In the Documents: The Thomas More Society and Other Outside Groups’ Influence on Partisan Wisconsin Election Investigation

Days after being fired as head of the Wisconsin Assembly’s partisan investigation of the state’s 2020 election, Michael Gableman had listed as his new employer the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal organization that was involved in various efforts to cast doubt on the election’s results.

The Thomas More Society, which has for years also fought for more restrictions on abortion rights, had been mentioned in conjunction with the investigation at various points, including — as revealed in public records obtained by American Oversight — for having subleased office space from Gableman. Prior to his termination by Speaker Robin Vos on Aug. 12, Gableman, as head of the Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC), pushed false allegations of widespread voter fraud, called for local mayors and election officials to be jailed, and voiced support for the legally impossible proposal to “decertify” the state’s 2020 election results.

Gableman’s newly announced employment with the Thomas More Society raises serious questions about the extent of the group’s involvement in the inquiry. In its investigation of OSC’s review, American Oversight obtained several documents that shed light on the group’s influence over Gableman’s work, as well as that of other outside groups and legal activists that had also worked to sow distrust of the 2020 election’s integrity — or to overturn the results. 

The Thomas More Society and Other Outside Groups and Activists

The Thomas More Society is the parent organization of the Amistad Project, which bills itself as an election integrity project. Following the 2020 election, the Amistad Project played a role in the coordinated, multi-state effort to submit to Congress false electoral slates in support of Donald Trump. Erick Kaardal, a conservative lawyer and special counsel to the Thomas More Society, represented both that group and the Amistad Project in several lawsuits challenging the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin and other states, and public records revealed that his Minneapolis law firm, Mohrman, Kaardal, & Erickson, also subleased office space from Gableman’s review. 

Kaardal also brought several lawsuits alleging issues with Wisconsin’s 2020 election, including a September 2020 case brought by the Wisconsin Voter Alliance (WVA) challenging election administration grants given to Wisconsin’s five largest cities. That December, Kaardal filed a lawsuit against Vice President Mike Pence on behalf of WVA and other plaintiffs, an effort to prevent Pence from allowing Congress to certify the correct election results on Jan. 6, 2021. The federal judge in that case later referred Kaardal for an ethics inquiry for filing a “sweeping complaint filled with baseless fraud allegations.”

In August 2021, Kaardal represented WVA, Wisconsin Rep. Janel Brandtjen, and the conservative Wisconsin group HOT Government in a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) that alleged misconduct in its administration of the 2020 election. Brandtjen chairs the State Assembly’s elections committee and is a vocal proponent of Trump’s stolen-election lies, having pushed for a fuller review of Wisconsin’s 2020 results than the investigation authorized by Vos. Harry Wait, the head of HOT Government, has been criminally charged for having requested multiple mail-in ballots in the names of other voters, which he said he did to expose the ease of committing fraud.

In November 2021, OSC employee Zak Niemierowicz said that Ron Heuer, the president of WVA, was one of five staff members working for the review. The next month, Gableman publicly revealed the names of most OSC employees for the first time, including Heuer and Gary Wait, a brother of Harry Wait and a retired private detective. Records obtained by American Oversight that same month showed that Harry Wait was in touch with OSC’s review since at least the summer of 2021, and an OSC email from October said that he was “helping us with the Racine investigation.” Other records obtained by American Oversight include an unsigned contract between OSC and Heuer that states his work for the Assembly would include “reporting and working directly with Phill Kline,” the president of the Amistad Project.

American Oversight’s Investigation of the Election Review

Gableman was hired to lead the Wisconsin Assembly’s 2020 election review in July 2021. He performed little substantive work during his first few months, later testifying in American Oversight’s lawsuit for records that, during that time, he “did not have a very sophisticated or intricate understanding” of election processes. Through the course of American Oversight’s investigation of OSC’s work, we have obtained numerous documents that point to the involvement of the Thomas More Society, Kaardal, and other outside groups active in elevating the Big Lie.

Public reporting as well as other records released through American Oversight’s litigation show that Kaardal directly assisted Gableman with aspects of the review, although there is no evidence of any official contract between Kaardal and Gableman or OSC. Emails suggest Kaardal participated in OSC calls as early as October 2021, and he and other associates of the Thomas More were in contact with Gableman and Brandtjen months prior. 

Earlier that year, Kaardal was the featured speaker at an invitation-only hearing before Brandtjen’s committee, during which he discussed his lawsuits challenging the election administration grants. In April 2021, Kaardal emailed a file called “Racine WI documents” to Kline and Luis Cornelio, an associate of the Thomas More Society, then sent the email to Brandtjen. Records later posted on OSC’s website in response to American Oversight’s litigation included more evidence of contact between OSC and the Thomas More Society, including an email sent from the personal account of Jordan Moskowitz, the data and political director for the Wisconsin Republican Party, to Cornelio on Sept. 1, 2021, titled “Meeting with Justice Gableman.” 

In October, Kaardal’s firm helped draft subpoenas seeking information on election administration grants from local Wisconsin officials, according to other records obtained by American Oversight. Similar subpoenas were issued by OSC in January 2022.

Also in October, Kaardal emailed Gableman to suggest that he hire the president of the public relations firm handling the Thomas More Society’s media requests, saying that he was “ready to discuss a PR role for the Office of Special Counsel.”

