Elections panel declines to recommend charges in ballot case

Wisconsin election officials have decided not to recommend prosecutors charge a man who acknowledged he posed as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on a state website to obtain Vos' absentee ballot. Harry Wait told Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling last week that he ordered 10 absentee ballots for other people, including Vos, through the MyVote website and had the ballots shipped to his home. The state Department of Justice is investigating. The Wisconsin Election Commission discussed whether to recommend charges against Wait on Wednesday, but Chairman Don Millis said the commission can't do that until someone files a complaint with the panel. The commission instead ordered its staff to cooperate with any investigation.

Pelosi tells Taiwan US commitment to democracy is 'ironclad'

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi concluded her visit to Taiwan with a pledge that the American commitment to democracy on the self-governing island and elsewhere “remains ironclad.” Pelosi was the first U.S. speaker to visit the island in more than 25 years. The trip drew the wrath of China, which swiftly responded by announcing multiple military exercises nearby. The speaker’s departure for South Korea came a day before China was scheduled to launch its largest maneuvers aimed at Taiwan in more than a quarter of a century. Before leaving, a calm but resolute Pelosi repeated previous remarks about the world facing “a choice between democracy and autocracy.”

Elections commission deadlocks on witness address guidance

Wisconsin election officials have deadlocked on rescinding guidance issued in 2016 that says clerks can fill in missing witness address information on absentee ballot envelopes without contacting the witness or the voter. The tied vote leaves the guidance in place.

Kansas voters resoundingly protect their access to abortion

Kansas voters have sent a resounding message about their desire to protect abortion rights by rejecting a measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban the procedure outright. The vote Tuesday in a conservative state with deep ties to the anti-abortion movement was the first test of voters’ feelings about abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June. Voters rejected a change in the Kansas Constitution to ensure that it does not grant a right to an abortion, overturning a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights. Opponents predicted a ban would be coming if the measure had passed.

Pence touts Wisconsin GOP governor candidate Kleefisch

Former Vice President Mike Pence is campaigning with his pick in battleground Wisconsin’s Republican gubernatorial primary, calling Rebecca Kleefisch “a proven conservative” as she faces an opponent endorsed by Donald Trump. Trump plans to hold a rally Friday for Tim Michels just miles away from where Pence appeared Wednesday for Kleefisch in conservative Waukesha County, a Milwaukee suburb that’s long been key to Republicans. Pence is a potential 2024 presidential candidate. He appeared with former Gov. Scott Walker. Kleefisch served as his lieutenant governor for eight years and Pence and Walker have been close political allies for years.

Trump endorses Vos challenger in Assembly primary

MADISON, Wis. — Former President Donald Trump endorsed Adam Steen, the Republican hoping to replace Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, in the primary. Trump had repeatedly pressured Vos to do more to investigate and disparage the results of the 2020 election.…

Senate approves bill to aid vets exposed to toxic burn pits

The Senate has given final approval to a bill enhancing health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law. He has said the bill “makes good on our sacred obligation” to care for veterans and their families. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation once before, but the process briefly derailed when Republicans made a late attempt to change the bill. The GOP objections delayed final passage, infuriating veterans groups and advocates, including comedian Jon Stewart.

Investigator who floated decertification later backed off

The special investigator hired by Republicans in Wisconsin to review the 2020 election told lawmakers publicly they should consider decertifying President Joe Biden’s win, but later said in a private memo that such a move would be a “practical impossibility.” Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman was hired by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in June 2021 to investigate Donald Trump’s loss in Wisconsin. Vos hired Gableman under intense pressure from Trump and others who falsely claim the election was been stolen from the former president.

Republican Michels spends nearly $12 million on governor run

Republican Tim Michels has spent nearly $12 million of his own money on his run for Wisconsin governor, campaign finance reports filed ahead of next week’s primary election show. Michels is endorsed by Donald Trump in the race where he faces former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and state Rep. Tim Ramthun. Michels is co-owner of Michels Corp., the state’s largest construction company. Reports filed with the state on Monday show that Michels spent another $4 million of his own money in July on the race, bringing his total spent so far to just under $12 million, or about $1 million a week since he got into the race.

