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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Trump's First Criminal Trial, for Cheating in 2016, Begins in NY: 'BradCast' 4/15/24
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Guest: The American Prospect's David Dayen; Also, Breaking: AZ's Democratic Governor vetoes bipartisan election transparency bill...
By Brad Friedman on 5/22/2023 6:29pm PT  

At some point, the President is just gonna have to do the right thing and stop playing footsie with disingenuous, bad faith Republicans who are holding the nation's economy hostage over the unconstitutional debt limit law. Also, the Democratic Governor in Arizona has some splainin' to do on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

After a bit of breaking news at the top of the show (regarding a breakthrough agreement on water sharing between Western states on the drought-stricken Colorado River, and E. Jean Carroll suing Trump yet again for defaming her yet again), it's onto the dangerous negotiations still taking place, for some reason, between the White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over whether or not the U.S. will follow the law and pay its bills or go into default for the first time in the nation's history.

We're joined today by investigative financial journalist, author and Executive Editor of The American Prospect, DAVID DAYEN. He has been reporting on a lawsuit recently filed by the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) against President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, charging that they are already violating the law by "suspending investments into...employee retirement plans" as part of Yellen's so-called "extraordinary measures" to avoid hitting the arbitrary borrowing limit implemented by Congress. She has said that those measure will run out as early as June 1, before the U.S. won't be able to pay all of its bills without borrowing more money. "There is active and ongoing harm which will get worse if the ceiling is hit," the NAGE suit alleges.

At the same time, as listeners may know, we've been covering the text of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment which states in clear language: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts ... shall not be questioned." While Biden has made clear he is aware of the Constitutional option, he has said (not necessarily correctly) that invoking the 14th Amendment to follow the law by ordering the Treasury Department to continue borrowing to keep paying all of our bills would have to be litigated. That, he suggests, would take too much time to be adjudicated in court in order to avoid an upcoming debt default. Thus, he has been negotiating with McCarthy to find an agreement that McCarthy, as Dayen points out today, is unlikely to be able to even get his own caucus to agree to vote for.

With all of that in mind, and NAGE having filed for an emergency injunction in their lawsuit late last week, Biden and Yellen now have until June 6 to respond to the suit. Dayen points out, in both his X-DATE newsletter today and on our program, that Biden/Yellen merely need to respond to the suit by saying they agree with the plaintiffs suing them. The federal judge will then have no choice but to find in favor of NAGE, ruling that the President cannot pick and choose which bills will or won't be paid and that the 14th Amendment likely makes the Debt Ceiling law unconstitutional.

Problem solved! At least if Biden and the White House finally take this golden opportunity that has been handed to them. Sure, there are some nuances, as we discuss with Dayen, but, in general, Biden could use this to end the standoff in short order, before a global financial catastrophe --- which will only increase the U.S. deficit that Republicans in the House are only now pretending to give a damn about --- comes crashing down as early as next week.

"Here's your chance, Joe," says Dayen. "You have to write a response in this active litigation, and what you can say is 'I agree, and I am not going to contest this lawsuit.'" Once the judge receives that, Dayen explains, he'll have to say, "'Okay, I've got two sides in this lawsuit. One side says the debt ceiling is unconstitutional, and the other says it, too.' Presumably, the outcome, the ruling, would be that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. Who would appeal it? There are two parties in this case, and neither are House Republicans."

ALSO TODAY: Last week on the show we spoke with Arizona's former Republican Secretary of State, now state Senator Ken Bennett, about a bipartisan bill passed out of the state's legislature last week to greatly improve election oversight, transparency and security by making digital ballot images of every ballot cast available for anyone to download and count for themselves in their own home if they wish. (A ballot image is a digital photo of each ballot that is taken as the ballot is scanned by the computer tabulators. It shows exactly how the voter voted at the time the ballot was cast and counted.)

The landmark measure, HB2560 --- which would make it much more difficult for the MAGA right to falsely claim elections are stolen --- was sponsored by Bennett in the AZ legislature and supported by the state's current Democratic Sec. of State Adrian Fontes as well. Thus, last week, when we spoke with Bennett, his hope was that the state's new Democratic Governor (and former Democratic Sec. of State) Katie Hobbs would sign the landmark transparency measure this week.

Instead, just before airtime, Hobbs vetoed the bill, falsely claiming it would "threaten anonymity" of voters and "open the door to the spread of additional election mis- and dis-information."

