Everything we know about who is funding the Arizona election audit

By: - May 3, 2021 4:24 pm
Arizona audit stop the steal supporters

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. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud in Arizona. Photo by Courtney Pedroza | Getty Images/pool

The Arizona Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s election results is still underway and a number of pro-Trump and conspiracy-minded groups are raising money for it, though it is unclear how much money has been raised, how much the audit will cost and who will receive that money. 

Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm heading up the audit team, has refused to say who is paying it and how much they are paying. The Senate agreed to pay the company only $150,000 — an amount that Senate President Karen Fann acknowledged she knew was far short of what it would cost — and let it raise the rest from private sources, even though the Senate is sitting on a $3.5 million nest egg it could have used to pay for the audit.

The Senate is sitting on millions of dollars as it outsources election audit funding to pro-Trump groups

Ken Bennett, the Senate’s liaison to the auditors, has said he will “fight” to get information about private funding released, but he has also chided the public for questioning where the money is coming from, telling reporters “it doesn’t matter who paid for it.”

Likewise, Fann told the Arizona Mirror that she wants the information on who is funding Arizona’s audit made public, but may be unable to force Cyber Ninjas to do so. The Senate’s contract with the company doesn’t mention outside funding or require that the firm disclose that information. 

Arizona Mirror has compiled an evolving list of what we know about who is raising money to pay for the audit. 

The pro-Trump news anchor

The first organization to announce it was raising funds for Arizona’s audit was the one created by the host of a Pro-Trump cable news network that has repeatedly spread false claims about the election in Arizona and across the country

One America News Network’s Christina Bobb launched a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization called Voices & Votes which has raised at least $150,000 for the audit. Bobb routinely tweets about the fundraising effort and mentions her non-profit on her show, urging supporters to donate. She recently claimed the audit is “dangerously underfunded.” 

Bobb has been given exclusive access to Bennett and the audit site that other local and national news organizations have not been granted. 

The pro-Trump businessman

Another group raising money for the audit claims to have raised $1.2 million as of May 3. 

Fund The Audit has a goal of raising $2.8 million. It was created by The America Project, a Florida-based 501(c)(4) non-profit started by former Overstock.com CEO and ardent Trump ally Patrick Byrne. 

Byrne’s Telegram channel is full of conspiracy theories about the election, and he often shares information from other prominent pro-Trump figures that includes baseless allegations about election fraud. Some of those people, like Jovan Pulitzer, are also a part of Arizona’s audit

Byrne has been a leading voice in 2020 election fraud claims and has railed against the so-called “deep state”. Some of his claims came after it was revealed he had an affair with accused Russian spy Maria Butina, which he claimed the FBI encouraged him to do.  

Byrne was also present at an hour-long meeting at the White House during the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency in which he, Sidney Powell and disgraced retired Gen. Michael Flynn urged the president to overturn the election

Bennett and others who control the official Twitter account for the Senate’s audit have promoted the Fund The Audit effort. 

According to reporting by the Washington Post, Bennett was told to promote the fund by Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan. 

Logan’s now-deleted Twitter account retweeted accounts that claimed Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election and lost because of widespread fraud that favored Joe Biden. There is no evidence that happened, and such claims have been refuted by recounts and post-election tests and audits, and courts have consistently rejected them.

The pro-Trump pillow salesman

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has also helped fund the audit, but it is unclear how much and in what capacity. Lindell previously told The Daily Beast that he was funneling money to local conservative groups that were helping with recall efforts and the audit, though it is unclear how much money he has committed to either effort.

Lindell has been a proponent of false election fraud claims and is currently the target of a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, which is seeking $1.3 billion in damages from the CEO for spreading false accusations. 

The QAnon attorney

QAnon-promoting attorney L. Lin Wood has also donated $50,000 to the audit efforts, according to a report by Talking Points Memo

The Arizona Republican Party

One of the biggest proponents in Arizona of the discredited theories that there was election fraud in Arizona has been the Arizona Republican Party and its chairwoman, Kelli Ward. 

The party is currently using the audit to raise money, using the Republican Party’s WinRed fundraising platform, though it is unclear whether the money will go to support the audit or just to fund the AZGOP’s operations. 

“Join us in supporting our work. We aren’t finished fighting. And we won’t be until we get the answers we deserve,” the party said on its fundraising page.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.