Wisconsin GOP's 2020 Election Probe Could Cost Nine Times More Than State Contracts

The Wisconsin GOP's probe of the 2020 presidential election could cost taxpayers over nine times more than original state contracts signed earlier this summer for the investigation, said former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the Associated Press reported.

Priebus, who used to lead the state's GOP, spoke about the investigation's expanded price while appearing on a podcast from Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's former chief strategist. The probe would cost "about $680,000, at least to start," said Priebus, who also worked as the former president's chief of staff, in 2017.

In the original contract, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who was to be paid $44,000 for the four-month investigation into the results of the 2020 election, the AP said. President Joe Biden received almost 21,000 votes in the state.

In addition, three investigators were to be brought in and paid $9,600 each, according to the AP. However, one wasn't actually hired, and the others backed out of the probe in July.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Reince Priebus
The Wisconsin GOP's election probe could cost nine times more than original contracts signed for the investigation, said Reince Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Above, Priebus speaks during the 2019 Politicon on October 26, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Politicon

Speaking to Bannon, Priebus did not specify whether the $680,000 would come from taxpayers, donations or both.

Vos, who is close friends with Priebus, met with Trump at an Alabama rally on Saturday and promised to keep him updated on the investigation.

Priebus, Vos and Gableman did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Gableman last week traveled to South Dakota to attend an event hosted by MyPillow executive Mike Lindell that included advocates of conspiracy theories. He previously traveled to Arizona to talk with those involved with a widely discredited Arizona election audit there.

Democrats and other critics of Gableman's investigation have said his time would be better spent in Wisconsin talking with election officials and those with direct knowledge about how elections are run in the state.

Gableman has said a thorough investigation into Wisconsin's election was warranted and the intention was not to attempt to overturn the results. Biden's victory has withstood recounts in two counties and multiple state and federal lawsuits, but Republicans passed a series of bills that would toughen absentee voting rules, all of which were vetoed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

The investigation Gableman is leading is one of several in the state.

The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau is conducting a review of the election as ordered by Republicans. That is expected to be done in the fall. Republican Representative Janel Brandtjen, chairwoman of the Assembly Elections Committee, issued subpoenas earlier this month to election clerks in Milwaukee and Brown counties seeking voting machines, ballots and other records, but legislative attorneys have said they're not valid unless Vos signs them.

The clerks in both counties said the subpoenas are being reviewed. Vos has said if Gableman determines that subpoenas are necessary, he will "look into making sure those can happen."

Priebus said he was told that subpoenas would be issued in the next week or two. He did not specify whether they would be new subpoenas or if Vos was signing the ones issued by Brandtjen.