On Thursday, the Washington Post published an incisive look into the alternate media and information ecosystem that is fomenting conspiracies about voter fraud— and the millionaires and political figures who are backing the “big lie” that the election was stolen from former President Trump.
“The baseless assertion,” wrote Post reporters, “backed by millions of dollars from wealthy individuals, is reverberating across the alternative media ecosphere five months after Trump and many of his backers were pushed off Facebook and Twitter for spreading disinformation that inspired a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.”
Those wealthy individuals include MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who have produced movies that reportedly offer no compelling evidence of the fraud they allege. And as the Post reporters wrote, those baseless allegations “are now seeping into civic life, spurring citizens in multiple states to demand that local officials review the 2020 results.”
Such unnecessary and partisan “reviews” are a grave threat to democracy. This week, American Oversight obtained more documents from the Arizona Senate’s biased and poorly run “audit” of ballots cast in Maricopa County. Here’s the latest:
Arizona: The records released by the Senate this week revealed new details about the involvement of various outside groups in the “audit,” including service agreements with security companies and a report indicating that an organization had earlier this year canvassed more than 3,000 homes in Maricopa and Pima Counties “to verify the integrity of the voter rolls.”
That document was reported on by The Rachel Maddow Show, during which Maddow pointed to the May 5 letter from the Justice Department warning the Arizona Senate not to engage in such canvassing, which had been mentioned in the Senate’s contract with Cyber Ninjas. And this week, the Arizona Republic reported that people impersonating election officials were knocking on doors in Yavapai County. Other news:
Michigan: Calls for a similar official recount are persisting in Michigan, where a state lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill calling for a “forensic audit” and the board of commissioners in Cheboygan County voted the same day to pursue its own review.
Wisconsin: Robin Vos, the speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, is moving forward with another investigation of the 2020 election, this one to be undertaken by three former police officers and an attorney. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that those former cops will be paid $3,200 a month to look into “potential irregularities.”
The Real Threats to Voting and Election Integrity
In each of those three states, those leading the charge claim their goal is not to overturn the election, but rather just to verify results or assure voters. The Michigan committee’s report even goes so far as to say that claims about ballot manipulation in one rural county were the result of “willful ignorance.”
But officials can’t convincingly vouch for the integrity of the 2020 election unless they relinquish the myth that our voting systems are at risk of widespread fraud. And they cannot drop lies about voter fraud without undercutting their rationale for the wave of voter suppression efforts being unleashed across the country. (In fact, the same Michigan report included recommendations for adding new barriers to the election system.)
Far-Right Anti-Immigration Influence in the Trump Administration
Records we uncovered further illustrate the extent of far-right anti-immigration groups’ contacts with key figures in the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security. The emails show Chad Mizelle, then acting chief of staff, and Chad Wolf, then acting secretary, communicating with an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Mizelle being in contact with Kris Kobach regarding the largely discredited We Build the Wall project.