The out-of-state conspiracy theorists pushing for a ‘revote’ in Arizona

By: - November 30, 2022 12:44 pm

Out-of-state election deniers have traveled to Arizona to campaign for a “re-vote” of the 2022 election, and several spoke at the Nov. 28, 2022, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting. Clockwise from upper left: Lewis Herms, Joe Oltmann, David Clements and Ben Bergquam. Screenshots via Maricopa County

On Monday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously certified the 2022 election after a more than four-hour long meeting full of conspiratorial rantings, stirred on by out-of-state actors who have been driving forces behind other Arizona — and national — election conspiracies for the past two years. 

In total, 41 people appeared before the supervisors, almost all leveling criticisms against the board and repeating similar claims about the board and the election itself. Some of the speakers even brought up past conspiracies from previous elections to levy against the supervisors such as outlandish claims of ballots being burned in a chicken farm fire

At the heart of it all is a central cast of characters from other states who were involved in last year’s partisan “audit” of the 2020 election. Now, in the wake of Maricopa County’s polling site problems on Election Day, they have once again turned their attention — and that of their followers — to Arizona. 

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The Dominion defamer 

One of the loudest proponents of the “#Revote” movement that formed online shortly after the midterm election is Joe Oltmann, a right-wing Colorado podcaster who has built a sprawling political network. 

Oltmann has become known for his often violent brand of rhetoric, including calling for the hanging of his political enemies, which has led one of his most frequent targets, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, to travel with a security detail

Most infamously, Oltmann was a major promoter of the conspiracy that Dominion Voting Systems machines were rigged to guarantee former President Donald Trump would not be re-elected. The conspiracy led to the Dominion employee at the center of Oltmann’s claims to receive death threats and forced him to go into hiding.  

Now, Oltmann is facing a defamation suit by the former Dominion employee. 

“I’m the chief election denier,” Oltmann said when introducing himself during the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ public comment section on Nov. 28. Oltmann also claimed to be a “subject matter expert” on “system architecture,” though his previous work experience is as a former digital marketing executive. He has no professional experience in elections. 

Oltmann’s rise to prominence stems from the COVID-19 shutdown era, when he spread a litany of conspiracy theories on his platform. Some of those conspiracy theories have revolved around the continued demonization of the LGBTQ community and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

His platform also served as a place for members of the Arizona Senate’s “audit” team to spread election misinformation, including Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, the conspiracy theorist who led the election review effort. 

Logan also appeared on Oltmann’s show. Both men also appeared together in a conspiracy film made at the “audit” that was directed by a man whose previous work claimed aliens were behind 9/11

The ‘Professor’ 

David Clements is an ex-professor of finance who has gained a large following on alternative social media platforms like Telegram. The election denialist gained notoriety for his role in getting the certification of results in three New Mexico counties delayed, even though there was no credible evidence of fraud or wrongdoing. 

Clements also participated in MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s 2021 “Cyber Symposium,” an event that aimed to show “proof” of fraud in the election that ultimately fizzled.  

Both Clements and Oltmann rallied in Phoenix ahead of the Maricopa County board meeting, encouraging people to come to the Arizona Capitol for a Brazil-style protest with an end goal of redoing the 2022 election. They even solicited donations for protesters, anticipating long days ahead. 

When he spoke to the board of supervisors, Clements used his time to heckle Supervisor Clint Hickman, whose family egg farm was briefly the epicenter of a conspiracy theory in late 2020. 

“You got another chicken farm that needs to be burned down Mr. Hickman?” Clements said in his public testimony, referring to a long-debunked inane conspiracy theory that Hickman hid Trump ballots in a chicken farm that caught fire to ensure there was no evidence of the allegedly stolen 2020 election.

Five days after arriving in Arizona, Clements was already tapped out. 

“We just finished four days in a row of protesting here at the Capitol here in Arizona,” Clements said in a video posted Nov. 28 on Telegram, “but it didn’t seem like the people of Arizona cared.” 

In the video, Clements lamented the low turnout to what was supposed to be a “huge protest” that never reached more than 100 people. And some of those people weren’t protesting the election, but were rallying to raise awareness for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. 

