Michael Gableman reveals staffers in GOP-backed election investigation

Former Trump administrator, head of Wisconsin Voter Alliance on payroll for taxpayer-funded effort

A sign that says "VOTING ENTRANCE"
Voters walk to an early voting location Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, at Waukesha City Hall. Angela Major/WPR

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has revealed most of the staff working on an investigation into Wisconsin’s 2020 election. Gabelman has refused to answer questions regarding staff in the past.

During testimony Wednesday in front of state lawmakers, Gableman said his team members are paid between $40 an hour and $10,000 a month with taxpayer money.

Members include a former Trump administration official and the head of the Wisconsin Voter Alliance, which unsuccessfully asked the state Supreme Court to throw out the results of Wisconsin’s presidential election and force the Legislature to certify the state’s presidential electors instead.

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Wednesday was only the second time Gableman has testified since the GOP-backed election inquiry was announced this summer. During the 60-minute testimony, discussions between Democratic lawmakers and Gableman got intense and at times resulted in brief shouting matches. At one point, Gableman threatened to leave if he wasn’t shown respect.

The team includes:

  • Gableman, who is paid $11,000 per month.
  • Zakory Niemierowicz, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate who heads human resources. Niemierowicz is paid $4,000 per month.
  • Andrew Kloster, a former Trump administration official who has falsely claimed the election was stolen from the former president. Kloster is paid $5,000 per month.
  • Carol Matheis, a California attorney active with the Federalist Society. Matheis is paid $5,000 per month.
  • Gary Wait, a former private investigator. Wait is paid $3,250 a month.
  • Ron Heuer, president of the Wisconsin Voter Alliance. Heuer is an investigator and paid $3,250 a month.
  • Arkansas attorney Clint Lancaster, who represented a woman who sued Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, for paternity last year. Lancaster is paid $10,000 a month.
  • Former Milwaukee Police Department detectives Thomas Obregon, Neil Saxton and Edward Chaim. Each is paid $40 per hour.
  • There is one person Gableman said he will not identify to “protect his best interest with is full-time employer.” That person is paid $40 per hour.

Gableman has been approved for an initial, taxpayer-funded budget of $680,000. He told lawmakers Wednesday he spent about $175,500 from this summer through November. These costs include staff, office space, office supplies and travel.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, called for the investigation and announced Gableman as its leader this summer.

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, asked Gableman how his election review could be legitimate if he has hired someone who has already sued to overturn the election.

“How can we take your investigation seriously?” Spreitzer said. “Shouldn’t we bring in someone above partisanship? Above reproach? Isn’t this just an extension of partisan activities?”

Gableman asked that Spreitzer’s comments be “stricken from the record.”

“My work and my employees will be judged by one thing: the finished work project,” Gableman said. “Right now, what is preventing the finished work product is the fearful running and hiding of those government officials who do not want to be held accountable.”

Gableman has issued subpoenas to state and local election officials to provide testimony and election records for the probe. After pushback over the large scope of the subpoenas, requests for documents were scaled back and in-person interviews were postponed.

Attorney General Josh Kaul, who represents the Wisconsin Elections Commission in his official capacity, has raised legal concerns with the investigation.

The Republican-backed election investigation comes after Wisconsin has completed a series of routine state election audits and a presidential recount in the state’s two largest counties. None of those reviews have uncovered widespread fraud or wrongdoing. There have also been numerous Republican-backed lawsuits in the state, all of which have failed to result in findings of wrongdoing by election officials or voters.

Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes — a margin similar to several other razor-thin statewide elections in recent years.