Taxpayers foot bill for Gableman’s political speeches and groceries, documents show

By: - March 7, 2022 2:47 pm
Former Justice Michael Gableman | Screenshot from YouTube

Former Justice Michael Gableman | Screenshot from YouTube

Documents, newly obtained by government watchdog group American Oversight, show that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has spent about $519,000 as he conducts his partisan review of the 2020 presidential election. Last week, he told an Assembly committee last week that he had about $300,000 of his $676,000 budget remaining. 

American Oversight, which has been fighting multiple open records lawsuits against Gableman and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, obtained invoices Gableman filed with the Assembly. The invoices include $234 in travel costs for a trip Gableman took to speak at a meeting of the Chippewa County Republican Party as well as multiple occasions in which Gableman charged taxpayers for “groceries” and hundreds of dollars in Grubhub delivery orders.

The types of expenses Gableman and his team are charging to taxpayers and the manner in which those expense reports were made raised questions from across the state about the professionalism of Gableman’s work and the care being taken with public money. 

​​“It seems to me that the Assembly ought to be taking a much closer look at the invoices and similar requests for payment that Mr. Gableman keeps submitting because they certainly don’t appear to comport with the ordinary rules for state employees and that should concern the Assembly,” Ann Jacobs, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “It appears there isn’t a lot of oversight of his submissions.”

Gableman has been digging into the 2020 election since last year and last week he released an “interim report,” that largely rehashes allegations that have been long debunked by elections experts. Gableman said his work has led him to believe the Legislature should decertify Wisconsin’s election results, a move the Legislature’s attorneys have said is impossible. 

Numerous lawsuits, audits, investigations and recounts have affirmed that the 2020 election was safe, secure and won by Joe Biden with a margin of about 21,000 votes. 

As he’s gone about his work, Gableman has made a number of appearances at Republican events, including on Dec. 20 when he went to a meeting of the Chippewa County Republican Party and criticized Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie) for her efforts to counteract Republican conspiracies about the election. 

Taxpayer money is not supposed to fund political work, yet Gableman was reimbursed for the costs of his trip to Chippewa Falls. In the early 2000s, the so-called Caucus Scandal ripped through Wisconsin politics, resulting in a number of felony convictions after it was revealed that state employees were campaigning for political candidates on government time. 

A spokesperson for Vos told the Journal-Sentinel that Gableman would have to pay back the money from his Chippewa Falls trip. 

Gableman has been operating for the last few months without a contract with the Legislature, even though his and his team’s salaries have continued to be paid. The Assembly has adjourned for the year, yet Gableman has promised his work will continue.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.