On Wednesday, a Dane County Circuit Court judge found that the Wisconsin Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel, along with the Assembly and Speaker Robin Vos, had violated Wisconsin’s Open Records Law by refusing to release documents related to its ongoing partisan review of the 2020 election results. American Oversight originally requested the documents last fall and has been involved in months-long legal proceedings seeking the release of the public records, which could shine a light on the conduct of the investigation.
Judge Frank Remington ordered the release of relevant records in one of American Oversight’s three ongoing lawsuits, but stayed enforcement of that ruling until after a previously scheduled hearing set for Tuesday, March 8. In Wednesday’s ruling, the court wrote that Vos, the Office of Special Counsel, and the Wisconsin Assembly’s “denials, delays, and refusals violate the letter and the spirit of Wisconsin’s public records law.”
The decision came after Remington received and examined documents turned over by OSC following his January order for a private, in camera review, and revealed new details about the documents that were submitted to the court.
According to the ruling, OSC turned over 20 sets of records related to Gableman’s investigation to the court, which included communications between the office and various individuals involved in efforts to investigate and overturn the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin and beyond. Among those were emails involving Harry Wait, president of the conservative group Honest Open Transparent Government, and Ron Heuer, president of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, which has filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the 2020 election. Heuer was employed by Gableman’s investigation for under three months in 2021.
Other emails turned over to the court reportedly include further correspondence with Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and Trump ally who has been involved in multiple efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Another set of records purportedly contains OSC’s office policies, including a “media contact policy” and an “open records policy.”
Remington stated in his decision that “OSC, Robin Vos and the Assembly each arbitrarily and capriciously denied or delayed access to records.” On top of ordering the release of documents, Remington imposed fines of $1,000 each against OSC, Vos, and the Assembly. He also wrote that “the public records law entitles American Oversight to punitive damages to deter this sort of conduct.” The ruling stayed all of these orders until after the conclusion of the March 8 hearing on the matter.
The decision comes one day after Michael Gableman, the conservative lawyer who heads OSC and has been leading the Assembly-ordered probe, released a “second interim investigative report” of his office’s findings. The report, which was presented before the Assembly’s elections committee, floated legally impossible recommendations to retroactively “decertify” the state’s 2020 electoral votes and suggested mechanisms by which Gableman claimed decertification could potentially occur. The “investigative report” also called for the elimination of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission and recommended that the Legislature place the responsibility of selecting electors in a “politically accountable body.”
American Oversight will continue to investigate partisan efforts to undermine democracy and challenge the fair elections process in Wisconsin. Follow along with our most recent developments here.
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