GOP election investigation put on pause to fight lawsuits, Gableman's salary reduced

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The salary of the attorney hired to investigate the 2020 election will be cut in half to fight lawsuits, putting the review on pause for now, according to a new contract.

Michael Gableman, who was hired by Assembly Republicans to review the 2020 election, will now be paid $5,500 a month, a reduction from $11,000, to assist with ongoing lawsuits related to the probe.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who hired Gableman months ago, said investigative duties will be delayed until lawsuits are settled in the courts.

"Until we win those lawsuits, you know, we are pausing the investigation because it's not like we're going to keep looking into things we've already discovered," Vos said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Vos has extended Gableman's contract multiple times and this latest one does not have an end date, which means it could continue leading up to the Nov. 8 general election or beyond. The contact also gives Gableman $2,500 a month to cover rent at his office. 

Five lawsuits challenge aspects of the investigation, which Vos and Gableman have argued is the reason why the review continues months after its original deadline of October. Democrats continue to criticize the review as a waste of taxpayer funds.

"Vos has really lost control of this investigation from the very beginning," said State Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) who serves on the Assembly Elections Committee. "There's been sloppy record-keeping around reimbursements and it's clear Gableman managed to take the taxpayers for a ride here, and Vos was asleep at the wheel while it was happening."

Gableman was given a $676,000 taxpayer-funded budget for the review and has spent about $500,000 as of March, according to open records. Gableman's budget will not change under the contract, but legal fees could surpass the allocated amount. Any other fees will have to be approved by the Assembly, according to the contract.

The liberal watchdog group American Oversight has filed three open record lawsuits seeking documents related to the probe. In the last month, two different judges have handed American Oversight victories by ordering Gableman and Vos to stop deleting records related to the probe. Vos has been found in contempt of court for failing to produce records.

Two additional lawsuits challenge Gableman's subpoena powers. Attorney General Josh Kaul, who's representing the Wisconsin Election Commission, sued Gableman for attempting to compel election officials to testify in private instead of in front of the Assembly Election Committee.

In a separate lawsuit, Gableman is seeking to throw the mayors of Madison and Green Bay in jail for failing to comply with his subpoenas which requested private interviews and thousands of pages of documents. The next hearing on this case is scheduled for July 11.

Joe Biden was declared the winner in Wisconsin, defeating Trump by about 21,000 votes. Lawsuits, recounts and nonpartisan reviews have upheld the results.

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