How the Arizona Election ‘Audit’ Has Already Been Compromised

Despite the Arizona Senate's secrecy, enough is already known about the sham ballot review's biased origins and the involvement of conspiracy theorists to know that any purported "findings" will be lacking in credibility.
UPDATE

On Aug. 31, in compliance with a court order, the Arizona Senate released more than 80,000 pages of records related to the “audit.” This report was updated on Sept. 23 to reflect American Oversight’s findings and additional reporting that provide further evidence of the review’s lack of credibility.

Efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona have culminated in a partisan election “audit” of votes cast in Maricopa County, instigated by the state Senate’s Republican majority. Officials have indicated that results of this recount and review will be announced in late July or early August. Despite the Senate’s secrecy, enough is already known about the operation’s biased origins, the involvement of conspiracy theorists, and problematic voter outreach to call into question any purported “findings.” 

Background on the ‘Audit’

On July 15, observers got a preview of what any final pronouncements of “audit” results will look like during a hearing that was heavy on insinuation and light on actual evidence. That dynamic has been in play from the beginning, from the earliest fear-mongering about voter fraud and the post-election attempts to cast doubt on the veracity of vote totals to officials’ ongoing and unconvincing promises of the audit’s credibility. 

Besides the total lack of any evidence of widespread voter fraud in Arizona or elsewhere — an absence that, of course, continues to this day — an early signal of the audit’s untrustworthiness and bias was the hiring of the cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas to oversee the operation. Led by CEO Doug Logan, a vocal supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement who repeatedly circulated lies that the 2020 election had been rigged, the firm has no experience conducting election audits. The months that have followed showed the consequences of this inexperience, with the process beset by embarrassing and alarming issues, such as serious security breaches, a deference to outlandish conspiracy theories, and error-prone methods.

These publicly reported issues are just what is known so far about the “audit,” thanks to the Arizona Senate’s secrecy and its refusal to turn over records that could provide important information, including about its funding. American Oversight has sued the Senate for records, with a Maricopa County Superior Court judge having ruled on July 15 that the case’s “compelling public interest demand[ed] public disclosure and public scrutiny.” 

But while more transparency is on the way, American Oversight has already obtained hundreds of pages of documents and emails through public records requests, which not only add color to the picture already painted by those news reports, but also further attest to the audit’s lack of unbiased credibility. In this report, American Oversight outlines the records it has obtained as of mid-July, which demonstrate that top officials began the process with predetermined conclusions in mind; sought out or allowed the involvement of conspiracy theorists who peddle in destabilizing lies; and knew of worrying and potentially voter-intimidating actions undertaken by allies — all factors that, along with the operation’s secrecy, undercut “findings” that might be announced by audit leaders. 

Predetermined Conclusions 

The Arizona Senate’s election “audit” was begun and encouraged by people with a political interest in finding (or inventing) evidence — or things that could be twisted into appearing to be evidence — of voter wrongdoing or voting irregularities. That predetermined conclusion, that fraud or security issues might call into question President Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Arizona, was the goal, and any post-“audit” findings are necessarily tainted by that bias. 

By selecting non-credible and biased contractors over experienced auditors who had also submitted bids — and by casting aside the independent audits of Maricopa ballots that had already verified the results — Senate President Karen Fann, the leader of the “audit,” sent a clear message that the Senate believed accredited election authorities had been unable or unwilling to find fraud. 

Moreover, partisan actors and conspiracy theorists operating under the assumption that voter fraud occurred in Maricopa County and elsewhere have been involved at nearly every stage of the process. Early communications reveal that Fann and others were in frequent contact with these individuals, and messages suggest that Fann was sympathetic to calls from both constituents and former President Trump himself for the election to be overturned because of alleged fraud, even as she has claimed that the goal of the “audit” is not to rewrite Biden’s win.

Post-Election Contact with Giuliani and Trump

In late November, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani held an unofficial “hearing” in Phoenix in which participants made unsubstantiated allegations about the election’s integrity. Fann’s communications with Giuliani and the Trump campaign — and even Trump himself — during this time, when the campaign and its allies were launching dozens of long-shot election-undermining lawsuits across the country, reveal the early partisan orientation of the operation.  

