Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers capped off his year-end newsletter by celebrating a “Defender of Democracy” award from a Big Tech-funded, election-influencing nonprofit.
Sellers received the award in July alongside Elections Director Scott Jarrett and outgoing Secretary of State/governor-elect Katie Hobbs’ assistant secretary of state-turned-chief of staff, Allie Bones. The Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) issued the awards. CEIR received $69.5 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in August 2020 through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — three months before the contentious presidential election.
Ultimately, CEIR gave nearly all of those funds — over $64.2 million — to state and local government officials to encourage mail voting and enhance voter information. Arizona received nearly $4.8 million. That was on top of other Big Tech monies that Arizona’s election officials received. As AZ Free News reported last March, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) issued $5 million to the state. $3 million went to Maricopa County specifically.
The founder and executive director of CEIR is former DOJ lawyer David Becker. He disputed that CEIR’s funds swayed the 2020 election. CEIR reported that 85 percent of the funds were used for paid media, while 11 percent were for direct mail and 4 percent were for communications activities.
Further details about what the media entailed weren’t provided. The general report bears some similarities to CTCL’s vagueness concerning the expenditures of its funds.
Arizona was one of 23 states to receive CEIR grants. The others were Connecticut, $2.1 million; Florida, $287,000; Georgia, $5.6 million; Illinois, $2.7 million; Iowa, $1 million; Kentucky, $1.6 million; Maryland, $575,000; Massachusetts, $200,000; Michigan, $12 million; Minnesota, $1.5 million; Missouri, $1.1 million; New Jersey, $6.1 million; New Mexico, $768,000; New York, $5 million; North Carolina, $1.1 million; Ohio, $1.1 million; Pennsylvania, $13.2 million; Rhode Island, $632,000; South Carolina, $1 million; Vermont, $312,000; and Washington, $405,000.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative hasn’t publicly announced any funds it gave, if any, for this recent election.
While serving in the Civil Rights Division Voting Section in the early 2000s, Becker enforced the Voting Rights Act. The DOJ acting head at the time, Brad Schlozman, told reporters in 2020 that Becker should’ve been disbarred for unethical behavior. Schlozman described Becker as a “hard-core leftist” who “couldn’t stand conservatives.” Becker didn’t dispute the claims against him for unethical behavior, but noted that they were dismissed.
Other election officials to receive CEIR’s award included election officials from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Other recipients of the award included lawyers from the Election Official Legal Defense Network, two former officials with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and two retired federal judges.
Two journalists also received the award: Reuters reporters Linda So and Jason Szep, for a series titled “Campaign of Fear: The Trump world’s assault on U.S. election workers.”
Last Friday, Maricopa County settled with the State Senate on both side’s election demands, with the Senate apparently compromising on nothing per the agreement. The county will hand over the remaining election materials subpoenaed by the Senate: routers, splunk logs, and digital images of ballot envelopes. They will also drop their demand that the legislature pay $2.8 million to replace the voting machines. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs – who told the county that she would likely decertify any election results that come from the audited machines – has yet to issue a statement on the settlement.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors convened on Friday to discuss this settlement. They ultimately decided that the election routers, splunk logs, and ballot envelopes weren’t worth $700 million in lost funds. In fact, the board decided securing those funds was worth an additional expenditure. The county will pay for a “Special Master”: an official to oversee acquisition of the routers and splunk logs. Former Republican Congressman John Shadegg will serve that role.
Senate Republicans tweeted the news in a statement from President Karen Fann (R-Prescott). Fann clarified that experts were sure that the audited election equipment wasn’t compromised, as the county had claimed.
“The Senate will finally get the answers to questions asked for in the subpoenas issued to the County months ago,” stated Fann. “I look forward to getting our final questions answered and wrapping up the review of the election in Maricopa County.”
Shortly after, Fann released a more personalized statement of her own. She responded to critics and skeptics with clarification that the Senate hadn’t lost out on anything they were desiring.
“HUGE win for the Az Senate today! Maricopa settlement gives us all the data needed to complete the review of the routers & splunk log to the most comprehensive election audit in history,” stated Fann. “We got everything we need and more. Maricopa County goes home with its tail between its legs.”
Maricopa County officials spun a different narrative in their announcement of the settlement. The county neglected to clarify that they were still turning over the subpoenaed election materials to the Senate for inspection. Instead, they emphasized that the auditing company, Cyber Ninjas, wouldn’t be given access to those materials.
“NEW: Board votes to approve an agreement with the AZ Senate that keeps county routers & other sensitive materials out of the hands of Cyber Ninjas. The agreement also protects taxpayers and ends a legal dispute over the Senate’s ongoing election review,” stated the county. “Per Chairman @jacksellers: ‘The Cyber Ninjas will never be able to touch the routers or access our data. An independent third party can confirm what we’ve always said: the election equipment was not connected to the internet and no vote switching occurred. And our residents, law enforcement, and courts can all rest assured that their data and equipment are protected.’ The agreement with the Senate comes with a provision that the Senate President write a letter to the Attorney General stating the County has now fully complied with the Senate’s outstanding subpoenas and that further action is not warranted.”
Cyber Ninjas’s report on Maricopa County’s 2020 election will be released on Friday. Since Cyber Ninjas isn’t privy to the election materials obtained from the Maricopa County-Senate settlement, information from those materials won’t be included.
Last month, Hobbs published a full report of the audit, asserting that Cyber Ninjas’ work was more of a partisan review than a credible audit.