Thursday May 12, 2022

Cyber Ninjas, the contractor run by an election conspiracy theorist that was tasked with running the partisan audit of Maricopa County, Arizona ballots, ended up spending $2.1m more than it had on hand to determine yet again that Joe Biden won Grand Canyon State’s most populous county in the 2020 election.

According to records released by a watchdog group, American Oversight, the audit ordered by Republicans who control the Arizona state Senate cost approximately $8.8m — including $5.2m allocated to pay and labour costs — a number far higher than the relatively paltry sum of $150,000 the company had originally quoted in a “statement of work” prepared for the Arizona senate.

Yet at the same time, Cyber Ninjas was promising comparatively exorbitant payments to subcontractors. One of them, inventor and conspiracy theorist Jovan Pulitzer, initially indicated he would charge $2.1m for use of what he described as a technology that could detect “kinematic artifacts,” or folds in paper ballots. Mr Hutton’s alleged technology was employed in hopes of proving that many of the postal ballots cast in majority-non-white Maricopa County were fraudulent because they were never folded to be mailed.

Mr Pulitzer later discounted his fee to $210,000 — more than the original budget Cyber Ninjas quoted in their offer to senators — but it appears he was lucky to get paid as much as he was.

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Another Cyber Ninjas subcontractor was Shiva Ayyadurai, a conspiracy theorist and former Massachusetts Senate candidate who frequently (and falsely) claims to have invented email.

In an August 2021 email to Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, Mr Ayyarudai said he was terminating his agreement with the company because he was never paid.

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Although the audit effort, which Republicans had hoped would validate outlandish conspiracy theories raised by former president Donald Trump and his allies in the wake of his loss to Mr Biden, raised more than $5m in donations from Trump supporters, Cyber Ninjas ended the process deep in debt, owing more than $1.9m to subcontractors in addition to $4.3m in contempt of court fines imposed after the company refused to turn over the documents as part of an open records lawsuit by the watchdog group.

Those debts may never be paid because the company filed for bankruptcy last year.

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