Private Money, With Little Disclosure, Pours Into Arizona Audit

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
June 17, 2021 Updated: June 17, 2021

The 2020 election audit taking place in Arizona’s Maricopa County has been receiving funding from outside groups with little oversight, stoking concerns.

At least three organizations have been raising funds they say will go or have gone to auditors. But the funding is outside the purview of the public, at least for now. The total cost of the audit is still not known.

Voices and Votes, started by several One America News workers, Patrick Byrne’s The America Project, and the Arizona Republican Party have solicited donations, saying the money will be sent to the audit teams led by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas.

Those funds are helping close the gap between the total cost and the $150,000 that the Arizona Senate appropriated after approving the election review.

“We have raised money and it’s all gone to the audit—everything that we’ve raised, at least to date,” Christina Bobb, a One America News host who helped launch Voices and Votes, told The Epoch Times.

Bobb declined to say how much her group has received. She said in April that their goal was to raise $150,000 and that they were $10,000 away from that goal. The nonprofit, which is described as working “to protect free speech from cancel culture and ensures that American voices are heard where it matters most, the ballot box,” is still accepting donations.

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican who ordered the audit, told The Epoch Times in an email that Bobb informed her that she would be asking for $150,000 for the audit.

“We did not accept those monies but I do believe they went towards the audit for expenses over our $150K contract amount,” she said.

Bobb has more recently called for donations to pay for lawmakers from other states to visit Arizona and tour the audit. A Wisconsin delegation’s trip was paid for by Voices and Votes, according to a letter from state Rep. Janel Brandtjen published by a local outlet.

Lin Wood, a lawyer who has alleged that “computer fraud” occurred in the election and that there were attempts “to steal the presidency,” urged followers on Telegram to donate to Voices and Votes. Wood said in an email that his #FightBack group has donated $50,000 to Bobb’s organization.

“When the fraud is finally revealed in one state, just watch the other states fall like dominoes!” he wrote in a post.

Mike Lindell, the MyPillowCEO, who some say donated to the audit, told The Epoch Times that he had not—yet.

Lindell said he conveyed to the auditors through an intermediary that he would supply funding, but only if they fall short of the money needed. He said he knows that any donations from him would be used to attack the audit by the “left-wing media.”

Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com, launched his group earlier this year. Byrne told NTD, an Epoch Times partner, in April that the organization was aimed at continuing the fight against election fraud.

He said that he knew fraud occurred in the 2020 election “purely on the numbers.”

“I saw what happened Nov. 3rd, Nov. 4th, analyzed it,” he said, adding later: “Don’t believe for a minute that 2020’s over yet. There’s all kinds of things from that election that are going to be surfaced in the weeks ahead.”

The America Project says its goal is to raise $2.8 million to support the Maricopa County audit and that it has raised over $1.9 million so far.

The Arizona GOP has also solicited funds by calling for people to back the audit.

“If you support America’s Audit and want to see it finished, we need your financial support,” the party said in a recent social media post, directing people to its WinRed platform.

No records are available to confirm that any of the funds have actually gone to auditors. And the records are not subject to public record requests. They would be if they went through the Arizona Senate.

Epoch Times Photo
Christina Bobb, a One America News anchor, solicits funds for the Maricopa County election audit. (Twitter/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
The America Project says it has raised over $1.9 million for the Maricopa County audit. (FundTheAudit.com/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
The Arizona Republican Party has been asking for donations to support the Maricopa County audit. (Facebook/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

“All the costs are secret,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has repeatedly denounced the audit, said during an appearance on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

“The cost that’s contained in the contract that’s been made public is $150,000. We don’t know the actual cost because the money that is being funneled privately is going directly to Cyber Ninjas, so it’s not subject to any kind of public records request, although it should be,” she said.

The Arizona Democratic Party referenced the funding issue multiple times in its attempt to convince a judge to order the audit be delayed.

“Beginning tomorrow morning, the private information of Maricopa County voters will be in the hands of untrained agents of a company operated by a known conspiracy theorist as part of an election ‘audit’ funded by other conspiracy theorists and unknown third parties intent on finding fault with the outcome of an election with which they disagree,” lawyers for the party wrote in a motion for a temporary restraining order.

