Arizona Senate President Karen Fann passed up an opportunity to hire an experienced auditing company to conduct its ballot review, opting instead for a company without experience and whose founder has said he believes President Joe Biden stole the election.
Arizona Capitol Times received public records from the Senate on offers to conduct the audit of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots from the November election.
The records request revealed only two firms that put in an official offer – neither of which was Cyber Ninjas, the group Fann ultimately selected. Clear Ballot Group, a Massachusetts firm that has conducted election audits in several states, including a statewide audit in Maryland and Vermont, offered to do the audit within six weeks for $415,000.
On its website, the company says it “offers much more than a post-election audit solution. It’s the only system capable of tabulating other system’s ballots to provide an independent comparison of results for purposes of post-election audits.”
Keir Holeman, Clear Ballot’s vice president of technical services, wrote in the proposal letter that the group is also conducting audits for multiple counties in Florida and New York as well as projects in South Carolina and Colorado.
“It is this experience that makes us confident we can help you with your desire to audit the results in Maricopa County,” Holeman wrote.
Holeman did not return multiple attempts for comment.
One potential hiccup for the group is that they only conduct audits of election results – not equipment and technology.
Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors have pledged to conduct a full “forensic” audit of the equipment, including using “kinematic artifact” detection technology (essentially looking at folds in ballots to determine if it’s a fake mail-in ballot) developed by Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, an inventor who years ago developed a handheld, cat-shaped scanner that was dubbed “one of the most ridiculed products of the internet era” by “PC World.”
Pulitzer acknowledged recently that he would have some involvement in the Senate’s audit.
He claimed that “technology” he developed is being used.
“I am happy to confirm that #ScanTheBallots for #KinematicArtifact detection is being used,” he wrote on Twitter, calling the auditing team hired by the Senate “one of the most impressive and qualified auditing teams ever assembled.”
A quick dive into Holeman’s online presence shows he’s basically the polar opposite of the Cyber Ninja CEO, Doug Logan. Holeman used to be an elections official in Ohio and said he doesn’t believe the election was stolen.
According to his LinkedIn, he was the election coordinator for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, then served as a regional director for Diebold Elections, the group known for election problems during the 2000 presidential recount in Florida. (Dominion now owns Diebold.)
Holeman then went on to become the director of the Warren County Board of Elections and eventually found his way to VOTEC Corporation before starting at Clear Ballot in August 2017.
Holeman created his Twitter account in January and his first post was a retweet of the FBI looking for information about insurrectionists. His entire feed is now mostly made up of critiques of Republican congressmen over the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and few retweets of others commenting on why they think President Trump should be convicted by the U.S. Senate after he was impeached for a second time.
Of course, that presence won’t ingratiate an auditor to Senate Republicans, but Fann has made clear that a person’s tweets shouldn’t disqualify them from auditing the election on the Senate’s behalf.
“Just because somebody found some Tweet that’s within some archive program that none of us ever would have done it (the search) doesn’t mean anything,” Fann said about reporters surfacing old tweets from Logan showing biases about the election results.
It’s unclear if Fann considered Holeman’s proposal.
Fann and the Senate skipped out on going to the floor on April 21 in favor of going to a photo opportunity at the border with Gov. Doug Ducey, and her spokesman did not answer several questions.
Fann additionally passed on hiring a cybersecurity company called Intersec Worldwide, which pitched a process that would take roughly 20,000 hours and cost more than $8 million, not including the auditors’ travel and expenses. Email records show Fann interviewed the company in early-March.
Intersec’s pitch included biographies for each of its top executives and then broke down its scope of work into five categories: Engagement, evidence preservation, forensics analysis, forensics reports of results and testimony/defense findings.
David Hughes, the vice president of sales, made the official pitch and said the engagement and evidence need to happen “immediately regardless of who does the work.”
The engagement phase would include setting up legal agreements, contracts and retainers and would take roughly 500 hours. Securing the evidence, including taking forensic images and copies of hard drives, would take about 2,500 hours, according to the proposal. Those two projects would cost $1.45 million. The actual audit would tack on another $6.6 million.
Hughes would not answer any questions about the interview with Fann.
What’s still unclear is how many groups Fann actually interviewed, if Cyber Ninjas received an interview at all and why the Senate took the cheapest offer when the audit liaison Ken Bennett, Arizona’s former secretary of state, repeatedly remarked how $150,000 would not be enough to conduct the full audit.
Bennett said that the auditors will be accepting outside sources of money, which will not be subject to Arizona’s public records law. He said he hopes for transparency, but also said he wouldn’t do anything to ensure the auditors would be transparent about donors.
“The only agenda that I’m going to make sure happens is that we do the audit in a fair and open and transparent and accurate way,” he said. “If the agenda of somebody wanting to contribute funds is anything other than that, then it’s a waste of their money.”