As Bennett explained last week on the show, he strongly disagrees. So does the nonpartisan election transparency group, AUDIT USA, headed up by longtime Democrat and ballot image proponent, John Brakey. They issued a statement responding to Hobbs' veto, calling it "a blow to efforts to reduce election conspiracies."

They charge the measure would "achieve just the opposite" of spreading "mis- and dis-information." In the statement, Brakey said that "By claiming the bill would compromise the privacy and anonymity of voters and lead to the increased spread of disinformation, the Governor has ignored the experience of multiple jurisdictions around the country that have been posting ballot images without the problems she claims would be caused."

The group is now hoping to win the one more vote in the state Senate and 9 more votes in the state House that will be needed to override Hobbs' veto. They will have about 21 days after they come back into session in mid-June. Stay tuned...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: AZ GOP State Senator and former Sec. of State Ken Bennett...
UPDATED: Dem Governor Hobbs vetoes the bill...
By Brad Friedman on 5/18/2023 7:11pm PT  

It will be a landmark moment for election transparency in Arizona, argues the man who has championed the bill for years, as discussed on today's BradCast. Along the way, the longtime, dyed-in-the-wool progressive and non-partisan election transparency advocate has brought key allies on board, including the state's former Republican Secretary of State and its current Democratic Secretary of State. The big question, now that the bill has passed out of the legislature: Will the state's Democratic Governor sign the bill into law? [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

John Brakey, of the non-partisan election integrity group AUDIT USA in Tucson, has been a guest on this program many times over the years. He is, perhaps, most famous for revealing that the silly CyberNinjas carrying out a so-called audit of the 2020 Presidential election in Maricopa County (Phoenix) in 2021 were searching for bamboo fibers in ballots in hopes of proving China had somehow stolen the election from Donald Trump in the state. (They didn't. The "audit" would prove, in fact, that Joe Biden beat Trump by an even larger margin than originally reported.) After years of reaching out to lawmakers on all sides of the aisle, Brakey's bill to declare digital ballot images as public records available to all was finally adopted by both chambers of the very Republican Arizona state legislature this week.

Sadly, just three Democrats voted in favor of it in the Senate, even though the state party included a call for such a measure in their party platform years ago. But Brakey was finally able to win over enough support to see the bill sent to the Governor's desk this week, with the support of AZ's new Democratic Sec. of State Adrian Fontes and the state's former Republican Sec. of State, now a state Senator and our guest on today's show, KEN BENNETT [pictured above].

Bennett and Brakey worked closely together to oversee the 2020 audit in Maricopa as Bennett served as a liaison to the state Senate.

For those unaware, digital ballot images are created by most scanners that tabulate ballots across the country. They are, essentially, digital photos of the actual paper ballot cast by the voter when it is scanned. The tabulator then uses those images to tally the voter's selections. The newly adopted bill in AZ, HB2560, would make all of those images available to the public almost immediately after elections. If so, anyone would be able, if they wish, to download them, examine and count the ballots to their heart's content.

As Senator Bennett explains today, the bill also mandates the release of the Cast Vote Record (CVR), a spreadsheet version of every ballot cast and the votes on each ballot, allowing the public to match a digital ballot image to its corresponding row in the CVR to make sure the computer tabulators tallied it as cast by the voter.

In addition to the release of those two sets of records, HB2560 also mandates that a list of all registered voters is made available before the election (those are already public records), and a list of those who voted in the election, greatly increasing transparency and critical public oversight of elections.

"Most of the allegations of impropriety or fraud that I and John Brakey and others have had to deal with over the months and years have to do with three major categories," Bennett tells me today. "One: are there unauthorized voters being allowed to vote in the system?" He says that's what the two voter lists will be able to tell us. "Another general aspect of criticism of the elections --- when certain people lose --- is, 'There had to have been unauthorized ballots injected into the system in favor of someone else.' That's addressed by the fact that there should be one ballot image --- no more, no less --- for everyone who voted. If the ballot images can be shown to match the exact number of voters who voted, then that goes away immediately."

"The third general accusation about stolen or fraudulent elections is that there are either mistakes or intentional manipulation of the machines, or something to transfer votes from one person to another. That is addressed by the Cast Vote Record being comparable to each or every ballot image to make sure they were, in fact, added up correctly."