Despite the loss, Clements has become a key figure within Trump’s inner circle. In August of last year, Clements dined with Trump and he has also appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room.” 

The ‘news’ correspondent 

Ben Bergquam currently works for Real America’s Voice, a far-right streaming channel that is most well known for carrying Steve Bannon’s “War Room” show. Lately, Bergquam’s clips have been a staple in the Twitter feeds of Kari Lake and other Republican candidates, but Bergquam has a history of being a political provocateur and conspiracy theorist. 

Bergquam, who has been arrested for political agitation, got his start in Fresno, Calif., where he partnered with “proud islamophobe” Laura Loomer to trespass onto Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mansion while dressed in racist caricatures of immigrants. 

Bergquam built a following for his stunts during the Trump years, even going to Google headquarters to try to “speak with” and “file complaints” with Google officials over alleged mistreatment of conservatives by the company. 

This year, Bergquam has turned his attention to the southern border and has taken multiple trips down there, often aligning himself with groups with known extremist views. Those trips have also led to an outflow of conspiratorial beliefs about things happening in and around the border. In one case, Bergquam helped spread a false narrative around a butterfly sanctuary that caused the sanctuary to have to close its doors due to credible threats. 

QAnon-style conspiracy theories of sex- and human-trafficking constantly kept coming at the National Butterfly Center. A day after Bergquam tweeted out a clip that repeated false claims about sex trafficking, the center closed indefinitely due to safety concerns for the staff and public. 

Bergquam has also platformed conspiracy theorists who paint false pictures about immigration and Mexico.

He also pushed ivermectin on his followers and said he got the medication through America’s Frontline Doctors, whose founder was sentenced to prison for her role in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot and spread a litany of false information about COVID-19 vaccines

Bergquam, along with others who spoke, accused Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and others of a “conflict of interest” for having a PAC that spent money against Lake and others. The PAC solely belonged to Richer and did not spend any money during the election. 

The ‘Truth Tour’ guy 

Californian Lewis Herms is no stranger to driving long distances. 

His “Truth Tours” often span long distances and include a litany of speakers from the MAGA and election denialism world. Herms drove from California to Arizona for the “#Revote” rally and to speak before the board of supervisors because he says he believes there was malfeasance in the election. 

In a picture posted to Telegram by fellow election fraud believer and influencer Stephen “TennerTalk” Tenner, Herms was sitting alongside Tenner, Oltman, Clements and other well-knowns in the election “fraud” influencer realm who traveled to Arizona. 

Herms’ Truth Tours haven’t always gone so smoothly. Truth Tour 2, which featured such speakers as 8kun owner Jim Watkins and “Plandemic” star Judy Mikovitz, was apparently hit with infighting during its time on the road. 

The tour was full of conspiracy theorists, including a practitioner of gematria, a form of numerology traditionally used in Kabbalah where each letter in a word is assigned a number in order to try to interpret a deeper meaning to words or phrases. The practice has become popular with QAnon adherents. 

The JFK Jr. QAnon people 

Tenner, a New Yorker who is based out of Dallas, runs the Telegram group TennerTalk and has been in Arizona continuously since the “#revote” protest began. 

Tenner is the “right-hand man” to Michael Protzman, the leader of a QAnon sect who has falsely predicted multiple times that former President John F. Kennedy would reappear in Dallas at the site of his assassination. 

Protzman uses gematria to “prove” to his followers that he is allegedly in contact with the Kennedy family and the Trump inner circle. He also believes that the Kennedy family is directly descended from Jesus Christ and that many famous people, including John F. Kennedy Jr. and Michael Jackson, faked their deaths and are working alongside Trump to take down a global satanic cabal. 

Tenner is easily spotted, as he drives an RV decked out to look like the Mystery Machine from the Scooby-Doo television show. 

As the final public speaker at the county board meeting praised the supervisors for conducting a safe and secure elections, Tenner had an outburst that he later explained in a video on Telegram.

“It was just a little bit of theater after that little soy boy, which I think he was an actor at the end, praising them for doing a great job for stealing the election,” Tenner said in the video. “I stormed out screaming ‘I hope they televise your tribunals.’” 

Tenner is also going to be a part of Herms’ “Truth Tour.” 

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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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