Wisconsin Recall Fight Heats Up As Democrats Complain Of 'Shots For Signatures' Deals
WASHINGTON -- In an effort to gather enough signatures to trigger recall elections of state senators in Wisconsin, some backers are turning to peculiar, unconventional and, it appears, even intoxicating means.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party is planning to file a complaint to the state Government Accountability Board alleging that a Republican signature-gatherer offered alcoholic beverages to a group of women to get them to sign a recall petition against a Democratic state senator.
Although that's not illegal in Wisconsin
, it is strongly discouraged and, Democrats argue, evidence that Republicans don't really have enough grassroots support for their recall campaigns.
Republicans have until early next week to file recall petitions against eight Democratic state senators, more than half of the caucus that left the state in February to protest and delay the GOP's budget repair bill, which included a provision stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights. So far, the state Republican Party has not filed any recall petitions, although they are reportedly planning to file two -- against state Sens. Dave Hansen and Jim Holperin -- on Thursday.
Meantime, Wisconsin Democrats have filed recall petitions against four Republican state senators and have until May 2 to get enough signatures for the four others, according to the state Government Accountability Board. The campaign will be a rarity for Wisconsin: there have been only four recall elections in the state's history.
According to a draft of the Democratic complaint to the GAB, obtained by The Huffington Post from a Democratic source
, a woman who was at John's Main Event, a tavern in Burlington, Wis., with her friends on Feb. 27, "heard that someone was providing 'shots' to people if they signed a petition to recall State Senator Robert Wirch," a Democrat.
The woman, who signed the complaint, said a bartender showed her the recall petition and told her that if she signed it, she and her friends would get free shots.
The source also passed along an audio recording of the encounter, in which the woman says, "So you're going to get us -- one, two, three, four, five shots if we sign this?" A man responds, "That's right. ... I'll buy them."
There are many questions that remain surrounding the recording, including whether the bartender was joking and whether the woman actually supported recalling Wirch or was just egging on the signature-gatherer. But it does demonstrate that a party's reliance on a network of unsupervised signature-gatherers can end up causing headaches.
The indication that it's a petition to recall a Democratic senator comes when the woman expresses frustration and says it's "bullcrap" that "they went out of the state," referring to the Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois during the budget standoff. She later refers to the "Democrat."
At the end of the recording, another woman asks, "What are we signing again?" The first woman replies, "To recall them again, because it's bullshit that they left. And you get a shot out of it."