While Michael Gableman plans to provide legislative recommendations to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos by the end of February, there is “no way” the former state Supreme Court justice will wrap up his investigation by then, a spokesman tells WisPolitics.com.
That’s at least partly because Gableman wants to litigate his authority to issue subpoenas under state law.
The former justice has also again expanded his probe, this time by issuing subpoenas to Dominion Voting Systems Inc. and Electronic Systems & Software. The subpoenas seek records on the Nebraska-based companies’ voting machines that were used in Wisconsin during 2020.
Meanwhile, continuing his investigation beyond February will likely have implications for the $676,000 taxpayer-financed budget that Vos originally approved for the probe. Among other things, Gableman is set to exhaust the appropriation for office salaries in the coming weeks.
Gableman’s spokesman deferred to Vos on how any budget issues will be addressed. A spokeswoman for the speaker didn’t return calls last week seeing comment.
New Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, ripped the prospect of the Gableman review continuing indefinitely, saying taxpayers have already shown they want it to end.
“This sham review was supposed to end last year,” Neubauer said. “He’s now claiming it could go well past the end of February, and Vos thus far has shown he’s willing to pour more money into this process, which is irresponsible and dangerous.”
Appearing recently on “UpFront,” the Rochester Republican said he wanted a final report by the end of February so the Legislature could act on any recommendations before adjourning in March, when the two-year session ends. But that raised questions how the review could wrap up in time considering a series of issues pending in court.
A Dane County judge last week declined to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Gableman from interviewing Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe in private. But Judge Rhonda Lanford also rejected Gableman’s request to dismiss Dem AG Josh Kaul’s action seeking to prevent the former justice from interviewing Wolfe in private. Lanford left open the possibility of further court action if Gableman served Wolfe with a contempt citation, for example.
Meanwhile, a Waukesha County judge has a hearing this week to set a briefing schedule in Gableman’s attempts to have the Green Bay and Madison mayors detained unless they sit for a deposition at his private office in Brookfield. That process could take weeks.
The Gableman spokesman told WisPolitics.com the legal questions surrounding the subpoenas are key questions of legislative powers.
“The constitutional issue of the legislative subpoena and the authority of taxpayers to know how their money is spent is something that the special counsel and the speaker are both keen on obtaining final legal judgment on,” said the spokesman, who requested not to be identified by name because he’s speaking for the office. “There’s no way that would be the end of February.”
Vos and Gableman signed an amendment to their original contract in August that included a budget of $676,000. Of that, $196,000 was set aside for salaries.
WisPolitics.com has been regularly obtaining invoices from Gableman’s investigation. Through the end of December, taxpayers had covered $170,935 in salaries for those working on the investigation. That includes a payroll of more than $52,500 in December.
The original budget also includes a line of $2,000 for office equipment, for example. Still, there was an invoice for $5,401 for office supplies in November alone. Among other things, the invoice included the purchase of three laptops for $2,610.
The budget also included a line of $325,000 for data analysis, and that pot of money largely hasn’t been impacted by the invoices turned in so far, according to the WisPoiltics.com review.
Gableman’s spokesman deferred to Vos’ office on whether legislative action would be needed to amend the budget and account for how money has been spent so far. Gableman has also indicated he may seek additional funds from the Assembly.
The invoices also reveal for the first time that Gableman traveled to Michigan in October. The former justice’s spokesman said Gableman met with lawmakers there about their review of the 2020 election to see how what they learned might apply to Wisconsin, but didn’t provide other details.
In June, the Michigan state Senate’s Oversight Committee released a report finding no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
With the new subpoenas to Dominion and ESS, Gableman’s office is seeking records of any machines, computers or electronic devices the companies owned, leased or operated in Wisconsin.
The former justice is also seeking the identities of any employees or agent who either worked in Wisconsin or communicated with any “person, machine, or computer” within the state between Aug. 1, 2020, and Dec. 30, 2020.
The subpoenas mark a significant expansion of Gableman’s probe. To date, the subpoenas his office has issued have targeted officials in five cities that received private funding to help cover the costs of administering the 2020 election as well as the state Elections Commission. Republicans have charged that the private money from a group largely funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was inappropriate. A federal court ahead of the 2020 election found there was no prohibition on the communities using the money.
The records sought include:
*communications with any federal, state, county or municipal employee, as well as any candidate for federal, state, county or municipal office related to the November 2020 election.
*any communication with a person who uses an email address that includes “@wisconsin.gov”.
*communications with various people who were involved in the program that provided the private funding through the Center for Tech and Civic Life.
*those associated with The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, a liberal group that often weighs in on voting issues, as well as those with Voces de la Frontera Inc., a group that advocates for immigrants.
*documents on anything of monetary value the companies received related to the Wisconsin November 2020 election, including any payments from the state or its political subdivisions.
*contracts with the state of Wisconsin and any training materials used regarding state elections.
The six subpoenas, provided to WisPolitics.com Friday, include deadlines that range from Thursday to Jan. 26.
A spokeswoman for ES&S wrote in an email to WisPolitics.com late Friday, “All forms of evidence, including audits, have already clearly shown that Wisconsin votes were accurately counted in the 2020 general election. We are confident that any further reviews would confirm the same.”
She didn’t respond to follow-up questions.
Dominion didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
See the subpoenas: