MADISON (WKOW) -- Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, a woman got out of an SUV and headed into the Wisconsin Elections Commission office. She had arranged to drop off the 2,000-plus signatures needed to put rap artist Kanye West on the November presidential ballot.
The woman declined to answer questions on her way to and from the office; she would not tell a reporter her name. On Wednesday, however, the Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed she is Lane Ruhland. Ruhland is listed on the website of the firm Husch Blackwell's Madison office. Her biography states she worked for the Republican National Committee during the 2016 presidential recount in Wisconsin.
"I think the Wisconsin filing is the best evidence we have so far at least some Republican operatives are cooperating or helping the Kanye West campaign in his effort to get on the ballot," said UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden.
Burden said Wednesday the involvement of GOP operatives to aid West's campaign, something that has been reportedly happening in other states but without such a definite link as the one involving Ruhland, suggests Republicans believe West can peel away enough Biden votes in swing states.
"They seem to imagine it's going to be a younger, more urban, less white voter who finds Kanye especially appealing," Burden said. "And those voters tend to be Democrats at the moment."
Federal court records also list Ruhland as an attorney for President Donald Trump's re-election committee in a lawsuit it filed this spring against a Rhinelander television station over an ad it ran from a liberal Super PAC.
Neither Ruhland nor the Trump campaign's Wisconsin press secretary responded to 27 News' requests for comment Wednesday.
In a tweet, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, a Democrat, tweeted, "So you're telling me the Republican Party is using a Black man's labor to meet their own goals because they don't want to do the work.:
The Republican Party of Wisconsin sent a statement to 27 News that read, "It appears the Kanye West campaign made a smart decision by hiring an experienced election attorney. We welcome Kanye West and all other candidates who qualified for ballot access to the race, and look forward to delivering Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes to President Trump."
Burden said there is risk in Republicans' decision to help get West on the ballot. He said many of the crossover voters who supported both Presidents Obama and Trump may see West as a candidate of change.
"Kanye West's appeal is probably gonna be greatest among young people and those voters right now are mostly in Biden's camp," Burden said. "But he's also likely to appeal to folks who are disenchanted with the political process and are looking for an outside, a non-traditional candidate."
The list of signatures for West become public Wednesday afternoon. Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said the deadline for challenging signatures is Friday afternoon while West's campaign has until next Monday to respond.
The WEC has until August 26 to certify all candidates for the November ballot.