The man leading a review of the 2020 election on behalf of Wisconsin Assembly Republicans, Michael Gableman, says he's not trying to overturn the election results, but he revealed Wednesday that one of the investigators he has hired did, in fact, file a lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The investigator, Ron Heuer, is the president of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, which failed in its bid to convince the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election results late last year. The group also joined other state organizations in trying to block the certification of the election. Both cases were shot down by judges.
Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn had a withering response for the group in his rejection of the group's request, writing in his ruling about a year ago, "This petition falls far short of the kind of compelling evidence and legal support we would undoubtedly need to countenance the court-ordered disenfranchisement of every Wisconsin voter."
Those cases, and a third case in federal court that was dismissed before the election, focused in part on claims about grants made by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a group devoted to improving voter information access, technology and infrastructure and that is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
The group gave private funds to more than 2,500 election offices around the country to help with election administration. The money was used to pay for drop boxes, PPE, poll workers, temporary staff, cleaning and other election-related items, according to a report from the group.
Those grants have been a key focus of Gableman's investigation. He has accused cities in Wisconsin of not providing all of the information he has requested about how the grants were used. Some conservatives have argued that the money was used for a partisan advantage.
A former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, Gableman was hired over the summer by Wisconsin Assembly Republicans and was given a budget of $676,000 to scrutinize the 2020 election. So far he's spent $175,000. Gableman has traveled to see how other efforts to review the election have been undertaken, visiting Arizona to take a look at the Maricopa County review of its election results and equipment and attending a symposium in South Dakota run by My Pillow CEO and Trump ally Mike Lindell, who claimed he'd unveil proof at the event that the Chinese stole the election and gave it to Joe Biden, but that never materialized.
In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday night, Heuer said he's been working with Gableman on the CTCL grants and investigating nursing homes. Last month, the Racine County sheriff, who is a Republican, recommended charges against five of the six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, claiming they broke the law by telling clerks that they didn't have to send specially trained poll workers into nursing homes. WEC has maintained that no crimes were committed.
Heuer said he doesn't regret the lawsuits filed last year seeking to block certification of the election results. He said Wednesday that he believes there was "cheating going on that influenced the number of votes that were cast" in the 2020 election based on what he has seen.
President Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes. Wisconsin's results were certified and multiple courts rejected challenges to the election results. A recount in the state's two largest counties affirmed President Biden's win.
Gableman has previously refused to name many of the people on his staff, but the names have been filtering out. He said Wednesday that his staff includes several former Milwaukee police detectives and former private investigator Gary Wait, who was part of a small group of volunteers who tried to review ballots from the 2020 election, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Andrew Kloster, a former Trump administration official who falsely claimed in an April blog post that the "2020 was stolen, fair and square," is also on Gabelman's staff.
Wisconsin Democratic state Representative Mark Spreitzer slammed Gableman's hiring choices.
"How can we take your investigation seriously?" Spreitzer asked. "Isn't this just an extension of partisan activities trying to gin up a political base for the next election more than a legitimate investigation of the last election."
Gableman defended Heuer, saying he has been looking into the Center for Tech and Civic Life's grants for some time and pronounced Heuer "a fine and honorable man."
"My work and my employees will be judged by one thing and that is the finished work product," Gableman said. "And right now what is preventing the finished work product is the fearful running and hiding of those government officials who do not want to be held accountable and who do not want to tell the public what they did with the Zuckerberg money and why they hid it."
Gableman claimed he filed lawsuits on Monday seeking to force depositions from the mayors of Green Bay and Madison. According to the Associated Press, Madison's city attorney said he hadn't heard about a lawsuit and Green Bay officials said they hadn't heard about a lawsuit until Gableman made the claim.
His review is continuing as Wisconsin Republicans keep up their attacks on the bipartisan state agency that oversees elections.
Senator Ron Johnson has said he'd like to see the Wisconsin Legislature to take control of election administration.
"I think the state Legislature needs to reassert its authority (and) make sure that, in the federal elections, our election clerks follow state law, not guidances that are contrary to state law," Johnson told Wisconsin Public Radio last month.
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu told WISN-TV in Milwaukee that lawmakers will "have to take a broader look" at whether WEC needs to be reformed, but said that he's not sure how Johnson's suggestion for the legislature to take control "would be accomplished."
"We have a state agency for a reason, to look at nomination signatures, to help candidates along the way, and to make sure clerks around the state know how to administer elections. I think the Legislature unilaterally taking over elections, I'm not sure how that would work," he said.
Criticism by Johnson and other Wisconsin Republicans came after the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found there was no widespread fraud in Wisconsin's 2020 election; however, the agency did make 30 recommendations to the Wisconsin Elections Commisison's staff and 18 issues for state lawmakers to consider.
At a meeting on Wednesday, WEC commissioners responded to some of those recommendations with changes they would try to work toward making, but slammed other parts of the report as "inaccurate" and "sloppy."
Some Republicans in the legislature have launched attacks against WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe and called for her to resign. A bipartisan group of more than 50 election officials wrote a letter to Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to show their support for Wolfe, who says she's not planning to step down.
"I think that it's not productive. I think that it's baseless. I think it's just partisan politics," she told reporters last month. "Sometimes partisans from either side of the aisle are upset with me simply because I did my job."
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