Washington, D.C. (October 7, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing on the months-long, hyper-partisan “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona, conducted by Cyber Ninjas, Inc. The hearing explored how this and similar audits undermine public confidence in elections and threaten our democracy.
“The attempts by former President Trump and his allies to undermine America’s elections—after failing to win the last one fair and square—represents the biggest threat to our constitutional republic since the Civil War,” Chairwoman Maloney said in her opening statement.
At today’s hearing, the Committee heard testimony from Chairman Jack Sellers and Vice Chairman Bill Gates of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors—both Republicans—who sounded the alarm about the conspiracy theorists that funded Cyber Ninjas’ audit and the harm its disinformation campaign has caused to American elections.
The Committee also heard from David Becker, Executive Director and Founder, The Center for Election Innovation and Research; Gowri Ramachandran, Senior Counsel, The Brennan Center; and minority witness Ken Bennett, former Secretary of State for the State of Arizona and Arizona State Senate liaison to the Cyber Ninjas audit.
The Committee invited the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, Doug Logan, to testify. Mr. Logan informed the Committee less than two days before the hearing that he was unwilling to appear, apparently unwilling to defend his company’s highly unusual, partisan audit under oath.
Witnesses testified that Cyber Ninjas’ audit was always intended to cast doubt on the election, not find the facts.
- When asked by Rep. Rashida Tlaib whether the Cyber Ninjas audit was intended to restore public trust in our elections, Mr. Gates stated: “Unfortunately I do believe that [for] a lot of people who led this, that was not their major focus.” He added, “instead I think it was more on raising doubts and I think we’re seeing that again today.”
- Mr. Becker described the effects of partisan audits like the one in Arizona: “The bad news is that tens of millions of Americans sincerely disappointed that their candidate lost have been targeted in a scam to keep them angry, divided, and donating.”
- Mr. Sellers testified: “It has become clear that 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.”
Contradicting Republican Members who repeated the Big Lie, witnesses testified that after six months and nearly $7 million, this partisan exercise failed to find any evidence of fraud or any legitimate reason to doubt the election results.
- During the hearing, Rep. Biggs asserted, “We don't know” who won the presidential election in Arizona, claiming that the Cyber Ninjas audit raised “a lot of issues with this election that took place.” His comments followed former President Trump’s recent false claim that the audit proved he won in Arizona.
- The witnesses contradicted these claims. Mr. Becker stated that, despite the inexperience and sloppy procedures employed by the auditors, Cyber Ninjas “found no evidence that indicated that Maricopa County's process yielded the wrong result.”
- Under questioning from Rep. Ro Khanna, Mr. Bennett admitted that the hand count results show that Joe Biden won more votes than Donald Trump in Maricopa County.
- Chairwoman Maloney noted in her closing statement: “In the end Cyber Ninjas came up with absolutely nothing. No fraud, no missing votes from Trump, no change in the election outcome.”
Witnesses and Members discussed how Cyber Ninjas’ “audit” has inflicted grave damage on our democracy by undermining public confidence in our elections and fostering efforts across the country to suppress votes and subvert elections.
- Mr. Gates testified: “This is without a doubt the biggest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. If election officials continue to put party over truth, then these procedures are going to continue on, these privately funded government-backed attacks on legitimate elections, and losers of elections will just go out and find financial backers who will continue to drag these procedures on, and unfortunately, that is going to negatively impact our democracy.”
- Rep. Cori Bush highlighted one proposal recently under consideration in the Arizona State Legislature, HB 2720. When asked to comment on the legislation, Ms. Ramachandran explained that the bill would empower the Arizona legislature “to choose a different slate of electors than the slate that received the most votes merely because they did not like the outcome of the election and obviously that would mean risking the disenfranchisement of millions of voters.”
The hearing raised new concerns about the role of Ken Bennett, who ostensibly oversaw the audit, including his ties to far-right groups and concerns about whether he was fully forthcoming in his testimony.
- Rep. Jackie Speier questioned Mr. Bennett on his leadership position in Look Ahead America, an organization with ties to the Proud Boys and far-right Neo-Nazi speakers. Despite being confronted with Look Ahead America’s connections to the Proud Boys and Neo-Nazis, Mr. Bennett announced that he is currently working on another project with the group, stating: “I’m with Look Ahead Arizona, which is an affiliate of Look Ahead America.”
- In response to questioning from Rep. Ro Khanna about Cyber Ninjas’ search for “bamboo fibers or watermarks” in ballots—based on a debunked conspiracy theory—Mr. Bennett stated that he “never witnessed any evidence that they were specifically looking for bamboo fibers.” However, Mr. Bennett’s testimony appears to be contradicted by recently released documents indicating he was aware Cyber Ninjas was examining bamboo threads. In a text conversation with Mr. Bennett, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, and audit spokesman Randy Pullen, Ms. Fann asked a question about checking ballots. Mr. Pullen responded: “Checking paper. Example paper has bamboo threads – not official ballot material.”