In April One Wisconsin Now filed a complaint against Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman with the new Government Accountability Board (GAB). The complaint centered on what appear to be political fundraising phone calls that he made from the Ashland County District Attorney’s office. These troubling actions took place at the same time that the caucus scandal was in the news. One would think that a lawyer would know that he should not give an appearance of campaigning on state time and with state resources. Given the fact that Gableman’s actions took place at the height of the caucus scandal makes them even more troubling.
The phone records that OWN obtained show Gableman calling several McCallum Campaign operatives just before hosting a fundraiser. He made calls to McCallum’s top fund-raising aides, his campaign office, the state Republican Party, donors who gave to McCallum, and the campaign office of Vince Biskupic. These calls all took place only weeks before Gableman hosted a June 2002 fund-raiser for then-Governor McCallum. Only two months later McCallum appointed Gableman to an open judgeship in Burnett County, even though he never applied and did not go through the prescribed process.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel addressed OWN’s complaint in a front page story today. In that story Gableman claims that he ‘did not believe he made any political or fundraising calls from his office but that he could not remember.’ Despite the suspicious timing and the political operatives/offices that he called, Gableman told the MJS that he was ‘quite confident that I would not have been trying to do political work or raise money.’ One has to wonder if he made that statement with a straight face.
OWN’s complaint with the GAB was dismissed because the entity’s statue of limitations is only three years, as opposed to six for District Attorneys. As a result OWN sent the complaint to the current Ashland County DA Sean Duffy and Burnett County DA Ken Kutz. Kutz declined saying that he did not have jurisdiction and Duffy said that the complaint should be sent to the Attorney General’s office even though the calls were made from his county. The MJS story reports that the AG’s office declined to comment on the matter.
Will anyone hold Michael Gableman accountable for these very questionable calls? Will anyone fully investigate the situation and ask the tough questions? Will someone with authority demand truthful and complete answers? Thus far it seems that everyone is passing the buck and running out the clock. With each passing moment more of Gableman’s calls are falling off due to the statute of limitations. Gableman should not be given a pass. The time to hold him accountable is now, not after he takes his seat on the high court.