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Assembly has spent $160K on election investigation lawsuits

April 1, 2022 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Assembly has spent more than $160,000 in taxpayer dollars to fight lawsuits stemming from a Republican-ordered investigation of the 2020 election.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday that it had obtained invoices through an open records request that detail payments to attorneys representing the Assembly and Speaker Robin Vos in lawsuits related to former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s review. Vos hired Gableman last year to investigate the election and has paid him $676,000 for his work so far.

The probe has sparked a lawsuit from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which is seeking to quash Gableman subpoenas requiring commission officials to submit to questions in private. Libera government watchdog group American Oversight has filed three separate lawsuits seeking public records related to the probe.

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The invoices obtained by the State Journal show more than $160,000 paid to attorneys in the elections commission lawsuit between October and early March. They also detail more than $18,000 in attorney payments in connection with the public records lawsuits.

Taxpayer costs related to the investigation may only grow.

Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn this week found Vos and the Assembly in contempt for failing to produce records for American Oversight. She gave the speaker and the chamber 14 days to release the records or face a $1,000 daily fine. Vos has pushed back on the ruling, calling Bailey-Rihn a “liberal judge in Dane County trying to make us look bad.”

Meanwhile, Vos has extended Gableman’s contract through the end of April, maintaining his existing budget.

Vos referred questions about the invoices and lawsuits to spokeswoman Angela Joyce, who didn’t respond to requests for comment.

A recount, court decisions and multiple reviews have confirmed Joe Biden won Wisconsin by almost 21,000 votes.