Records give a glimpse at how Gableman conducted his election investigation

NOW: Records give a glimpse at how Gableman conducted his election investigation

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Republican attorney hired to investigate the 2020 election was hiring staff, inquiring about office furniture and figuring out the scope of the review weeks before his work was supposed to be wrapped up, according to records released by a judge.

Over 700 pages of records released by Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington on Tuesday give a glimpse at how former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman was conducting his taxpayer funded review of the 2020 election.

In August, Republican lawmakers approved a $676,000 taxpayer budget for the investigation,  with Gableman making $11,000 a month.

Documents from October and November indicate Gableman was still hiring staff and detailing the scope of his review weeks before his original deadline to complete his work.

Other records from November show an email from a woman named Darlene to Gableman that lists recommendations on how to furnish his office in Brookfield. It includes Amazon prices for file folders, desks, filing cabinets and a white board calendar.

Philip Rocco, associate professor of political science at Marquette University, has closely followed Gableman's investigation and said the records show how chaotic the review has been since it started.

"The documents that have been provided make transparent what a mess this investigation has been from the beginning," Rocco said.

In October, attorney Carol Matheis wrote an email to Gableman's staff about how to avoid criticism about the review.

"We are in danger of our investigation turning into a circus, mostly by adverse press appearances. You give them ammo, and they use it," Matheis wrote.

Matheis added, "If we had hid out the whole time, maybe did a video or a press release or two, we'd probably have better press. We wouldn't have had our own side turning on us, probably either."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired Gableman in June with the intent of him finishing the investigation when his contract expired in December. That didn't happen. Vos then said the investigation should be wrapped up by the end of February. On March 1 Gableman released his interim report, but told lawmakers he was not done with his review.

On Tuesday, Vos signed a contract extension to allow Gableman to continue to work until April.

Gableman has maintained for months he's found numerous problems with how Wisconsin administered the 2020 presidential election. Many of the recommendations in his report, such as concerns with private money used to fund elections and absentee ballot drop boxes, have already been address by GOP lawmakers.

A host of election-related bills passed by Republicans focus on many of the same issues raised by Gableman. The proposals are expected to be vetoed by Governor Tony Evers.

When testifying to lawmakers about his report, Gableman said lawmakers should “take a hard look” and decertify the 2020 election, a move that legal experts and top Republicans have said is impossible.

Gableman also urged Republicans to dismantle the state elections commission, which GOP leaders oppose.

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