Michael Gableman — who last month offered to reduce his salary to $1 annually to keep his probe of the 2020 election going — will be paid $5,500 a month under an amended contract with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
The new salary is half the $11,000 Gableman was being paid monthly under the original deal he signed with the Rochester Republican.
Under the deal, the focus of Gableman’s efforts will be the legal actions that raise questions about his authority in the probe. The speaker’s office said the review of the 2020 election could pick back up once those are resolved.
Gableman’s salary and other costs to keep his office open during ongoing lawsuits will be covered by the less than $200,000 that remains from the $676,000 budget that Vos gave him last summer, according to the speaker’s office.
The amended contract means Gableman’s office is likely to remain open for more than a year after he originally signed a deal for a four-month review of the 2020 election.
Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, again called on Vos to “put this nonsense to bed” and end the probe.
“Time and time again, this investigation has proven that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Neubauer said. “The people of Wisconsin should not be on the hook for Gableman’s legal battles — the people of Wisconsin should not have been paying for this farce to begin with.”
Vos’ office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the speaker. An aide to Gableman also didn’t return calls.
The new contract, which took effect May 1 and was released Wednesday by the Assembly chief clerks’ office, has no end date. Along with taxpayer money to cover the former justice’s work on the lawsuits that have been filed over his authority to carry out the probe, the contract keeps the public on the hook for legal bills to cover outside counsel in those actions.
Dem AG Josh Kaul has challenged Gableman’s authority to compel the state’s top elections official to testify at the former justice’s private office in Brookfield. Meanwhile, Gableman has gone to Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking to have the mayors of Green Bay and Madison, as well as others, jailed unless they agree to provide private depositions as well.
Legal bills WisPolitics.com obtained through an open records request in early April showed Assembly Republicans had already racked up more than $250,000 in legal bills in the suit Kaul filed alone. Taxpayers had been billed another $90,000 for legal work for ongoing suits seeking records from the probe.
The amended contract includes $2,500 a month for rent and “reasonable expenses” to maintain Gableman’s office. All other expenses are subject to the $676,000 budget that was originally set for the investigation and require pre approval by the Assembly.
According to Vos’ office, Gableman had spent $483,362 through April 28. The Assembly chief clerk will continue to monitor his expenditures.
In addition to Gableman, one assistant continues to be employed by the office, according to a Vos spokeswoman.
The cap on expenses doesn’t include the costs for outside counsel. The new contract states Gableman will work in cooperation with outside counsel James Bopp as well as other private attorneys retained in the ongoing legal actions.
Vos originally signed a contract with Gableman that took effect July 1 and announced it at the GOP state convention. It envisioned a four-month investigation that would conclude by Oct. 31. But a month later, they signed an amended deal that included the $676,000 budget to cover expenses through Dec. 31. Vos and Gableman’s offices told WisPolitics.com in early January they’d reached a verbal agreement to extend the deal, and in March the speaker released an amended contract that ran through April.
The latest extension came after former President Trump pressured Wisconsin Republicans to keep the probe going. The same day Trump issued the statement, Gableman sent a letter to Vos urging him to keep the office open. The letter, obtained by WisPolitics.com, included an offer from Gableman to reduce his salary to $1 annually to keep the effort going if money was an issue.
See the amended contract here.