The Daily Agenda: Let's catch up on the audit
Deadlines, court orders and special masters ... Joe Arpaio feels left out ... And we're in the news.
The state Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s election is finally going to show some results — but don’t think this thing is ending anytime soon. There’s a lot to unpack this morning so stick with us here.
There were three big developments since we last published.
Auditors will deliver their first report and the Senate will hold a hearing on it this Friday.
The Senate and county found a compromise on turning over more junk to the auditors that will head off the threat of withholding county funds.
And the Cyber Ninjas are refusing a court order to turn over public records in its possession.
First, let’s talk about that Cyber Ninjas report and the Senate’s hearing.
After blowing their due date several times over, the Senate’s ninjas were understandably reluctant to set another deadline for themselves — but when pressed in court last Thursday, attorney Kory Langhofer announced the report would be “released” Friday, Sept. 24. (It’s getting hard to trust Langhofer’s claims in court, but audit fundraiser Christina Bobb, the only member of the team who seems to know what’s going on, confirmed the Cyber Ninjas would “deliver” the report Friday.)
Perhaps it could have been sooner, but auditors had a big reunion to attend.
As of the weekend, the Senate had not seen the draft audit, so it’s unclear if senators still plan to “review the report for accuracy” before they set it loose on the world. We never had a lot of faith that Senate President Karen Fann’s review would be any more reality-based than the audit itself, but it appears that Cyber Ninjas will have free rein to spew nonsense to the Senate and the TV cameras Friday before anyone has had time to dissect the report. The public is expected to receive copies next week.
So it’s coming to an end? Well, that would be a very optimistic take, considering Fann has already promised three volumes and has threatened to turn it into an ongoing franchise.
(As a sidenote, real auditors have offered to double-check the Cyber Ninjas work — but clearly the Senate has no interest in opening up the books to a group that hasn’t already determined fraud is the only plausible reason for the former president’s loss.)
Which brings us to the agreement between the county and the Senate. On Friday evening, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced an agreement to head off Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s threat to withhold nearly half of the county budget for refusing to hand over county routers to Cyber Ninjas.
Neither side trusts the other, so they decided to bring in former Republican U.S. Rep. John Shaddeg as a “special master” — basically a citizen deputized by the court — on the county’s dime to hold the routers and answer questions about them so the Cyber Ninjas don’t get their grubby hands all over them. (That doesn’t mean the Senate will actually “get” the routers, as Fann has repeatedly claimed online.) The agreement also means the county will drop its lawsuit against the Senate seeking $2.8 million to replace the voting equipment Cyber Ninjas has already ruined.
While both sides claimed a kind of victory, the deal was truly the Senate’s victory, as the supervisors could have taken the issue to the Arizona Supreme Court but instead showed their appetite for getting pummeled by the Senate, the Republican base and the former president is limited, and with enough pressure, they’ll cave.
Finally, despite a court order requiring the Senate to turn over more public records that the Cyber Ninjas hold, and despite Fann’s demand that Cyber Ninjas comply, the auditors are refusing to show the public their internal communications and other public records. The Senate said if Cyber Ninjas wants to appeal the ruling, it’s on its own. Let’s not forget the Senate has its own transparency problem. We’re still waiting on those additional 3,000 documents the Senate is required to turn over.
There’s a reason the Senate is not paying the actual tab for this audit: Officials knew that the structure would muddy the waters for public records and allow them to conduct this with far less scrutiny than it deserved. And there’s a reason the Senate and Cyber Ninjas have fought so hard and so long to keep secret what are clearly public records: They will undoubtedly show, again, just how far from reality this venture has veered.
Friday’s hearing will feel familiar to anyone who’s been watching this slow-motion train wreck for the last nine months. Auditors will make wild accusations without having to provide evidence to back them up. When we do finally get the report, real elections officials will explain away the “issues” for those who care to listen. And the audit’s disinformation/fundraising machine will roll on, preparing for the next volumes.
Intuitively, you already knew this: Cyber Ninja CEO Doug Logan’s ties to Trump’s campaign of disinformation go far deeper than previously reported. The Republic’s Jen Fifield and Zac Anderson published a blockbuster story this morning showing that long before he became Arizona’s most famous ninja, Logan worked closely with Trump flunkies Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, to undermine the election and try to prove fraud before the Jan. 6 vote to certify the election — and they promised beforehand that Logan would make far more than the $150,000 that it charged the Senate.
