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Arizona Senate has spent $500,000 on election 'audit' legal fees

The Arizona Senate has spent more than $500,000 in taxpayer money related to the partisan election review it conducted in 2021, including on legal battles over public records and access to the audit facility.

Senate Republicans hired Phoenix-based law firm Statecraft to represent it on matters related to the so-called "audit" of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. That representation has included reviewing records for public release, litigation aimed at blocking the release of other records and a dispute with the Arizona Mirror and other local media over access to the audit. The Senate has released tens of thousands of records in response to public records requests from watchdog organizations and journalists, but is still fighting the release of others. The Arizona Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in one case related to legislative records on May 10.

In cases where the Senate has argued that some "audit"-related records aren't public, courts have roundly rejected claims that the records aren't public because they were created or retained by the contractors the Senate hired to do the election review. Instead, the courts have said that the Senate's position would render the public records law meaningless.

"Allowing the legislature to disregard the clear mandate of the (public records law) would undermine the integrity of the legislative process and discourage transparency," which would run counter to the purpose of Arizona's public records law, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled.

Senate President Karen Fann appealed the case about records created by Cyber Ninjas, the now-defunct company hired to conduct the election review, to the state Supreme Court. But that court declined to take it up, leaving the appellate court ruling in place.

According to the latest invoices, Statecraft has now billed Fann and the Senate roughly $502,000 since April 2021, when the audit began. (Payments to Statecraft go as far back as December 2020 over separate legal matters.)

More than a year later, tens of thousands of documents were turned over — but only those that were in the Senate's possession. Cyber Ninjas, the now-defunct firm that Fann hired to oversee the election review, has not turned over any records, even in the face of $50,000 daily fines for failing to do so. The company and its CEO, Doug Logan, continue to fight turning over documents to the point a judge named Logan and his wife personally responsible for the records moving forward, even as the tally for the fines has risen to $4.1 million.

Nearly every claim that Fann's so-called audit team made about the 2020 general election was either inaccurate, misleading or patently false. The "audit" was spurred by President Donald Trump's campaign in order to overturn the results, and was overseen by people with no election experience who helped form many of the bogus conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

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The most recent invoice requested $10,824 for the entire month of March. Attorneys at Statecraft are paid $350 per hour.

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and even Cyber Ninjas' report in September reaffirmed Joe Biden's presidential victory.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.M
CORRECTION: This story and its headline have been changed. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Statecraft billed the Arizona Senate $500,000 solely for public records litigation. While representing the Senate in that litigation is included in that total, it is only a portion of work that the law firm has done. It has also reviewed and redacted tens of thousands of Senate records for public release and advised the Senate on other issues related to the election review conducted in 2021. It is unclear how much of the legal fees went toward litigation, review of records and other matters: The billing records released by the Senate are redacted. The story and headline have been updated to reflect that and to update the status of the Senate’s public records litigation.


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Jerod MacDonad-Evoy/Arizona Mirror

The Senate’s 'audit' team presented its report on Sept. 24, 2021. L to R: Ben Cotton of CyFIR, Doug Logan of Cyber Ninjas, Randy Pullen.

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