These Wisconsin Republicans voted to save George Santos.

Van Orden Santos

US Reps. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) and George Santos (R-NY) talk in the US House Chamber in the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 5, 2023. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Pat Kreitlow

December 5, 2023

More than 100 House Republicans voted to expel the New York congressman for fraud, but not four from the Wisconsin delegation.

George Santos, whose long record of personal lies and mishandled campaign funds made him emblematic of the 2023 Republican majority in the US House of Representatives, is no longer a member of Congress—but not without a final vote of support from four of Wisconsin’s GOP lawmakers.

US Reps. Derrick Van Orden, Mike Gallagher, Tom Tiffany, and Scott Fitzgerald voted against the  resolution to expel Santos, which passed 311-114 and easily cleared the two-thirds majority required. US Reps Bryan Steil and Glenn Grothman were among the 105 Republicans who joined Democrats, including Wisconsin’s Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan, in voting yes.

Shortly after his upset win a year ago, Santos began to face questions about his background, including claims of having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms, and a college degree. In May, Santos was charged by federal prosecutors in an indictment that alleges Santos stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. He then wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers, prosecutors say. Santos, who has pleaded not guilty, becomes only the sixth House member in US history to be expelled by his colleagues.

Gallagher released a statement that said: “The allegations against George Santos are extremely serious and unbefitting a member of Congress. I am glad he is not running for re-election and think he should resign from office. But Congress has never before expelled a member in the absence of a felony conviction or disloyalty to the United States. By continually breaking precedents, this Congress is opening up a pandora’s box of perpetual expulsions and chaos.”

The Santos expulsion comes at the end of a year that saw Republicans take control of the House, force Rep. Kevin McCarthy to endure 15 ballots before electing him Speaker, remove McCarthy as Speaker nine months later, and punt several times on passing a new federal budget because of disagreements among themselves over whether to force a government shutdown.

Dianne Hesselbein to lead State Senate Democrats

Sen. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) won election to lead her 11-member caucus in the Wisconsin Legislature on Friday, shortly after Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) announced she was stepping down from the leadership post and starting a 2024 campaign for Dane County Executive. 

“As leader I will ensure that everyone has a voice,” Hesselbein pledged in a statement after her victory. “I pledge to make every member of our caucus — and the people we represent — a priority. I am proud to have the support of my colleagues to lead these efforts going forward and make our caucus even larger and more effective.”

Hesselbein won a three-way race that also included Sens. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) and Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire).

“This is a time of great possibility for Wisconsin,” Smith said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing my work as Assistant Leader alongside Senator Hesselbein and all of my Democratic colleagues.”

With most legislative activity completed for 2023, Hesselbein will largely be focused on campaigning for fellow Senate Democratic incumbents and challengers in 2024. A legal challenge to the state’s gerrymandered political maps could lead to a redrawing of all legislative boundaries—which would mean all 33 seats would be up for election next November in more competitive districts.

Business leaders back elections administrator Meagan Wolfe

A group of Wisconsin business leaders that first formed to defend the 2020 election results against political interference has filed a court brief opposing Republican efforts to fire Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe.

Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy (WBLD) filed a 26-page Amicus Curiae—or friend of the court—statement blasting Republican legislators for what the group said are “objectively baseless and hyper-partisan attacks” on Wolfe, who oversaw the 2020 presidential election in which President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump. Republicans promoting Trump’s false claims about the election are in court asking a Dane County Circuit judge to order the six-member commission to appoint a new administrator.

The WBLD brief said such an order “would inevitably throw gasoline onto the flames of extreme partisanship and cast doubt upon the ability of the WEC to install a professional, experienced, and non-partisan new administrator in time for the 2024 election cycle.”

WBLD describes itself as “a bipartisan association of business leaders in Wisconsin dedicated to helping ensure equitable access to voting, non-partisan, transparent election policy and administration, and unbiased representation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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