That was quick: Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel should be back at work today, reports the Republic’s Robert Anglen. She ended her time in rehab after 19 days (though she only told the public about it nearly two weeks after she entered treatment). The way she handled the situation — only disclosing after Sheriff Paul Penzone told her she had to — led to calls for her resignation. She said she doesn’t plan to resign or take a leave, and she continued working while she was in treatment.
Not something to brag about: Only 38% of eligible people in Mohave County are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, making it the least-vaccinated Arizona county (and Arizona already lags the national vaccination average). The county’s death rate is also worse than the national average. Why? Well, freedom, of course, report the Republic’s Stephanie Innes and Alison Steinbach. Former state lawmaker Ron Gould, now on the county’s board of supervisors, told the Republic he isn’t vaccinated but did get COVID-19 in early 2021 from a church Christmas party.
"The whole COVID thing is political, basically," Gould said.
What’s going on in LD30?: Alejandro Larios, a former Democratic legislative candidate and board member of the Maricopa Democratic Party, faces allegations of assault against a woman, who posted her story on Instagram. After the allegations, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced she returned a donation Larios had made to her campaign. Larios no longer appears as a board member on the Maricopa Dems’ website.
But the low pay makes it all worth it: The culture at the Arizona Capitol was never good, but some lawmakers say it’s gotten much worse lately, particularly as the audit continues, report Nathan Brown and Kyra Haas of the Capitol Times. Fann says she’s gotten all manner of mean emails from Democrats, while Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita shared a threat she got from an audit supporter.
They’re doing what the Arizona press corps didn’t: The Philadelphia Inquirer isn’t calling the Pennsylvania election review modeled after Arizona’s an “audit.” Instead, the paper’s stories carry an information box that explains why that term isn’t used, namely that the process is opaque and doesn’t follow established best practices.
A sad state of affairs: Most Arizonans cannot afford child care. A shortage of affordable child care options and low-paid child care workers make the equation even worse. But programs in Tucson, Pima County and at the state level are trying to help, reports the Arizona Daily Star in a four-part series on the topic.
Second Amendment meets First Amendment: Students in the Turning Point USA club at Cave Creek’s Cactus Shadows High School distributed stickers and pins that made liberal imagery, like a rainbow and Coexist, into Second Amendment statements. This is exactly the kind of stunt a suburban teenager would pull. But some parents at the school are upset, reports the Republic’s Renata Cló.
It’s good work if you can get it: Dr. Richard Carmona, hired by Gov. Doug Ducey as a part-time public health adviser, is pulling in $400 per hour for the work he’s doing, reports the Daily Star’s Tim Steller. When he worked for the University of Arizona on pandemic response from May 2020 to June 2021, he made more than $231,000 in less than a year. He’ll make nearly $90,000 in six months as a special adviser to UA President Robert Robbins right now, too.
We don’t want to calculate our hourly pay because it’ll make us depressed. But if you want to help us boost our bottom line, you can pay to keep us in business. We promise we’ll never come near $400 per hour.
We’re making ourselves the news now! We were on Sunday Square Off with 12 News’ Brahm Resnik yesterday, where we shared why we wanted to start this newsletter and our hopes that we aren’t full of shit. If you’re new to our newsletter and want to understand how we got here, it’s worth a watch.
Joe Arpaio, the pardoned former sheriff who was ousted by voters as sheriff and then didn’t become sheriff again the next time, might run for mayor of Fountain Hills, he told the Phoenix New Times’ Josh Kelety.
Arpaio has a long track record of saying he’s considering running for various offices, so don’t bet money on this. He told Hank last year that his unsuccessful sheriff bid would be his last run at public office. He’s 89 years old. His last two runs — for U.S. Senate and Maricopa County sheriff — ended in defeat.
If he were mayor, he’d want to bring “one big business” to the town, he told Kelety (why just one?). But he insists he’s not interested in the job because he misses the spotlight. "I'm not doing it to get my name in the paper," he said. "When I go to the toilet, my name is in the paper."
The Arizona Center for Empowerment will conduct a virtual training program for people interested in the redistricting process. The group meets online at 5 p.m. today.
The Yavapai Republican Men’s Forum will hear from Fann and Ken Bennett about the election audit at their meeting today at 11 a.m. at the Prescott Resort and Conference Center.