In March 2022, Gableman presented OSC’s “Second Interim Investigative Report” on its findings before Brandtjen’s committee. Kaardal appeared beside Gableman during the presentation, which featured a video of Kaardal interviewing his clients — residents of long-term care facilities — about how they voted in 2020. Emails later posted to the review’s website show that Kaardal had drafted portions of that report, which floated the (legally impossible) action of “decertifying” the state’s 2020 election results. Another email posted to the review’s website suggests that the Thomas More Society had edited the video content for OSC.

Following Gableman’s presentation, Kaardal and Brandtjen both spoke at a Thomas More Society news conference, where they alleged that Wisconsin election officials had broken the law while administrating the 2020 election and again voiced support for overturning the results. That news conference was introduced by Heuer, who said that WVA had begun working with the Thomas More Society on an “investigation,” which was how he was introduced to Brandtjen. 

On Aug. 17, 2022, WVA announced in an online post written by Heuer that Niemierowicz had begun working as an “administrator” for the organization. Heuer also wrote that he “had actually recruited [Niemierowicz] to work in the Office of the Special Counsel to work with Mike Gableman.”

You can read more about American Oversight’s investigation of Gableman’s election review here, including our findings on the inquiry’s taxpayer-funded expenses and its poor record-keeping practices.

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Arizona Department of Health Services, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - National Security Division, Federal Communications Commission, Georgia - Sumter County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Illinois - Chicago Mayor's Office, Illinois - Chicago Police Department, Illinois - Office of the Governor, Missouri - Kansas City Mayor's Office, Missouri - Office of the Governor, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, New Mexico - Albuquerque Mayor's Office, New Mexico - Albuquerque Police Department, New Mexico Office of the Governor, North Carolina, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Ohio - City of Cleveland Mayor's Office, Ohio - Cleveland Division of Police, Ohio Office of the Governor, United States Postal Service, USDA - Food Safety and Inspection Service, White House, Wisconsin - Milwaukee County, Wisconsin - Milwaukee Mayor's Office, Wisconsin - Milwaukee Police Department, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Office of the Governor
August 10, 2020

Barr Continues to Comment on Ongoing Durham Investigation — Even as Justice Dept. Withholds Documents About It from Public

Department of Justice
July 17, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency in Hospital Data, and Barr’s Meetings with Giuliani and Gowdy

Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House - Office of Management and Budget
June 23, 2020

The Federal Government’s Latest Attempt to Delay the Release of Coronavirus Documents

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
June 19, 2020

Barr’s Policing Commission Undermines Community Trust and Violates Federal Law

Department of Justice
June 19, 2020

News Roundup: The Administration’s Failure to Confront Two National Crises

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Civil Rights Division, DOT Office of Inspector General, Florida - Jacksonville Mayor’s Office, Florida Department of Health, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Credit Union Administration, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Small Business Administration, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Treasury - Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Science and Technology Policy, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
June 12, 2020

News Roundup: Georgia’s Disastrous Election, the Administration’s Alarming Protest Response, and Barr’s Troubling Tenure

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Office of Intelligence and Analysis, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS - United States Secret Service, District of Columbia Mayor's Office, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, DOD - Defense Intelligence Agency, DOD - Department of the Air Force, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, DOJ - Justice Management Division, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida Department of State, Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office, Nevada Secretary of State, New Jersey Department of Human Services, New York City Department for the Aging, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Police Department, New York State Department of Health, New York State Office for the Aging, North Carolina, North Carolina House of Representatives, North Carolina Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Senate, State Office of the Inspector General, Texas Secretary of State, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
June 11, 2020

In the Documents: Florida Health Department Efforts to Suppress Release of Coronavirus Records

Florida - Miami-Dade County
June 1, 2020

Tips for Filing Public Records Requests in Your State or City

May 15, 2020

News Roundup: The Subversion of Justice at the Justice Department

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, DOT - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Department of Corrections, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Louisiana - New Orleans Mayor's Office, Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana Office of the Governor, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, Small Business Administration, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
April 21, 2020

The Administration’s Attempts to Stonewall Investigations of Trump FBI Headquarters Interference Stumble in Court

Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, General Services Administration, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 28, 2020

A Pandemic Is No Time for Secrecy

March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - National Security Division, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Election Commission, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, General Services Administration, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 24, 2020

We Cannot Let Trump Use a National Emergency to Get Rich and Ignore the Constitution

Congress, White House
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Nevada Department of Administration, Texas - Harris County, Texas Attorney General, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 19, 2020

Three Years of American Oversight

March 17, 2020

The Increase in FOIA Lawsuits Isn’t the Problem — It’s Agencies Underfunding Their Transparency Obligations

Department of Justice
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
March 12, 2020

American Oversight Sues Trump, Kushner for Transparency in Clemency Process

Executive Office of the President, White House
February 21, 2020

When the Government Uses Redactions to Hide Evidence of Wrongdoing

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, White House - Office of Management and Budget
February 20, 2020

Records from Trump’s Presidential Pardons Advisory Committee Must Be Available to the Public

February 7, 2020

News Roundup: Acquittal Isn’t the End

Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of State, Florida Department of State, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 24, 2020

News Roundup: Evidence of Obstruction

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Transportation, DOT - Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Georgia - Clayton County, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 7, 2020

Did the Trump Administration Abuse the Redactions Process?

Department of Defense, White House - Office of Management and Budget
December 11, 2019

Lawsuit over Administration’s Unlawful Seizure of Trump-Putin Meeting Notes Moves Forward

Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration
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