On Dec. 28, 2020, Fann responded to a constituent’s email by writing that she had “been in numerous conversations” with Giuliani “over the past weeks trying to get this [forensic audit] done,” adding that she had Giuliani’s “full support” and had received a “personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud.” (This contradicts a publicly released June 15 email from Fann to a reporter in which she claimed that Trump and Giuliani “did not push for the audit.”) 

During those same weeks, Trump and Giuliani were also attempting to exert pressure on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Text messages and voicemails obtained by the Arizona Republic in early July revealed a concerted effort by Giuliani and state Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward in the weeks after the election to get the county supervisors on board with the Trump campaign’s unfounded allegations of serious voting irregularities. And in late December and early January, the president himself attempted to call the board’s then chair, Clint Hickman, who declined to take the calls.  

The records obtained by American Oversight reveal that many of Fann’s contacts with Giuliani had occurred through Christina Bobb, a reporter for the right-wing, conspiracy-elevating One America News Network who has been raising money for the operation through a website called Voices and Votes. The emails reveal Bobb supplying Fann with purported “evidence” of fraud. “Mayor Giuliani asked me to send you these declarations,” Bobb wrote on Dec. 4. “He will follow up with you as well.” She also sent Fann a “witness list.” Fann said she forwarded the documents to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and both their chiefs of staff. This supposed “evidence” has yet to be shown to be credible in any reputable forum. 

Selection of Contractors

While the prior independent audits completed by Maricopa County had been conducted by experienced firms accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Fann and the Arizona Senate chose to contract with Cyber Ninjas. An email from Fann containing a proposal from Intersec Worldwide indicates that she had interviewed the firm on March 6, 2021; ABC News reported that Fann had determined their cost to be too high. The records also contain a proposal from Clear Ballot, sent on March 9, though the records do not contain any response from Fann.

Allied Security Operations Group, a firm that was behind a discredited report claiming irregularities in Michigan’s Antrim County, was reportedly nearly hired by Fann in early February before the Senate eventually went with Cyber Ninjas. Nevertheless, Allied Security’s Phil Waldron — who was on the witness list Bobb sent to Fann on Dec. 4, and who spoke at Giuliani’s Nov. 30 hearing — appears to have played a role in the procurement process. In a Feb. 2 email to Steve Davis of Digital Discovery, Fann said that their firm had been recommended to perform the audit. Davis’ reply was forwarded to Waldron, who forwarded it back to Fann, suggesting that Waldron may have been involved in the selection of Digital Discovery. (In late May, Digital Discovery indicated that it hadn’t worked on the audit.) 

On Jan. 28, the day after the county selected contractors Pro V&V and SLI Compliance to conduct its independent audit, Waldron sent an email to Fann and state Sen. Warren Petersen accusing Pro V&V of having conflicts of interest and saying that SLI Compliance had “indicated a hesitancy to talk about working” with Allied Security. Pro V&V and SLI Compliance are the only two companies accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to certify voting machines. 

American Oversight also obtained a memo from an unidentified author that indicates that any auditor accredited by the EAC would be unable to detect fraud — thus taking the existence of such fraud as a given. The memo, which appears to be hand-marked by Fann and recommends the hiring of Allied Security as well as conspiracy theorist Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, is undated, but mentions Giuliani’s Nov. 30 hearing and precedes the selection of auditors.  

Partisan and Political Origins

Other records evince the clearly partisan and political goals of those involved — including the overturning of election results. One failed scheme for subverting the certification of Biden’s win involved the appointment of new, pro-Trump electors. American Oversight previously obtained copies of phony electoral vote certificates from Arizona and other states that were submitted to Congress; in the spring, the Arizona Republic reported that former state Rep. Anthony Kern, who was at the Capitol on the day of the Jan. 6 attack and whose signature appears on Arizona’s fake certificate, was helping count Maricopa County ballots.  

The elector-replacement scheme was floated in a Nov. 12 letter to Fann from members of the Oklahoma Senate. In the letter, Majority Whip Rob Standridge wrote: “If a legislature were to decide that as a result of fraud, or some other reason that undermined the validity of the election, that the results will not be trusted, they would be obligated to appoint Electors that would represent the will of the people.” The letter does not point to any evidence of fraud. 

