ramthun’s entire staff. Justin Schmidtka, host of Badger State Resistance Podcast and I go live to discuss this breaking news,” Wichmann wrote on Facebook. He also shared a graphic that said, “I stand with Representative Timothy Rathmun.”

Wichmann shared a story by national site Gateway Pundit that claims “Ramthun outed Vos of signing a deal with attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to authorize ballot drop boxes.” Gateway Pundit based its story on a press release by Ramthun, which you can read here.

Vos and GOP leadership say this isn’t true.

In the news conference, Vos also outlined election-related steps he argues the Republicans in the Legislature are fixing. A non-partisan audit into the 2020 election found that the Wisconsin Election Commission, chaired by major Joe Biden donors, along with municipal clerks throughout Wisconsin, violated state law in numerous ways in the 2020 presidential election. The Racine County Sheriff has referred criminal charges against members of the WEC.

Timothy Ramthun’s Press Release About Vos and Ballot Dropboxes

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Ramthun’s press release on the Vos and dropbox claims contains, as evidence, a link to a letter that was written on behalf of Vos and Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The letter contains the line, “Further, voters may also deposit their completed absentee ballots in authorized ‘drop boxes,’ which ‘must be secured and locked at all times’ to protect ballot integrity…We wholeheartedly support voters’ use of any of these convenient, secure, and expressly authorized absentee-ballot-return methods.” It does not mention Hillary Clinton, however. It came in the context of opposition by Vos and Fitzgerald to the “Democracy in the Park” efforts that they believed were unlawful collection of absentee ballots.

Timothy ramthun

Gateway Pundit has now posted a correction on its article about Vos and Ramthun that went further. “UPDATE: A previous version of this report included an accusation from the Milwaukee Sentinel where they reported a connection between Speaker Vos and attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. We removed this accusation from our report after our sources told us this was not true,” it reads.

Schmidtka opened the segment with Wichmann by criticizing “tyranny and government overreach.” He called it “dangerous.” He said he was pushing for Vos’s resignation.

Wichmann, who has built a following among patriot groups throughout the state, said on the show, “He’s holding up so much in the State of Wisconsin.” He also called for Vos to resign. Wichmann called it a “power play to keep every other Assembly rep from going against him… we need to clean house and drain the swamp.”

“This is an attack on the people of Wisconsin. This is a full-blown attack,” Schmidtka said in the podcast.

“It’s a declaration of war really,” Wichmann responded.

How unusual of an act is Vos’s action against Ramthun? As noted above, the Assembly leadership took no action against Bowen, even though then Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber asked them to do so.

Timothy Ramthun is an elected legislator out of Assembly District 59. Stripping his staffer from him means he will have limited help with the outreach and paperwork of the office, such as answering phones and dealing with constituent concerns. We’re told he has a limited-term employee still.

Timothy Ramthun is on a host of important committees:

Committee on Children and Families (Vice-Chair)
Committee on Constitution and Ethics
Committee on Education
Committee on Judiciary
Committee on Transportation
Committee on Ways and Means

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Texas Public Safety Director: ‘Wrong Decision’ Not to Confront Uvalde Shooter Sooner

(The Center Square) – The commander in charge of the police response to Tuesday's mass shooting at an Uvalde elementary school made the "wrong decision" to not send officers into the classroom to confront the gunman who shot and killed 19 children and two fourth grade teachers, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Friday.

The chief of the Uvalde Consolidated School District Police Department, who was in charge of the initial response at Robb Elementary School, thought the shooter, 18-year-old Uvalde resident Salvador Ramos, was barricaded inside that classroom and that no other children were at risk, McCraw said.

“Obviously, based on the information we have, there were children in that classroom that were still at risk,” McCraw said. “From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course, it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. Period.”

Nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside of the classroom for more than 45 minutes before federal Border Patrol agents arrived and used a master key to open the door and kill the gunman, he said.

Outside the school, parents, neighbors and others said law enforcement waited close to an hour before confronting Ramos and killing him. Videos posted online showed a chaotic scene of parents pleading with officers who remained outside to enter the school as the active shooting incident was ongoing.

Victor Escalon, South Texas regional director in the Department of Public Safety, said at a Thursday news conference that the first officers on the scene did enter the school once they arrived but were shot at and began evacuating students and school personnel.

"Four minutes [after Ramos entered the school and began shooting students], local police departments, the Uvalde Police Department, the Independent School District Police Department are inside, making entry," Escalon said. "They hear gunfire, they take rounds, they move back, get cover. And during that time, they approach where the suspect is at."

After two officers were shot, Escalon said, law enforcement decided to start evacuating as many students and school personnel as they could.

About an hour after the shooting started, a tactical team from U.S. Border Patrol arrived, entered the building and killed the suspect, authorities said.

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(The Center Square) – One of Wisconsin’s top critics of the 2020 election in the state is not staying silent about the resignation of one of Wisconsin’s Election Commissioners.

