Taxpayer money for election probe funds Gableman travel

His trips included MyPillow conspiracy event and the discredited Arizona audit

By: - September 3, 2021 6:00 am
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell at church

Mike Lindell | Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

Speaker Robin Vos’ blank-check contract with Michael Gableman to investigate the Wisconsin presidential election includes a sizable budget line for travel. The contract also specifies that unlike Arizona, which conducted an election audit largely financed using private funds, the latest Wisconsin audit will be paid for exclusively by Wisconsin taxpayers.

In the course of his investigation thus far, Gableman’s travel has included a trip to South Dakota to see MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s conspiracy-theory symposium that reports say devolved into the pillow king ranting about people and groups he felt were out to get him. Gableman’s other reported trip was to Arizona to watch the widely ridiculed Maricopa County Cyber Ninja audit.

When the latest contract Vos executed with Gableman came to light on Wednesday, it showed that Vos is requiring taxpayers to fund a travel budget of $25,000. It is not clear if this will be used to cover Gableman’s past trips to Arizona and Lindell’s conspiracy-filled event.

In addition to the travel money, the contract with Gableman as “special counsel” also includes:

  • $325,000 for data analysis of voting machines
  • $25,000 each for five investigators
  • $55,000 for Gableman from Aug. 1 – Dec. 31
  • $15,000 for communications
  • $50,000 for attorney fees
  • $25,000 for travel
  • $16,000 for an assistant to Gableman
  • $50,000 for court reporting

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin responded with a release accusing Vos of “abusing taxpayer funds in order to justify radical changes to Wisconsin’s election law” and asked if the $25,000 would be used “to reimburse Gableman with taxpayer funds for his previous ludicrous trips to meet with conspiracy theorists?”

“It should go without saying, but: Wisconsin taxpayers should not be footing the bill for Michael Gableman to meet with GOP QAnon conspiracy theorists while he runs a partisan-driven, sham election review,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Kayla Anderson in a statement. “This entire circus is just another way for Republicans to undermine our democracy and attempt to justify their voter suppression legislation. If this is how you have to win elections, you need to re-evaluate your party’s values and platform.”

Michael Gableman talks about election audit and fraud
Michael Gableman | Up Front screen shot

Gableman has stated publicly  — despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary — that he believes that the election was rigged. Since being appointed by Vos he has tried to deny and walk back such statements.

Lindell sold his bizarre three-day “cyber symposium” in South Dakota, promising — and, by press accounts, utterly failing — to provide evidence that would prove election fraud or that China hacked the election to favor Joe Biden. It is a vow he has made many times, and as in the past, it became a platform for the pillow king to rant and toss out accusations against detractors, tech companies and media for damaging or hacking his website, television station and/or reputation.


For taxpayers funding Gableman’s “cyber-forensic” audit — despite courts, recounts, investigations and other audits having shown no evidence of massive fraud or other issues — here are a few reports of the Lindell spectacle:

From Salon: “‘The whole technology was attacked, we expected that, but we do have a backup plan,” Lindell stated, adding with no evidence that 40 million people tuned in to the activities throughout the day. (Only 960 million short of the Elvis-like global audience Lindell has hoped for.)”

From Business Insider: “Lindell claimed that he had 37 terabytes of information related to voter fraud to reveal at the cyber symposium, which was live streamed on his website, Frank. He said he’d give $5 million to anyone who could disprove the data, provided they attend the event in person. … Lindell rushed offstage when news broke that the $1.3 billion defamation suit voting-machine company Dominion filed against him would go ahead.” His presence was replaced by an image of himself hugging a pillow on the screen. He has also claimed Dominion hired “hit groups and bots and trolls and went after all my vendors and box stores to cancel me out.”

A fact check from USA Today on Lindell’s statements at the event: “Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Trump won Arizona by 270,000 votes. Biden won the state by more than 10,000 votes, as certified vote totals and several recounts show. Claims that widespread voter fraud affected that outcome have been repeatedly debunked.”

From The Daily Beast: After Lindell was banned from Twitter for his lies and misinformation, the news site said he asserted that Twitter took over his account for two weeks and tweeted, pretending to be him.

Like Lindell, Gableman appears to dislike being held accountable by media regarding his attendance at the South Dakota event. When asked for comment by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he responded, “Stop calling me. Stop texting me,” via a text message to the reporter.

“Taxpayers should be outraged,” Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz told the Associated Press. “I never thought we would reach a day where we would have a contract that enabled a conspiracy theory undermining trust in our election system.”

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.