As of Friday morning, American Oversight has published nearly 75,000 of the more than 80,000 pages released on Tuesday by the Arizona Senate in response to our lawsuit for records from the partisan “audit” of Maricopa County’s election results.
American Oversight’s review of the records earlier this week revealed new information about the people and groups directly or indirectly involved in the sham investigation, from conspiracy theorists to prominent national Republicans and people connected to former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Additional review has found further contacts with prominent election deniers and activists conducting problematic voter-canvassing operations, as well as new information about costs, the audit’s reach in other states, and its controversial Twitter account.
The Arizona Senate has continued to withhold nearly 3,000 additional records, including nearly all of its communications with its main “audit” contractor, Cyber Ninjas. Along with the records released on Tuesday is a log listing the withheld documents, nearly all of them emails and text messages, and the reasons they have not been released (primarily claims of legislative or attorney-client privilege).
Lead contractor Cyber Ninjas’ original statement of work included a plan to conduct door-to-door canvassing, a plan that raised alarm among voting-rights activists and led to the Justice Department warning in early May against such direct contact because of potential violations of federal law. Fann replied that the plan had been dropped, but in the months since multiple instances have been reported in certain Arizona counties of volunteers knocking on doors to ask residents about their votes.
The organizer of many of these canvassing operations has been Liz Harris, a former Republican state legislative candidate who has denied in news reports any formal connection to the “audit.” But the records released this week, similar to records we previously obtained, include a number of indications that top officials were aware of the direct contact, even if those efforts were not sanctioned by the Senate.
In December, Harris forwarded to Randy Pullen (a spokesman for the “audit,” who at this time was not officially involved) a text from “Bobby” (possibly conspiracy theorist Bobby Piton) requesting multiple decades’ worth of detailed voter information from all 15 counties in Arizona, not just Maricopa. Harris made the same request of former state Rep. Don Shooter, who 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 Trump lawyer Rudy 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 Senate Liaison Ken 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, who the records suggest was relaying messages to Trump.
American Oversight’s investigation, as well as public news reports, have previously revealed that the Arizona Senate undertook the review with predetermined conclusions in mind and a deference to prominent election conspiracists.
As reported on Tuesday, the privilege log lists several instances of communication with election-denier and anti-vaccine activist Shiva Ayyadurai. In addition to an email mentioning a signed contract between Cyber Ninjas and a “Dr. Shiva,” the records also contain a June email in which Pullen shares with Ayyadurai a Q&A document from Audit USA.
On May 27, Pullen also forwarded to Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, a letter, dated Nov. 17, 2020, from former Maricopa County Republican Committee Chair Linda Brickman, claiming that “Affidavits today were disclosed from Dominion insiders that the software was specifically designed for Venezuela and South American Countries to enable those in power to manipulate or rig election outcomes.” Prior to his firm’s selection, Logan had repeated similar baseless allegations about the voting machines.
Other emails and texts with Pullen point to the clear partisan bent of what officials defended as an independent review. 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” 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.
American Oversight previously obtained records indicating that Senate President Karen Fann had been in touch with Trump as well as Giuliani. The latest documents include a Nov. 28 email from Fann to a constituent, in which Fann responded, “I have been in contact with the Trump legal team many times this week.”
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 said “Sounds a little weird – I was wondering if the Byrne group could be helping to fund the current vetting contractor?”
“The Byrne group” likely refers to Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock CEO who has created an election conspiracy film featuring many of the people involved in the “audit.” 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.
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, who is from a group called the Election Integrity Project. Smith said that John Brakey, the assistant Senate liaison who heads Audit USA (and had been the one to tell a reporter that volunteers were searching for bamboo fibers) had told him to contact Pullen and others, seeking information regarding an audit of 13 counties 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.”
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 has attempted to start an investigation separate from the one currently being undertaken by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, as well as state Rep. Mark Finchem and Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of voting-restriction organization True the Vote.
The agenda 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 (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’s unclear whose calendar this appears on, but a similar invitation for an earlier call was sent to Arizona Sen. Sonny Borelli.
Earlier this week, we reported on communications between Pullen and people involved in Vos’s investigation in Wisconsin — former state Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman and Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff and former Republican Party official. In December, Pullen asked Priebus for suggestions for election audit firms; Priebus said he would ask Jim Troupis, a Wisconsin attorney who represented the Trump campaign in post-election litigation and who also is listed as speaker on the “Election Integrity” call.
The records show how quickly the “audit” blew past the initial $150,000 the Senate had authorized for it. An invoice from the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, the site of the recount, totals nearly $130,000, and there are multiple emails regarding payments to contractors that amount to the hundreds of thousands.
On a number of those emails, Trump attorney Cleta Mitchell appears to be acting as a conduit for funds. In one email dated July 28, Pullen sent Mitchell an invoice, saying that $550,000 “will pay most of the unpaid hours billed.” Mitchell asked whether Pullen and Doug Logan had approved the payment; Pullen said that he and Logan had gone over it that morning.
The deluge of money pouring into the audit has drawn significant scrutiny, with millions having been raised by groups promoting the Big Lie. 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. In July, Joyce H texted Pullen a spreadsheet with expenses, listing $1.85 million owed and $750,000 paid.
Back in the spring, the official Twitter account for the “audit” raised eyebrows for its unprofessional and inflammatory posts, with Ken Bennett reportedly having trouble regaining control of the account from volunteers. The records released Tuesday provide new information about who might have been running the account.
On May 8, a “Lori H” texted Bennett, “I don’t know who is in charge of the Twitter account but you all need to find an adult to be in charge of it. It’s just really embarrassing and beneath the dignity of what you’re trying to do.”
Bennett agreed, and said it was “some guys from out of state tied to Logan.” “Last weekend they changed the password to control the account and I’m locked out,” he added. “These guys are from FundtheAudit.com I think” — a website created by Byrne’s America Project group.
Finally, the records also include more instances of Fann responding sympathetically to emails from constituents detailing their baseless suspicions of widespread fraud; more communications with conspiracy theorist Jovan Hutton Pulitzer (potentially the source of the bamboo-laced smuggled ballots conspiracy); a December email in which Sen. Borelli shares with Allied Security’s Waldron a report alleging evidence of dead people voting; and a text suggesting Pullen was involved in the selection of Cyber Ninjas.
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