PHOENIX (AP) — Groups connected to prominent supporters of former President Donald Trump's movement to cast doubt on the 2020 election results have raised $5.7 million for Arizona Republicans' election audit.
Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the little-known firm hired to lead the audit, ended months of silence about who was paying for it and how much it cost Wednesday night. The money from pro-Trump groups dwarfs the $150,000 contributed by the Arizona Senate, which commissioned the audit and hired Cyber Ninjas.
Among those leading the fundraising groups are Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor; Sydney Powell, his attorney who filed a number of baseless lawsuits challenging election results; Patrick Byrne, a former chief executive of Overstock.com; and correspondents from the pro-Trump One America News Network.
The confirmation that the audit is being overwhelmingly funded by groups promoting false narratives about the election will raise further questions about the validity of the final report. The audit has already been widely discredited by election experts who say Cyber Ninjas and other contractors are biased and using unusual procedures that won’t produce reliable results.
“When the sources of the money, and the activity that’s being paid for, and the people being paid are all putting forth falsehoods ... it's incredibly troubling and problematic,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund and a former Maricopa County elections official.
Republican Senate President Karen Fann says the audit is only meant to see whether improvements are needed to state election laws. But the audit has long been associated with the “stop the steal” movement, and Trump has predicted it will uncover evidence to support his discredited theories of fraud.
Before he was hired to lead the audit, Logan promoted Trump’s false narrative that the election was stolen from him, and pro-Trump media has aggressively promoted the effort.
By far the largest funder is The America Project, led by Byrne, which Logan said has so far contributed $3.25 million. America's Future, which lists Flynn as its chairman, contributed just over $976,000. Voices and Votes, led by OANN correspondents Christina Bobb and Chanel Rion, contributed $605,000; and Powell's Defending the Republic gave $550,000. Election Integrity Funds for the American Republic, which Logan said is led by attorney Matthew DePerno, contributed $280,000. DePerno unsuccessfully sued Antrim County, Michigan, over the election.
Logan said several of the groups “have also provided operational support and advice pivotal in executing the audit.”
Still unclear is where those groups got their money. They are organized as nonprofits and do not have to disclose their donors.
Logan has fought to keep the funders secret, though he acknowledged at the beginning of the audit that his $150,000 contract with the Senate wouldn't cover the cost of the work the Senate hired him to do. He released the figures on the deadline for him to voluntarily comply with a request for information, including donor information, from the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee. Several public records lawsuits also seek information from the Senate and Cyber Ninjas.
A news release from Cyber Ninjas said the audit received $5,711,514.43 in outside donations, but the itemized list of amounts contributed by each of the five groups adds up to $50,000 less. A spokesman for Cyber Ninjas, Rod Thomson, did not respond to an email seeking clarification on the discrepancy.
Thomson declined to say how much of the $5.7 million has been profit for Cyber Ninjas and other contractors, whether they expect to get more money and whether there are plans for what to do if the contributions far exceed the costs of the audit.
The auditors on Thursday began returning the 2.1 million ballots and election equipment to Maricopa County, three months after they were delivered to the state fairgrounds for a review that was originally expected to take 60 days.
The Senate got access to the materials after top senators issued a subpoena late last year, as Trump and his allies tried to convince members of Congress not to certify Joe Biden's win on Jan. 6. Maricopa County turned them over after a judge ruled the subpoena was valid.
Fann and Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen this week issued new subpoenas demanding more information as well as materials they say the Senate withheld from the original demand. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers, a Republican, said the board members are discussing their options with their lawyers and expect to say more within the next week.