The partisan orientation of the “audit” is also evident, and not just from the fact that the state Senate’s Republican majority initiated the operation along party lines. On April 22, 2021, Bruce Ash, the former national committeeman of the Arizona Republican Party, emailed Tommy Hicks, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee, to ask that the RNC help finance the defense against Democrats’ legal challenges to the “audit.” Ash wrote that he was contacting Hicks “at the behest of” Fann and Randy Pullen, a spokesperson for the audit and a former chair of the Arizona Republican Party. 

Finally, American Oversight also obtained the service agreement with the Arizona Rangers, the armed volunteer group that provided security at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, the site of the recount operation. The agreement says that the buyer is Guardian Defense Fund — the same organization set up as a legal defense fund for Kern, state Rep. Mark Finchem, and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar following their attendance at the “Stop the Steal” rally and march that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

Involvement of Conspiracy Theorists

The involvement of external groups and individuals with dubious motivations, including those who advance dangerous conspiracy theories, is another reason to be mistrustful of any “findings.” While the operation’s funding has been largely shielded from the public, outside supporters have raised money for it, including OAN’s Christina Bobb and Trump ally Patrick Byrne, who produced a conspiracy theory film that features appearances by “audit” spokesperson and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett as well as by Doug Logan. 

Other conspiracy theorists have been more directly involved in the recount’s actual work, to varying and sometimes unknown degrees. American Oversight has obtained a number of communications pointing to this close involvement. 

 Jovan Hutton Pulitzer

In the spring, Jovan Hutton Pulitzer — whose reported idea that ballots had been smuggled in from Asia was behind workers’ hunt for bamboo fibers in the ballots — claimed that technology he had developed was being used in the recount. Among the records American Oversight has uncovered is a Jan. 25 email from Pulitzer, which was forwarded by Fann to Petersen and Eddie Farnsworth, a former state senator who prior to leaving office in January had issued the original subpoenas to Maricopa County for the ballots and election materials. The email from Pulitzer appears to be a follow-up from a call with Fann, and Pulitzer outlined what his team would do with the ballots: “All that my team does is high-speed scan in all ballots in their native state … and allow machines to inspect without bias and produce a report.”

American Oversight also obtained undated text messages exchanged by Randy Pullen (before he became officially involved in the “audit”) and Liz Harris, a former Republican state legislative candidate who has been organizing some of the questionable direct canvassing operations. In one message, Harris said that she had “just learned” that Waldron and Pulitzer would not be on the audit team. “What happened?????” she asked. 

Bobby Piton

Another prominent voice among those spreading lies about the election is that of Bobby Piton, who spoke at Giuliani’s Nov. 30 “hearing” in Phoenix. While the records uncovered by American Oversight contain emails in which both Bennett and Pullen respond to outside inquiries by saying that they didn’t know who Piton was or whether he was involved (Pullen’s inquiry came from conservative activist Christine Bauserman), the records also contain a December email from Piton to Arizona legislators, including Fann, Farnsworth, and Petersen.  

“It is my hope that ALL of you do the right thing, DE-Certify and Do a Re-count and Rightfully Respect the Will of the People of the Great State of Arizona and Ensure that President Donald J. Trump receives the 11 electoral college votes,” wrote Piton on Dec. 11. “He earned, and over 90 Million Americans have his back!” Piton attached “evidence” to the email, including notes from Harris regarding her and volunteers’ work “to prove the widespread FRAUD in Arizona.” 

Other Records

On April 6, the nonpartisan accountability group Protect Democracy sent a letter to Cyber Ninjas and other contractors, demanding that the groups cease any planned direct outreach to voters — including door-knocking and other potentially intimidating actions — that was mentioned in Cyber Ninjas’ statement of work. Fann forwarded the letter to Josh Barnett, a candidate for U.S. Congress who has posted frequently about the Q Anon conspiracy theory. “Now I know they are worried,” Fann wrote. 

