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Vos contract for election review to cost $676,000

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The details of a contract between Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and former state supreme court justice Michael Gableman to review the November 2020 election became public Wednesday.

According to a copy of the contract provided by the Assembly Chief Clerk's office, the legislature will pay the firm Consultare, over which Gableman presides, a total of $676,000. The Assembly's organization committee approved using taxpayer money to conduct the investigation on a 5-3 party-line vote Monday.

A spokesperson for Vos did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for an interview with the speaker and/or comment on the contract's details.

Dozens of court challenges and recounts in the state's two most populous counties have maintained President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump in Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes.

The contract includes a line-by-line item breakdown of how the money is to be spent by Gableman. Under the agreement, $325,000 is set aside for a "data analysis contractor."

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Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who chairs the Assembly's Elections Committee, has previously called for an Arizona-style audit where outside contractors review ballots and voting machines. Brandtjen issued subpoenas ordering the Brown and Milwaukee county clerks to turn over ballot and voting machines used last November.

Lawyers for the legislature have determined twice those subpoenas are only valid if Vos signs them; Vos has since said he won't sign Brandtjen's subpoenas but will give the green light to subpoenas Gableman might seek.

It is not clear what, exactly, data analysis will mean in this investigation and whether that would include outside investigators attempting to access ballots and/or voting equipment.

Brandtjen did not respond to a request for comment on the contract Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Justice has warned states that giving third-party contractors access to voting machines could violate federal law. Clerks have also expressed concern turning over voting equipment could cost local governments who'd then have to replace the machines due to a chain of custody breach.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said he believed the Gableman investigation amounted to a campaign ploy ahead of next year's governor's race, which will likely determine whether Republican election bills become law.

"The reality is promoting the Big Lie is an election strategy," Hintz said. "It's a well-funded, well-coordinated effort to create the idea that there's fraud out there and that that must be fixed with election reform."

The contact pays Gableman a total of $55,000; it also allows Gableman to hire five additional investigators and pay each of them $25,000.

Under the agreement, Gableman has the authority to hire outside lawyers with a budget of $50,000. Gableman also received $50,000 to cover court reporting costs, $25,000 to cover travel expenses, and $15,000 for "communications" related to the investigation.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is currently in the midst of its own review of the election with its results expected to be presented later in the fall.

Johnson talks election on secret recording

In a video posted Tuesday, Lauren Windsor, a liberal activist posing as a conservative, recorded her interaction with Senator Ron Johnson, who did not appear to know he was being recorded.

Johnson told the activist, Lauren Windsor, he believed Trump lost the November election because fewer Republicans voted for the former president, noting the vote totals for GOP state Assembly candidates compared to Trump.

"If Trump got all the Republicans - if all the Republicans voted for Trump the way they voted for the Assembly canddiates, he would've won," Johnson told Windsor. "He didn't get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got. That's why he lost."

Johnson also told Windsor he believed some conservatives were putting too much energy toward the review of voting equipment.

"I really do think there's too much concentrated on the machines," Johnson told Windsor. "I've talked to Dominion [Voting Systems,] I've talked to all these guys."

A spokesperson for Johnson said the senator was unavailable for an interview with 27 News Wednesday but provided a statement on Windsor's recording.

"This supposed undercover recording by a Democrat political operative at a public event is consistent with what I’ve been saying publicly on the 2020 election, no need for hidden cameras and secret recordings," the statement read.

Johnson's statement went on to say while there was "nothing obviously wrong" with Wisconsin's results, he added there were "irregulates" - such as Madison's Democracy in the Park, where people could drop off absentee ballots and clerks accepting private donations - that still should be addressed.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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