One America News correspondent Christina Bobb had some exciting news to share from the scene of the Arizona GOP-led audit of the 2020 presidential vote in Maricopa County: Republican lawmakers from another battleground state had just paid a visit to see if they might replicate it back home.

“If they like what they see, [they’ll] take it back to Pennsylvania,” she told her audience this month from the floor of a massive Phoenix arena where more than 2 million ballots are being removed from boxes and examined by hand.

“I think we can expect to see a lot more key decision-makers coming out to take a look,” she added, hopefully.

Bobb didn’t mention in her report that she had helped raise money to pay for those lawmakers to visit. Nor that she worked with Arizona Republicans last year to find some of the initial, much-disputed evidence they used to justify the audit.

While mainstream reporters have been confined to a small area far from the audit tables and threatened with trespassing arrests if they wander outside it, GOP organizers have granted extensive access to One America — a low-rated, intensely partisan cable channel whose personalities have spent half a year trying to delegitimize President Biden’s electoral victory.

More than six months after the 2020 presidential election, Arizona Senate Republicans are leading an audit of the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County. (Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

Bobb and One America are hardly the only partisan characters with central roles in the Arizona audit, which after nearly two months is nearing a conclusion of its work inside Phoenix’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It’s being run by a firm called Cyber Ninjas, which has no experience reviewing elections, and which has baffled observers by putting ballots under UV lights. An Arizona Republican who lost reelection in November was once spotted at a ballot-counting table.

But many journalists are especially disturbed by One America’s selection as — essentially — the audit’s official broadcaster. A relentless champion of former president Donald Trump’s baseless claim that Democrats stole the election from him, the channel owns and has exclusive control over all live-stream cameras inside the arena. And Bobb has at times been allowed to roam the building and invite guests, whereas local reporters must watch from their pen, if they are allowed inside at all.

“We were hearing a lot of reports about OAN getting more access than others,” said Chris Kline, president of the Arizona Broadcasters Association. His group helped push for local journalists to have more access to the building. “We would see their reporter on the convention floor when we were told we weren’t allowed there, or they would have live access.”

Neither Bobb nor One America President Charles Herring responded to requests for comment for this story. Bobb has told BuzzFeed News that “I am not permitted to attend whenever I want,” and said audit officials have sometimes denied her entry to the location.

A 38-year-old lawyer and former Trump administration official who had no background in journalism when she joined One America’s “reporting staff” a year ago, Bobb has since taken on several conflicting roles in the Arizona proceedings.

She’s been a cheerleader for the audit and some of the conspiracy theories that underlie it. “The entire country knows it will unravel the Democrats’ schemes from 2020,” Bobb told viewers of her opinion show on One America in late April, a few days after the audit began. “Joe Biden is not a legitimate president.”

She reportedly is in semiregular contact with Trump, conveying news and encouragement about the operation, which the former president hopes will lead to a reversal of his loss in Arizona and, eventually, the entire electoral college. (Arizona Republicans have insisted the audit is meant to protect future elections; not reverse the last one.)

Bobb occasionally acts more like a traditional news correspondent when she’s reporting from the audit room floor, as in a May 5 segment in which she laboriously explained the meaning of workers’ color-coded T-shirts.

She is also one of the audit’s financiers. “If you would like to donate to see this audit completed in its entirety, you can do so at voicesandvotes.org,” Bobb announced at the end of her May segment. She has disclosed elsewhere that she is Voices and Votes’s president and CEO; insists the group is unaffiliated with One America despite the on-air promos; and claims that it has raised at least $150,000 for the audit. Some of the money was used to fly lawmakers to Arizona from other states Trump lost, so they could consider replicating the audit back home.

And finally — Bobb is in some respects one of the audit’s founding sleuths. Emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a government watchdog group, show that late last year she supplied Karen Fann — the Republican president of the Arizona Senate, who would go on to oversee the audit — with a list of expert witnesses and declarations from poll workers who claimed to have seen signs of fraud in November. The declarations came from Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

One America’s favored status has been a source of contention among local journalists who have sought to cover the audit.

Reporters were initially told by officials that they would be restricted to watching proceedings on nine live-stream cameras that lacked audio and provided a bird’s-eye view of the workers on the floor. They later found out those cameras were run by One America.

The state Senate’s liaison to the audit, Ken Bennett, told the Arizona Republic in April that One America was given exclusive broadcasting rights because they “offered to do the live stream and make it available to everyone.”

Local journalists were then told they could enter the arena to watch the audit only if they signed up for six-hour shifts as volunteer observers — a condition that would present a conflict of interest in most newsrooms, which unlike One America, do not typically allow journalists to participate in events they report on.

Reporters were required to surrender their cameras, phones and even pens and notepads — in effect meaning they couldn’t report live from the building.

As a result, the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the Arizona Republic and Arizona Mirror hired a lawyer to negotiate with the audit’s Republican organizers. The journalists were eventually allowed in — but only a “pool” of three at a time, confined to a press box about 10 rows behind the audit floor.

Mainstream reporters have nevertheless been able to break stories from that distance, including that a former Republican lawmaker who lost his race in 2020 was involved in counting and inspecting ballots. The reporter who broke that story, Ryan Randazzo of the Arizona Republic, was kicked out of the arena for tweeting a photo of the former lawmaker, Anthony Kern.

Kline, the broadcasters association president, raised an obvious question: “The purpose of getting access is to help ensure public trust. If there’s not an independent group of people observing what’s happening, how can anybody, regardless of political affiliation, expect to have confidence in those results?”

David Bodney, a media attorney who helped news outlets gain more access to the audit, said One America’s politically sanctioned role “is more reflective of the old Soviet state and autocratic regimes than it is a functioning democracy.”

“If state government engages in an activity so central to the functioning of democracy as an election recount, then the public has a right to know how that recount is happening, what it involves and who is doing it, as seen not through state media but a wide range of news organizations,” he said.

During an interview last month, Fann tried to defend the audit as a test of the election system’s “integrity.”

CNN reporter Kyung Lah reminded her that One America was in charge of the live stream.

“Are you saying that OAN is not a credible news source?” Fann asked.

“Yes,” Lah responded.

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