The next month, Fann shared with Logan, Bennett, and others the Senate’s May 12 letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which contained allegations that county officials later refuted as being “outrageous” and “completely baseless.” Bennett forwarded the Senate’s letter to Kelli Ward, to “audit” consultant John Brakey (a Democrat, who in a May interview had told a reporter that auditors were looking for bamboo fibers), and to Bennie Smith, a Democratic elections commissioner from Shelby County, Tenn., who visited the operation in May reportedly to “advise.” Smith’s official role is unclear, but he has voiced skepticism about the integrity of voting machines on his social media. 

Canvassing Operations 

The auditors’ stated plans to engage in door-knocking and other direct outreach to Arizona voters drew scrutiny early on. On May 5, a month after Protect Democracy’s demand letter, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to Fann, warning about potential violations of federal law, including the planned canvassing of voters as well as the holding of ballots and other materials outside the custody of election officials. Fann’s reply to the letter said that the plans to canvass had been dropped; during the July 15 hearing, Logan of Cyber Ninjas recommended that those plans be revived. 

In mid-June, the Arizona Republic reported that people impersonating election officials were knocking on doors in Yavapai County and asking people about their 2020 vote. The article quoted Liz Harris as saying she had organized canvassers, “some within the group I’m heading up and some outside the group,” to check voter-registration information over multiple months.  

American Oversight’s investigation has uncovered records that point to top officials being aware of the occurrence of in-person canvassing, even if those door-to-door activities were not officially sanctioned by the Senate. In addition to the text messages exchanged between Harris and Pullen around the end of February, seemingly prior to Pullen becoming officially involved with the “audit,” another text conversation, likely from late April, between Pullen and activist Christine Bauserman indicates that Harris was still collecting affidavits. 

American Oversight also obtained a report, dated March 1, pertaining to Harris’ canvassing efforts. The report, which had also been published on Harris’ “Crime of the Century” website, says that a group called the Citizens’ Non-Partisan Grassroots Project had canvassed more than 3,000 homes in Maricopa and Pima Counties “to verify the integrity of the voter rolls.” It also alleges that “52% of those canvassed addresses required an affidavit for an irregularity.”  

Remaining Questions 

What has already been revealed, both in public reporting and in the documents detailed above, is significant reason to doubt the integrity of any purported findings that emerge at the conclusion of the Arizona Senate’s stunt. Moreover, the Senate’s secrecy and aversion to transparency reflect a process that has failed to keep the public interest foremost in mind. 

More documents are yet to be released, and there are still important questions that need to be answered. Among them: 

  • As of this report’s writing, the public still does not have communications indicating how Cyber Ninjas was selected. Precisely how did that firm come to be involved? What, if any, discussions were held in advance about the goals of the audit? 
  • The Senate agreed to pay $150,000 in taxpayer money to Cyber Ninjas, but the rest is being raised by private groups with little oversight. How is the audit being funded and what is its total cost? Where is all the money being raised going? 
  • A full list of all involved in the “audit” has still not been compiled. For instance, it wasn’t until early June that Haystack Investigations’ involvement was publicly reported; days earlier Digital Discovery told the Arizona Republic that it was not, in fact, part of the operation. What contractors, subcontractors, and advisers are involved? 
  • What is the Senate’s process in finalizing “findings” and creating any final reports? 
  • Have audit officials been coordinating with or taking direction from Trump allies or others involved in perpetuating the “big lie” of a stolen election? 

Conclusion 

Aside from the obvious biases and the worrying involvement of uncredible actors, the “audit” itself has proven to be a poorly run operation that renders its findings suspect. In addition to the frequent reports of errors, delays, or security failures, there have also been a number of indications of poor coordination and communication issues. For example, in April and May, the audit’s Twitter account drew criticism for its unprofessional and inflammatory posts, with Bennett reportedly having trouble regaining control of the account from volunteers. (American Oversight obtained a note that appears to have been handwritten by Fann around this time, indicating that the account was “not under the authority of the AZ Senate.”) Another email from May shows Bennett not being able to provide a reporter with contact information for a Cyber Ninjas press contact. 

