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Auditors hide donors, look for secret watermarks on ballots

Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

What the Senate election audit lacks in transparency, it makes up for in QAnon conspiracy theories. 

From the Arizona Senate to the cybersecurity company overseeing the audit of nearly 2.1 million ballots from the November election, everyone involved has said one way or another that they want and hope to be transparent about the process, but to date, there is little evidence to support those claims.  

While media outlets across the state had to fight and threaten legal action to receive limited access to the Madhouse on McDowell – dubbed so decades ago for raucous Phoenix Suns games – unanswered, important questions still hang in the air.  

TRANSPARENCY 

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison for the audit, hasn’t disclosed any private contributors helping to fund the audit. The Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the firm overseeing the process, agreed on a $150,000 contract that will come from taxpayers, but it is known that there is a lot of money pouring in from outside sources, including One America News Network, which pushes the far-right agenda.  

Bennett has stated his intention for transparency on the private funding, but has yet to accomplish that.  

Bennett said April 27 he will try to have the money go through the state Senate so it can be tracked as a public record. Currently, the private money is going directly to Cyber Ninjas, whose CEO Doug Logan has repeatedly refused to disclose any information. 

“I am going to fight with every ounce of breath I have to make sure that all of that money goes through the Arizona Senate, and is publicly disclosed,” Bennett said. 

If any money does go to the Senate, it would go through the Legislative Council, not directly to senators. 

However, according to Legislative Council, the body that would actually accept any “gifts” the Senate receives, no one has asked about the possibility of setting up a mechanism to receive these donations.  

Mike Braun, Legislative Council executive director, said Arizona Capitol Times reporters were the only ones who have even broached the topic to him.  

He said that this isn’t one of those times where “the answer is no, but the check will be here by two o’clock.”  

“Nobody’s ever talked to us about setting it up or doing it, or what the requirements would be,” Braun said.  

Bennett declined to say whether former President Trump was sending money to back the audit, but he said MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has not donated money.  

While simultaneously claiming the money would become public, Bennett plugged the Trump-friendly One America New Network-backed 501(c)(4) organizations fundraising for the audit, directing people to its website to donate during the brief press conference.  

He said the source of those nonprofits’ funding will “get disclosed … when all the 501(c)(4) contributors get disclosed.” That might be a while, considering 501(c)(4) organizations are “dark money” nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose donors. 

Bennett also urged people to visit a website if they wanted to give money to the audit. The site – also a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization – is hoping to raise $2.8 million. The nonprofit, The America Project, is run by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who has close ties to Trump, Lindell and others in that inner circle.  

Meanwhile, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled on April 28 that policies and procedures for the audit conducted by Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors is considered a public record, but the ruling is likely pending appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.  

To date, a coalition of media publications had to fight with the Senate, Bennett and Cyber Ninjas over allowing members of the press to be in the room as the audit is being conducted. It took until the fourth day of counting ballots before media got inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum to report. From day one of the auditing process, media outlets could only gain access to the venue if they volunteered to participate as an observer without being able to report, but attorneys for media organizations struck a deal to allow one pool reporter at a time in. 

Before that, only one reporter, Jen Fifield from The Arizona Republic, was granted access (a Capitol Times reporter was denied after signing up) and became a key part of the story when she noticed blue pens were about to be used and urged Logan to remedy it.  

Now, there’s a rotation of media outlets who can observe from the bleachers inside the coliseum during several shifts in a day. 

CONSPIRACY 

While Arizona media fights for access, journalists and election officials are also fighting to debunk persisting conspiracy theories Bennett and others involved with the audit are pushing.  

The 2020 election gave rise to many conspiracy theories of a stolen election, and some are still alive as auditors count the ballots.  

The most prevalent conspiracy theory is that the auditors are using ultraviolet light to scan ballots to look for secret watermarks the Trump administration placed on “official ballots.”  

That repeatedly-debunked theory began from the QAnon community. 

QAnon emerged after Trump’s election, claiming that Trump is fighting an elite cabal of business leaders, celebrities, media professionals and politicians engaged in Satanic worship and child sex trafficking. 

One of its rumored leaders, who might be “Q” himself, according to a recent HBO documentary series is Ron Watkins, who does not live in the United States. He has gotten heavily involved with the Maricopa County audit through the instant-messaging app Telegram. Watkins, on the social media channels he has not been banned from, goes by the moniker CodeMonkeyZ. He has posted more than a dozen times about the audit, claiming he has seen wrongdoing on the livestream cameras. 

Bennett would not answer questions about Watkins’ possible involvement.  

It’s unclear how involved Watkins is in the audit, but there is a host of connections between him and the auditors, including that Watkins and Cyber Ninja CEO Doug Logan retweeted each other after the election. 

Watkins claimed Trump actually received 200,000 more votes in Arizona than he did, which Logan shared on his now-deleted account.  

On the message board, Watkins commented that he has been talking with Bobby Piton, a mathematician and investment manager who has theorized that the election was stolen. Piton attended the unofficial legislative hearing in November at the Hyatt in Phoenix as an expert witness and posted on social media that he spent “12 hours working on AZ Data” over the weekend.  

The two agree that UV light will expose all the fake votes. 