While hand-counting the original article (as opposed to a digital photo of it), may still, ultimately, be the Gold Standard for democracy, this scheme gets us darn close in many ways. And, arguably, it may be even better in some aspects, in that it allows each and every individual in the state to count the ballots for themself if they wish --- at no cost! Brakey hopes to see a similar regime in every state in the country.

Bennett explains why he believes most Dems in the state legislature opposed HB2560, even though Sec. Fontes spoke passionately in favor of the bill during a legislative hearing earlier this year and, as Bennett notes, "this concept was part of the Arizona State Democrat Party state platform in 2012, no less."

"This is not a Republican idea or a Democrat idea," Bennett contends. "This is an election integrity idea that is supported by Republicans, Democrats and Independents." He is disappointed more Dems did not come on board, but offers an explanation for that on today's show, suggesting it was for political reasons, "rather than the legitimacy of the bill itself."

In fact, Jenny Guzman, Program Director at Common Cause of Arizona, has been whipping against the bill in misleading op-eds and emails to members, derisively referring to it as "the Voter Privacy Violation Act" and falsely claiming it will reveal how voters voted. (We reached out to her for an explanation of her somewhat bizarre critique some time ago, but received no response. A very good rebuttal to her claims is posted here.) While Brakey, Bennett and Fontes worked in a bipartisan fashion to modify the bill to answer to any and all concerns, Guzman has continued to mislead the public about it. Bennett politely described "a couple of her critical claims" as "just not true."

"Voting is a sacred and secret process," argues Bennett. "Once we have disassociated the ballots from any particular voter, the counting of our ballots needs to be a very public process, and it needs to be verifiable by the public." He argues this system will help prevent false claims by election deniers like Kari Lake, 2022's failed GOP candidate for Governor. "When that visual proof is verifiable --- by candidates, by regular citizens, by the media, by universities, by election scrutineers like John Brakey's AUDIT USA group down in Tucson --- all of that can and will be verified."

So, will the state's Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs now sign the bill into law? That is unknown, though Bennett believes "we've got a good chance" given her familiarity with the systems and issues at hand as the state's previous Secretary of State before becoming Governor this year. We'll find out within days. Bennett urges voters, both in AZ and elsewhere, to contact the Governor and let her know your feelings about HB2560 to Engage@AZ.gov or via the Governor's website.

ALSO ON TODAY'S SHOW: While HB2560 is an excellent election bill adopted by a far-right leaning state legislature in AZ, I've got a few thoughts on a terrible election bill, Georgia's SB202 voter suppression bill, adopted by the far-right legislature in the Peach State. (I am serving as a named plaintiff representing media in a lawsuit filed against the bill by the Coalition for Good Governance). And Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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UPDATE 5/22/23: Arizona's Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs has vetoed HB2560. Details now here...

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Guest: Maricopa 'audit' insider and 'bamboo guy' John Brakey of AUDIT-USA; Also: Congressional GOP pushing the U.S. government toward default and global economic disaster...
By Brad Friedman on 9/27/2021 6:39pm PT  

As we head into a week of what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understated over the weekend as "a time of intensity", we cover that on today's BradCast along with a bit of postmortem mop-up following last week's spectacular fail by the dopey Cyber Ninjas in their Maricopa County, Arizona "audit" of the 2020 election. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

This week, Congress --- and the Democratic Party which is now, apparently, being forced to run it all by themselves --- is facing several precarious moment on a number of fronts. For a start Congress must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating after September 30th, when the current fiscal year ends. Even more importantly, to avoid a "financial calamity", they must pass a resolution to suspend or raise the statutory debt limit --- the amount of money the nation can borrow to pay for spending that has already been approved by Congress --- before the country defaults on its loans for the first time in history at some point in October.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate are blocking Democrats from doing either of those things at the moment, in what Pelosi describes as brinkmanship that is "irresponsible beyond words". That, after Democrats voted with Republicans time and again (three times during the Trump Administration alone) to suspend the debt ceiling in order to pay for much of the $8 trillion in debt that was run up with Republican approval over the past 4 years when Donald Trump was in the White House and they controlled Congress.

We explain the incredibly dangerous (and hypocritical) game that Mitch McConnell and the GOP are currently playing with the world economy, even as Democrats face their own internecine battles over how to pass final approval for the Biden Build Back Better agenda, including a bi-partisan $1.5 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill (which Dems can pass by themselves, if they can agree on it) to expand health care, child care, education and much more, including long-overdue action to address on climate emergency.

