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Open-records lawsuit filed over GOP election investigation

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A liberal government watchdog group on Friday sued Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for not releasing records related to the ongoing investigation he ordered into the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuit filed by American Oversight comes after a tumultuous week that saw Vos sign subpoenas sought by the attorney leading the probe to compel testimony from election clerks and mayors in Wisconsin’s five largest cities.

But in a dramatic about-face on Thursday, another person working on the probe with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman told city attorneys that no one would have to testify for now.

That person, Andrew Kloster, worked in former President Donald Trump’s administration and posted online in April that “the 2020 presidential election was stolen, fair and square.”

“The issue is that we need our own army of local bureaucrats,” Kloster wrote. “And we need to fight for our locales. We need our own irate hooligans (incidentally, this is why the left and our national security apparatus hates the Proud Boys) and our own captured DA offices to let our boys off the hook.”

Kloster’s involvement with the investigation was first revealed in September, when his name was attached to a document that was mailed to Wisconsin election clerks.

Mike Haas, city attorney for Madison, said Kloster was the one who called him and city attorneys in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay to inform them that the planned testimony sought under the subpoenas had been canceled. Instead, the cities were asked to turn over documents related to the election that had already been provided in response to previously made open records requests, Haas said.

The lawsuit against Vos is similar to one that American Oversight filed in Arizona seeking records related to the widely criticized investigation there done by Cyber Ninjas, a small cybersecurity firm based in Florida picked to lead the review. That probe ended with a determination that President Joe Biden’s vote total in the state was lower that it should have been and that there was no evidence to back up false claims that the election had been stolen.

Similar allegations have been made, without evidence, in Wisconsin, which Biden won by just under 21,000 votes. That result has withstood recounts and rulings from both state and federal courts.

Still, Vos hired Gableman to conduct an investigation in the face of pressure from Trump and conservatives. Gableman is being paid $11,000 a month in taxpayer funds for the investigation, which has a budget of $676,000 that could grow.

The lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court names both Vos and Assembly Chief Clerk Ted Blazel. It alleges that they have not turned over records requested asking for details about how the money is being spent. Similar records requests filed by The Associated Press and other news outlets have also not been fulfilled.

Gableman sent a letter to the AP on Thursday, saying his office was in the process of reviewing the open records request.

“As a newly created office, a wide and substantial variety of logistical or other issues needed office attention in a very compressed time,” Gableman said.

“Wisconsin has a right to know how this taxpayer-funded investigation is being orchestrated,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight.

Vos, in a statement, dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous” and an attempt “to intimidate us into not doing a full investigation.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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