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A Cyber Ninja, a trio of GOP lawmakers, and some conspiracy theorists walk into a bar.
This isn’t the start of a bad joke but an actual event that took place Wednesday night, to celebrate the bogus Arizona election “audit”—despite the small matter of the audit still not being finished.
The event was described by Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers, an attendee and one of the biggest supporters of the partisan recount, as a “volunteer reunion.”
“For those saying the audit is ‘fake’ and ‘not real’ and ‘nothing is going to happen’—take a look at these audit volunteers. Patriots, everyone of them—real people who did the Lord's work,” Rogers tweeted alongside pictures from Wednesday night’s event in downtown Phoenix.
It is unclear why Rogers thinks that pictures of people in a restaurant are meant to assuage fears that the audit report, when it finally (maybe) arrives next week, will further exacerbate the baseless belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
But this wasn’t just a gathering of volunteers. The event to celebrate the success of the unfinished and non-partisan recount was also attended by several sitting lawmakers.
Besides Rogers, there was Sen. Sonny Borelli, who’s also become something of a minor celebrity in QAnon and MAGA circles since the audit launched, thanks to his full-throated support for various conspiracy theories about the election. He and Rogers have both become familiar faces on the MAGA speaker circuit. Borelli is even scheduled to appear at the big QAnon conference in Las Vegas next month.
Senate President Karen Fann, also a Republican, showed up in the photos as well. It was Fann who authorized the audit, which was initially slated to take just 14 days but will hit the five-month mark on Sept. 24, when Cyber Ninjas say they’ll finally present the report to the Arizona Senate.
Fann disputed Rogers’ description of the event.
“It was not a reunion nor a ‘celebration party,’ ’’ Fann told VICE News. “This was a private thank-you dinner put on by the folks who organized all of the observers who worked on the audit.” She said she was present because she had been asked “to come and say a few words of thanks” to the volunteers.
Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, also stopped by, having recovered from a nasty bout of COVID-19 that further delayed the preparation of the report. Logan, whose company has zero experience running an election audit, spouted stolen election conspiracies on social media prior to being appointed. Even while running the audit, he found time to appear in The Deep Rig, a film about election fraud produced by Overstock.com founder and uber-conspiracy theorist Patrick Byrne.
It may have surprised some to see Logan at the event, considering he’d said earlier in the day that he needed more time to comply with court orders to produce communications between his company and the Senate about the audit.
Logan and Cyber Ninjas did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
Celebrating with Logan was Steve Robinson and his fiancée, Shelby Busch. The pair were among the very first to begin calling for an audit in Maricopa County based on spurious conspiracy theories first spread by QAnon influencer Ron Watkins about Dominion’s voting machines. They held rallies as far back as December 2020 and formed a political action committee (PAC) called We the People AZ to push their agenda. As well as small donations from “patriots” across the country, they were given $50,000 in funding from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
Rounding out the roster of pro-Trump figures at the event was Jordan Conradson, who writes for the far-right conspiracy blog the Gateway Pundit. Conradson ran the aggressively trollish Audit War Room account on Twitter, which spread lies and conspiracies about the 2020 election.
Rogers dismissed journalists’ criticism of the event, claiming that “#FakeNews folks don't want people to eat a meal or talk to people.”
She then doubled down by linking all journalists to right-wing bogeyman George Soros and referencing Operation Mockingbird, an alleged covert operation run by the CIA during the Cold War to manipulate the media. The theory has more recently been revived by QAnon conspiracists.