GOP legislative candidates outraise Democrats

Republicans running for the Wisconsin Legislature easily raised more money than their Democratic opponents over the first half of the year. That's according to a new report from government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The group analyzed campaign finance reports covering the first six months of 2022 and found that Republican candidate committees and the two GOP-led legislative campaign committees raised $4.36 million. Democratic candidate committees and the two Democratic-led legislative campaign committees raised $3.11 million. All the committees raised a total of $7.47 million, eclipsing the previous six-month fundraising record of $7.12 million set during the first half of 2020.

Trump-backed Wis. candidate won't commit to backing him

The Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor endorsed by Donald Trump would not commit to supporting Trump should he run for president again in 2024, but also didn’t rule out trying to decertify his 2020 loss in the battleground state. Trump-backed candidate Tim Michels made the comments Monday at a town hall event a week before the Aug. 9 primary. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, said she would support whoever wins the Republican primary for president in 2024. Trump is hosting a rally for Michels in Wisconsin on Friday.

White House decries China rhetoric over Pelosi Taiwan visit

The White House is criticizing Beijing’s rhetoric over an expected visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan and vowing the United States “will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling." White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday underscored that the decision whether to visit the self-ruled island that China claims as its own was ultimately Pelosi's. Kirby said administration officials are concerned that China could use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory steps including military action, such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan. Local media in Taiwan say Pelosi is expected to arrive Tuesday night.

Political campaign signs vandalized with spray-painted swastikas in Holmen area

HOLMEN, Wis. (WKBT) — Multiple large campaign signs were vandalized overnight in Holmen. Spray-painted swastikas now cover signs promoting 3rd District Congressional candidate Derrick Van Orden. Van Orden is running as a Republican in the upcoming midterm election. One of the signs belongs to homeowner Stan Richason, who says there are better ways to voice an opinion during election season….

1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa

The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain has set out from the port of Odesa. The departure of the ship laden with corn follows an internationally brokered deal that is expected to finally allow large stores of Ukrainian crops to reach foreign markets and ease a growing hunger crisis. The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni departed Odesa on Monday morning headed for Lebanon. Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the U.N. clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports because of Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is one of the world’s key breadbaskets.

Judge awards $163,000 in fees in GOP election probe

A judge has awarded about $163,000 in fees to attorneys for the liberal watchdog group American Oversight in an open records lawsuit it brought against the investigator hired by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to investigate the 2020 election. The fees will be paid by Wisconsin taxpayers and add to the total cost of the investigation that is now over $1 million, all paid by taxpayers. Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington’s order Monday was the second against Vos and the investigator he hired, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, in a week. Another judge last week awarded just over $98,000 to American Oversight in another open records case.

Vulnerable House Dems see abortion as winning campaign theme

The Supreme Court’s decision to repeal a woman’s federal constitutional right to abortion has scrambled the political dynamics heading into the November elections, when control of Congress is at stake. A half-dozen of the most vulnerable House members — all of them women and all representing swaths of suburban voters — see the issue as one that could help them win in an otherwise difficult political climate. But it's not clear whether the focus on abortion alone may be enough to save many of these Democrats, given that they're running for reelection at a time of high inflation and frustration with President Joe Biden’s performance.

Manchin demurs on Biden in 2024 and Dem majorities this year

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is declining to endorse Joe Biden if the president seeks a second term in 2024 and is refusing to say whether he wants Democrats to retain control of Congress after the November elections. Manchin, who's one of the Democrats’ most conservative and contrarian members, made his comments during interviews on the Sunday news shows. He also expressed hope that fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will back the party's package of climate, health care and tax initiatives that Manchin helped negotiated. She joined Manchin last year in forcing cuts and changes in larger versions of the plan. Support from every Democrat in the 50-50 Senate is needed to overcome anticipated unanimous Republican opposition.