Update 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with comment from district attorney
The Waukesha County District Attorney’s office has launched an investigation into allegations that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan traded sub sandwiches for votes in Waukesha on Election Day.
"We now have the complaint and, yes, we have commenced the investigation," District Attorney Brad Schimel told Patch in an email Wednesday.
Schimel, who is out of the office until April 16 added: "I hope that a resolution can wait until I am back, but I am in regular communication with the investigator."
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed the complaint in Waukesha Wednesday morning.
Detective David Witkowski of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, who is assigned to the district attorney’s office, said he is investigating the complaint. Witkowski was at the Cousins Subs in question Wednesday morning and is waiting for a few phone calls to be returned.
“I don’t have a lot of information at this point,” Witkowski said.
Party Chairman Mike Tate said at a press conference Tuesday that Democrats have filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board, the state agency that oversees elections in Wisconsin, and with the district attorney's office.
shows Romney and Ryan handing out the sub sandwiches. Additionally, a video edited by the state Democratic Party shows Romney leading a rally and telling supporters to go vote, and “If you want another sandwich, there are more back there.”
State law prohibits offering something valued at more than $1 in exchange for a vote.
Tate said it’s a clear-cut case of election bribery.
“We have pretty clear video evidence of Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan handing out free sandwiches, and at the same time encouraging people to go cast a ballot,” Tate said. “It’s very clearly against Wisconsin election law.”
Reid Magney, a spokesman for the GAB, told Patch that his agency had received the complaint, but would not be investigating the incident because it is a criminal matter. It will be up to the district attorney to decide what action — if any — should be taken.
Even though the GAB is not investigating the incident, Magney said the agency routinely tells campaigns not to give away anything of value to voters.
"We advise candidates and businesses not to provide food, beverages or any other inducement to thank people for voting or to get them to vote," Magney said.
It doesn't matter whether a candidate gives away something as part of a general "get out the vote" effort, or if a candidate is trying to entice someone to vote a certain way, he added.
"We believe voters should vote because they care about the candidate or the process," Magney said. "Not because they got a free sandwich or a free beer."
However, Romney told WISN12 news the allegations are ridiculous and it’s a laughable stunt by the Democrats to distract from President Obama’s policies that have resulted in “record job losses and skyrocketing gas prices.”
Tate is calling for an investigation by election officials and criminal sanctions to be imposed.
The incident brought back memories of the infamous "smokes for votes" allegations in the 2000 presidential election, in which Democrats were accused of giving homeless people cigarettes if they cast ballots for presidential candidate Al Gore.
"Republicans like Scott Walker were vocal about the so-called 'cigs-for-sigs' situation in 2000, and 'Kringle-gate' in 2002, not to mention repeated calls for the rule of law to be applied to the fullest extent in the almost nonexistent instances of voter fraud," said Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Democratic Party. "Here is a case that's much, much stronger-the candidates themselves are participating in the bribery.
"The statute is clear. So were the actions of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan," he added. "I don't think a prosecutor, regardless of his party affiliation, has any choice but to act and apply the laws of the State of Wisconsin."