Ken Bennett granted audit access, will remain Arizona Senate liaison
PHOENIX – Following a week of uncertainty after his access was restricted, Ken Bennett said he will continue in his role of Arizona Senate liaison for the Republican-ordered Maricopa County election audit as it moves into the reporting phase.
State Senate President Karen Fann and Bennett announced a deal Friday to keep Bennett involved after he threatened to abandon the project over what he said was a lack of transparency from Cyber Ninjas, the audit’s lead contractor. The dispute arose as the hands-on portion of the review was coming to a close.
“With his expertise in Arizona elections and his firsthand knowledge of the ongoing audit, Ken and the Senate team will have full access to all audit work spaces, procedures and data as we verify the draft findings when completed,” Fann and Bennett said in a joint statement.
“He will preserve and protect the strict confidentiality of all information, findings, results and conclusions until the time they are appropriately communicated in final report(s) to the Senate and public, whether it be work of Cyber Ninjas or any additional work the Senate performs.”
— AZSenateRepublicans (@AZSenateGOP) July 30, 2021
The statement also said Fann, Bennett and the Senate team will work on unspecified audit-related tasks outside of what Cyber Ninjas was hired to do.
Friday’s announcement came a week after Bennett was barred from the Arizona State Fairgrounds building where the last hands-on work was completed.
Bennett accused Cyber Ninjas of withholding information from him but said he was still be open to working with Doug Logan’s company and the other contractors during the documentation process, but only if they agreed to share all the information he would need to properly vet the final report.
In his role as liaison, Bennett has provided his expertise as a former Arizona secretary of state and state Senate president to the inexperienced out-of-state contractors.
He’s also been the audit’s most prominent public face since it started in April, giving regular media updates as a spokesman for the GOP lawmakers who authorized the review.
Bennett was shut out this week from a machine recount of total ballots after he shared information with a group that has been researching the election independently of the Senate review and had offered assistance. Co-Senate liaison Randy Pullen oversaw the last tally.
Bennett told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Monday the auditors were refusing to reveal their procedures for the latest tally, and he was “very concerned” the Cyber Ninjas would “force balance” the new count in the direction of their earlier findings, which didn’t match the numbers documented by Maricopa County.
“Indirectly, I allowed some information that was supposed to be private to get out,” Bennett said. “He leaked it to the press, and I felt bad about that. Obviously, Mr. Pullen and maybe the Senate and others were upset. And so that’s why I was denied access.”
Bennett also said it wasn’t the first time the Cyber Ninjas withheld procedural information from him.
Fann has said the aim of the audit is to restore faith in the election system and find ways to improve Arizona’s voting laws, not to reverse the result of President Joe Biden’s narrow victory over Donald Trump in Maricopa County and statewide.
However, many Trump supporters still see it as a step toward invalidating the 2020 results and returning the former president to office.
Earlier this week, Logan revealed that prominent supporters of Trump’s movement to cast doubt on the election results raised about $5.6 million from unknown donors to cover audit costs. The Senate’s deal with Cyber Ninjas was for just $150,000 plus select expenses.
Logan released the fundraising information Wednesday to comply with a request from the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.