Commissioner Dean Knudson on Wednesday resigned his seat on the state’s Election Commission out of frustration with the continued focus on the last presidential vote in Wisconsin.

“Integrity demands acknowledging the truth even when the truth is painful. In this case, the painful truth is that President Trump lost the election in 2020 – lost the election in Wisconsin in 2020. And the loss was not due to election fraud,” Knudson said during Wednesday’s WEC meeting.

Knudson is a former Republican lawmaker, and helped create the Wisconsin Elections Commission back in 2015.

"I'll put my conservative record up against anyone in the state of Wisconsin, and yet now I've been branded a RINO," Knudson added, employing the acronym for Republican In Name Only.

But Republican state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, on Thursday questioned Knudson’s conservative bona fides.

“Wisconsin Election Commissioner Dean Knutson resigned yesterday citing lack of support from the GOP. He blamed conspiracy theories and misinformation about the 2020 election, but in reality, he simply didn’t do his job, which was to oversee the agency that Wisconsinites depend on for fair and honest elections,” Brandtken said.

Brandtjen has led one of the investigations into the 2020 election from her Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections since early 2021.

Brandtjen said Knudson allowed:

Bloated voter rolls to continue.Madison’s Democracy in the Park"Over $8 million in Zuckerberg money for targeted "get out the vote’ efforts.Ballot trafficking and drop boxes.Illegal suspension of special voting deputies, knowingly.WEC lawsuits against Justice Gableman and Brandtjen instead of cooperating with the investigations.

“Stripping our elections of the safety measures the legislature has put into statute is not what we expect from the Elections Commission; in fact, we expect the exact opposite,” Brandtjen added.

Knudson’s resignation means Republicans will have to appoint another commissioner. That search is underway.

His resignation also came as Commissioner Bob Spindell, who is a vocal 2020 election critic, is set to take over as commission chairman. That vote was supposed to happen Wednesday, but has now been postponed.

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Milwaukee School Counselor Under DPI Investigation For Opposition to Transgender Ideology

(The Center Square) – An elementary school counselor from Milwaukee is refusing to resign or change her mind about gender identity, even after the state opened an investigation that could cost her her job.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction sent Marissa Darlingh a letter on April 29, explaining that she was under investigation for what she said at a rally in Madison just six days before.

“DPI has opened an investigation to determine whether to initiate educator license revocation proceedings against you,” the letter stated. “It has been alleged that you engaged in immoral conduct.”

Darling was one of several speakers at a feminist rally in Madison on April 23 where she used a commonly expressed profanity repeatedly as she discussed transgenderism.

“I oppose gender ideology ever entering the walls of my school building,” Darling said. “Over my dead ... body will my students be exposed to the heart of gender identity ideology. Not a single one of my students under my ... watch will ever, ever transition socially, and sure as hell not medically.”

DPI’s letter said the investigation will “determine if there is probable cause to support allegations of immoral conduct.”

DPI gave Darlingh the option to resign ahead of the investigation, but Darlingh opted instead to fight.

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sent a letter to DPI that promises a lawsuit if the state tries to suspend Darlingh’s license because of her opposition to transgenderism or her use of profanity.

“The state is, quite simply, trying to punish a public-school counselor for her views on gender ideology. This is a classic, clear-cut, violation of the First Amendment and the state can expect a federal lawsuit if it proceeds,” WILL’s Luke Berg said.

Darling said she will not back down, and will not change her mind about transgenderism even after the investigation is complete.

“My views on the harms of gender ideology to children are informed by a desire to serve and protect children,” Darling said in a statement. “That’s why I got into education. I will love and serve every child under my care, no matter what. But I won’t recant under threat from the state.”

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Liberal Groups & Labor Unions Want Milwaukee to Reject RNC 2024 Bid

(The Center Square) – A number of Wisconsin’s progressive advocates and big labor unions want Milwaukee to abandon plans to host the Republican National Convention because they don’t like Republicans’ politics.

Voces de la Frontera Action, Power to the Polls, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Never Again is Now, and SEIU all signed on to an open letter Tuesday asking Milwaukee’s city council to reject a contract that would be necessary for Milwaukee to host the RNC in 2024.

“We the undersigned community organizations want to send a clear message to city, county and state leaders: the Republican National Convention is not welcome in Milwaukee,” the groups wrote. “The Republican Party, both nationally and in Wisconsin, has become an organization that supports White Supremacists, the violent attempted coup at the US Capitol to overthrow a democratic election, and continues to engineer new ways to undermine fair and democratic elections.”

The open letter comes as city leaders in Milwaukee are set to vote on the RNC contract on Wednesday.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson on Tuesday said the city can host the Republican convention without endorsing the Republican Party’s political views.

"I think that the RNC presents a tremendous opportunity for us in Milwaukee," Johnson told reporters. "I think it presents a great opportunity for Milwaukee to be in the national conversation, to be a city that other large conventions and other large events look to. I want the RNC to be the bedrock for a new and stronger convention and tourism economy that we can build here in the city of Milwaukee."

