Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told WisPolitics.com he plans a $680,000 cap on how much former Justice Michael Gableman can spend in taxpayer money on a review of the 2020 election.
The Rochester Republican also said for the first time publicly he won’t sign off on the subpoenas that Campaigns and Elections Chair Janel Brandtjen issued or provide any additional resources in the probe she has undertaken, saying his focus is on Gableman’s work.
Vos previously signed a contract with Gableman paying the former justice $44,000 over a four-month period to lead the investigation, one of three probes GOP lawmakers have approved. He said the new budget, which will be voted on by Assembly Org, will give Gableman the funds to hire private investigators and people with a background in technology to complete the review.
He said no private funds will be used to cover the cost, pointing to a frequent Dem criticism of the audit in Arizona.
“They have been criticizing Arizona because the people who funded it want to find fraud so now they’re going to find it,” Vos said in a phone interview. “I want to make sure our investigation doesn’t have the same potential for people to undermine the facts that are found.”
Still, Dem Rep. Mark Spreitzer, a member of the Campaigns and Elections Committee, called it an “absolutely absurd waste of taxpayer dollars” especially without “some indication of what that money is going to pay for and why that is needed.”
Former state and national GOP Chair Reince Priebus earlier this week said in an interview with Steve Bannon the full Legislature had approved $680,000 for the probe and more outside money was on the way to help with the costs. He also claimed subpoenas would be issued within a week or two in the Gableman-led probe and laid out what areas the review would cover.
But Vos told WisPolitics.com today he is leaving it to Gableman to define the parameters of the “cyber-forensic audit” he wants of the 2020 investigation. He also said he is open to signing off on any subpoenas that Gableman believes are needed.
Gableman previously traveled to Arizona to review the much-maligned audit there as well as to South Dakota for a symposium put on by My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, who has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Vos said those expenses will be covered by Gableman’s salary. But if he has additional expenses for traveling in Wisconsin, those would be covered by the new contract, which he expected to be released before long.
Vos again said his goal is for Gableman to wrap up his work by late October so the Legislature could consider additional legislation during the fall floor period. Republicans also approved a Legislative Audit Bureau review of how the election was conducted, and Vos expects that to wrap up in September.
Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, declined to comment on Vos’ remarks. Leg Council has authored two memos stating a legislative subpoena needs the signature of the presiding officer of a chamber and the chief clerk to have the power to compel testimony or the production of evidence and levy penalties for failure to comply.
She has previously cited a different statute to support the subpoenas she issued to Brown and Milwaukee county officials. Today, she acknowledged needing Vos’ support to proceed.
“I have the power to write them. He has the power to authorize them,” Brandtjen said.
Spreitzer said he was relieved that Vos won’t sign off on Brandtjen’s subpoenas, which sought ballots and voting machines from Brown and Milwaukee counties. Still, he questioned what Gableman might seek to obtain through subpoenas of his own, saying seizing voting machines would be particularly problematic because of the possibility it would render them useless in future elections.
Spreitzer also said if Gableman tries to seize ballots, the former justice should make clear what he was looking for before undertaking such an effort.
“There has been no clarity about what exactly Republicans are looking for and how they will know whether or not they have found it,” Spreitzer said.