MILWAUKEE — Mike Gableman’s newest explanation about how he leapt over two announced finalists to become a Burnett County judge is under scrutiny after documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now would appear to both contradict his latest claim and raise additional questions about whether Gableman is exaggerating his qualifications.
At a Friday forum Gableman said Governor Scott McCallum chose him in part because of his service on “statewide commissions,” but records show Gableman missed five of the seven meetings held while he was serving on one of the commissions and was only a member of a second commission scant months before the judicial appointment.
“Gableman’s ‘evolving’ story should raise a lot of eyebrows, given the controversial way he was plucked from 300 miles for a judgeship that there are no records of him even applying for,” said Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now. “The records we do have show Gableman was a McCallum donor, fundraiser and a Republican Party official.”
Responding to continuing reporters’ questions at a Wispolitics.com event Friday about how he leapt over two finalists for the Burnett County slot, Gableman said, “The governor indicated because of his familiarity with my work as a prosecutor, because of my service on statewide commissions, that he was familiar with my background, and he felt I was the best candidate for the position.” [Wispolitics.com event, 2/29/08]
“If Gableman’s work on these commissions was so critical to McCallum’s decision, it’s curious the former Governor never mentioned them in an interview or in the hasty defense issued by the Gableman campaign,” said Ross. “The fact is there remains no evidence Gableman completed an application, received any vetting or a background check, obtained any letters of recommendation, or had a formal interview.”
Numerous open records requests and searches of McCallum era documents at the State Historical Society have produced no documents that address Gableman’s qualifications or fitness for the judgeship position. Instead, what was found were official records relating to Gableman’s fundraisers for McCallum and a private breakfast at the Governor’s Mansion with other top Ashland County Republican officials. Gableman also made two contributions totaling $2,500 to McCallum during this period. [Governor’s Residence Event Fax, 3/26/02; Gableman Contributions to McCallum, 12/31/01 & 6/18/02]
Gableman was appointed by McCallum to serve on two statewide commissions, the Judicial Council and the Law Enforcement Standards Board. On the Judicial Council, Gableman missed five out of seven meetings. Gableman had only been appointed to the Law Enforcement Standards Board in April 2002, a mere four months before his judicial appointment.
Far from providing evidence of his qualifications, Gableman’s membership on the commissions underscores the close relationship between major political donor Gableman and his political mentor Governor Scott McCallum.
“The idea that Governor Scott McCallum, who was facing a tough election battle, a billion dollar state budget deficit, and ethical questions about his use of state planes, would be taking time to be briefed on Gableman’s work on statewide commissions strains credibility,” said Ross. “Indeed, if McCallum had been informed of Gableman’s work on these commissions, he would have known that Gableman was largely AWOL. The simplest explanation is the most convincing: McCallum knew Gableman well because he was a big political donor and hosted two fundraisers for him, one just weeks before the selection.”
Gableman’s using his membership on statewide commission to inflate his qualifications is nothing new. The August 19, 2002 press release announcing his appointment as Burnett County Judge states that “Gableman is a member of the Wisconsin Judicial Council and the Law Enforcement Standards Board.” However, official minutes of the Judicial Council meetings reveal Gableman was removed after he suddenly resigned as Ashland District Attorney in May of 2002 and there is no other further evidence of his membership at the time of his judicial appointment as the release claims. [Gableman Judgeship Announcement, 8/19/02]
When running for judge in 2003, Gableman claimed in his campaign literature that he was a member of the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission and the Governor’s Juvenile Crime Commission. Gableman had never attended a single meeting of either commission. His appointment to these commissions in the waning days of the McCallum administration was overturned by the newly-elected Governor Jim Doyle before Gableman ever attended a single meeting of either commission. [Gableman Burnett County Campaign Ad, 3/19/03]
“Gableman uses his political connections to get appointments on statewide commissions and then tries to use his membership on these commissions to try to justify a promotion to even better jobs,” said Ross. “These efforts are hardly convincing as his membership on these commissions amount to hardly more than lines on a resume.”
Documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now included in this release are available at: http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/page/content/suspiciousappointment.