Scott Bauer
Covering Wisconsin politics and news
sbauerAPsbauer@ap.org

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate worked for Republicans

February 17, 2023 GMT
FILE - Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly speaks at a news conference in the court chamber on May 28, 2019, in Madison, Wis. Kelly, one of the two conservative candidates for an open Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, was paid by state and national Republicans to advise on election issues, including the plan to have fake GOP electors cast ballots for Donald Trump even though he lost the state, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer, File)
FILE - Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly speaks at a news conference in the court chamber on May 28, 2019, in Madison, Wis. Kelly, one of the two conservative candidates for an open Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, was paid by state and national Republicans to advise on election issues, including the plan to have fake GOP electors cast ballots for Donald Trump even though he lost the state, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — One of the two conservative candidates for an open Wisconsin Supreme Court seat was paid by state and national Republicans to advise on election issues, including the plan to have fake GOP electors cast ballots for Donald Trump even though he lost the state.

Dan Kelly is a former state Supreme Court Justice who is one of four candidates in Tuesday’s primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 4 general election, with the winner determining whether the court remains 4-3 majority conservative or flips to liberal control.

Kelly was a justice on the court from 2016 to 2020. He was endorsed by Trump during his unsuccessful run for the court in 2020.

After Kelly left the court in August 2020, he went on to be paid nearly $120,000 by the Wisconsin Republican Party and the Republican National Committee to work on election issues, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported Friday.

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Kelly’s work for the state GOP was revealed in testimony that former party Chairman Andrew Hitt gave the U.S. House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the U.S. Capitol.

Hitt, according to his testimony that was released by the committee last month, said that Kelly was working as a “special counsel” and had “pretty extensive conservations” about the fake Republican electors. Hitt testified that he brought in Kelly to “kind of advise on election law matters.”

The Republican fake electors met in the Wisconsin Capitol building on the same day that Democrats cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden. Hitt and others who cast ballots for Trump said they were doing so in case courts overturned Biden’s win and gave the state to Trump.

Biden won the state by nearly 21,000 votes, and every attempt by Trump and his allies to overturn the results failed.

Kelly’s campaign spokesperson, Jim Dick, said Kelly “took a call from RPW Chairman Hitt on the subject of Republican electors and was asked if he was in the loop about this issue and Justice Kelly stated he was not.”

Dick said that after Kelly left the state Supreme Court in August 2020, he “provided legal counsel to several clients, amongst which were the RNC and RPW. It is a maxim in the legal profession that the views of clients are not attributable to their attorneys.”

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Kelly faces conservative Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow and two liberal candidates, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz and Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell.

“There’s no doubt Dan Kelly is a partisan extremist, as much as he’d like to dishonestly pretend otherwise,” Sam Roecker, a spokesperson for Protasiewicz, said in a statement to the AP. “His continued efforts to overturn Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results are disqualifying.”

Mitchell said in a statement to the AP that “I believe that just as we have a separation of church and state, we need a separation between partisanship and justice. Because when partisanship invades our court system, it leads to pre-determined outcomes, the diminishing of justice, and the destruction of equity.”

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Dorow did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Kelly has been critical of Protasiewicz for publicly stating her support for abortion rights and saying that Republican-drawn legislative maps were “rigged.” Mitchell has also voiced support for abortion rights and been critical of the GOP-drawn maps.

In addition to advising the state party on the fake elector scheme in 2020, federal elections records show that the Republican National Committee paid Kelly and his firm, Daniel Kelly Consulting, $110,000 from March to December 2022 for “legal and compliance services,” the Journal Sentinel first reported. That included a $40,000 payment he received after he announced his run for the state Supreme Court in September.

Kelly also lists the RNC as a client on his ethics statement, calling himself a spokesman for the national party.