Dominion Voting Systems sues ‘audit’ boosters Byrne, OAN for defamation

By: - August 10, 2021 10:54 am

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Dominion Voting Systems, the company that provides Maricopa County’s ballot tabulation machines, filed several new defamation lawsuits against people and organizations that have promoted false claims of election fraud, including against leading fundraisers and supporters of the Arizona Senate’s election review. 

The company is seeking $1.6 billion apiece from former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne and the pro-Trump media outlets One America News Network and Newsmax for lost profits resulting from what Dominion described as a sustained disinformation campaign. The lawsuits also seek punitive damages to be determined at trial. OAN personalities Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb, who has been a regular fixture at the self-styled audit of Maricopa County’s election and has used her broadcasts to raise money for the review, are also named in the suit. 

The complaints are replete with references to the long-running review of the 2020 general election in Maricopa County that was ordered by Senate President Karen Fann. The America Project, a nonprofit group founded by Byrne, paid more than $3.2 million of the nearly $5.7 million that outside groups have spent to fund the “audit.” Voices and Votes, a nonprofit created by Bobb, paid another $605,000, according to a fundraising breakdown released by Cyber Ninjas, the company leading the review. 

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In a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, John Poulos, Dominion’s president and CEO, said the company had no choice but to hold the defendants in the three lawsuits to account.

“The defendants in today’s filings recklessly disregarded the truth when they spread lies in November, and they continue to do so today. We are filing these three cases today because the defendants named showed no remorse, nor any sign they intend to stop spreading disinformation,” Poulos said. “This barrage of lies by the defendants and others have caused and continue to cause severe damage to our company, our customers and our employees.”

Starting in the early days after the November election, Dominion became the focal point of conspiracy theories touted by supporters of the baseless claims that the election was rigged against former President Donald Trump. Dominion provides ballot tabulation machines to counties in 28 states, including Maricopa County and jurisdictions in other swing states where President Joe Biden defeated Trump.

The complaint against Byrne, which Dominion filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., includes a number of claims stemming from his promotion and advocacy of bogus claims about the election, including the discredited allegation that the company’s machines use software developed in Venezuela under former socialist dictator Hugo Chavez. 

Much of the Byrne lawsuit focused on his support for the Arizona audit and for Doug Logan, the head of the Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, who is leading Fann’s election review team.

The lawsuit alleges that Byrne and helped bankroll Logan, whom it called a “Deep State conspiracy theorist,” to conduct a “sham” audit in Maricopa County, comparing it to a debunked report that Byrne also backed in Antrim County, Michigan, that falsely claimed that Dominion machines were intentionally designed to alter election results. Byrne’s purpose in funding the Arizona audit, the lawsuit claims, was to manufacture fake evidence of fraud that would encourage people to demand that election officials stop using Dominion machines and instead pay for blockchain voting technology that Byrne had invested in.

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“While the Cyber Ninjas had no previous experience conducting an official election recount and were not accredited by the United States Election Assistance Commission, they had the one qualification that mattered: they were already committed to Donald Trump and the lie that Dominion had stolen the election from him,” the lawsuit read.

The complaint also alleged that Byrne defamed Dominion through false claims in “The Deep Rig,” a conspiracy theorist film that he bankrolled, which aired false claims about Dominion and other aspects of the 2020 election. Logan and Ken Bennett, whom Fann appointed as the liaison for her election review, both appeared in the film.

Arizona’s “audit” also figured heavily into the defamation suit against OAN, which it claimed saw a “business opportunity” in promoting false election claims as part of “a race to the bottom with Fox and other outlets such as Newsmax to spread false and manufactured stories about election fraud.” Among those lies, the lawsuit contends, were claims that Dominion helped rig the 2020 election by manipulating vote counts and that the company has ties to Chavez and his socialist regime in Venezuela. 

The lawsuit described Bobb and Rion as particularly active in spreading false allegations about the election. 

Sometime between November 2020 and January 2021, Bobb and Rion also “began raising money to fund movements aimed at hiring sham ‘auditors’ to attack and harm Dominion’s business,” the lawsuit claims, resulting in the so-called audit in Arizona that generated “additional fodder for OAN to use in its defamatory campaign against Dominion.”

The lawsuit noted that OAN had exclusive rights to broadcast the live feed of the audit. Fann allowed Bobb daily access to the audit at Veterans Memorial Coliseum without requiring her to participate in the media pool that she established after initially barring journalists from covering the proceedings. Bobb routinely used her broadcasts from the coliseum to implore viewers to contribute to Voices and Votes, her and Rion’s nonprofit that helped fund the election review.

“OAN paid no mind to the consequences of its disinformation campaign, choosing profits and increased viewership over truth. And when Dominion confronted OAN with the verifiable facts disproving OAN’s lies, OAN refused to retract the lies. OAN continues to amplify and promote these fictions, betting that its path to profitability and relevancy runs through the false narrative that Dominion rigged the 2020 election — at the expense not just of Dominion but of democracy,” the lawsuit read. 

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Tuesday’s lawsuits are the latest in a series of defamation lawsuits that Dominion has filed against people and organizations that have spread baseless claims that the company rigged the election for Biden. Dominion has also sued Fox News, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. 

Dominion would not rule out the possibility of future defamation lawsuits against the Arizona Senate, Cyber Ninjas or others involved in the Arizona election review. 

“We are continuing to take an evidence-based look at everybody who has participated at any point in the disinformation campaign against Dominion. We have not ruled out other parties,” Stephen Shackelford, an attorney for Dominion, said during Tuesday’s conference call with reporters. 

The audit team is currently working on its final report, though the proceedings could be extended by new subpoenas Fann issued demanding routers and other materials from Maricopa County. The county has also publicly threatened litigation over the audit’s findings.

Byrnes and a representative for OAN could not be reached for comment.

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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. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

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