Arizona Vote Review Being Financed by Trump Supporters

A review of 2020 election ballots cast in Arizona’s largest county, billed as strictly nonpartisan when Republicans in the Arizona State Senate ordered it late last year, has been financed almost entirely by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, according to a statement released late Wednesday by the private firm overseeing the review.

The firm, Cyber Ninjas, said that it had collected more than $5.7 million from five pro-Trump organizations for the widely disparaged review, in addition to $150,000 that the State Senate had allotted for the project. An Arizona county court had ordered the sources of the audit’s funding released after Republicans in the Senate resisted making them public.

The review of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and roughly 80 percent of the state’s population, has covered only votes last November for president and for the state’s two seats in the United States Senate, all of which were won by Democrats. The president of the State Senate, Karen Fann, said this week that results of the audit should be released next month.

Ms. Fann and other senators said the recount, whose findings have no authority to change the winners of any race, was needed to reassure supporters of Mr. Trump that the vote was fairly conducted. But the effort has come under growing attack in the wake of disclosures that the chief executive of Cyber Ninjas and other purported experts involved in the review had ties to the “stop the steal” movement spawned by Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.

Election experts have called the recount amateurish and error-ridden, and ridiculed its efforts to verify allegations by conspiracy theorists that fake ballots could be identified by traces of bamboo fibers or invisible watermarks. One Republican senator withdrew his backing of the effort in May, calling it an embarrassment, and a second senator accused Ms. Fann last week of mismanaging the process, and said its results could not be trusted.

It had been apparent since the review began in April that supporters of Mr. Trump were both donating money to the effort and recruiting volunteers to work on it. But the sources and size of the donations had not been disclosed until Wednesday.

According to the Cyber Ninjas statement, the largest donation, $3.25 million, was made by a newly created group, America Project, led by Patrick M. Byrne, the former chief executive of the Overstock.com website and a prominent proponent of false claims that the November election was rigged.

Mr. Byrne resigned his post at Overstock in 2019 after it was disclosed that he had an intimate relationship with Maria Butina, a gun-rights activist who was jailed in 2018 as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia and later deported. He later said he had contributed $500,000 to the Arizona review, and produced a film featuring the Cyber Ninjas chief executive, Doug Logan, that alleged that the November election was fraudulent.

The statement said that another pro-Trump group, America’s Future, contributed $976,514 to the review. An additional $605,000 came from Voices and Votes, a group organized by Christina Bobb, an anchor for the pro-Trump television network One America News, who solicited donations for the review while covering it.

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