Next, BradCast listeners last week may know that we were the first in the nation to break the news that the phony, so-called "audit" of the 2020 Presidential and Senatorial election results in Maricopa (Phoenix), AZ by the partisan, conspiracy theorist Cyber Ninjas outfit ended up proving that the Dominion Voting Systems computer tabulators used to tally results in the state's largest county did so accurately. That, according to the Ninjas' own hand-count [PDF] of some 2.1 million ballots. In fact, in a spectacular and hilarious failure, the Ninjas count found the margins of victory for the Democrats in both Joe Biden's Presidential contest and Mark Kelly's Senatorial race, were actually larger than those certified by the County and state officials last year.

But, while the Ninjas tried (unsuccessfully) to bury that embarrassing finding, they also tried to flood the zone with smoke and mirrors about tens of thousands of ballots that they suggested were either illegal or fraudulent in their three-volume report on the audit, and a three-hour presentation last Friday to the GOP-controlled AZ state Senate. There too, they failed spectacularly with one outlet after another, including the Republican-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, fact-checking, debunking and explaining the so-called "critical" claims made by the Ninjas.

It seems the Ninjas never bothered to check with any actual election administration professionals, else most of their concerns would likely have been explained to them.

We're joined today for a postmortem debrief by an insider to much of the past five months of "audit" clown show theater in Maricopa,. You know him as that "bamboo guy". We have known him for many years as the longtime progressive election transparency advocate JOHN BRAKEY of AUDIT-USA. Brakey joined us previously at the beginning of the "audit" for an insider view, and as it continued on for months past its initially planned three weeks, after comments of his taken out of context by a local reporter went viral, reporting that Brakey was looking for bamboo in the ballots, suggesting they were fraudulent and stuffed into the ballot box by China (as many in the MAGA set falsely claimed). In fact, as the later posted full context of his remarks reveals, Brakey was explaining what the Ninjas believed, not him, and that he was participating in the effort in hopes of "ungaslighting" the public about false and otherwise evidence-free claims being made by Trump supporters about the election results.

Brakey worked --- for free, while also refusing to sign the Ninjas' non-disclosure agreement --- with AZ's former Sec. of State, Ken Bennett, a Republican, who was tapped by the GOP state Senate to serve as their liaison to the "audit".

"The whole thing was a grift. Okay?," Brakey tells me today after the audits conclusion. "They didn't want people to know how screwed up they were. They're the best talkers but the worst producers. They pretend to know what they were talking about." But, as Brakey explains again today, they didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Among the many questions of mine that Brakey speaks to today:

  • Were his efforts to "ungaslight" the public by working on the audit successful or was it a mistake on his part to lend his credibility?
  • Does he believe the minds of any of the MAGA Mob were ultimately changed through this exercise?
  • As a long time election transparency and integrity champion, was there anything that the Ninjas DID uncover that was actually troubling and needs to be addressed or corrected by election officials?
  • Will the AZ "audit" make similar post-election reviews more or less likely elsewhere in the country?
  • What is the AZ Senate hiding by failing to release thousands of public documents and communications between them and the Ninjas (including emails and texts from Brakey), as ordered by a state judge?
  • And much more, including whether or not the Ninjas ever found that elusive "bamboo" in Maricopa County's 2.1 million hand-marked paper ballots!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Also: AZ GOP state Senate liaison UNresigns as 'botched' 2020 'audit' continues to fall apart; Biden unveils new vax incentives as Delta surges...
By Brad Friedman on 7/29/2021 6:23pm PT  

Today's BradCast, by and large, serves as another fine example of why we fight, and what we fight for. [Audio link to today's full show is posted at the end of this summary.]

Among our stories today...

