In Wisconsin, G.O.P. Voters Demand the Impossible: Decertifying 2020 | Big Indy News
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In Wisconsin, G.O.P. Voters Demand the Impossible: Decertifying 2020



SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — When she started her campaign for governor of Wisconsin, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican, acknowledged that President Biden had been legitimately elected.

She soon backtracked. Eventually, she said the 2020 election had been “rigged” against former President Donald J. Trump. She sued the state’s election commission.

But she will still not entertain the false notion that the election can somehow be overturned, a fantasy that has taken hold among many of the state’s Republicans, egged on by one of her opponents, Tim Ramthun.

And for that, she is taking grief from voters in the closing days before Tuesday’s primary.

At a campaign stop here last week, one voter, Donette Erdmann, pressed Ms. Kleefisch on her endorsement from former Vice President Mike Pence, whom many of Mr. Trump’s most devoted supporters blame for not blocking the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. “I was wondering if you’re going to resort to a RINO agenda or an awesome agenda,” Ms. Erdmann said, using a right-wing pejorative for disloyal Republicans.

Ms. Kleefisch’s startled answer — “don’t make your mind up based on what somebody else is doing,” she warned, defending her “awesome agenda” — was not enough.

“I’m going to go with Tim Ramthun,” Ms. Erdmann said afterward.

Ms. Kleefisch’s predicament illustrates how Mr. Trump’s supporters have turned fury over his 2020 election loss and the misguided belief that its results can be nullified into central campaign issues in the Republican primary for governor in Wisconsin, a battleground state won by razor-thin margins in the last two presidential elections. G.O.P. candidates have been left choosing whether to tell voters they are wrong or to engage in the fiction that something can be done to reverse Mr. Trump’s defeat.

Dozens of Republican voters and activists interviewed across the state in the last week said they wanted to see lawmakers decertify the state’s election results and claw back its 10 electoral votes, something that cannot legally be done. Nearly all of them pointed to a July decision from the conservative-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled that drop boxes used to collect ballots during the pandemic were illegal under state law, as evidence that hundreds of thousands of 2020 votes should be thrown out.

“Everybody that I’ve talked to voted for Trump,” said Cyndy Deeg, a food industry worker from Larsen, Wis. “He should be reinstated and resume the position, because he never surrendered it.”

There is no mechanism in Wisconsin law or federal law for a state to retract electoral votes or undo presidential election results two years after the contest, a fact Ms. Kleefisch finds herself explaining to voters, reporters and audiences of televised debates.

Her top Wisconsin ally, former Gov. Scott Walker, said Republicans wanted to move on from discussing Mr. Trump’s defeat two years ago.

“Across the nation, a great many people who love what the president did are starting to grow tired of hearing about 2020 and want to get focused on winning 2022 and 2024,” Mr. Walker said in an interview.

But even as Ms. Kleefisch campaigns on an agenda of restricting voting access and eliminating the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, two Republican rivals promise to do that and more.

Tim Michels, a wealthy construction magnate who has been criticized for sending his children to school in New York and Connecticut, where he owns a $17 million home, has been endorsed by Mr. Trump and says that if elected, he will consider legislation to decertify the 2020 results. Mr. Ramthun is the state’s leading proponent of decertification, but polling shows him trailing Ms. Kleefisch and Mr. Michels, who are in a tight race.

The winner of the primary will face Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who has vetoed more than a dozen voting bills passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the last two years. Because of the G.O.P.’s large majorities in the gerrymandered Legislature, a Republican governor would be given a wide berth to change how the state casts and counts votes in the 2024 presidential election.

Mr. Michels, who has blanketed Wisconsin’s airwaves with advertisements reminding voters that he is Mr. Trump’s choice, has learned that running as the candidate backed by the former president comes with certain obligations.

Twice in recent weeks, he has walked back statements that departed from Trump-wing doctrine.

First, Mr. Michels said at a debate that decertifying Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results — which Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly urged the top Republican in the State Assembly to do — would not be a priority in his administration. He soon corrected himself, saying that he was “very, very fired up about this election integrity issue” and pledging to consider signing a decertification bill if legislators passed one.

Then, during a town hall-style debate on Monday night, Mr. Michels was asked if he would support a presidential bid by Mr. Trump in 2024.

“I’m focused on this election right now,” he said. “I have made no commitments to any candidates in 2024.”

