Cyber Ninjas, the firm that was contracted by Arizona Republicans to carry out a widely-criticized review of 2.1m ballots cast in the presidential election, is shutting down amid a legal battle seeking to force the company to make documents from the review public.
A judge fined the company $50,000 a day on Thursday – 50 times the amount requested by plaintiffs – for failing to comply with a court order to turn over public records, in a lawsuit brought by the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic newspaper.
During the same hearing, a lawyer representing Cyber Ninjas, Jack Wilenchik, begged the judge to allow him to withdraw from representing the firm. He said he had not been paid for his work and that the company was insolvent.
Rod Thomson, a spokesman for the company, confirmed in an email on Thursday evening that the company was shutting down.
He said Doug Logan, the founder and chief executive who oversaw the review after expressing support for the disinformation pushed by Donald Trump and allies that the 2020 election was stolen by the Democrats, was no longer with the company.
“Doug Logan and the rest of the employees have been let go and Cyber Ninjas is being shut down,” he said in an email. He did not respond to questions about why the company was closing.
John Hannah, the local judge overseeing the case, warned that the firm could not escape having to turn over documents by shutting down.
“The court is not going to accept the assertion that Cyber Ninjas is an empty shell and that no one is responsible for seeing that it complies,” he said, according to the Arizona Republic.
The shutdown marks an abrupt turn for a company that led an effort Trump and allies around the country once saw as their most promising effort to prove widespread irregularities in the 2020 election.
The effort raised a staggering $5.7m from outside groups. State lawmakers from around the country flew to Phoenix to watch the effort in person and pushed to replicate it elsewhere.
This despite other officials at every level declaring the election the most secure in US history, and eventually William Barr, the then US attorney general, saying the Department of Justice had not uncovered evidence of voter fraud that would change the outcome of Biden’s victory in the November ballot.
But the Arizona review, which began last April and largely concluded last fall, was quickly beset by shoddy methodology, bizarre practices, and infighting.
Its final report in September not only affirmed Biden’s victory in Maricopa county, Arizona’s most populous and the location of the state capital, Phoenix, but also raised questions about election equipment being connected to the internet and mail-in ballot processing procedures.
Nearly all of the claims the firm made in its month-long review were debunked on Wednesday in a 93-page document authored by election officials in Maricopa county, where Cyber Ninjas did its review.
“Nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions, and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws,” the county wrote in its rebuttal.
A claim that there were thousands of suspicious duplicate images of ballot envelopes, for example, was easily explainable, the county said. If a ballot comes in with a missing or faulty signature, election officials contact the voter and help them fix it. When the ballot is resubmitted, it is scanned again before being sent to be opened. “Only one ballot was counted for each envelope,” the county said.
The report also includes a lengthy technical analysis debunking claims from Cyber Ninjas that its election equipment was connected to the internet. Out of the 2.1m votes cast in the county, officials acknowledged potentially double-counting 50 ballots and said they were referring 37 cases to the attorney general’s office for further investigation for potential voter fraud.
Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona senate who was a staunch supporter of the Cyber Ninjas review, seized on those few irregularities to claim the audit was worthwhile. “From day one, the Arizona senate’s efforts have been in pursuit of a singular goal – identifying and implementing improvements to our election’s processes,” she said in a statement. “Although it took 14 months and a costly audit, Maricopa county yesterday joined us in pursuit of this worthwhile objective.”
Her statement did not mention two of the most important, and obvious facts from the audit – that Joe Biden won Arizona and the original election results were accurate.