Wisconsin Election Integrity Journalist Who Exposed Allegedly Illegal Democratic ‘Smurfing’ Donations Arrested

Peter Bernegger

Peter Bernegger, president of Election Watch in Wisconsin, was arrested last week after filing complaints against officials and candidates he exposed for accepting donations allegedly facilitated by progressive activists in the names of people who were unaware of them. He was charged with a felony, simulating a legal process.

Bernegger posted on X after posting bail and being released, “This is politically motivated where they are trying to shut me up, to shut us all up. For those who don’t know, this is the second time they have come after me; the first time was dismissed in 15 minutes when the judge learned the truth of the matter.”

In the previous case, Bernegger (pictured above) was accused of harassing Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. No charges were brought against him, however, “because there was zero evidence of any harassing,” he told The Arizona Sun Times. “The truth is they wanted me to stop posting about Meagan Wolfe’s failures.”

The arrest came shortly after he filed six complaints against Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, which were accepted by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, along with complaints against numerous other Democratic officials and candidates.

The new prosecution began when Bernegger received an unsigned letter from the district attorney in Dane County, Ismael Ozanne, accusing him of the alleged felony. Wisconsin statute 946.68 states that it is illegal to send or deliver legal documents, including a complaint “that directs a person to perform or refrain from performing a specified act and compliance with which is enforceable by a court or governmental agency.”

The notification of the charge wasn’t served on him or accompanied by a summons, as required by Wisconsin statute 968.02(2). That law states regarding charging someone with a crime, “After a complaint has been issued, it shall be filed with a judge and either a warrant or summons shall be issued or the complaint shall be dismissed, pursuant to s. 968.03.” Bernegger objected by filing a Motion to Dismiss.

The court set an initial appearance on April 1, but Bernegger didn’t show up since the law clearly stated that the complaint should be dismissed, and he’d filed the Motion to Dismiss. However, the judge appeared to disregard the law, issuing an arrest warrant for him not appearing, and Bernegger self-surrendered.

Bernegger was released on a signature bond. He told The Sun Times the authorities didn’t care about a cash bond, prohibiting him from alcohol or drugs, or other restrictions, “all they wanted was for me to shut and stop filing lawsuits.” The signature bond prohibits him from publishing directly or indirectly any harassment or intimidation of the witnesses or victims.

He noted that only two people since 1977 have been convicted of that statute.

Bernegger’s research found that the Smurfing effort began back in 2010 with the progressive voting group ACORN, which turned into ActBlue. Numerous ACORN officials were convicted of crimes, mostly voter registration fraud. Bernegger said progressive activists use bots to take names from the FEC website, where the donor has indicated they are retired or have left the employment space blank. He said he believes they target these types of donors since “they are unlikely to be able to fight back.” They then make thousands of small donations in those donors’ names without their knowledge to ActBlue and Democratic candidates.

Bernegger dug into this with election integrity investigator Chris Gleason of Florida, and teamed up with journalist James O’Keefe, who visited the homes of the elderly Democratic Smurfs, asking them if they had made hundreds or thousands of small contributions, and they all denied it.

Bernegger said it constitutes identity theft, criminal money laundering, violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, and more.

Bernegger posted on X in February that Kaul, who previously worked as an attorney for Hillary Clinton, benefited from Smurf donations. One of the elderly donors whose name was used, 79-year-old Lydia Foght, allegedly made 26,880 political contributions to him and others over about five and a half years.

He filed a complaint against Kaul’s campaign treasurer, Mandy Meagan Roberts, alleging that Kaul “cheated in his 2018 and 2022 elections by criminally laundering money into his campaigns.”

Bernegger told The Sun Times that he went to nine different sheriffs accompanied by attorneys and local citizens who voted for the sheriffs, but none took any action. He showed members of Congress his presentation about Smurfing over Zoom, but they had nothing to say afterward. Since he discovered the Smurfing, he has filed 52 ethics complaints with ethics commissions on both Democrats and Republicans engaging in similar activities.

In February, Bernegger filed a complaint against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for allegedly accepting $184,916.45 in Smurfing contributions. He also found $23,459.54 contributed by donors who listed no name or address and $44,295,80 over the limit of $3,000 per person.

Bernegger said a citizen also filed a complaint against the Tim Michels campaign that month, alleging “918 donations (made up of 436 unique donors) totaling $228,821.62.” Michels ran for governor in 2022 for Wisconsin.

Another complaint was filed against Rebecca Kleefish’s “People For Rebecca” campaign, alleging $242,229.94 of Smurfing donations. Bernegger said one of the donors, an 86-year-old man, made 17,716 donations over five and a half years to Kleefish and others. He said Kleefish also accepted $456,993.96 in contributions from P.O. Box addresses instead of street addresses, as required by law.

On March 1, Bernegger announced on X that his efforts may have been successful against a Wisconsin state assembly member, “She’s OUT! Kristina Shelton had a campaign finance violations complaint filed against her for $6,198.66. We caught her Smurfing, i.e. structured money laundering. This D-Assembly Rep from Green Bay has announced she won’t seek re-election. She’s liable to pay the money back, could face treble in fines by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.”

Bernegger has also been investigating dead voters and how Dominion Voting Systems’ electronic voting machine tabulators are allegedly being secretly manipulated. He told The Sun Times, “I have seen the source code, I have access to it, it is flipping votes …. but cheating software is not used in all counties.”

He is currently working on stopping election fraud in 30 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, essentially the largest. He told The Sun Times that since their voting machine tabulators are connected to the internet, it gives crooked election workers an idea of how many ballots to feed in. He said this information has been revealed from whistleblowers and public record requests over the last three and a half years of investigations.

He has filed two lawsuits to prevent election officials from seeing the vote counts while the counting is in process, and the hearings begin this week.

Bernegger said progressive activists claim his efforts are failing, but he’s been winning some public records lawsuits. He’s received 90 percent of the documents he’s demanded.

A preliminary hearing in the prosecution is scheduled for April 22, but Bernegger will be filing a Motion to Dismiss. He compiled information about Smurfing on his site Election Watch, posted the complaints filed at Capital Cash Chronicles, and has raised $45,000 for his legal defense fund.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter / X. Email tips to [email protected].



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