  • We've got an update following yesterday's lively interview with John Brakey, the longtime, progressive Election Integrity and audit expert who has been serving as an observer and advisor at the Maricopa County, Arizona 2020 election "audit", alongside the state's Republican former Sec. of State Ken Bennett. Bennett was tapped by the GOP state Senate in April to serve as its liaison to the ill-considered clown show "audit" they hired the inexperienced, partisan, conspiracy theorist company named Cyber Ninjas to carry out. Last week, Bennet was shamefully locked out of the building after he'd shared information from the third count of the County's ballots with experienced outside experts who seem to confirm that the Ninjas' original ballot tally was wrong. In fact, they suggest that the original County count was accurate (as expected, by all by the Trump MAGA mob). As of yesterday's show, Brakey had confirmed that Bennett was resigning his post after the dust up. But shortly after we got off air, Brakey reports, Bennett met with Senate President Karen Fann and, essentially, unresigned. We explain what happened and what may happen next, as even Republican members of the state Senate are now describing the effort as "botched" and turning hard against both the Ninjas for their incompetency and Fann for her folly in having hired them.
  • Despite the obvious failure of the Ninja's disastrous pretend "audit" in Arizona, Republicans across the country are noticing the millions of dollars raised by the grifters running that spectacle, and have decided they'd like some of that sweet sweet "audit" theater in their own home states. But on Wednesday, the U.S. Dept. of Justice issued new guidance documents, warning that they intend to enforce federal laws that may be violated by such exercises.
  • In separate, but related guidance on Wednesday, the DoJ also also made clear they intend to enforce federal voting rights laws against states enacting new voter suppression measures, as GOP-controlled legislatures are now doing all over the country. That, even as recent rulings by the GOP's stolen and packed SCOTUS has made such enforcement much more difficult, in lieu of new federal laws needed to protect the franchise.

    To that end, the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday held a hearing on, among other things, the Texas state legislature's attempt to adopt such a bill. Texas Democrats left the state two weeks ago to prevent the quorum needed to pass such a bill during the ongoing special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott to do just that. And today, 82-year old state Rep. Senfronia Thompson --- the longest serving woman and African-American woman in Texas history, now in her 25th term --- offered moving testimony about her and her family's personal experiences with Jim Crow voter suppression laws in the Lone Star State. We share some of her must-listen remarks in response to GOP Congressmembers at the hearing who downplayed the difficulty of minority voters to exercise their right to vote.

  • With COVID surging again, thanks to the Delta variant and those who have refused to get life-saving vaccinations, President Biden announced new initiatives at the White House today, following impassioned remarks to encourage Americans to get their shots. "This is an American tragedy," he said. "People are dying --- and will die --- who don't have to die. If you're out there unvaccinated, you don't have to die," the President pleaded before detailing the new incentives. Among them: Paying the unvaxxed $100 to get their shots; Expanding federal reimbursement for employers and employees to take time off to get both themselves and their families inoculated; and a new requirement for federal workers and contractors to either get vaccinated or face regular testing and other restrictions.

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: John 'Bamboo Ballots' Brakey of AUDIT-USA; Also: Bipartisan Senators say agreement reached on $1T infrastructure deal; Biden to require vaccination or weekly tests for federal work force...
By Brad Friedman on 7/28/2021 6:09pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Just when you think the joke of a post-election "audit" in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona couldn't get more absurd...it does, as the official GOP Senate Liaison for the Cyber Ninjas' super-secret, partially taxpayer-funded tally of last year's election results gets locked out of the building, threatens to quit, and now may be reinstated. Our very colorful guest today --- who much of America may now recognize --- has been inside the "audit" in Phoenix since it began in April, working side-by-side with that Liaison. He tries to help us make sense of what's really going on right now...if that's even possible. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, however, some quick news out of D.C., where a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators on Wednesday reached an agreement with each other and the White House for a $1 trillion "hard" infrastructure deal, that includes some $550 billion in new spending for roads, bridges and broadband Internet. If adopted, according to AP today, it would be one of "the most significant long-term investments in nearly a century, on par with building the transcontinental railroad or the Interstate highway system."

If it's adopted along with a much larger, $3.5 trillion Democrats-only package --- including "human" infrastructure such as a broad expansion of Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, child care, parental leave, the electric grid, an electric vehicle charging network and other long overdue climate-related projects --- it would be a landmark victory for President Biden and on par, according to experts, with FDR's New Deal.

Also today, the Administration will reportedly formally announce on Thursday that all civilian federal workers must either be vaccinated against COVID or be forced to submit to regular testing. The announcement comes as the Delta variant continues to spike across the nation, requiring new masking recommendations from the CDC in indoor public spaces and all K-12 public schools this fall.

