Joe Biden won the presidential election. Period.
It’s become clear that multiple entities have enriched themselves by spreading the lie that the election was stolen.
After months of making our county and state the laughingstock of the nation, the organizers of the sham ballot review process in Maricopa County, Arizona, are issuing a final report Friday, a draft of which was widely reported Thursday night. Though the draft report states that Biden won (which we already knew), that finding doesn’t change the fact that this entire exercise has been a political and fundraising stunt.
As the so-called results of the bad-faith ballot review are released, it’s important to remember what this is really about: personal gain. And it must be fully investigated before it spreads to other states.
Grifters have spent months embarrassing themselves and my home state by conducting the most expensive snipe hunt in history searching for invented fraud. The biased ballot review was the very picture of a circus: searching for delusions as partisans twirled ballots on table-top merry-go-rounds in a never-ending pursuit of anything to spin into a conspiracy. The reviewers have sunk their own case by making a mockery of the process, with observers documentingdozens of security and counting flaws.
Yet supporters of the lie that the 2020 election results are questionable are now seeking to spread the chaos — and fundraising apparatus — to other states. There was no widespread election fraud in Arizona, but there may be financial fraud tied to the fatally flawed ballot review. The best way to close up this circus is to investigate whether laws have been broken and crack down on fundraising appeals that don’t pass muster.
It’s become clear that multiple entities have enriched themselves by spreading the lie that the election was stolen: They have asked Americans to open their wallets to fund the sham review in Arizona based on this lie, and convinced vulnerable individuals that if they send enough money, invented fraud will be uncovered and the election will be decertified.
This is false. And, if these entities — from propaganda networks for former President Donald Trump to local political parties — knew that this was a lie, or had no reasonable grounds to believe it was true, they may have committed fraud, an admittedly murky area of the law.
Indeed, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who pushed these lies after the election, has since claimed that “no reasonable person” would believe that her lies that the election was stolen were proven statements of fact. Nonetheless, supporters of the sham review in Maricopa County — including Powell herself — have continued to push false claims to raise money, though she says she personally believes the claims are true.
In Michigan, a report by state Senate Republicans examining a similar review conducted in one county there called on the attorney general’s office to investigate those who had utilized “misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”
Michigan’s attorney general, working with the state police, has since agreed to open an investigation into those who spread disinformation about the 2020 election to raise money or publicity for themselves. The same should be done in Arizona, as well as any other state where grifters are seeking to raise money off a baseless ballot review.
First, the Arizona Republican Party is raising money off of the election review, with fundraising efforts that ask for help with the audit and benefit the state party. These appeals have included pre-checked recurring donations — the same deceptive tactic that led to scores of fraud complaints against the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign to refund millions of dollars in donations.
According to the Arizona Republic, the “state party has taken in and kept far more cash” than previous cycles: receiving $1,232,000 as of April this year compared to $312,000 in 2019. When asked about the fundraising jump, a spokesperson for the state party declined to respond.
This exercise extends beyond Arizona, with other entities seeking to raise money and their own profiles by telling Americans the lie that there is a desperate need for this audit to uncover invented widespread election cheating. One America News Network on-air personalities, for instance, have raised money for the audit — and likely their viewership — by covering the audit and boosting the lie that the election was stolen. Others fundraising for the audit include characters like Patrick Byrne, who urged Trump to overturn the election results. Byrne has been a prolific spreader of the lie that the election was stolen, and he leads a group that helped select and screen volunteers to review ballots.
As Arizona’s former attorney general, I believe that if there ever was a time to “follow the money,” this is it. The review in Maricopa County — and any other bad-faith “audits” or attempts to profit off of lies that undermine faith in our elections — must be looked into by those responsible for prosecuting financial and election fraud and corruption.
Election officials and local volunteers who make our elections run are overwhelmingly dedicated public servants with no agenda other than running a clean vote. But by repeating over and over the disinformation that there was some kind of malfeasance, con artists and grifters have found a way to make a lot of money while degrading our democracy.
There is no reason to take the results of this sham review seriously, and nobody who wants any credibility going forward should. But we should all take seriously the potential for financial fraud and the damage being done to our democracy.
Any possible financial fraud must be fully investigated. If Arizona officials won’t take action, then the Department of Justice should add this to a long list of matters connected to the “fraudit” that must be probed, litigated and prosecuted.