Advance Notice: Briefs

Election conspiracy groups paid $5.7M for Ariz. ‘audit,’ includes link to Mich. AG candidate

By: - July 30, 2021 7:16 am

Protestors in support of former President Donald Trump gather outside Veterans Memorial Coliseum where Ballots from the 2020 general election wait to be counted on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud in Arizona. | Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

After months of questions, the leader of the Arizona Senate’s election review released a list of financial contributors, showing the self-styled audit has been funded by organizations that have aggressively promoted baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election — and in some cases sought to overturn results.

Five groups were responsible for providing more than $5.7 million, a spokesman for audit team leader Doug Logan announced on Thursday. The America Project, a nonprofit group started by former CEO Patrick Byrne, contributed more than half of the funding, putting in more than $3.2 million.

Matt DePerno photo

America’s Future, a nonprofit chaired by former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, contributed nearly $1 million. Another $605,000 came from Voices and Votes, a nonprofit founded by Christina Bobb of the pro-Trump media outlet One America News Network. OAN broadcast the livestream of the audit at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and the audit team provided Bobb with special access to the audit, where she frequently made fundraising appeals during her broadcasts.

Former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s nonprofit Defending the Republic provided $550,000, while the another nonprofit called Election Integrity Funds for the American Republic and its pro-Trump legal fund Legal Defense Fund for the American Republic contributed another $280,000.

That funding was separate from the $150,000 that the Arizona Senate paid to Logan’s firm, Cyber Ninjas. Senate President Karen Fann agreed beforehand with Logan that the audit would raise outside funds to augment the Senate’s contract.

“Our sponsors have raised and provided over $5 million; and tens of thousands of you have prayed for the work of our hands to determine (the) truth, whatever it may be. For all of this, we are eternally grateful. We truly couldn’t have done this without you,” Logan said in a press statement.

It’s unknown who contributed much of the money to the groups that funded the audit. Bryne publicly pledged to provide $1 million to fund the audit, and his group sought to raise $2.8 million. But Logan did not provide details about who provided the remainder of the money.

The common bond between the groups that funded the audit is advocacy on behalf of the “Stop the Steal” movement that has promoted false and debunked claims that the election was rigged against Donald Trump, including Michigan, where President Joe Biden defeated him by more than 154,000 votes.

Bryne has been a vigorous promoter of bogus election fraud claims and was part of a group that included Powell, Flynn and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani that met with Trump at the White House in December to urge him to take drastic actions to overturn the election results and remain as president after his term expired. Byrne was also responsible for “The Deep Rig,” a film promoting conspiracy theories about the election, which Logan and other audit team members participated in.

Powell was the lawyer behind a series of failed “kraken” lawsuits in several swing states that Biden won, including Michigan, that sought to overturn election results based on outlandish conspiracy, such as that Venezuela’s socialist regime helped steal the election through rigged voting machines. As the Advance has reported, Powell and other pro-Trump attorneys are facing sanctions from a Michigan federal judge.

Defending the Republic hired Wake TSI, which was initially in charge of the hand count of Maricopa County’s ballots, for an earlier audit in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, which the county permitted at the behest of a close Trump ally in the state Senate.

Election Integrity Funds for the American Republic and its sister group are linked to attorney Matthew DePerno, who was the attorney in a failed lawsuit alleging massive fraud in Michigan’s Antrim County. Logan and Ben Cotton of CyFIR, a subcontractor in the Arizona audit, were listed as expert witnesses in DePerno’s lawsuit.

DePerno this month announced he was running in 2022 against Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

A version of this story first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Arizona Mirror. Read the story here.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report.