Election experts have also warned against taking any results of the ballot recount seriously, pointing to the lead contractors’ inexperience and error-prone methods. In early July, the Arizona Republic spoke to four national election consultants who said the final report on the hand count “will be incomplete at best and inaccurate at worst,” with one expert saying there was a “zero percent chance” of accuracy.  

This lack of credibility is underscored by the Arizona Senate’s aversion to transparency, the concurrent and problematic direct outreach to voters, and the willingness of top officials to accept baseless claims at face value and to work with people who trade in dangerous conspiracy theories — all with a dubious conclusion already fixed in place. As those responsible for the “audit” tease the public about an upcoming release of “findings,” the true results of the partisan exercise can already be seen. Those results are apparent in the attempts by those in other states to initiate their own illegitimately partisan election reviews, in the flurry of new voting restrictions being passed and proposed across the country, in the increasing number of threats to election workers, and in the perpetuation of the “big lie” that threatens to undermine our democracy. 

American Oversight’s investigation is ongoing. Records requests, litigation filings, and documents uncovered are available here, and more details on the watchdog group’s investigations into other threats to democracy can be found here

Update (Sept. 23, 2021)

During an Arizona Senate hearing in July, a new false voter-fraud claim was advanced by Doug Logan, the CEO of lead “audit” contractor Cyber Ninjas. The claim — that some 70,000 extra mail-in ballots were received in Maricopa County — was easily refuted, but the speed with which it took hold online raised new fears over how the inexperienced contractors, with the aid of their partisan supporters in the state legislature, might twist the so-called audit’s purported findings in their final report.

The release of more than 80,000 pages of “audit”-related documents by the Senate on Aug. 31, a deadline ordered by the court in American Oversight’s lawsuit for the records, reinforced those concerns. Not only did they contain yet more evidence of the issues outlined above — the effort’s predetermined conclusions, the involvement of partisan actors, and problematic canvassing efforts — they also provided new information about how just some of the millions of dollars that have been raised for the operation have been spent, and about how election-deniers are looking to replicate the audit in other states.

Predetermined Conclusions and Partisan Origins

Early Constituent Communications

On multiple occasions, including in communications contained in the records obtained by American Oversight, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann has sought to reassure critics that the purpose of the “audit” is not to overturn the 2020 vote, but rather to verify the results. But like Fann’s email in which she boasted of former President Trump calling her to thank her for “pushing to prove any fraud,” the records demonstrate top officials’ motivating political interest in finding evidence of voter fraud.

On Nov. 27, at the height of the Trump campaign’s brazen legal effort to overturn or nullify vote results in multiple states, Fann told a constituent that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had been invited to “come give us a briefing whenever he is available.” The next day, she wrote to another constituent, “I have been in contact with the Trump legal team many times this week.” Giuliani attended a meeting with Arizona lawmakers in Phoenix on Nov. 30; just two weeks before, Trump’s campaign had already determined that outlandish claims about voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems were false.

But as the Big Lie of a stolen election rooted deeper among Trump supporters, and as Trump-allied lawyers pressed on, Arizona legislators remained determined to prove baseless allegations of fraud. “I am working tirelessly on making sure that President Trump is still president,” wrote Wendy Rogers on Dec. 29, prior to being sworn in as a state senator in January. “We all know this was not a fair and safe election.” The records also include multiple emails in which state Sen. Vince Leach exhorted constituents who claimed the election had been stolen to provide actual evidence. “I am looking (begging) for court-ready evidence,” Leach wrote on Nov. 18. “I will keep asking till I get some.”

There are multiple instances of lawmakers sharing with each other and contractors dubious reports of voter fraud from Arizona and elsewhere (including during the spring and summer). In December, state Sen. Sonny Borrelli received “research on deceased voters in Arizona” from Arizona Republican Merissa Hamilton. Borrelli forwarded it to Phil Waldron of Allied Security Operations Group, which was behind a debunked fraud report in Michigan’s Antrim County and had been in the running to be hired for the Arizona audit. 