Then, it's on to our guest, friend and longtime election integrity and transparency advocate, JOHN BRAKEY, Director of the Arizona-based AUDIT-USA. Brakey joined us earlier this year, as the "audit" theater clown show in Maricopa County was just getting underway, after the GOP state Senate forced the County (against the wishes of its Republican-majority Board of Supervisors) to turn over all 2.1 million ballots cast in the Presidential election last year, along with the County's brand-new Dominion Voting Systems equipment that tallied the hand-marked paper ballots. That, so that private contractors hired by the Senate could look into an array of evidence-free conspiracy theories charging the election was stolen from Donald Trump in the state.

Brakey, a dyed-in-the-wool progressive, quickly found himself serving as the right-hand man to Arizona's former Republican Sec. of State Ken Bennett, who had been tapped by the state Senate to serve as its Liaison and spokesperson for the hand-count and forensic audit they hired Cyber Ninjas, a Florida company, to carry out, despite the contractor and their CEO, Doug Logan, having zero experience with elections, voting systems or any kind of auditing. Logan is a hard-right Republican and, before being hired by AZ, had advanced ridiculously false and evidence-free conspiracy theories on social media about the election being stolen from Trump.

For his part, Brakey joined us on the show back in April, as the "audit" (AZ's current Democratic Sec. of State describes it as a "fraudit") got underway, to offer insight into what was going on inside the Coliseum, as most of the media were locked out entirely from what would normally be a fully public process. And though, at the time, he discussed the Ninja's laughable theory that they could prove tens of thousands of fraudulent ballots were stuffed into boxes in favor of Joe Biden by examining them for signs of bamboo fibers from China, most of the nation probably first learned of Brakey when his comments about the Ninja's examining ballots for bamboo was taken out of context by a local CBS reporter and echoed all over the national media. (The reporter, CBS-Phoenix' Dennis Welch, shamefully failed to include Brakey's comments that he didn't believe any of the bamboo nonsense, when he originally released the video of Brakey discussing it.)

But, the "audit" originally set to take three or four weeks, has now taken three or months and is still underway. Late last week, however, the GOP Senate's Liaison Bennett, was summarily locked out of the building by either the Ninjas or Senate President Karen Fann, after, they claim, he shared partial results of what is now a third county-wide tally of ballots. This third count --- of ballots only, as opposed to the votes on them --- is supposed to be completely independent from the Ninjas' earlier tally, which appears to have been greatly flawed (no surprise) and reportedly fails to match the number of ballots originally reported by the County after last year's election.

Earlier today, the Arizona Republic reported that Bennett was resigning due to the conflict, and Brakey confirmed as much on today's show. However, shortly afterward, Brakey called to notify me that he had spoken to Bennett and that he and Fann met late today and struck a deal for Bennett to continue with his supposed oversight of the project. An announcement to that end should come within the next 36 hours, he tells me.

If all of that sounds like a mess, it's because it is. Brakey speaks to all of it on today's show, including being targeted as a right-winger (which he decidedly is not) and for inappropriate national ridicule after that out-of-context "bamboo" video.

He also speaks today to...

  • My concerns expressed to him the last time he was on, about the absurd lack of public oversight in the Ninja's "audit", which is supposedly predicated on the need for "transparency"(!) after Trump and his supporters circulated false, evidence-free claims about the state's certified results finding that Biden defeated Trump by 10,400 votes in the state;
  • Why Bennett was locked out from the "audit" last week, and whether he had actually tendered his resignation this week;
  • Why a third count of ballots (after the County's official count and the Ninja's subsequent hand-count) became necessary, and whether that new count is truly independent from the Ninjas'. (It isn't, as the Ninjas' own attorney, Brakey reports, is actually working on that third count!)
  • Whether recent reporting is true that the "audit" team is concerned because they now believe the data actually proves Biden won.
  • How rightwing huckster Jovan Pulitzer is "a complete con-man", spreading ridiculous claims about China having "hacked the election system through the thermostat" and that "65 countries [were] involved in hacking the United States, in 6 states [and] 600 counties."
  • Multiple recent false and misleading claims by Ninjas CEO Doug Logan (who Brakey refers to as Doug-anon Logan) suggesting fraud, as subsequently echoed, expanded upon and further falsified by Trump this past weekend at a rally in Phoenix, where Trump falsely claimed the Maricopa County election database was found to have been completely deleted (it wasn't); that 18,000 voters were purged from the rolls only after they voted in November (they didn't vote in November); that 74,000 mail-in ballots were falsely added to the total (they weren't); and that 168,000 ballots were printed on illegal paper, suggesting they were fraudulent (the paper was not illegal, and the ballots were not fraudulent. "None of it is illegal. It's crazy!," says Brakey. "This is what we put up with --- these authoritarian-type leaders who talk like they know something, and these people are gullible. That's why I'm there, to help them understand!)

