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Capitol Punishments: What Gableman tells himself

The sexist streak in Wisconsin’s increasingly expensive and unhinged election investigation.
Illustration: Ghosts and ghouls are shown swarming about the Wisconsin Capitol. Illustration by Maggie Denman.
Illustration: Ghosts and ghouls are shown swarming about the Wisconsin Capitol. Illustration by Maggie Denman.

The sexist streak in Wisconsin’s increasingly expensive and unhinged election investigation.

Each week in Wisconsin politics brings an abundance of bad policies, bad takes, and bad actors. In our recurring feature, Capitol Punishments, we bring you the week’s highlights (or low-lights) from the state Legislature and beyond.

Each week in Wisconsin politics brings an abundance of bad policies, bad takes, and bad actors. In our new recurring feature, Capitol Punishments, we bring you the week’s highlights (or low-lights) from the state Legislature and beyond.

As Michael Gableman went on his little tirade during his contempt hearing on Friday, June 10, his counsel pointed to the microphone to remind him that the entire courtroom could hear him, especially American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg, as he play-acted a scenario where Dane County Judge Frank Remington solicits sex from Westerberg. 

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“That’s what you are saying, right, Ms. Westerberg? Oh yes. Why don’t you come right up to the bench, Ms. Westerberg? Why—why don’t you come back into my chambers so you can dictate what—” Gableman said, before being cut off by his attorney.

It’s a skin-crawling, gut-turning and, as Remington wrote in his contempt decision, “sad reminder that in 2022, woman lawyers still have to do more than be excellent at their job.”

Calling Gableman’s comments a “sophomoric stunt,” Remington condemned Gableman for suggesting “that Westerberg is not capable of litigating without the help of the judge.”

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Which is especially rich coming from Gableman, since his entire sham inquiry into the 2020 election has been a humiliating (taxpayer-funded!) case study in what NOT to do. 

No, Gableman’s comments have nothing to do with Westerberg or Remington themselves, but are all about Gableman and the stories men like Gableman tell themselves; about their own competence, about why things aren’t going their way, and about power, who wields it, and who deserves it. 

Because the most bizarre part of Gableman’s fantasy is that he was casting himself as the good guy—the victim, even—of a judge who is only ruling against him due to politics and sex, and a woman lawyer who is only winning by prostituting herself. It has all the subtlety and moral complexity of an Ayn Rand novel. 

In reality, he has wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on an investigation riddled with embarrassing gaffes and all he has to show for it is a report that reveals nothing substantive. It was literally Gableman and the Thomas More Society’s spin on events that were long disclosed and litigated—the narrative we knew we were going to get ever since Assembly Speaker Robin Vos decided to form his own unaccountable squad of election investigators. And now Gableman is in court because he decided he doesn’t need to comply with open records laws and provide documents showing where the money for his expensive romp has gone.

And I will bet you cold, hard cash that if someone called Gableman out for his sexism to his face, he would throw yet another tantrum, swearing up-and-down that Westerberg’s sex had nothing to do with it. Just like how I’m sure he’d take offense if someone told him his weird focus on Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe’s appearance was also sexist

(Or just like how many Wisconsin Republicans would probably insist that Rebecca Kleefisch’s sex has nothing to do with the party deciding not to endorse a gubernatorial candidate for the first time ever. I’m not a fan of Kleefisch, but for those who’ve latched onto the “dumber than a bag of hammers” narrative: have you ever heard about this guy, Scott Walker?)

In both cases, though, Gableman had nothing substantial to say about either woman, so he went for the sexist cheap shots. He’s spitting into the wind and telling himself that none of it could possibly land on his face. He’s the good guy.

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