American Oversight has reviewed a set of documents that were recently posted on the website of the Wisconsin Assembly’s ongoing election investigation — documents that further expose the inquiry’s partisan orientation and ties to election deniers.
The documents come from the Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the office created last year to conduct the investigation of the 2020 election, which is being led by lawyer Michael Gableman. The documents were not released directly to American Oversight, but do include a number of items that are responsive to our public records requests and that had not been previously produced.
Among the records are contracts for key figures working on the election review, as well as information about various payments and about the role of certain prominent election deniers involved in the investigation. The records also contain indications of the inquiry’s overt partisanship, including notes about various municipal officials in which investigators appear to draw conclusions about those officials’ political party preferences based on personal details.
One contract posted on the website shows that former Trump administration official Andrew Kloster began his work on the review on Aug. 1, 2021, in contrast to Gableman’s previous statements that Kloster started on Sept. 1. The earlier date shows that Kloster was employed by OSC when he joined Gableman and other investigators in visiting the Arizona Senate’s discredited election “audit” that month. In November, after American Oversight obtained documents that show taxpayers footed the bill for the trip, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that the Assembly would attempt to recover the money.
A service agreement for Carol Matheis — a California lawyer and former Trump administration official who is active with the conservative Federalist Society, and who also went to Arizona in August — was also posted to the OSC’s website, showing that Matheis had begun working for the review in September. A batch of records released to American Oversight through litigation earlier this month did not include Matheis’ contract, though it did contain subcontracts for other individuals working on the probe.
A number of other people active in efforts meant to undermine faith in the 2020 election’s integrity have been involved in Gableman’s inquiry. The records posted to OSC’s website include a document that suggests that lawyer Erick Kaardal — who was behind lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results in Wisconsin — may have contributed a portion about election certification to the first report that Gableman delivered to the Assembly last November.
The document appears to be an early draft of the section of the report that discussed the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause. A parenthetical with the instruction to “Add Erick’s section” comes after the sentence “This brings up a second, equally important issue — certification of the vote.” In the final report, what follows is a paragraph alleging “serious and legitimate questions” about the certification of Wisconsin’s 2020 vote.
Kaardal works with the conservative Thomas More Society, which was also involved in efforts to challenge the election in Wisconsin; rental agreements obtained by American Oversight last year revealed that both the Thomas More Society and Kaardal’s law firm were subleasing office space from OSC.
The documents also reveal other links between OSC and the Thomas More Society, including an email, sent in late February, from OSC employee Zak Niemierowicz to the organization’s communications coordinator. The coordinator responded with a link to a video titled “Nursing Home Voter Fraud Investigation,” which is superimposed with OSC’s logo and was presented by Kaardal during Gableman’s presentation of his second report on March 1 to the Assembly’s elections committee.
Other records show that Jay Stone, a proponent of stolen-election lies who has filed complaints with the state and federal election commissions regarding the administration of the 2020 election, was employed by the review between Feb. 16 and March 1 and paid $3,250. Records previously obtained by American Oversight show that in October, Stone shared information with OSC about those complaints.
According to the documents, Stone also appears to have helped draft Gableman’s second report, which he presented on March 1. On Feb. 27, Stone sent an email with the subject line “Presentation Draft” to OSC and attached a file titled “Why People Doubt the 2020 Election,” which is similar to the title of the presentation Gableman gave a couple of days later. Gableman forwarded the email to OSC’s counsel and asked for suggestions for improvement.
Since its inception last summer, the Assembly’s election investigation has evinced its biased orientation and its sympathy to false claims that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud. The documents published earlier this month further exemplify the inquiry’s troubling partisanship.
For instance, the documents show that OSC has been in touch with Wisconsin Republican Party officials. In September, Jordan Moskowitz, the state party’s data and political director, included a former associate of the Thomas More Society’s Amistad Project on an email that had the subject line “Meeting with Justice Gableman.” While OSC does not appear to have published the entire email, a portion indicates that Moskowitz intended to discuss the Wisconsin Elections Commission and absentee ballots.
Also among the records are what appear to be notes from investigators regarding the perceived political affiliations of various municipal and elections officials. The notes contain personal and identifying information of those officials, along with comments such as “there are indicators that she is probably a Democrat” and examples of lifestyle details and physical appearance.
Additionally, an apparent template lawsuit — alleging that members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and its chair had allowed fraud to occur — includes the placeholder name of “Roddy Republican” as the plaintiff. (The lawsuit does not include Commissioner Bob Spindell, who served as one of the state’s false electors for former President Trump following the 2020 election.)
Also included is a “non-disclosure and destruction agreement” that requires OSC employees to “return or destroy ALL records provided to me by the Special Counsel upon the conclusion of my services related to this case.” No signed copies of the form were posted.
It is unclear when the first set of documents was published to the review’s website. Since American Oversight began reviewing the documents in mid-April, additional records have been posted.
American Oversight will continue to monitor records released by the Wisconsin Assembly and OSC related to the review of the state’s 2020 election. Read our most recent updates here.
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