Election “Bribe” Complaint Frivolous, Hypocritical

By: Brian Sikma

With Republican voters headed to the polls to cast their ballot in the first really contested Wisconsin presidential primary in decades, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is apparently feeling a little frustrated that they aren’t in the limelight. After being the center of attention for months on end with their antics, the Democratic Party must have decided that filing a frivolous election bribe complaint was the best way to become relevant again.

At a campaign stop in Waukesha around noon on Tuesday, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan took a few minutes to shake hands with voters and pass out some sub sandwiches. Cousin’s Subs is a Wisconsin-based business so choosing the venue as a quick lunch-time stop made sense on election day.

Releasing video of the event, the Democrat Party of Wisconsin alleged that the handing out of apparently free food amounts to bribing votes from the gathered supporters. Citing a state law that prohibits anyone from offering something of value in exchange for someone voting or not voting, the complaint declares that since the advertised menu price of the subs exceeded $1, the law was violated and Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are guilty of bribing voters.

A review of the law and a review of the campaign stop show that the Democratic Party’s complaint is nothing short of frivolous.

Candidates for public office hand out food all the time. That is not something unusual in Wisconsin or anywhere else for that matter. Anyone who has ever attended a political convention in Wisconsin knows that at both the Republican and Democrat conventions campaigns sponsor tables and suites well stocked with food, drink and trinkets to help attract supporters and earn favor with future voters. Receipt of the food is not conditioned on the immediate casting of a ballot. The food is a goodwill gesture designed to boost the candidate’s profile and make supporting the candidate a socially enjoyable thing to do

Presumably, the next time a Democrat in Wisconsin is caught handing out food or something that costs more than $1 to supporters or potential supporters, the Democratic Party will decry the event as outright bribery and call for an investigation. Or maybe not.

Last summer during the height of the state senate recall campaign, Media Trackers brought to light the disturbing fact that an SEIU-affiliated group was offering free BBQ chicken dinners to voters in exchange for their early vote in the local senate race. Unlike the so-called “subgate” fabricated by Democrats now, that event involved a rather explicit quid-pro-quo. Event attendees were told that if they boarded a van for a ride to city hall to cast an early ballot they would get a ticket redeemable for a free chicken meal when they returned. Both at the event and once at city hall, it was very, very clear which candidate the event attendees were expected to vote for.

That the Democrat candidate in the race had ties to the group buying the meals, paying for the transportation, and directly soliciting the vote made the situation that much more murky and questionable.

Calling what Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan did today “bribing” is laughable on its face and hypocritical upon further examination. Its the sign of a desperate political party intent on pulling any stunt, and making any allegation necessary, to get a brief flash of media attention. To all around the nation watching this today: We’re sorry you have to put up with this, but welcome to our world.

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