GOP-Appointed Attorney Suspects Election Officials Used Zuckerberg Grants, David Plouffe Book

The GOP-appointed attorney hired to investigate the 2020 election in Wisconsin said that he's trying to figure out whether state government officials used grants from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to support President Joe Biden in the race, the Associated Press reported.

Michael Gableman also voiced suspicions that those officials had followed a plan detailed in the book "A Citizen's Guide to Beating Donald Trump," which was written by David Plouffe, former President Barack Obama's campaign manager.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired Gableman, a former conservative member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to probe the 2020 election, AP reported. Though Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes has held steady throughout recounts and claims of widespread voter fraud remain unproven, some Republicans have continued to question the election's integrity.

Out of the more than 3 million residents of Wisconsin who submitted ballots, just five have been charged with election fraud, AP reported.

Still, Wisconsin Republicans have been increasing pressure on state election officials recently. Gableman told lawmakers during a hearing Wednesday that he had filed lawsuits earlier in the week to force Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway to testify because they have "simply failed without reason or excuse to appear."

Madison City Attorney Michael Haas said that he hadn't heard anything about a lawsuit, while online court records did not list either filing, according to AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Wisconsin Legislative Audit Committee
The GOP-appointed attorney hired to investigate the 2020 election in Wisconsin said that he's trying to figure out whether state government officials used grants from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to support President Joe Biden in the race. Above, members of the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Committee listen to virtual testimony from Wisconsin Elections Administrator Meagan Wolfe during a hearing on November 9, 2021. John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP

Green Bay Interim City Attorney Joanne Bungert didn't respond to email and voicemail messages. City officials issued a statement saying they have already provided Gableman with almost 20,000 pages of records and no one had any seen Gableman's filing on Monday, adding the first they heard about it was through press inquiries following the committee meeting.

Gableman pushed back against Democrats' criticisms that the probe has been too secretive. He listed everyone working for him and their salaries, including Ron Heuer, president of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, which brought two failed lawsuits seeking to overturn the presidential election results; lawyer Andrew Kloster, a former Trump administration official who has stated the election was stolen; and two retired Milwaukee police detectives.

Gableman said so far he has spent about $175,000 of the $675,000 that Assembly Republicans authorized for the investigation in August. He also promised to publicly release documents by Friday that won't "compromise" the investigation.

The former justice told the committee that he has now provided the transparency Democrats have demanded and it's time for election officials to do the same and cooperate with him. He got into shouting matches with Democratic Representatives Mark Spritzer and Jodi Emerson, accusing them of ignoring his invitations to meet with him.

Emerson shot back that she has a hard time believing what's coming out of his investigation. Spritzer questioned Gableman's impartiality and accused him of hiring conservatives looking to remove Biden from office.

"Stop making things up, Mark," Gableman cut him off. "Your constituents deserve better. Shame on you."

"Shame on you!" Spritzer fired back.

As Gableman testified at the state Capitol, the state elections commission met over Zoom to discuss a nonpartisan audit released last month that made 48 recommendations for improving how elections are run in the state. Thirty of those were for the commission to consider and the rest were possible law changes for the Legislature.

Given that the panel is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, no significant changes were expected to be adopted Wednesday to its current operations or guidelines issued to the more than 1,800 local officials who actually run elections.

The commission agreed on bipartisan votes to make some relatively minor recommendations made in the audit, but weightier and more divisive topics awaited.

Republican commissioner Dean Knudson said the audit provided some "constructive criticism" but also faulted it for factual errors and "pettiness" on such issues as recommending enacting a rule to refer to the state voter registration system by its brand name, rather than a generic term.

The Audit Bureau also did not allow the elections commission to submit a response that is included when the report is released, a step that is routinely done for other audits.

"They actually acted in an unprofessional manner in this case," Knudson said of the audit bureau. "That's disappointing."

While some Republicans pointed to the audit as evidence that Wisconsin elections were safe and secure because it did not find any evidence of widespread fraud or abuse, others have said it shows that the commission willfully broke the law during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Wisconsin Election Officials
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos earlier this year hired Michael Gableman, a former conservative member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to probe the 2020 election in the state. Above, Gableman speaks during a session at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on June 6, 2011. John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal, Pool Photo via AP