Madison — Special Counsel Michael Gableman on Tuesday told a legislative committee that the findings of his investigation into the 2020 elections underscore the urgency of dismantling the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a regulator that has repeatedly broken Wisconsin election law.
The former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice laid out a litany of charges against WEC, which he described as “incompetent at best.” He pointed to the so-called “Wisconsin-5,” the state’s largest and Democrat-heavy cities at the core of Wisconsin’s election scandal. Gableman’s report to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee includes allegations of bribery, obstruction, and collusion.
He focused on the alleged abuses of nursing home residents. Gableman’s presentation included video interviews with cognitively impaired seniors in continuing care centers across Wisconsin, residents who were manipulated or forced into voting despite being ruled mentally incapacitated, according to reports.
Walt Jankowski, a resident at a Waunakee long-term care facility, was found to have requested a mail-in ballot, filling it out before Election Day. His son asked the city clerk how his father, who doesn’t speak or write, could give consent to do so.
“The clerk said that pointing is acceptable, or an eye wink would do as well,” Gableman explained.
Maryl Barrett, 104, “Is not capable of remaining awake” and is in hospice, her family said. She stopped taking memory enhancement medication long ago. Yet, state election records show she voted in recent elections.
Gableman’s review included 25 minutes of similar video accounts from several nursing home residents and their family members. His report found that the voting rate in many Wisconsin nursing homes in 2020 was a remarkable 100 percent.
The special counsel’s findings support an investigation last year by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department alleging the Elections Commission “shattered” state election law. WEC during the pandemic barred special voting deputies from Wisconsin’s nursing homes and assisted care facilities. SVDs are specially trained to help eligible citizens vote. Instead, the sheriff’s department investigation, like Gableman’s probe, found untrained nursing home staff were illegally assisting residents in filling out their ballots. In eight cases, severely cognitively impaired residents were allowed to vote, even though courts had declared them ineligible to do so.
The Sheriff’s Department recommended criminal charges against WEC commissioners, but the Racine County District Attorney said she lacked jurisdiction because WEC is based in Madison.
Gableman’s report takes a close look at the activities of the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). The Chicago-based group, founded by a former fellow at the Obama Foundation and digital trainer for the Democratic Party, received hundreds of billions of dollars in funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The windfall was ostensibly used for election administration grants, to help local election administrators safely and securely run their elections during COVID. A Wisconsin Spotlight investigation first uncovered that CTCL’s network of liberal activists had infiltrated Wisconsin’s elections in the “Wisconsin-5” cities.” Emails and other communications show a long-time Democratic Party operative was granted access to absentee ballots and offered to change ballot information.
Gableman’s report alleges CTCL’s distribution of nearly $9 million to Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine, the lion’s share of its grants in Wisconsin, was bound by a contract and violated Wisconsin law prohibiting bribery. As has been well documented, the contract emphasized a get-out-the-vote campaign targeting traditionally Democratic voters.
Democrats have ridiculed the investigations by Gableman and the Republican-controlled Legislature. Gov. Tony Evers called a “circus” and an “embarrassment for our state.”
“From the beginning, it has never been a serious or functioning effort, it has lacked public accountability and transparency, and it has been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars,” the governor said.
Democrats insist the probes are all part of a campaign to reverse the result of the 2020 presidential election in which Democrat Joe Biden claimed 20,000-plus more votes than Republican President Donald Trump in winning Wisconsin.
Gableman did urge the Republican-controlled Legislature to “take a hard look” at decertifying the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden in defiance of findings by state attorneys and the position of Republican leadership.
His report backs up the findings of a state audit that pointed to several instances in which WEC erroneously interpreted, manipulated or outright broke election law. But Gableman’s investigation goes further in charging elections officials with colluding and obstructing his investigation. Mayors and clerks in the five cities have refused to turn over records and have resisted private interviews with Gableman. Racine Mayor Cory Mason recently said he’d rather go to jail than comply with Gableman’s subpoena. He claims he’s protecting democracy. Critics say Mason and his compatriots are desperately trying to cover up their activities.
Now, the entities funded by Zuckerberg are picking up the legal bills for the city officials who are not cooperating with the investigations.
“Unfortunately, we’re experiencing obstruction by ligation, and must first get through the nine separate lawsuits that have been filed to allow us to complete the review,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in a statement thanking the special counsel he appointed for his “tireless efforts in finding the truth.”
Gableman said his Second Interim Investigative Report won’t be his last. There’s more work ahead.
“Why do so many voters doubt the results of the 2020 elections?” Gableman asked, and then answered his own question. “The specter of private, dark money, unaccountable to anyone, coming in and taking an active role in the administrative process in our elections is something that is, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented.”