“Called [Piton] earlier and had a chat about the potential use of the UV light station,” Watkins wrote. “Since UV is able to detect oil from fingerprints, if there are no fingerprints on the ballot then the likelihood of the ballot being marked through a non-human process is high.”  

Watkins also complained that volunteers weren’t doing the UV process properly. 

In an interview with Newsmax, another right-wing channel, Bennett confirmed they were looking for watermarks.   

Maricopa County Elections Department recently said their ballots do not have watermarks on them. 

Bennett said auditors “are looking for a lot of things” with the UV light. 

11 comments

  1. UV light won’t reveal fingerprint oil, unless they are treating all ballots with a fluorescent reagent. So they will say ALL ballots were fraudulent.

  2. They AREN’T auditors unless they’re certified. Please don’t call them that- misleading and insul.

  3. Are they going to tamper with the ballots and spray chemicals on them? UV light will not do anything but fade ink.

  4. Q-anon? Really? MSNBC called- they want their delusional narrative back.

    Where was your investigative reporting DURING and AFTER the election?

  5. UV Lights will show a watermark much like what we see on US currency. Not to agree with any conspiracy theory, but there is one thing I agree with them on and that is the media is so one sided regardless if fraud is discovered liberal media will not report it, dig deeper with out adding their own opinion, disparaging Donald Trump name, say the audit was BIAS MUCH like the DEMORAT Party with their Hypocrisy. Good luck to the auditors maybe they can do what Brain Dead Biden Promised to unite the country, which he has failed to do and will never be able to do. No Inclusion no United Country.

  6. How about you let the auditors finish? As long as the procedures are documented, which they will have to be, then what is everyone afraid of? Democrats had so many lawyers trying o stop this no wonder there are conspiracy theories. And BTW – all those media outlets fighting for access to everything are the same ones that peddled rumors and lies about Trump. The circus never ends and what happened in many states the last election cycle was a joke, whether anything is found or not.

  7. This is a political Rag just like the Hollywood news Rags

  8. According to the manufacturer of the paper used to print the ballots does not and there never has been a watermark on such paper.
    The paper used for the ballots is a standard type of paper used for many things.
    The paper is a certain stock or size, which produces a more rigid paper than common computer paper.
    I’m going to tell you something else, as a sit here in Massachusetts watching the entire ‘re-count’ process, it looks and sounds ridiculous, is not necessary, making Arizona look like a banana republic.
    Arizona not only looks like a banana republic, Arizona is darn close to being a banana republic?

  9. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Having delegated the people’s electoral power to the Cyber Ninjas — “ninjas” in Japan are bands of secret assassins — Fatuous Fann and her weak-kneed Senate co-conspirators can now only stand by and, like the rest of us, bear witness as these and clueless paper-pushers, paid for with our taxes, discover nothing and thoroughly humiliate Arizona.

    What a lifetime legacy: “Karen the Corrupted.” It’s yours now, Madame “Absolute” President.

  10. Wilton Stitler

    First off, it is hilarious to hear anyone say that we should wait until the audit is done before complaining. People are pointing out that the way they are examining the ballots is not just wrong but crazy. So I don’t understand why we would wait to see the results of the audit when we can see that they are counting it in a laughable way that does nothing to show what are or aren’t real ballots.

    Second I keep hearing people say that the same media wanting access to these audits are the same media that tell lies about Trump. What lies are you talking about specifically? Also why would that matter when it comes to certain local media wanting access to the audit room? Is every journalist wanting access someone who has intentionally lied about Trump in the past? Of course not, that’s ludicrous. Let’s set aside the fact that many warning media access to the audit room are in fact known Republicans who simply work in the media around Arizona.

    I mean, if we are going to ban people from such rooms based on lies then how many examples do you want me to show of one news network or Fox News lying about Obama and Democrats. Talk about a slippery slope

    Oh and are we also just going to ignore the fact that the company auditing the election has never done this before in the past? Why are supporters of Trump just not talking about that or just simply excepting this as normal.

    Also I am a registered Republican so although I’m sure most people will think I am some Hollywood liberal, I am someone who lives in the south and has always generally voted Republican

  11. Daniel S Kershaw

    I can’t see how this audit – official or otherwise – will resolve anything. The people who believe that there was fraud sufficient to affect the 2020 election outcome have already dismissed the findings of the US Attorney General under President Trump; the last president’s own hand-picked head of election cyber security; the findings of a federal judge re Syndy Powells allegations viz. Dominion; Maricopa county judge Kiley; the Arizona Attorney General Brnovitch; Maricopa County’s Director of Election Day and Emergency Voting Scott Jarrett; numerous state and national news outlets whose journalists are required to produce credible sources; and possibly the NSA, CIA or any other federal agency which has over-sight. If the result came back “yes, there were 10,000+ fraudulent ballots” (vs the 192 overvotes or whatever the last audit said), the result would be suspect because they hired a *private* company (cybe ninja) who in turn subcontracted various tasks to a PA private company (among others) – among other irregular things. **IF the audit result is “no fraud”, the people behind the audit will simply add Cyber Ninja (or one of the ballot custodians) to the list of conspirators/incompetents.

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