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Wisconsin GOP wants taxpayers to finance unneeded election 'audit'

In theory, the Wisconsin GOP is risking a backlash by forcing taxpayers to finance an election "investigation." In practice, it's not that simple.

It's been nearly 10 months since President Joe Biden narrowly won the state of Wisconsin — a victory that was bolstered by a Republican-requested recount — and there's still no evidence of electoral impropriety.

But GOP officials in the state aren't just looking for evidence to substantiate the party's election conspiracy theories, they're also asking Wisconsin taxpayers to foot the bill.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently highlighted each of the various initiatives in the Badger State "reviewing" Donald Trump's defeat, and it wasn't an especially short list. For example, a Republican-led legislative committee directed the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to "look into how state and local officials run elections, process absentee ballots, conduct recounts, ensure voting machines are accurate and handle complaints about elections." A different Republican-led legislative committee, chaired by a member who visited Arizona's bonkers "audit" earlier this summer, has also held hearings.

The Wisconsin review getting the most attention, however, is the one led by a former state Supreme Court justice. As the Associated Press reported, it's also the most expensive exercise for taxpayers.

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature are seeking approval to spend up to $680,000 in taxpayer money on an investigation into the 2020 presidential election in the battleground state won by President Joe Biden. The Assembly Organization Committee, controlled by Republicans, circulated a ballot on Friday to approve designating former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman as special counsel to lead the investigation, assist the Assembly Elections Committee and hire investigators and others as needed.

Robin Vos, the Republican legislator who serves as the Assembly Speaker, confirmed to the Associated Press that the contract for the investigation will cost up to $680,000. The AP's report added that the GOP-led elections committee is scheduled to vote on the spending today "without holding a public hearing."

The obvious problem with this is that investing $680,000 in taxpayer money to look for a problem that doesn't exist is profoundly wasteful and intended to undermine public confidence in legitimate election results.

The less obvious problem is that Wisconsin Republicans are moving forward with a process that can't be taken seriously.

At face value, the role of a former state Supreme Court justice might lend the exercise a degree of credibility. Such an assumption would be a mistake: As Rachel explained on the show in July, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has been a "Stop the Steal" activist who falsely told the public the 2020 election wasn't "honest."

What's more, earlier this month, Gableman traveled not only to Arizona, to take a look at its ridiculous process, but also to South Dakota, where he attended a bizarre "symposium" headed by MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, an unhinged pro-Trump conspiracy theorist.

Gableman will be assisted by former law enforcement officers, one of whom was previously banned from getting anywhere near Wisconsin polling sites because he was caught distributing a self-published report full of bogus allegations about voter fraud.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, the investigation — to the extent that it should be called an "investigation" — appears to be designed to produce a specific result. If Wisconsin Republicans wanted a credible examination, they would've approached this in a far more responsible way.

And therein lies the point: Producing a credible result isn't important; feeding far-right conspiracy theories is.

In theory, GOP officials in Wisconsin are risking a backlash by trying to force taxpayers to finance such a misguided exercise. But in practice, as regular readers know, state lawmakers assume they're free to act with impunity, and they're almost certainly correct: Wisconsin Republicans have rigged the state's district lines to such a degree that the GOP keeps power, even when Democrats win more votes.

In other words, GOP legislators in the state can make unpopular and irresponsible decisions, comfortable in the knowledge that, despite operating in an ostensible democracy, there's little voters can do about it.