Auditors promised to screen workers, but QAnon promoters and Capitol rioters were hired

By: - June 17, 2021 9:08 am

Verl Farnsworth working at the Arizona election audit. Pool photo.

The Arizona election audit has employed a failed candidate who has espoused QAnon beliefs and a man who was at the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot of Donald Trump supporters who tried, but failed, to overturn the election.

The Arizona Mirror was able to identify the audit workers through their social media postings, media coverage of the audit and through interviews with people who know them. 

How they were hired is unclear, and their work on the audit — where they both counted ballots and worked as “observers” tasked with monitoring the proceedings — flies in the face of the pledge that audit leaders made to ensure conspiracy theorists and those who spread falsehoods about election fraud in 2020 wouldn’t be allowed near the 2.1 million ballots being recounted.

Auditors insisted in April that all volunteers would face a background check, including an examination of their social media postings.

“Everybody went through a full background check. (We) made sure there was nothing on their social media to make sure they had no wrong opinions one way or the other,” Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan said at an April 22 press conference the day before the audit began.

It isn’t clear whether those background checks actually happened or if they have been imposed consistently throughout the months-long audit, which has run weeks behind schedule and faced staffing shortages. Audit spokespeople professed not to know or didn’t answer the Arizona Mirror’s questions about who was hired.

“I’m not involved with the vetting of volunteers,” Senate liaison and former Secretary of State Ken Bennett said. 

Bennett referred questions about the vetting process and volunteers to audit media spokesman and former Arizona GOP chairman Randy Pullen, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

The Mirror also provided the audit with the names, social media profiles and information of the people, along with a list of questions about the background check process and the work the people did. The audit leaders never responded, though Bennett acknowledged he had seen the email. 

The efforts to recruit volunteers for the audit has targeted traditionally conservative groups and recruitment efforts have come under fire for partisanship. An email obtained by the Arizona Republic shows that a non-profit run by Pro-Trump allies that is currently helping fund the audit is handling background checks, non-disclosure agreements and volunteer agreements of audit workers. 

Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com runs the American Project which is behind Fund the Audit which is currently screening the volunteers, according to the email.   

Byrne is also behind a conspiratorial film made at the audit by a filmmaker known for a film that claims 9/11 was an alien conspiracy

The QAnon-promoting politician

A year ago, Verl Farnsworth was running for Mesa mayor, where he hoped to unseat incumbent John Giles. But those hopes were dashed in the city’s August election when he mustered only 33% of the vote as Giles cruised to re-election.

In May, Farnsworth was working on the audit floor, where he was captured in photographs by the media pool photographer on multiple days. People who know Farnsworth confirmed to the Mirror that he was the man in the photos. 

Farnsworth was working as a “table manager.” Audit spokesman Pullen previously told the Mirror that many table managers start as observers and work their way up to that position, often having a secondary vetting process. It is unclear if this is how Farnsworth became a table manager. 

His work on the audit followed months of social media posts promoting QAnon topics, including posting that a “storm is coming” — a common QAnon catchphrase referring to the mass arrest and execution of Democrats — and writing that it was “time to choose.” 

Farnsworth also appears to have connections to local extremists. 

The Mirror discovered that Farnsworth is Facebook friends with a “secret account” of AZ Patriots founder Jennifer Harrison, who took a plea deal last year to avoid felony charges of identity theft. Farnsworth is also friends with Harrison’s boyfriend, Michael Pavlock

Farnsworth did not respond to a request for comment. 

The man who attended the Capitol riot

Chris Legg was discovered by Twitter user Cory Cullington to be sharing information about being an observer with some of his friends online. 

On a livestream run by Nick Alvear — a man dubbed the “Doobie Smoker” after a video of him smoking marijuana inside the Capitol dome on Jan. 6 went viral — Legg said he had been working as an audit observer. 

Alvear was arrested and charged with four misdemeanors and is described by prosecutors as being a “true believer” in QAnon conspiracy theories. Legg and Alvear could also be seen at the Capitol grounds together on Jan. 6, though there is no evidence Legg entered the Capitol. 

“I had that feeling in D.C. where I had to be there, and (the audit) is the same kind of thing where I have to give up my weekends and just do this,” Legg said in the livestream with Alvear. 

Legg also claimed in the stream that he got an email from someone asking about “intel” regarding “antifa” trying to stop the audit. 

“I got another email from another patriot — has to be — that they’re asking people if they have any intel if there’s going to be antifa or BLM or anybody there to try and stop the audit,” Legg said. “Their email has 1776, in it but they got my email from the audit deal.” 

Legg did not respond to a request for comment.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins 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. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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