Cyber Ninjas skewered in Congress

Cyber Ninjas skewered in Congress

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, center, Ben Cotton, right, founder of digital security firm CyFIR, and Randy Pullen, left, the former Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party and Arizona Senate Audit spokesperson, depart after announcing their findings to the Arizona Senate Republicans hearing review of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County at the Arizona Capitol Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Phoenix. The final report of the election review in Arizona’s largest county found that President Joe Biden did indeed win the 2020 presidential contest. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Republican Maricopa County Supervisors Jack Sellers and Bill Gates testified to Congress October 7 that the county’s 2020 general election was secure and that the months-long review spearheaded by Arizona Senate Republicans undermined democracy. 

The Arizona Senate hired Florida-based contractor Cyber Ninjas to audit the county’s election results earlier this year. The contractors and its subcontractors presented its results September 24, finding no widespread fraud but insinuating impropriety on the part of the county. 

The Democrat-led U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform held the hearing to assess Cyber Ninjas’ review and “how this and similar audits undermine public confidence in elections and threaten our democracy.” 

Sellers and Gates spoke out strongly against the audit in their testimony and response to the committee’s questions. Gates told the committee that the 2020 general election was “the best election” ever run in Maricopa County because it was the most scrutinized. He called the efforts to delegitimize or decertify the election “the biggest threat to our democracy” in his lifetime and slammed Cyber Ninjas’ lack of experience and pursuit of conspiracy theories in its review. 

“I don’t have a problem with audits. I had concerns with this particular audit,” Gates said. 

Sellers said he was “naive” to think he could just sit down with Senate Republican leadership to answer their questions and address their accusations following the election.  

“It’s become clear there are those who don’t care what the facts are — they just want to gain political power and raise money by fostering mistrust of the greatest power an individual can exercise in the United States: their vote,” Sellers said. 

David Becker, with the Center for Election Innovation and Research, and Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, also testified. The two elections experts said the Cyber Ninjas’ election review has undermined democracy and led to laws that will make elections less secure. 

“Tens of millions of Americans, sincerely disappointed that their candidate lost, have been targeted in a scam to keep them angry, divided and donating,” Becker said. 

Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, right, talk about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 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)

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, asked Ramachandran if the Cyber Ninjas review has paved the way for more “election subversion laws,” even though it found no widespread fraud. 

“Cyber Ninjas’ review has laid the groundwork for these laws because they’ve made insinuations of fraud,” Ramachandran said, noting that “a whole host of laws that make it harder to vote have been popping up all over the country.” 

Ramachandran gave the example of an Arizona bill from Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, that would have given the Legislature the power to pick electors for president that were not the ones voters selected. 

Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the audit’s liaison, testified as a minority witness, defending the months-long review. In responding to questions, Bennett said Joe Biden was legitimately elected and that alternative interpretations of the audit were incorrect. He said the hand-count results lends legitimacy to the review.  

“Despite months of warnings from the county, secretary of state, election experts and most of the media that the auditor’s procedures were imprecise and unreliable, the most significant finding of the audit is that the hand count of the physical ballots very closely matches the county’s official results in the president and U.S. Senate races,” Bennett said. 

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan turned down the committee’s invitation two days before the hearing. Instead of testifying, Logan spoke October 7 on a program hosted by Joe Oltmann, the founder of far-right group FEC United. It was entitled “Cyber Ninjas CEO Tells Congress to Fork Off and Joins Us Instead.”  

“Mr. Logan’s refusal to answer questions under oath is just one more sign that the dark money-fueled audit he learned never should have happened in the first place,” Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said. 

Maloney and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chair Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, first reached out to Logan in July, requesting all documents showing how the Arizona Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, the company’s financial interests and communications related to the audit, among other records. 

Cyber Ninjas repeatedly refused to turn over requested information, instead submitting about 330 pages of already public documents. The company’s attorney told Democratic committee leadership that the inquiries were vague and overbroad and carried a “patently partisan and prolix tone.”   

Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs
Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs

Arizona Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs sit on the committee. They both used their time during the hearing to argue the review was warranted and to allege fraud in the 2020 election. Gosar and Biggs were among the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election results on Jan. 6. 

Raskin asked Biggs, “Who won the election in Arizona?” 

“We don’t know,” Biggs responded. 

Biggs repeated the statement later, claiming the audit raised “questions and anomalies” that haven’t been addressed. 

“I think there are legitimate concerns; I’m not sure that the audit revealed those,” Biggs said. “But I can tell you that both sides are further entrenched today than they were six, eight, 10 months ago in Arizona.” 

Elections experts and the county have refuted many of the Cyber Ninjas claims in their report. Bennett acknowledged in his testimony that the county has said it has “answers and explanations” to the contractors’ findings. 

“We welcome those answers,” Bennett said.