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The first report on funding for Arizona Republicans' unprecedented 2020 election review reveals a who's who of Donald Trump allies committed to overturning Trump's defeat.
A total of $5.7 million has been raised for Senate Republicans' review of the ballot count in Maricopa County, according to a statement by Doug Logan, the chief executive officer of Florida-based Cyber Ninjas and the leader of the review team.
"As we continue our commitment to transparency, we want to take this opportunity to publicly thank and disclose those organizations that have supported us during this audit," the statement said.
Senate Republicans outsourced the job of running the review to Logan, who had no experience in election auditing. He is being paid $150,000 in taxpayer money, but the Senate could be on the hook for millions more.
The funding report comes as the election review shuts down at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, home to the review since late April.
On Thursday, Maricopa County will be picking up the 2.1 million ballots and ballot tabulators it handed over to Senate Republicans in April under a court-approved subpoena. They are the last of the truckloads of elections materials the county hauled to the fairgrounds.
Cyber Ninjas is expected to turn over the results of the review to Senate President Karen Fann sometime in August.
The review grew out of Arizona lawmakers' push after the November election to toss out the state's results.
Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Arizona in 24 years and the first to take Maricopa County in 72 years.
Emails and text messages released since the election show Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward leaned on Maricopa County officials to help them undo the results.
Here's what we know and, perhaps more importantly, what we don't know about the sources of funding for the review, based on the Cyber Ninjas' statement. The financial information could not be independently verified:
List of fund-raisers released
The lead fund-raiser is Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock.com chief executive who is peddling a book that claims the election was stolen. Logan made an unnamed appearance in a movie based on the book.
Byrne went public with his fund-raising on the FundTheAudit web page, which kept a running tally of donations. The tally disappeared several weeks ago.
Byrne's America Project raised $3.25 million, more than half the funds for the election review.
A fund-raising site run by Christina Bobb, a personality at One America News who has been a relentless promoter of falsehoods about the election, brought in $605,000.
Bobb promoted her fund-raising organization, Voices and Votes, while she was broadcasting daily reports from the election review. Bobb is a former Trump Administration official who is listed as chief executive officer of Voices and Votes.
Matthew DePerno, a lawyer who's widely known among election deniers for his attempt to toss out the Michigan vote, raised $280,000 through an organization called "Election Integrity Funds for the American Republic."
The Cyber Ninjas report doesn't document how the $5.7 million was spent.
The combined funding by each group is $50,000 short of the total $5.7 million reported by Cyber Ninjas. A Cyber Ninjas spokesman hasn't responded to a request to explain the discrepancy.
Where did the money come from?
We don't know and we may never know.
The organizations that funneled $5.7 million to Logan don't have to name their donors.
That's why the donations are called "dark money."
Under Internal Revenue Service rules, the organizations are non-profits classified as 501(c)3's or 501(c)4's. The rules for those organizations don't require them to reveal the individuals or businesses that donated the money.
The fund-raising for the review supports critics who warn that a state legislative function is being paid for with dark money. The concern is that the review sets a precedent for future Legislatures to let unknown actors directly influence state policy.
How are your tax dollars being spent?
The Republican-controlled State Senate agreed to pay Cyber Ninjas a flat $150,000 to oversee the audit.
Fann said it was up to Logan to come up with the rest of the cash for subcontractors, workers and other necessities.
Fann has said she doesn't know where the money is coming from. She told 12 News she had no idea who Patrick Byrne was.
Senate Republicans have also agreed to reimburse Cyber Ninjas about $30,000 for machines that count paper. There is also the cost of renting space at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. That bill won't be known until August, after the Senate lease ends.
The priciest unknown is the Senate's potential liability for ballot-counting machines that Logan examined. Fann agreed to indemnify the county for any problems with the machines.
The machines were declared unusable then they were returned to the county, and the County Board has voted to spend $2.8 million to replace them.
The board has yet to file a notice of claim for reimbursement by the Senate.
What about the church?
Logan thanked a Valley church for its contributions to the review.
"We'd also like to specifically thank Apologia Church in Phoenix," he said, "who provided snacks for all of our participants throughout the duration of the audit and tirelessly worked behind the scenes to make this all a success."
Apologia Church is connected to one of the more controversial bills introduced at the Capitol last session.
Pastor Jeff Durbin played a significant role in proposed legislation that would have treated abortion as murder in Arizona.
The bill, introduced by Republican State Rep. Walt Blackman of Snowflake at the start of this year's legislative session, raised the prospect that women or doctors or medical staff could face execution if convicted.
Durbin said in an interview with 12 News that he had been working on the bill for a year.
In an interview four years ago about his anti-abortion ministry, Durbin said he believed a woman should get the death penalty for ending a pregnancy.
The bill went nowhere after the state's leading abortion opponent and the Maricopa County attorney said it went too far.
Arizona Audit News
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