Madison, Wis. (AP) – A Republican-ordered, taxpayer-funded investigation into the 2020 election found “no evidence of election fraud,” a Wisconsin judge said Thursday, but the Assembly speaker defied the state’s open records law. Robin Voss and former state Supreme Court justice He hired.
Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn awarded liberal watchdog group American Oversight about $98,000 in attorneys’ fees, ending one of four lawsuits filed by the group in circuit court. Voss’ attorney, Ron Stadler, said he is recommending that Voss appeal the verdict.
The fees are paid by taxpayers, so she didn’t even award additional punitive damages against Voss, the judge said. Costs to taxpayers For the trial, including ongoing legal fees, exceeded $1 million.
“I think the people of the state of Wisconsin have been sufficiently punished in this case,” Bailey-Rihn said. “I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to inflict punitive damages on innocent people in this state.”
All of the American Oversight lawsuits stem from records requests made to Vos and Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice appointed by Vos in June 2021 to investigate the 2020 presidential election, which was won by President Joe Biden. Voss ordered the investigation under pressure from election loser Donald Trump, who continues to falsely argue that there was widespread fraud in Wisconsin and to undermine Biden’s victory, making it impossible. And Voss repeatedly refused to back it up.
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Gableman’s attorney also said the decertification was “pointless.”
Biden’s victory by nearly 21,000 votes withstood recounts, multiple state and federal lawsuits, an audit by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and a review by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative activist law firm. An Associated Press review Wisconsin and other battleground states also found little fraud to deliver the election to Trump.
Voss and Gableman suffered consecutive defeats at the circuit court level in American Oversight lawsuits. Both looked defiant on the way For refusing to comply with a court order to turn over records. Bailey-Rihn, presiding over her final hearing before retiring, expressed her disappointment on Thursday.
“It was a long and torturous process to get here,” she said. “The reality is that whatever records there are, they have either been destroyed or not kept. The issue before this Court is that no one knows when those records were destroyed.
State law requires lawmakers like Vos to keep records after they file an open records request. They can and do delete records if an open records request is not pending.
Gableman testified in another case that he routinely deleted records He felt that he was not part of the investigation. As a result, American Oversight filed a fourth lawsuit It alleged that the dismissals were illegal. That case, along with two others, is still pending.
A judge next month will consider whether Gableman met the requirements to vacate a previous contempt order for not turning over the records. And in another caseVoss faces an Aug. 4 deadline to turn over additional records requested by American Oversight.
“This whole case is about trying to shine a light on the government,” Bailey-Rihn said. She said that in the early days of Gableman’s trial, taxpayers were paying him $11,000 a month to “sit in the New Berlin library to learn about election law because he knew nothing about election law.”
“We are all citizens of this state and this country, and we want our elections to be fair and untainted by any electoral fraud,” the judge said. “We find absolutely no evidence of election fraud from this case.”
She said Voss and others believe they are not obligated to follow the state’s open records law, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t follow the attorney general’s guidelines and leave it to untrained people. Act to deal with it.
“One thing the citizens of this state have learned to their detriment,” Bailey-Rihn said.