'A colossal waste of time and money': Mayors frustrated after issued subpoenas for election investigation

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Republican-led effort to investigation the 2020 election is ramping up as more subpoenas were served to a group of mayors by Michael Gableman, the retired Supreme Court Justice hired to be in charge of the review.   

The mayors of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, and Madison, and other city officials were issued subpoenas by Gableman on Wednesday, Oct. 6 requesting they provide "all documents contained in your files and/or in your custody, possession, or control pertaining to the Election.”

Gableman, who's being paid $11,000 a month in taxpayer funds, is requesting to meet with the mayors and other officials from their offices in in Brookfield on Oct. 22.

Ann Jacobs, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, called Gableman's subpoenas extremely broad, and estimates officials will have to provide thousands, if not millions of pages of election documents. 

"I think the scope of the subpoenas is unprecedented," Jacobs said. "We're talking probably semi-truck loads of material...and what are you going to learn from every single piece of paper related to election? The answer is nothing." 

The subpoenas also target more than $10 million in election grants awarded to over 200 communities designed to help them run the election during the pandemic. The nonprofit group Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) issued the grant money.

Republicans have long argued the grant money was designed to boost voter turnout in largely Democratic regions. There have been dozens of reports already released under the state's open record laws revealing how the private funds were used.

The mayor of Kenosha blasted the subpoena as a "waste of time and money" after a federal judge rejected a conservative challenge to block the election grants last year.

"We have been here and done this in the previous lawsuit where the city of Kenosha prevailed," said John Antaramian, Kenosha's mayor. "To do it again is a colossal waste of time and money for the city of Kenosha."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said his office has nothing to hide and emphasized elections in the city were transparent. 

'I've been very transparent, we had these files approved by our Common Council and we talked about it publicly," said Barrett. 

The subpoenas are in addition to those Gableman issued on Friday to five city clerks -- Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Racine and Green Bay. 

They were also asked to provide "all documents and communication" with people affiliated in any way related to the election. The Wisconsin Election Commission was also severed last week.

Gableman's request could leave election officials scrambling to collect a massive amount of documents, which some officials argue are already posted online for the public to review.

The retired conservative justice also called the timeline to complete the investigation "unrealistic" after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) estimated it would be wrapped up by the end of October or early November.

The subpoenas are among the first in over five decades the Wisconsin Legislature has issued.

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