“It Will Impact 2022”

Communications sent and received by Randy Pullen, the former chair of the Arizona Republican Party whose involvement in the “audit” as a spokesman became publicly known in the spring, also point to the review’s clear partisan bent. In late February, a “Bill T” texted Pullen, asking whether the preparations for an audit were “Too little too late” — presumably to overturn the 2020 election. “It is late,” Pullen responded. “But it will impact 2022. People will be pissed.”

In another set of texts from the spring with a “Kari L” — likely Arizona Republican Kari Lake — Pullen invites her to visit the “audit,” adding, “Cannot believe anything in the press.” Kari L responded: “Call the media out. They are a bunch of leftists who don’t want the truth getting out to the people.” “They don’t know the truth,” Pullen said.

In May, a “Paula P” asked Pullen whether there were “any media sources that is on our side?” Pullen’s answer was One America News, the right-wing network whose reporter Christina Bobb had been raising money for the “audit.” In a July 25 message, “Paula P” (potentially Paula Pennypacker) texted, “Well I got to tell you the news that the count is coming out to be accurate is very concerning.” Pullen’s response appears to try to reassure her that the hunted-for (and apparently hoped-for) fraud could still be found, pointing out that the news relied on a small data sample.

In other texts with “Paula P,” Pullen also indicated that he might have played an active role in selecting Cyber Ninjas as the lead contractor. “I researched them and wrote a couple of pages of notes on their proposal that were added to the plan,” Pullen wrote on March 31.

A recent report from the Arizona Republic found that Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, who prior to being hired had advanced the same voting-machine conspiracy theories the Trump campaign knew to be false, began working with Trump-allied lawyers in their efforts to overturn the election as early as mid-November. A privilege log listing records that had been withheld from the Senate’s Aug. 31 document release indicates that communication between Logan and Fann began as early as Feb. 5.

National Republicans and Trump Lawyers

The new records 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 Parties, as far back as December. 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 ask Jim Troupis, a Wisconsin attorney who represented the Trump campaign in post-election litigation.

“I texted Reince and ask if he would like to help out on the audit,” Pullen said on March 8 in a text to Bruce Ash, who in April would ask RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks for financial assistance. On July 17, Pullen texted Ash: “Need guns, lawyers, and money. Have any?”

According to the privilege log, in the spring Fann exchanged multiple texts regarding the investigation and its vendors with U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, who appeared at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The records also contain August emails between Fann and a member of Gosar’s staff regarding the release of the contractors’ final report.

In the spring, Pullen also received a text from Jeff DeWit, a Trump campaign official and 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 nonprofit organization used as a legal defense fund for Gosar, state Rep. Mark Finchem, and former state Rep. Anthony Kern following their attendance at the Jan. 6 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 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.

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 an organization called the American Voting Rights Foundation) seeking signatures for payments.

The records reveal that Mitchell, a longtime proponent of voter-fraud myths who advised Trump in his challenges to the election results, set up an escrow account through which she paid $1 million to three Cyber Ninjas subcontractors — an arrangement separate from the direct donations publicly reported by Cyber Ninjas.

Conspiracy Theorists

The documents released by the Arizona Senate on Aug. 31 provide details about the involvement of yet another prominent conspiracy theorist, Shiva Ayyadurai. An anti-vaccine activist and two-time Senate candidate in Massachusetts, Ayyadurai had participated via Zoom in Giuliani’s Nov. 30 meeting with Arizona legislators. 

According to the documents, the Arizona Senate contracted with Ayyadurai to conduct reviews of voter signatures and ballot images, and the privilege log indicates that Logan, Pullen, and Senate Liaison Ken Bennett exchanged a number of emails with Ayyadurai. During an August interview on Steve Bannon’s podcast, Priebus reportedly said that the Wisconsin Assembly would be bringing in Ayyadurai to assist in the state Assembly’s own partisan investigation of the 2020 election.

Another conspiracy theorist who appears in the 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.

Additionally, there appear to be further references to conspiracy theorist Bobby Piton. Records previously obtained by American Oversight 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 newest records include texts between Pullen and canvass-organizer Liz Harris, including one in which 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.

