On Tuesday, in response to American Oversight’s public records lawsuit, the Arizona Senate released thousands of pages of records related to its partisan “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results. The document production comes on the court-ordered deadline of Aug. 31.
Included in the documents is information regarding audit payments as well as emails and text messages that audit officials and legislators exchanged with outside parties, including prominent Republicans, election conspiracy theorists and activists, members of Trump’s legal team, and others. American Oversight is still reviewing the contents of the records and will update this page with any additional findings. We are also still processing the documents, and will make them available on our website as soon as possible.
According to an accompanying privilege log (which lists records that had been withheld because of legislative and other privileges), Senate President Karen Fann exchanged multiple texts with U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar in the spring regarding the investigation and its vendors. The new records also contain August emails between Fann and a member of Gosar’s staff regarding the release of the contractors’ final report. (Gosar appeared at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters seeking to prevent the certification of the election.)
Records previously obtained by American Oversight included an April 22 email from Bruce Ash, the former national committeeman of the Arizona Republican Party, to Tommy Hicks, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee, in which Ash asked that the RNC help finance the defense against Democrats’ legal challenges to the “audit.” The latest records include more instances of audit allies attempting to get help from the national party: On July 17, audit spokesman Randy Pullen sent a text to Ash saying, “Need guns, lawyers, and money. Have any?”
The new records also indicate that Pullen was in touch with Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff and the former head of both the national and the Wisconsin Republican Party, as far back as December, before Pullen was officially involved in the “audit.” That month, Pullen texted Priebus to tell him about the potential for a “Forensic audit,” and in March asked Priebus for “suggestions on election audit firms.” (Priebus said he would check.) Another text from Pullen to Ash, sent on March 8, appears to reference Priebus: “I texted Reince and ask if he would like to help out on the audit,” Pullen said, then followed up to say they were speaking later that morning.
The privilege log also indicates that top “audit” officials — including Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, Senate Liaison Ken Bennett, and spokesman Randy Pullen — exchanged a number of emails with Shiva Ayyadurai, an election conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine activist whose Twitter account was suspended back in February.
The records released by the Senate include a signed contract between Cyber Ninjas and a “Dr. Shiva,” a name Ayyadurai goes by among his followers. The contract is dated Aug. 3, 2021, and was sent to the United Liberty Coalition, a Phoenix-based group of supporters of former President Trump.
During a recent interview on Steve Bannon’s podcast, Reince Priebus reportedly said that the Wisconsin Assembly would be bringing in Ayyadurai to assist in its own partisan investigation of the 2020 election.
Another conspiracy theorist who appears in the Arizona Senate’s documents is Gail Golec, who has adopted the language of the QAnon conspiracy in her election-undermining activism. According to the records, Golec exchanged text messages with Senate President Karen Fann on Aug. 24 following the news that Logan and other members of the Cyber Ninjas team had contracted Covid-19. Golec recommended that Logan visit a site to purchase the livestock drug ivermectin. (Text messages indicate that upon hearing the news, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward also told Fann that she hoped Logan had “gotten some Ivermectin and Zithromax.”) Golec also exchanged texts with Bennett in April, in which Golec said that the National Guard needed to be deployed to protect the audit from Black Lives Matter and antifa.
The records also appear to reference conspiracy theorist Bobby Piton, who according to records previously obtained by American Oversight had emailed Arizona legislators in December, calling for a vote recount. Those previous records also contain emails in which both Bennett and Pullen responded to outside inquiries by saying that they didn’t know who Piton was or whether he was involved.
The new records contain texts exchanged by Pullen and Liz Harris, a former Republican state legislative candidate who has been organizing direct canvassing operations that experts warn could amount to voter intimidation. On Dec. 16, Harris forwarded to Pullen a Dec. 16 text from “Bobby” requesting multiple decades’ worth of detailed voter information from all 15 counties in Arizona, not just Maricopa. Harris’s canvassing operations have recently been in the news again, with Harris denying any formal connections to the audit.
In December, according to records previously obtained by American Oversight, One America News reporter Christina Bobb — who later began raising money for the “audit” — provided Fann with purported “evidence” of voter fraud, writing that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had “asked me to send you these declarations.” The newly released records include a group text from March 31 involving Fann and Bobb, with Giuliani also included, in which Fann passes along a document with a title that began “Pres. Fann audit hiring.”
Another Trump lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, was also looped in on a number of communications, including an Aug. 2 email chain started by Scott Sigman, a Pennsylvania attorney who appears to be handling the issuing of checks related to the “audit.” Sigman emailed Mitchell, Logan, Pullen, and Thomas Datwyler (the treasurer of a group called the American Voting Rights Foundation) seeking signatures for payments.
Pullen also received a text on April 22 from Jeff DeWit, the former CFO of NASA who previously served as Arizona treasurer, in which DeWit said he was preparing to send $175,000 to Guardian Defense Fund, the organization set up as a legal defense fund for Gosar, state Rep. Mark Finchem, and former state Rep. Anthony Kern following their attendance at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. DeWit asked Pullen, who was the fund’s treasurer, where to send the money; Pullen responded that “200 would be better but take what I can get.”
The next week, DeWit asked Pullen about a group called Fund The Audit, which Pullen said was being funded by former Overstock CEO (and current election conspiracist) Patrick Byrne. DeWit asked whether the group was “ok to donate to,” adding, “Trump asking.” Pullen said yes, and that it had raised $1.2 million so far.
In May, Pullen asked whether DeWit was familiar with Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who had worked with Giuliani on Trump’s farfetched legal challenges to the election. And on July 19, Pullen asked DeWit to call him, saying that “arpaio has some information for 45” — likely a reference to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and further suggesting that DeWit was relaying messages to the former president.
The Senate originally provided $150,000 for the election “audit,” but in the months since the total cost ballooned to at least $6 million thanks to outside donations. Records included in Tuesday’s document production reveal how quickly the price tag rose: Among other payments, more than $400,000 went to private security contractor Law Enforcement Specialists, and the American Voting Rights Foundation sent $500,000 went to contractor CyFIR and $250,000 to StratTech Solutions. Another email from early August involving Sigman, Mitchell, and representatives of Wake Technology Services Inc., which left the operation in May, shows that AVRF wired $250,000 to Sigman to cover costs.
Cyber Ninjas was hired by the state Senate in the spring, and questions remain about how the firm was selected, given its lack of election experience and previous statements by Logan in which he advanced conspiracy theories about voting machines. The privilege log indicates that communication between Logan and Fann began as early as Feb. 5, and texts released by the Senate on Tuesday include one from March 17 between Fann and a lobbyist who refers to “Doug.”
The newly released records also reveal that the deference to conspiracy theories and false allegations of voter fraud evident in Fann’s post-election communications has continued into recent months: On Aug. 23, Fann forwarded to Bennett, Pullen, and Logan an article about a report on missing Wisconsin ballots.
Finally, the new records also suggest that audit officials were in touch with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who was hired to run the bogus election investigation initiated by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. On Aug. 7, Pullen texted a “Justice Michael G” with “Three big political points.” In response, the recipient wrote, “these are helpful fundings [sic].” The week before, Christina Bobb had asked Fann if she could share her contact information with Gableman; Fann replied, “Absolutely of course.”
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