Dark money groups tied to Donald Trump’s inner circle and backed by people who have spread baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election appear to be playing a key role in funding an unprecedented review of 2.1m ballots in Arizona.
Republicans in the Arizona state senate, which authorized the inquiry, allocated $150,000 in state funds to pay for it – just a fraction of the projected overall cost, which is still unknown. The state senate had enough money in its operating budget to pay for the investigation, the Arizona Mirror reported in April, but chose not to pay the full price.
Instead, the effort is being paid for by private donors, who remain hidden from the public, according to a review by OpenSecrets and the Guardian. Arizona Republicans and Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based company overseeing the review, have refused to say who is providing the rest of the money.
“It is wholly inappropriate that the Arizona state senate is hiding the mechanisms by which their sanctioned activity is being funded,” said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who served as the top election official in Maricopa county, the target of the ballot review, until he lost his re-election bid last year. “The lack of transparency there is just grotesque.”
Questions about funds come as the Arizona senate has faced scrutiny for why it hired Cyber Ninjas, a firm with little experience in auditing elections to oversee its massive review. Doug Logan, the firm’s chief executive, expressed support for the idea that the election was stolen from Trump.
Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona state senate, said last year she received a phone call from Trump thanking her for “pushing to prove any fraud”, according to emails obtained by American Oversight, a left-leaning watchdog group. Fann, a Republican, also said she had spoken with Rudy Giuliani, a Trump ally, multiple times last year.
At least $150,000 of the inquiry’s funding has purportedly come from Voices and Votes, a 501(c)(4) run by Christina Bobb, an anchor for the One America News Network (OANN), a rightwing media network that has given air to election conspiracy theories. The group is also run with the White House correspondent Chanel Rion and Courtland Sykes, Rion’s fiance. Bobb spoke with Trump about the review, according to the Washington Post, and emailed Fann affidavits on behalf of Giuliani last year, emails show.
Bobb frequently plugs the effort during shows, where she covers the Arizona review, and on social media, but told BuzzFeed that OANN is not “in any way” affiliated with her fundraising despite the dark money group being run by multiple OANN employees and being promoted on the network. Voices and Votes was incorporated in Wyoming in March, shortly before the inquiry was announced, by Greg Roeberg, an Arizona attorney. A press release from the Trump campaign last year listed a Greg Roeberg as a “key member” of Jewish Voices for Trump. Roeberg said in an email he was not involved with the charity beyond helping it with the initial legal papers. The group declined an interview request.
L Lin Wood, the pro-Trump attorney behind a slew of lawsuits seeking to overturn election results last year, told Talking Points Memo that his non-profit, Fight Back, donated $50,000 to Voices and Votes for the review. But it is not clear what the money is actually going to since the groups are subject to few financial disclosure rules.
Wood, who has promoted fundraising efforts for the review on Telegram, also told TPM that Cyber Ninja chief Logan worked out of Wood’s home to investigate 2020 election voter fraud claims.
Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive of Overstock.com and an ardent Trump supporter, is also leading a group funding the effort. Byrne was involved in what Axios described as the “craziest meeting of the Trump presidency” – a December 2020 summit in the Oval Office that included Michael Flynn, and Sidney…