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GOP Wisconsin elections official advised Green Party

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission advised a Green Party representative about who to hire as an attorney after its presidential nominee was denied ballot access in the key battleground state, records obtained by The Associated Press show.

The commission deadlocked 3-3 Aug. 20 on whether to put Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the ballot. All three Republicans were in favor, while all three Democrats were against. Hawkins asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to put him on, but the court in a 4-3 ruling Monday rejected that request. The court also lifted an order it issued last week pausing the mailing of absentee ballots while it considered the challenge.

The email string obtained Monday by the AP under an open records request shows that commission member Bob Spindell emailed Kevin Zeese, then-press secretary for Hawkins, less than 24 hours after the commission voted to keep him off the ballot. Zeese died of a heart attack at age 64 on Sept. 5, the Green Party announced on Sept. 6.

Spindell, a Republican who supported putting Hawkins on the ballot, wrote to Zeese that he was “very sorry. but not surprised, the three Democrat Commissioners fought hard to keep the Green Party off the Ballot.”

“The Democrat Party obviously believes this action would push your members to vote for Biden — if they could not vote for their own Green Party Candidates,” Spindell wrote.

In response to the Spindell email, Zeese asked if he could recommend a “good lawyer to handle the case.” Spindell had suggested during the commission’s discussion about putting Hawkins on the ballot that the issue may need to be considered in court.

Spindell responded, “Please call me,” and provided his personal cellphone number.

Spindell said Tuesday that he recommended two attorneys. One was Michael Maistelman, who worked with the Democratic Party in a challenge to the candidacy of rapper Kanye West, and the other was Andrew Phillips.

When the Green Party filed its lawsuit on Sept. 3, Phillips was one of its attorneys.

Phillips has ties to Wisconsin Republicans. He was hired last year by Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee in a battle they were having with Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul over how to handle court settlements.

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