We also discuss --- and at times disagree on --- whether this entire exercise is helpful or harmful to the overall cause of legitimate election integrity and post-election audits, as disinformed GOP dupes have coughed up millions for a giant grift in Arizona, even as they call for similar (almost certainly fruitless) "audits" of the 2020 results in states across the country.

Buckle up for today's show! It's a doozy!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guests: John Brakey of AUDIT USA and Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight from inside the 'secret' rightwing tally and forensic probe of 2.1M ballots from 2020, why there's so little transparency, and why it all matters..
By Brad Friedman on 4/28/2021 4:44pm PT  

Okay. Buckle up for today's BradCast special coverage. Seriously. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

As you've almost certainly heard by now, the Republicans in the Arizona state Senate have contracted [PDF] a rightwing tech outfit with no experience in elections or voting systems --- calling themselves Cyber Ninjas --- to oversee an unusual, controversial hand-count audit of the 2.1 million hand-marked paper ballots cast in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona's 2020 Presidential and Senatorial elections. Apparently, the only elections the Senate GOP believe may have been stolen by Dominion Voting Systems tabulation computers or by stuffing ballot boxes were the two statewide elections each won by Democrats for the first time in decades.

The Florida-based Cyber Ninjas are being paid $150,000 tax-payer dollars for this post-election investigation, while collecting an unknown amount of dark money from unknown sources. They have, to date, kept the entire process pretty much a secret, locking out the public and media alike from overseeing the (at least partially) tax-payer funded process inside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The only window into the process for the public, by and large, up until now, have been from 9 video cameras streaming wide shots from different angles of whatever is going on on the main floor of the arena.

The Cyber Ninjas' leader, a guy by the name of Doug Logan, had promoted false, often ludicrous and evidence-free claims of fraud following the 2020 election, asserting that the election must have been stolen from Donald Trump. So, of course, the Arizona GOP Senate hired him to run this effort. In this case, the results in question in Maricopa --- a state which Biden reportedly won by just over 10,000 computer-scanned votes (less than half of a percentage point) --- were certified by the five-person GOP-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (4 Rs and 1 D), the state's Democratic Sec. of State and Arizona's Republican Governor. It's only the state's far-right GOP Senate --- and millions of Trump supporters --- who believe the election must have been stolen for Joe Biden.

Still, some GOPers have their doubts. And we're always in favor of the public being able to check the results of hand-counted paper ballots for themselves whenever there are any questions --- justified or not --- regarding the results of any election, so that all voters can have confidence in the reported results. That is critical to the survival of American democracy. That said, such processes, particularly when they are tax-payer funded, must be open, transparent, overseeable and completely public processes. This process being carried out in Maricopa has decidedly not been that. With the Cyber Ninjas firm even arguing in court that their forensic processes must be kept a trade secret, just like the computer voting machine companies they (and we, for many years!) have complained about.

With no media allowed in (until a court order seems to have finally loosened that up a bit as of last night), there has been little if any information available to the public as far as what the hell is going on. The only reporter who seems to have gained access had signed up as an observer to work a 6-hour shift on Day 1 and discovered the counters were using blue pens --- which can be used to mark or spoil ballots. Following her complaints, they have been swapped out for red and green pens which cannot be read by the optical scanners. Beyond that, we've received little or no information on the process or progress of the count from public observers or media.

But we've had an inside track since the start of the count. And on today's show, we've got two long-time election integrity advocates who have been inside the Coliseum to observe over the last several days, one of them has been there since Day 1.

JOHN BRAKEY, Director of AUDIT USA, is actually working along side AZ's former Republican Sec. of State Ken Bennett --- as of now anyway, as Bennett serves as the Senate GOP's liaison to the count. Brakey, a longtime election integrity champion and transparency activist, is largely the only one involved in the effort who has experience with post-election audits and recounts. He's a Tucson-based Democrat, but has long fought for public oversight in elections across the country and joins us on the show today.

