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When a Republican-led coalition gathers to “audit” Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2020 election results on Thursday, the motley crew will include a former lawmaker who previously lost a police job for lying about a stolen iPad and a technology firm helmed by a proponent of election conspiracy theories.
Joe Biden won the presidential election in Arizona, including in hotly contested Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. Although multiple bipartisan reviews have upheld those results, and Donald Trump has long since exited the White House, a new effort to recount all of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million votes is kicking off this week. The scheme is led by actual elected officials with power, including the leaders of Arizona’s state Senate, which has tapped a Florida-based cybersecurity firm to oversee the audit.
But from kooky fundraisers to a conspiracy-minded tech CEO to an auditor who lost the very 2020 election he’s auditing, the recount has eyeballs rolling.
On Monday, former Arizona state representative Anthony Kern tweeted that he would be involved in the recount. “#Electionintegrity,” he wrote in his announcement. Arizona’s House Democrats had a less sunny response: quote-tweeting Kern with a picture of him standing in a crowd of Trump fans at a Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. “One of Arizona’s election auditors reporting for duty,” the House Democrats tweeted. “#ShamAudit.”
Kern, who did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment, maintains that he did not enter the Capitol or participate in the riot, and has not been charged with a crime related to the day’s events. Still, the specifics of his actions are the subject of a legal spat in Arizona. On the day of the riot, he was serving his final days as a state representative, having lost re-election the same day as Trump. He and another Arizona representative who attended the pre-riot rally have declined public records requests for their messages related to the event, with their lawyer stating that “the threat of criminal prosecution gives rise to certain Constitutional rights that may overcome the duty to disclose otherwise public documents under Arizona’s public records law.”
The two Republicans have also filed a defamation lawsuit against an Arizona lawmaker who signed a letter asking the FBI to investigate their Jan. 6 activities.
This isn’t Kern’s first time facing legal scrutiny. Prior to becoming a lawmaker, he worked as a code enforcement officer for the El Mirage Police Department. In 2014, he was fired for misleading his supervisor about a computer tablet that went missing, the Phoenix New Times revealed in 2019. As part of his termination, he was placed on the state’s Brady list, a compendium of law enforcement officers with known credibility issues. (In fact, as the New Times noted, even Kerr’s claims to being law enforcement were dubious: He was a civilian officer throughout his employment, and though he represented himself as holding a "law enforcement" certification in financial disclosures in 2014, 2015, and 2016, he did not receive peace officer certification until 2017.)
In 2019, while serving in the Arizona House, Kern helped push a bill that would make it easier for people like himself to remove their names from the state Brady list. Colleagues told the New Times they had not been aware that Kern was on the list. The bill did not pass, but a similar one is currently being debated.
Arizona Democrats called Kerr’s participation in Thursday’s audit inappropriate. Rep. Athena Salman, a Democratic member of the state House’s Government and Elections Committee, noted that Kern was also in D.C. in January in his capacity as a Trump elector. (Kern promoted a bogus theory that “dual electors” could throw the election to Trump.)
“You’ve got this former lawmaker who lost his last election,” Salman told The Daily Beast of Kern. “You’ve got someone who was an elector for Donald Trump. You’ve got someone that’s literally on the Brady list because they have a well-documented history of lying... This is one of the guys that they bring in and say, ‘That’s who we need looking at these ballots and determining whether or not these are quality votes’?”
But Kern is far from the only controversial figure involved in the audit. The recount is being led by a business called Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity company led by Doug Logan.
Following Trump’s defeat in November, Logan became a prominent Twitter voice casting doubt on the election results via multiple debunked conspiracy theories. An Arizona Republic report found that Logan frequently retweeted Sidney Powell, the former Trump campaign lawyer whose theories about election fraud were so outlandish that, when Powell was sued for defamation, she argued in court that no reasonable person could have taken her seriously.
Logan’s Twitter involvement with pro-Trump fringes went even further. Archived tweets from Logan’s now-deleted account reveal that he frequently tweeted at Ron Watkins, the former administrator of the site 8kun. Watkins is a vocal proponent of election fraud claims and in a recent documentary appeared to accidentally admit that he was “Q,” the author of the lurid QAnon conspiracy theory. (Watkins now denies that he is Q.)
“I’d love to chat if you have a chance,” Logan tweeted at Watkins on Nov. 12. The following day, he tweeted at Watkins after tweeting about hacking voting machines. “If you have any ‘original source’ documents you're basing your info off of, I'd love it if you shared the links ;-),” Logan tweeted. Later that day, he tweeted at Watkins with “source material” on voting machines.
In December, in a reply to a now-deleted thread from Powell and her colleague Lin Wood, Logan tagged Watkins again. “Haven’t you been working on this?” Logan asked him.
Elsewhere, Logan quote-tweeted Wood to promote a hoax about voting machines supposedly being seized in Germany, which would somehow prove Trump to have won the election.
Via a spokesperson, Logan declined to comment for this story. “We are not commenting on the politics swirling outside of the audit,” the spokesperson said. “The transparent and accountable audit process will speak for itself.”
But Wood previously told Talking Points Memo that he knew Logan personally, claiming that Logan had come to his house late last year to join a group of people investigating voter fraud.
“He was there working on the investigation into election fraud,” Wood told TPM, claiming that Logan had joined a coalition of people in the house. “I opened up my home to allow people to work on the election fraud investigation.”
Of course, the audit’s very existence is a victory for Arizona Senate Republicans, who spent months embroiled in court cases and logistical battles over how such a recount would take place.
Although the Republican-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors did turn over voting data that upheld Biden’s victory in a previous review, the group argued against turning over the county’s 2.1 million physical ballots, citing rules on voter privacy. Then, in February, the Arizona Senate won a court ruling enabling them to examine the ballots by hand.
Their next challenge was figuring out how to conduct the audit. Initially, Senate President Karen Fann tapped the “Allied Security Operations Group” to head up the recount, but backtracked after critics noted that that group was pro-Trump and had made false claims about voter fraud in Michigan. After the partnership crumbled, a colorful assortment of Trump supporters, including MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and supposed Satanism expert Lyle Rapacki, stepped in to promote the audit, The Daily Beast previously reported.
Soon thereafter, a group called “Voices and Votes” took up the cause of fundraising for the audit. That group was led by One America News host Christina Bobb, who had promoted voter fraud conspiracy theories, TPM reported. Wood told the outlet that his foundation had chipped in $50,000 to the cause.
Ultimately the audit’s outcome is irrelevant. Multiple bipartisan reviews have upheld the state’s election results and Biden’s Arizona victory has already been certified in the state, in a process that involved the state’s governor, secretary of state, and state Supreme Court chief justice—all of them Republicans. Also: Biden is president and not going anywhere.
But what remains is a worrying precedent, Salman said.
“They can’t de-certify the election results for 2020,” she said. “I wholeheartedly believe that they're testing the boundaries to see whatever they can get away with, so that they can do this whole performance again, and manufacture the results that they want coming into the 2022 election cycle.”
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