Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman sent the first subpoenas in his review of the 2020 election, directing clerks and the state Elections Commission to bring a slew of records to his Brookfield office Oct. 15.
Officials for the Elections Commission and the cities of Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine told WisPolitics.com that they received the subpoenas and provided copies of what Gableman sent. The records being sought include documentation on the use of private funds to cover election costs last fall.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which received much of its money from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, sent grants to some 200 Wisconsin communities to help cover the cost of putting on an election during a pandemic. The bulk of that money went to Green Bay, Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha and Racine.
Kenosha officials declined comment on whether they’ve received a subpoena because the clerk was out of the office until Monday.
The subpoenas include a warning that refusing to comply may constitute contempt of the Legislature, which could include a punishment of imprisonment.
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg told WisPolitics.com she won’t ignore the subpoena. Still, Gableman could’ve obtained much of the information without it.
“Most of what is being asked for has already been provided to the Legislature via public records request,” she wrote in an email. “A subpoena wasn’t really necessary.”
Gableman began the review at the behest of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. It has been plagued with missteps in the early goings, including Gableman using a Gmail account to send an initial communication to clerks. Several clerks said they thought the email was suspicious and it ended up in their spam filters.
The cover letter Gableman sent to Madison, Milwaukee and the Elections Commission said the subpoena was seeking information on the 2020 election for the city of Green Bay. The subpoenas, however, correctly identified the information being sought.
The cover letter also included the subject line “Subpoena deuces tecum.” A subpoena duces tecum requires the witness to produce a document or documents pertinent to a proceeding. The subpoena included the correct spelling.
Green Bay Clerk Celestine Jeffreys told WisPolitics.com many of the documents on the lengthy list that accompanied the subpoena are already posted on the city website. They include questions related to how election costs were covered.
The subpoenas were signed by Vos.
“Justice Gableman is dedicated to finding the truth and has determined subpoenas are necessary to move forward in his investigation,” Vos said. “Assembly Republicans will continue to work with Justice Gableman to ensure confidence is fully restored in our elections.”
Gableman’s subpoenas include documents and communications between election officials and:
*The National Vote at Home Institute,
*any other employees of private corporations,
*other cities’ election officials, among other things.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit and ranking Dem on the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee, in a statement said the subpoenas show Vos “is using every power available to him to placate far-right extremists.”
He also questioned whether the subpoenas are valid and if clerks will be asked to present information in open meetings or “behind closed doors to a shadowy group of former Trump officials whose names we don’t even know.”
“And all of this is on an issue that is already in full public view,” Spreitzer said. “Disgraced Trump-aligned attorneys have already wasted hours across multiple hearings proclaiming their dislike for local municipalities seeking the funds they need to administer elections.”