Wisconsin GOP leader fires 2020 election investigator Michael Gableman
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- After 14 months, Wisconsin taxpayers will no longer have to pay for an investigation that found no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.
On Friday, Aug. 12, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos fired Michael Gableman, ending the investigation.
Critics say it's far too little too late. The saga has cost taxpayers more than one million dollars and there is little to show for it.
Virtually from the start it faced bipartisan criticism for wasting taxpayer money on trying to do something that could not be done: overturn a fair and free election.
Democratic Representative Mark Spreitzer, of Beloit, said, "This should have happened a long time ago. Robin Vos never should have hired Mike Gableman in the first place."
Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said, "For us, this is nothing more than a waste of taxpayer dollars, to the tune of about a million dollars and running."
Speaker Vos wrote to Gableman, saying "You are not to engage in any further activities with regards to the Office of Special Counsel or as a representative of the Wisconsin State Assembly."
Vos later said several fellow Republicans had reached out to him in recent days, and it was clear the only choice was to end the investigation.
Rep. Spreitzer sparred with Gableman several times during hearings in front of the Assembly Elections Committee. After the investigation was ended, he said, "This was pure politics. There's been nothing here for a very long time. Mike Gableman's reports have not produced any new information."
And Spreitzer says the timing of the announcement was also politically motivated. "It's a shame it took Gableman endorsing against Vos in a Republican primary to finally bring this waste of taxpayer money to an end."
Criticism had come from both sides of the aisle, but Democrats especially have called for the investigation to end for some time.
At a campaign event Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers told a crowd of supporters, "Here's my advice to [Vos]: fire Gableman now."
And Attorney General Josh Kaul told the same crowd, "Speaker Vos, shut this fake investigation down."
The relationship between Vos and Gableman soured in the days leading up to the end of the investigation. First, former President Trump endorsed Vos' primary opponent. Then Gableman followed suit.
But Vos won the primary race. On election night he said, "Mike Gableman is an embarrassment to the state."
He tried to walk it back the next day, saying he was referring to Gableman's actions. "It's really been embarrassing the way there's been this back and forth, and he chose to be involved in partisan politics. Very much against the intent of what we wanted."
Last Sept. Gableman issued a video statement that directly targeted county clerks. In it he said, "We are holding government officials accountable to the public for their actions surrounding the elections."
But Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said there is nothing to hide and there was no wrongdoing, as evidenced by Tuesday's primary election.
Christenson said, "Why didn't we hear the Republicans saying anything about voter fraud or anything else in this race? It only comes up when they lose and it suits them."
With fewer than 90 days until the Nov. general election, the focus now can shift to repairing any damage done to voter confidence.
Christenson said, "What it did is it just further disenfranchised people into realizing that this is nothing more than just a political game."
Rep. Spreitzer said, "Mike Gableman is an election conspiracy theorist who is trying to undermine voter confidence in our elections."
It's unclear if any of the one million dollars in taxpayer money spent on the investigation can be recouped. Representative Spreitzer says since Speaker Vos is the one who signed Gableman's checks, he is the one who needs to try to get the money back.
We reached out to Speaker Vos and his office for an interview, but did not hear back.