We're also joined by RAY LUTZ, Founder and Exec. Director of San Diego-based Citizens' Oversight Projects, which has helped organize and oversee many post-election audits over the years --- particular of electronic digital ballot images created by scanners when ballots are initially tallied. He spent the last several days inside the Coliseum, observing the count, by invitation of Brakey, until he'd decided he'd "seen enough" and headed back home to California last night.

Both explain what they have seen, what the secret process actually is (as far as they have been able to understand it); some of the positive elements that may come out of this exercise; and a number of very serious concerns they each share about the process, particularly when it comes to the lack of transparency for how the operation works, the lock out of media and the public, the lack of publicly disclosed running totals of the count (as in actual recounts) or comparisons to the initial tallies, and more.

In Brakey's case, he's taking action to try and improve the process. He tells us he filed a Public Records Request today with the Maricopa Board of Supervisors (which has long opposed this exercise) for the original counted vote records of the batches of ballots now being examined in the 15,000 seat arena. His hope is that the Cyber Ninja group, for their part, will publish their own daily results at the same time, so that there can be at least some public oversight of the process. That remains a work in progress, he explains. But Brakey --- who is receiving no money for the work (unlike pretty much everyone else involved in it) and has refused to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (as the Ninjas had initially asked) --- asserts that he is happy to talk about everything that he has seen and is prepared to walk away from the project if transparency is not quickly improved.

"That's what I'm doing here. I'm criticizing. I'm on them," he explains, after pushing to allow media in for several days. "I want you to know they have media in there right now. They have two people, they have a pool camera. They were nervous and I said, 'Don't be. This is the media. Give them what they need.' I want them to have the same access that they would get in [a public Maricopa County recount], and I'm fighting for that, and I'm winning."

For his part, Lutz says he had already grown somewhat frustrated with the lack of transparency, and decided to leave after observing for about two days. He details the complicated, incredibly slow, table-by-table, ballot-by-ballot effort that is being carried out. After he initially estimated the process they were using would take about 15 months to complete, Lutz explains that changes made to simplify the process have brought the task down to one that could be carried out in about a month, unless additional counting shifts are added. That, even though the group is supposed to have completed the entire effort just over two weeks from now, on May 14th.

"This group came in with no experience at all," Lutz says today, "with a lot of new-fangled ideas about how it would work. Apparently no one did any basic math to work out how long it would take. Now they're sitting here with a real big problem on their hands."

"I have to say, it looked like more of a big show than anything else when I first saw it," he says, referring to the color-coded tables and t-shirts being worn by workers, before explaining some of the efficiencies that have been implemented since the counting began. "Now, I have to say that a lot of what I see there is appropriate and pretty good in terms of their fencing off the ballots and how they keep them under control." Still, he is worried about what happens to the tally sheets being created at each individual table, because those are not being shared publicly and are being handed to someone who enters the numbers into a computer --- correctly or otherwise. "What we normally want to have --- and Citizens Oversight has watched many, many of these audits --- we want those sheets to be scanned immediately and published so they can't be altered, because those tally sheets now become just like ballots, but even more so, because they're the accumulation of all the ballot tallying."

He's also critical of the particular hand-count process being used which, he believes, may have an error rate of 1 to 2%, in order to somehow confirm the accurate tabulation of an election that was decided by less than one half of one percent. And we all discuss the unusual efforts by workers to do things like examine ballots under microscopes and with a UV light (apparently to look for bamboo fibers, suggesting the paper came from China, or to find a lack of creases in mailed-in ballots, suggesting the ballot box was somehow stuffed). Lutz also details the effort to take meticulous measurements of the size and thickness, as well as high-def photos, of each ballot, as part of some unclear process to determine whether they are real or fraudulent.

Yes, it's somewhat as nuts as it sounds. But voters are allowed to be nuts, if they like. Locking out the public from the process, however, remains a very serious concern, and leads to some heated exchanges, to say the least, on today's special BradCast coverage...offering a unique and exclusive look inside the Maricopa County, AZ "audit/recount".

"Somebody's going to throw the gauntlet down, and I'm throwing the gauntlet down," Brakey asserts under my questioning about oversight concerns. "And I guess if they don't want to do that, then I guess there's going to be a separation, and all of a sudden I'm going to be on the outside. And maybe that's what has to happen. Because I know that transparency is the solution. We're going to keep improving this process, or I'm outta here," he vows.

As noted, buckle up for this one. You've been warned...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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