The controversial ballot review, which included a hand recount of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots and a review of ballot tabulating machines, has been underway since April. It was ordered by the state’s Republican-led Senate, which agreed to spend $150,000 in taxpayer money to fund the audit. But the Senate allowed Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm hired to lead the process, to collect donations as well.
It has been clear for months that the lengthy ballot review, which was conducted by dozens of workers, some working nearly round-the-clock, was being largely financed by allies of former president Donald Trump. The newly released figures put that fact in sharp relief: More than 97 percent of the audit’s costs have so far been shouldered by donations from five organizations led by people who have promoted the false claim that the election was stolen.
In a statement, Cyber Ninjas indicated that $3.25 million came from the America Project, a group led by former Overstock chief executive Patrick Byrne.
Byrne became a key player in challenging the legitimacy of the election after the November vote, joining former national security adviser Michael Flynn and pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell in a raucous December meeting with Trump in the Oval Office. During the meeting, the trio urged Trump to appoint Powell as special counsel to investigate voting machines in key counties across the country. Flynn now serves as a paid adviser to the group.
In June, Byrne told The Washington Post that he had personally donated $500,000 to the Arizona effort and that his group was raising money from others, too. Byrne also produced a movie alleging massive fraud in the election that featured interviews with Doug Logan, the head of Cyber Ninjas.
Another $605,000 came from Voices and Votes, a group led by One America News host Christina Bobb. Bobb has used on-air appearances for the pro-Trump network to solicit donations for the group.
The Post has reported that Trump’s political PAC raised about $75 million in the first half of this year, using his false claims that the election was stolen to motivate donors, but has given no money to finance the Arizona ballot review.
The announcement from Cyber Ninjas came as Arizona Senate President Karen Fann announced Wednesday that the audit has concluded its public efforts — ballots will be returned Thursday to Maricopa County. The county’s Republican-led board of supervisors has been deeply critical of the effort.
Fann has said a final report of Cyber Ninjas’ findings is expected in August.