Wisconsin senator questions ethics, ties of governor to voting organization

Former Evers’ staffer is listed as a principals at GPS Impact, the progressive group chosen by Milwaukee to get voters to the polls.

Updated: September 20, 2022 - 11:48pm

There are new questions about Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' ties to Milwaukee’s planned get-out-the-vote effort this fall.

Former Evers’ staffer Melissa Baldauff is listed as one of the principals at GPS Impact, the progressive group chosen by Milwaukee to get voters to the polls this November.

“One of the top aides to Governor Evers is now running an organization that is partnering with the city of Milwaukee to drive Democratic turnout. That should scare everybody,” state Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, told The Center Square on Tuesday.

Baldauff was reportedly the person in Evers’ office who secretly recorded a statehouse meeting with top Republicans back in 2020. She left the Evers administration shortly after.

Roth is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican this fall. He also wrote the legislation that would have kept outside dollars from pouring into local election offices for these kinds of get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Municipalities are not supposed to have a desired outcome in a race. They are supposed to sit there and make sure the election is being handled fairly,” Roth said. “When a city like Milwaukee partners with an organization like Milwaukee Votes 2022, all they are doing is trying to drive Democratic turnout in Democrat areas. And they are turning these nonpartisan election offices into ones that are having a desired political outcome.”

Roth said Evers needs to answer for the Milwaukee get-out-the-vote effort, not just because of his former staffer but because Evers vetoed Wisconsin’s anti-Zuckerbucks legislation.

“If these guys don’t understand; if mayors like [Milwaukee’s] Cavalier Johnson don’t understand how inappropriate it is,” Roth added, “it may not be illegal, it’s certainly questionable right now. But it is absolutely unethical.”

Johnson last week said the city will not be spending any money on the Milwaukee Votes initiative. His office insists private money will pay for the get-out-the-vote effort.

GPS Impact has yet to answer questions from Republicans in Wisconsin about its political leanings.

The group’s website claims “Winning in tough territory is part of our DNA. We’ve helped Democrats, progressive organizations and initiatives, and elected officials win in red states, including Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Louisiana and Ohio.”