A voter and former Democratic candidate has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission alleging that a GOP campaign mailer for Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, falsely implied the Wisconsin State Journal had endorsed the Republican state Senate candidate.
The complaint, filed by Pewaukee resident Aaron Matteson, is in response to a mailer from the Republican Party of Wisconsin supporting Jagler that includes two of Jagler’s responses to a candidate questionnaire that was published ahead of the Feb. 16 primary. The statements in the mailer appear under the State Journal logo, but change personal pronouns “I” and “We” to Jagler’s name, making the quotes seem like they came from the newspaper, rather than from Jagler himself.
Matteson said he filed the complaint in response to what he called a lack of “accountability, transparency and honesty” from elected officials, primarily among members of the Republican Party.
“I just see what’s happened to this party, both the lying and noncommunication with their constituents. It’s just so rampant in almost all of their races,” Matteson said. “Here we have a case where this guy takes it a step further and basically lies about this support.”
Jagler’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the mailer or complaint. Jagler has not responded to the State Journal since first being asked about the mailers March 15.
Matteson, a lifelong Wisconsin resident who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the state’s 22nd Assembly District in 2018, said he identifies as an independent.
The complaint, which Matteson provided to the State Journal, alleges that Jagler “knowingly misrepresented himself to the voters of the 13th Senate District of Wisconsin by altering the text of an article by the Wisconsin State Journal, thereby misleading the readers into believing that the State Journal had endorsed him.”
“After being made aware of his violation, he did not correct the public record,” the complaint continues. Though Jagler’s campaign did not produce the mailer, Matteson said Jagler should take responsibility.
The mailer alters two of Jagler's responses to a candidate questionnaire, making them read like endorsements.
The State Journal editorial board has not made an endorsement in the 13th Senate District race.
Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney confirmed the complaint was received but declined to comment on it.
The complaint alleges a violation of state election law pertaining to acts such as electioneering, distributing election-related materials at polling locations, false statements affecting elections, voter intimidation, bribery and election fraud.
According to the commission website, Jagler has 15 days to respond to the complaint, after which the commission will decide if it will be dismissed or referred to the district attorney.
An official with the Republican Party of Wisconsin confirmed earlier this month that the mailer was paid for by the state party as an in-kind contribution but said an endorsement by the newspaper “was neither stated nor implied.”
Jagler is running in a special election April 6 for the 13th Senate District seat previously held by Scott Fitzgerald, who was elected to Congress last fall.
Jagler, who currently represents the 37th Assembly District, won the Republican primary on Feb. 16. He faces Democrat Melissa Winker and independents Ben Schmitz of the American Solidarity Party and Spencer Zimmer, who is running as a “Trump Conservative,” in the April 6 special election.