Last week, former Wisconsin state Supreme Court Judge Michael Gableman repeated conspiracy theories and unproven allegations about the 2020 presidential election during a speech at a Republican fundraiser.
He also brought up the specter of "revolution."
Gableman's remarks came during an Outagamie County Republican Party Constitution Day dinner in Appleton, Wisconsin. The keynote speaker was Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November.
"It's a beautiful world, but it's that very comfort that is keeping us from what our founders knew to be the only way to keep an honest government, which is revolution," Gableman said during his speech last Friday. "Thomas Jefferson said that the Tree of Liberty must be watered by the blood of patriots every generation. I don't think that's going to happen, and our president has gone out of his way to say, 'Don't even think about a revolution, we've got F14s, and you've got...' Who talks like that?"
Gableman, who served on the court from 2008 to 2018, was the subject of an investigation involving a possible breach of ethics in a campaign ad against one of his colleagues. The court deadlocked on disciplinary action before the case was ultimately dismissed.
Last year, Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired Gableman to conduct an investigation into alleged fraud in the 2020 election, following intense criticism by former President Donald Trump over what he baselessly claimed were irregularities in Wisconsin's electoral system. A partial recount and a review by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, among other initiatives, found no widespread election fraud.
Gableman's recommendations included a section on providing a "method" for pre- and post-certification challenges to presidential elections. In this section he suggested that the legislature "might also consider formalizing the ability of candidates to assemble alternative slates of electors, to ratify an already lawful process."
Multiple state Republican state parties formed alternative slates of electors in 2020 in a bid to prevent President Joe Biden's win from being certified.
During his speech, Gableman repeated the outlines of his report, which largely involved what he characterized as a plot by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, to put state election officials on his payroll and have them mobilize Black voters.
"In 2019," Gableman told the audience, "Mark Zuckerberg decided that he did not want Donald Trump to be president anymore and that he was going to use whatever part of his vast fortune was necessary to see to it that Trump was not reelected."
He went on to describe how Zuckerberg spent millions to win Wisconsin for Biden and claimed that he had followed a playbook designed by David Plouffe, a longtime advisor to former President Barack Obama.
Gableman was referring to an $8.8 million grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which is funded in part by Zuckerberg. The grant was distributed to five of Wisconsin's largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha, and Green Bay — to assist with electoral logistics. This was especially needed during the 2020 election because of restrictions around voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vos fired Gableman in August, ending an investigation that had lasted more than a year and cost Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 million.
"We're going to continue to be paying for these lies both financially and morally. It is far past time that his lies and misinformation have been put to an end," Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard told WisPolitics.
Michels himself has taken a page from Gableman's playbook by casting doubt on the 2020 election results.
"Certainly, there was a lot of bad stuff that happened," Michels told conservative radio host Joe Giganti in June. "There was certainly illegal ballots. How many? I don't know if Justice Gableman knows. I don't know if anybody knows."
Michels' campaign website features a "blueprint to restore election integrity," which echoes many of Gableman’s claims and recommendations, including the repealing of all of the Wisconsin Election Commission's guidelines and "freezing the issuance of new guidelines."
"We need to make it easier to vote, harder to cheat," the site says.
Michels has said he would also ban ballot drop boxes, and would require counties to provide judges on short notice to resolve disputes or emergencies at polling places on Election Day.
Ballot drop boxes were relatively uncontroversial before the pandemic. But during the 2020 election, they were used in greater numbers as more people were afraid to vote in person. Republicans have baselessly claimed that the boxes lead to fraudulent votes.
"We're gonna get those bills right, those bills Tony Evers vetoed, and we're going to get election integrity here in the state of Wisconsin. We're gonna stop the Zuckerbucks, stop the ballot harvesting," Michels said at last week's campaign event.
Referring to his service in the U.S. military, he noted that the oath he took to protect the country extended to protecting American democracy.
"We will have election integrity in Wisconsin," he told the audience. "We will lead the way for the United States of America to make sure the cheating stops!"
Michels has been accused of flip-flopping, especially when it comes to supporting Trump's election fraud lies. During a debate in July, he said that he would not make decertifying the 2020 election a priority, the New York Times reported, only to later say that he would consider any legislation supplied by the state legislature.
"Michels and Gableman have staked out the most radical positions on the 2020 election in order to pander to Donald Trump and his MAGA base," Hannah Menchhoff, rapid response director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, told the American Independent Foundation.
"We can safely say that Tim Michels and Michael Gableman are two peas in a pod when it comes to promoting election conspiracy theories and attempting to illegally overturn free and fair election results. Tim Michels wants to disenfranchise voters and take away their fundamental rights, proving once again that he is too radical for Wisconsin."
Neither Michels nor Gableman returned requests for comment on this story.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.