MADISON – Assembly Speaker Robin Vos reached a new agreement with attorney Michael Gableman on Tuesday, just hours before a judge said Gableman’s records offered little sign he had conducted a thorough review of the 2020 election.
Vos, a Rochester Republican, hired Gableman as special counsel last summer and gave him a taxpayer-funded budget of $ 676,000 to look into the election.
Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington said Tuesday he would release hundreds of pages of records related to Gableman’s work but said they showed little sign of an investigation.
“I believe it’s for every man now to examine these documents,” Remington said from the bench. “And I believe when done so (he) will come to the conclusion that this has been much to-do about nothing, that these documents do not support the argument that there has been an investigation, much less the conclusions that have been made by the Office of Special Counsel. ”
Remington made his comments in response to an open records lawsuit filed by the liberal group American Oversight. Remington last week ruled Vos and Gableman had violated the law by keeping records from the group and on Tuesday he ruled those documents should be quickly released.
Gableman attorney James Bopp said he would likely appeal the ruling.
At issue are hundreds of pages of records maintained by Gableman. Remington called them underwhelming.
Gableman issued a report last week that he maintained showed numerous problems with how the election was conducted. The report reiterated arguments Republicans have been making for months about voting in nursing homes and grants Wisconsin cities received to run their elections that were funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Also last week, Gableman argued legislators should consider trying to revoke the state’s 10 electoral votes for Joe Biden. Legal scholars say that is legally impossible.
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Recounts and court rulings have confirmed Biden beat Donald Trump in Wisconsin. A legislative audit and a review by a conservative group found no signs of significant voter fraud.
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Vos hired Gableman in June and agreed to pay him $ 11,000 a month. The contract expired at the end of December but Gableman has continued to receive payments.
On Tuesday, they both signed an amended contract, Bopp said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Bopp did not describe the terms of the contract. Your spokeswoman Angela Joyce did not respond to a request for a copy of the contract.
Democrats in the state Senate sought to launch an audit Tuesday of Gableman’s office, but Republicans who control the chamber rejected the effort. In a sign of some GOP discomfort with Gableman’s work, three Republicans – Sens. Kathy Bernier of Lake Hallie, Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield and Jerry Petrowski of Marathon – joined the Democrats in the vote to advance the audit.
Judge orders release of records
Remington conducted Tuesday’s hearing to determine whether to order the release of the records or keep them sealed while Gableman pursued an appeal. He said he would release the records, but they did not immediately become available Tuesday.
There is not much to the records, Remington said, raising questions about what Gableman and his team have been doing for more than eight months.
Election officials, Democrats and some Republicans have called Gableman’s work a sham that has undermined confidence in the election.
Gableman’s backers have rallied behind him, saying his reports show a need to overhaul how elections are run in Wisconsin. Gableman has called for limiting early voting and mail voting.
If Remington’s rulings withstand appeals, the state likely will have to pay thousands of dollars to American Oversight to cover the group’s legal costs. In addition, the Assembly, Vos and Gableman would have to pay a combined $ 3,000 in penalties.
Remington said he did not understand why the public release of such documents would in any way hurt Gableman’s review of the 2020 election.
Remington found in last week’s ruling that many of the records at issue were mundane and said there should be no dispute over whether they should be made public.
The documents include emails from Mike Lindell, the MyPillow executive who has promoted foreign false theories about the election; Ron Heuer, who has looked into voting at nursing homes for both Gableman and the Thomas More Society’s Amistad Project; and Harry Wait, who is involved with the conservative group Honest Open Transparent Government.
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Also included is “what appears to be a jeremiad against, to name a few, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Mark Zuckerberg, and the star of the 1987 film Predator“Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
The documents also include an email in which Gableman’s office shared its password for a dropbox.com account, Remington wrote.
“No statute prohibits the release of passwords, and the public has no interest in keeping its government’s irresponsible digital security a secret,” Remington wrote.
American Oversight has filed two other open records lawsuits because of documents that have been withheld from it.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.