Johnson said his support for the RNC is a “business decision.”

CJ Szafir with the Institute for Reforming Government said the opposition is “on-brand” from progressives and big labor in the state

“It's terribly disappointing that progressive and labor groups are opposed to Milwaukee hosting an event that could bring up to 45,000 visitors to the city, creating as much as $200 million in economic impact. This would directly benefit Milwaukee small businesses and workers, which ironically is who these groups claim to care about,” Szafir told The Center Square. “A political convention is one of the great American historic events and to have the RNC come to Milwaukee in 2024 would give Milwaukee the global spotlight that it deserves. This should get bipartisan support.”

Milwaukee and Nashville, Tennessee are the final two cities in the running for hosting the RNC in 2024. A decision on the winning city is expected later this summer.

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Stock Market Flirts With Bear Market; Americans Fear Recession

(The Center Square) – The stock market came back from a midday drop on Friday, the day ending with the S&P 500 Index 18.6% below the record high set in early January.

A bear market would have begun if the decline reached 20%.

The stock market tumble is a continuation from declines earlier this week, a week that saw record high gas prices continue to rise. Other contributing factors in the index most closely associated with workers 401(k) accounts are rising interest rates, inflation, the war in Ukraine and China's economy.

“Since 1928, the S&P 500 has had 1 bear market every 4 years on average,” Charlie Bilello, founder of Compound Capital Advisors, wrote on Twitter. “With the S&P down 20% from its peak in January, this is now the 3rd bear market we've experienced in less than 4 years.”

New polling shows the majority of Americans expect a recession as energy prices and inflation continue to soar. Quinnipiac University released new polling this week that showed most Americans are pessimistic about the nation’s economic future.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans (85 percent) think it is either very likely (45 percent) or somewhat likely (40 percent) that there will be an economic recession in the next year, while 12 percent think it is either not so likely (8 percent) or not likely at all (4 percent),” the poll said.

Overall, Americans did not think the economy was doing well before the stock market declines this week.

“Roughly 1 in 5 Americans (19 percent) say the state of the nation's economy these days is either excellent (2 percent) or good (17 percent), while 4 in 5 Americans (80 percent) say it's either not so good (34 percent) or poor (46 percent),” the poll reported. “This is Americans' most negative description of the state of the nation's economy in a Quinnipiac University poll since President Biden took office.”

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Justice Clarence Thomas: ‘We Are in Danger of Destroying The Institutions … Required For a Free Society’

(The Center Square) – It’s been two weeks and there’s still no word on who leaked the U.S. Supreme Court draft brief indicating that the court was set to overturn Roe V. Wade and returning the issue of abortion back to the states.

At a recent event in Dallas, Texas, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Manhattan Institute, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke about the leak and his concern for the rule of law and credibility of the court.

A roughly 8-minute clip of his talk was published by C-SPAN, in which he said, “I think we are in danger of destroying the institutions that are required for a free society. You can’t have a civil society, a free society without a stable legal system.

“You can’t have one without stability in things like property or interpretation and impartial judiciary. I’ve been in this business long enough to know just how fragile it is.”

Prior to the draft opinion being leaked this year, Thomas said it was impossible to think that even one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone.

“No one would ever do that,” he said. “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we were doing, that that was beyond anyone’s understanding or at least anyone's imagination, that someone would do that.”

Now, “look where we are,” he said. “That trust and belief is gone forever. When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It's like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can't undo it.”

New York University professor Melissa Murray holds a similar sentiment. She told the New York Times last week that the leak “violates the omertà that traditionally has shrouded the court’s deliberations. To the public, this not only looks like the kind of maneuvering that we’ve come to expect from politicians, it also strips the court of the mystique it has generally enjoyed.”

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts’ reputation is also at stake. He has a lot riding on whether or not the leaker is identified and punished, Dan McLaughlin at National Review Online notes.

“John Roberts’s Court is at stake here,” he argues. “If decisions can be leaked in draft form with impunity in order to influence their outcomes, this will become a regular feature of high-profile cases, placing the Court under even worse pressures and threats than already exist.”

The Supreme Court isn’t the only institution that’s changing, Thomas said. Universities, colleges, law schools have all changed over the last few decades. Today, the climate on most campuses doesn’t allow for peaceful debate of differing views, instead policies of censorship are creating a “chilling effect” on speech.

He recently met with students attending the University of Georgia, where he said students expressed that they can’t publicly affirm pro-life or traditional family views because of the climate on campus.

At Yale Law School, his alma mater, students could once freely speak about anything, “it was anything goes, you do your thing I do my thing,” he said. Now. there’s censorship, he said.

"I wonder how long we're going to have these institutions at the rate we're undermining them,” Thomas said. “And then I wonder when they're gone or they are destabilized, what we'll have as a country – and I don't think that the prospects are good if we continue to lose them."

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