Trump supporters saw the remarks as a betrayal of the former president, and the next day, Mr. Michels corrected himself.

“The day President Trump announces that he’s going to run for president in 2024, if he does, I will support him and I will endorse him,” he told supporters Tuesday in Kaukauna.

Mr. Michels declined to explain the flip-flop. “I talked about it last night,” he said after the Kaukauna stop, as his aides and supporters physically pushed reporters away from the candidate.

Complicating matters for both Ms. Kleefisch and Mr. Michels is Mr. Ramthun, a state assemblyman whose campaign for governor is scoring low in the polls but held in high regard by the state’s most devoted conspiracy theorists. It was Mr. Ramthun, in February, who pioneered the decertification push after Robin Vos, the Assembly speaker, prevented his proposal for a “cyber-forensic audit” of the 2020 election from coming to a vote.

Mr. Ramthun’s campaign is infused with Christian nationalism, presenting him as a messianic figure who will lead the state to correct what he presents as the injudicious 2020 election results.

“I’m what you’ve been looking for for decades,” he said at Monday’s debate.

Mr. Vos has aggressively tried to restrict voting access in Wisconsin. Along with passing the bills Mr. Evers vetoed, last year he called for felony charges against five members of the state election commission for guidance they issued for voting during the pandemic that he said violated state election law. He also ordered a $1 million investigation into the 2020 election, led by a former State Supreme Court justice, that endorsed debunked conspiracy theories.

But as with Ms. Kleefisch, Mr. Vos’s refusal to allow a decertification vote has exposed him to an attack — in his case, from a primary challenger, Adam Steen, who has no paid staff and barely enough money to print and mail his campaign literature.

Mr. Steen, who was endorsed by Mr. Trump on Tuesday and was given a prime speaking slot at a Trump rally on Friday night in Waukesha, has built his campaign around decertifying the election and has also said he would seek to make contraception illegal.

During a lunch of cheeseburgers and cheese curds, Mr. Steen said he would not have challenged Mr. Vos had Mr. Trump been re-elected.

“Without the knowledge that I have right now, I don’t think I would be running, because it wouldn’t have been exposed,” said Mr. Steen, who drives a Lincoln Town Car with a commemorative license plate from the 2017 presidential inauguration that says “TRUMP.” “I don’t think there was that catalyst to see those problems without him losing.”

Mr. Vos declined to be interviewed. After Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Steen, Mr. Vos issued a statement reiterating that decertification is impossible.

The party’s grass-roots base is not convinced.

In April, a poll from Marquette University Law School found that 39 percent of the state’s Republicans backed decertification. Since then, momentum for decertification has built, especially after the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s drop box decision. The chairwoman of the Assembly’s elections committee, along with dozens of the state’s county Republican Parties, has called for the election to be decertified.

Dennis Gasper, the finance director of the Sheboygan County Republican Party, which last month passed a resolution calling for legislators to withdraw the state’s 10 Electoral College votes, said he believed elected officials and Ms. Kleefisch were resisting voters’ decertification calls to spare themselves grief in the news media.

“You know, the press is very powerful, and if they would say what they thought, they would be held up as being a little bit crazy,” Mr. Gasper said.

Ms. Kleefisch is left trying to navigate a party that, not long ago, considered her local royalty.

A former Milwaukee television reporter, she was Gov. Scott Walker’s deputy when he led Wisconsin Republicans to revoke most public employees’ collective bargaining rights, a political earthquake in state politics that led to weeks of protests and eventually sapped Democrats’ power here for a generation.

During two interviews last week, she dismissed the ideas that she had crossed Mr. Trump or that his endorsement of Mr. Michels would be decisive. She said she still supported the former president and praised his policies, though she would not commit to backing him in 2024.

But she acknowledged that the issue most forcefully driving Wisconsin Republicans in the current post-Trump era is not grounded in reality.

I’m not saying that the passion is imaginary, I’m not saying that the mistrust is imaginary,” she said after her Sheboygan stop. “I’m saying the idea that you can disavow the Constitution and statutes and do things that are not articulated anywhere in law is a lost cause, and there’s no path that is articulated to do that.”

Mr. Michels and Mr. Ramthun, she said, are playing with fire by telling voters they’ll deliver something impossible.

“It’s irresponsible to pander,” she said. “You’ve got to tell the truth.”

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills



The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists



This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’



Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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