More documents were released last week by the Arizona Senate in response to American Oversight’s litigation for records from the problematic election “audit” undertaken in Maricopa County. The documents reveal yet more evidence of the partisan review’s roots in the anti-democratic efforts to overturn the 2020 election and offer new details about the search for contractors at the beginning of this year.
Last week, the Senate released its long-delayed report on the so-called audit’s findings, which election experts have said was littered with misleading conclusions. While the contractors’ recount repeated what was already known — that Joe Biden received more votes than Donald Trump in Maricopa County — the exercise’s primary outcome was to keep the election-conspiracy machine moving, undermining trust in the 2020 election’s integrity and in U.S. democracy over the five months the “audit” dragged on.
The Big Lie has been given fuel by right-wing media that trafficks heavily in misinformation and evidence-lacking allegations. The records show, as reported on by the Arizona Mirror, how “audit” officials gave privileged access to biased news outlets like One America News that would provide favorable coverage of the flawed operation. They also include new details about the running of the controversial and often belligerent Twitter accounts linked to the audit, as reported on by the Arizona Republic.
The frequent pronouncements, including by Senate President Karen Fann, that the “audit” was not seeking to overturn the election, but rather to assuage voters’ concerns about election security, has been repeatedly belied by the records American Oversight has obtained. (Just this week, Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli, who appears frequently in the records, said the audit results show that Biden’s win should be “nullified.”)
The latest documents include a May exchange between Fann to state Sen. Vince Leach that provides yet another piece of evidence that Senate officials undertook the partisan operation with predetermined conclusions in mind — specifically, the discovery of (non-existent) widespread fraud. After Fann sent a text lamenting the lack of support for the “audit” in the media and from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Leach texted, “Ahh, but it will be great when it is shown they both were on the wrong side of the truth.” Fann replied, “Praying.”
From the beginning, those pushing for and setting up the “audit” were involved with people actively seeking to overturn the results. This included Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and even Trump himself, as communications previously reported on by American Oversight reveal.
It also included Phil Waldron of Allied Security Operations Group, a company that was Fann’s initial choice for lead “audit” contractor. Waldron had worked with Giuliani (and appeared at a Nov. 30 briefing held by Giuliani in Phoenix to discuss election concerns), and Allied Security was behind a debunked report alleging fraud in Michigan’s Antrim County; last week, the Arizona Republic reported that Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the company eventually hired by the Senate, had also been part of that effort.
According to the documents, Waldron was in touch with Trump lawyer John Eastman in February, while Allied Security was still ostensibly in the running for the election review job. Eastman was in the news earlier this month for his brazen plan, laid out in a memo from January, to get Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the election and initiate a process that he imagined would lead to Trump illegally staying in office.
American Oversight has previously reported on documents that illustrate the web of election-denying activists that have been looking to replicate the Arizona effort in other states, including a July “Election Integrity Call” involving activists, Trump allies, and state officials from around the country. Also on the invite list was former Arizona legislator Steve Montenegro, who appears in the latest records defending to “audit” spokesman Randy Pullen the hostile tone of the Twitter account, which he appears to have been involved in running.
The Arizona Republic’s review of the latest records details new communications from the time when the Senate was looking at different firms to hire for their partisan “audit.” The communications indicate that Fann had originally wanted to hire Allied Security, but eventually dropped the firm because, as she claimed, it was being “trashed” in the media.
“[A]ll good here,” Waldron texted Fann in early February. “I’m willing to help in whatever capacity. I can even be seen in DC or GA while it’s going on lol,” apparently to distance himself personally from the process.
Waldron even offered to do business as a different company, with a different name but the same personnel. “We could put the proposal under a different company if that helps?” Waldron texted on Feb. 1. “But it would be the same folks.”
Cyber Ninjas’ statement of work included mention of Digital Discovery, a company that Allied Security’s Russ Ramsland, in an email to Fann and state Sen. Warren Petersen, said was used for “many of our data collection assignments.” (In late May, the company’s CEO told the Arizona Republic that it was not working on the “audit.”) Previously released records indicate that Fann and Waldron remained in contact through at least July; it is unclear from the records whether and to what extent Waldron was involved in the review after it got started.
Eventually, Doug Logan’s Cyber Ninjas (whom Waldron recommended as being “very reputable” in a Feb. 27 text to Fann) was hired as the lead contractor. A number of emails in the records point to early disputes about Cyber Ninjas’ contract with the Senate, which was chopped from $500,000 to $150,000 early on. Cyber Ninjas’ initial contract includes language indicating that funding would be provided by “Patriots across the country”; this language was removed from the final version of the contract.
In January, Allied Security’s Russ Ramsland had sent Fann and Petersen a scope of work agreement for $186,000; this number was reduced to $10,000 prior to the Senate deciding not to hire the company. Given the millions in external fundraising from Trump-allied groups for the “audit” — and the hundreds of thousands in invoices and payments seen in previously released documents — the records suggest that raising outside money may have been planned early on.
Finally, the records also include communications conspiracy theorist Jovan Hutton Pulitzer’s attempts to be involved in the “audit,” as well as more indications of the operation’s connection to problematic door-to-door voter canvassing.
As first pointed out by an online investigative publication called Trapezoid of Discovery, an early draft of the Cyber Ninjas statement of work names Arizona Republican Liz Harris, who has been organizing canvassing operations over recent months, as well as conspiracy theorist Bobby Piton as being the “Registration and Votes Cast Team.” This was also removed from the final version. Similarly, a leaked early version of Cyber Ninjas’ final report last week cited Harris’ canvassing efforts; that was deleted from the final report.
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