A judge agreed to halt the audit if the party posted a $1 million bond, but the party refused to do so. Another judge later rejected the bid to stop the review, saying the plaintiffs had not presented “substantive evidence” backing allegations of voter privacy breaches. The parties ultimately reached a settlement agreement that secured access to the audit for observers working for Hobbs. The settlement has no provisions dealing with the audit funding.

Fann has said that it was known ahead of time that the cost of the audit would be over $150,000, the amount the Senate allocated.

Fann told The Epoch Times via email this week that senators still do not know the total cost of the audit.

Fann asked Cyber Ninjas to provide her with the total costs after the audit is done, and a list of all those who donated. They said they would provide that information and would comply with federal reporting requirements.

“The Senate is funded thru [sic] general fund tax dollars which we use cautiously. It was important for the Senate to fund to the amount we were comfortable with considering our other obligations. We are grateful to all the grassroots groups and individuals who have sent contributions to help pay for all the added costs which were incurred because of Maricopa County’s lack of cooperation,” Fann said in the email.

maricopa county
Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett (second from left) moves ballots during an election audit at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 1, 2021. (Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has said the audit “is going to take way more than” the funds the Senate appropriated.

Byrne’s effort has been promoted by Bennett, a Republican who is serving as the state Senate’s liaison for the audit.

In a press conference held during the first week of the review, Bennett told anyone watching “that wants to make sure that their elections have more transparency” to go to FundTheAudit.com, The America Project’s audit fundraising page. Bennett’s team later directed people to the same page on Twitter.

Fann directed a North Carolina resident who asked how he could support the audit to the Voices and Votes website, an email obtained by American Oversight showed.

The Senate “initiated the contract with $150,000 and they took some risk along with the auditing companies, that the difference would be made up by contributions and donations from people all over the country,” Bennett told reporters. “And that’s exactly what’s happening.”

He said he was working on channeling the private donations through the Senate in the interest of transparency.

Asked this week whether that effort had been successful, Bennett told The Epoch Times, “I don’t see that happening that way yet but I will continue to personally encourage as much transparency as possible.”

He did not know how the funds were being transmitted to auditors.

Ideally, the Arizona Senate would be fully funding the audit, state Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican who has been closely tracking the review, told The Epoch Times.

“In a perfect world we could, but these things cost money, and you want to be able to fund a full, fair, and just process,” she said. “So if people are willing to donate to that, let them.”

Election 2020 Arizona Audit
Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 6, 2021. (Matt York/Pool/AP Photo)

Byrne and The America Project did not return requests for comment. Bobb and Voices and Votes did not respond to a list of followup questions. Charles Herring, president of Herring Networks, which owns One America News, did not respond to questions. The Arizona GOP did not respond to requests for comment. Hobbs’s office did not return inquiries. The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office declined to comment. Every Democrat serving in the Arizona Senate was asked for a comment or interview on the funding situation. Sen. Lela Alston declined an interview request. None of the others replied.

People and groups supporting former President Donald Trump are involved in supporting the audit, which has drawn criticism from Democrats.

The lawyer listed on filing papers for Voices and Votes is Greg Roeberg, an Arizona attorney. The Trump campaign listed a Greg Roeberg as a “key member” of Jewish Voices for Trump last year. Roeberg did not respond to a request for comment.

Bobb, the One America News host helping raise funds, told followers in January that Trump would still be in office “this time next year.” She has alleged that Trump is the true winner of both Georgia and Pennsylvania, two states where Democrat Joe Biden was certified as the victor.

“Trump will get his second term,” she said last year after the election.

Wood, whose group donated $50,000 to Bobb’s organization, said this month that Trump “is still our president.”

“He won a massive landslide reelection,” he wrote on Telegram, adding that every state should perform a full audit in order to “fix the election system going forward.”

In the internal emails published by American Oversight, Bobb can be seen sending documents to Fann on the request of Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers. Fann, meanwhile, said she had been in close contact with Giuliani and had received a personal call from Trump.

“We are actively suing the [Maricopa County Board of Supervisors] for the audit. We have the full support of Trump and Giuliani,” she wrote in one message.

Trump said in a recent speech that the senators who ordered the audit are “exposing this fraud.” He said he has “nothing to do” with the audit.

In the email to The Epoch Times, Fann said: “President Trump nor Mr. Giuliani did not push for the audit and they have not offered any financial or other assistance to the senate. I have not spoken with them since December which was well before any discussion about an audit.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.