In May, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward texted Fann to ask about “new criteria about who can volunteer for the audit.” After Fann said she wasn’t sure, Ward, likely referring to Patrick Byrne, said “Sounds a little weird – I was wondering if the Byrne group could be helping to fund the current vetting contractor?” It is not clear from the records whether Byrne’s group, the America Project, through which he has fundraised and donated millions for the operation, was in fact involved in vetting volunteers or workers. Other documents show that America Project representatives were included on emails about the number of ballot counters working various shifts.

Canvassing Operations

The records released on Aug. 31 include yet more indications that top officials were aware of direct contact with voters, namely through operations organized by Liz Harris, even if those efforts were not sanctioned by the Senate.

Harris had also forwarded the Dec. 16 request from “Bobby” for voter information to former state Rep. Don Shooter. Shooter in turn asked Arizona Senate staffer Wendy Baldo to “please see if you can get subpoenaed this information…it will help the people that are going door-to-door.”

In a Feb. 14 email to Fann, the Heartland Institute’s Neal Schuerer forwarded a message from Harris; attached were template documents for individuals to record alleged voter fraud. The file names indicate that these were “Trump campaign” and “Giuliani” versions, suggesting they originated with or included suggestions from the campaign or Giuliani. Fann also exchanged texts in August with Timothy Schwartz regarding comments Schwartz had on a “report,” which were also sent to Harris and Shelby Busch, the founder of We the People AZ Alliance PAC. Schwartz is a precinct committeeman of the Maricopa County Republican Party.

In late June, a “Jim L” asked Bennett whether canvassing had started. Bennett replied: “Yes, a lot done between election and start of audit. Not happening currently.” Jim L is likely Jim Lamon, who is running for U.S. Senate and whose campaign manager reportedly is Jeff DeWit.

‘Audit’ Costs and Guardian Defense Fund

The deluge of money pouring into the audit has drawn significant scrutiny, with millions having been raised by groups promoting the Big Lie. 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.

In April, a “Joyce H” texted Pullen, writing that she “heard L. Lyn Wood helped raise $150k for the legislature for the effort,” presumably referring to Lin Wood, a pro-Trump lawyer who was recently sanctioned by a federal judge for his legal efforts to overturn the election. According to the Arizona Republic, Wood had also hosted meetings with Logan, Byrne, and others shortly after the November election.

Among a number of large payments mentioned in the records is $400,000 that went to private security contractor Law Enforcement Specialists. The invoice was sent not to the state Senate, but rather to Guardian Defense Fund — the same nonprofit set up by state Rep. Mark Finchem, and for which Pullen serves as treasurer.

Connections to Efforts in Other States

As other state legislatures, namely Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, seek to initiate their own sham election investigations, proponents of the Big Lie are increasingly looking to replicate the Arizona “audit” in their own states. The records show that those election-denying activists were frequently in touch with those involved in the Arizona effort.

In June, Pullen received a text message from William “Sparky” Smith from a group called the Election Integrity Project. Smith said that he was seeking information for an audit of 13 counties that his organization was looking to conduct in California. “We would like for our 4-6 member team to meet with Az Audit officials who can give details of the logistics of a major audit,” Smith wrote. Pullen responded by asking how he could help.

A few days later, a reporter texted Pullen to ask, “Do you know if your folks have been in touch with Sen. Dave Argall from PA? He says he wants to do an audit too.” Pullen replied, “I think so.”

In early September, Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania launched their own “audit” of their state’s 2020 election results, led by state Sen. Cris Dush. The records show that in June, Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli emailed Dush’s chief of staff a file referred to as “Hoffman Elections Draft.” (The attachment was not provided.)

Another election investigation has also been undertaken by Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly, led by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. The records from the Arizona Senate show that “audit” officials were in touch with Gableman, who has also used taxpayer money to visit the Arizona operation.

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.”

The records also include a calendar entry for an “Election Integrity Call” on July 3. Among the long list of invitees are Wisconsin Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who attempted to start an investigation separate from Gableman’s, as well as Finchem and Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of voting-restriction organization True the Vote. 

The agenda for the call includes updates on 13 states, with Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin listed as “Tier 1.” Other invitees include Michael Flynn Jr., Lin Wood, John Eastman, and Phil Waldron. It’s unclear whose calendar this appears on, but a similar invitation for an earlier call was sent to Borelli.