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A GOP lawmaker’s nonprofit was billed $400K for ‘audit’ security

By: - September 3, 2021 4:09 pm

An off-duty Gila County Sheriff’s Office deputy patrols the floor of the Arizona election audit at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Newly released documents show that the Arizona “audit” has spent more than $400,000 to hire off-duty police officers to provide security for the ballot review that concluded last month at the state fairgrounds. 

Not much has been previously known about how much money is flowing in and the agreements between the Senate and Peoria-based Law Enforcement Specialists except that the Senate entered into an agreement with the group on April 26. 

The documents show that a nonprofit created by state legislator and election conspiracy peddler Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and the leader of a law enforcement support group called the Arizona Rangers are the customers. 

Finchem’s Guardian Defense Fund is a 501(c)(4) that he first used to fundraise for his lawsuit against Rep. Charlene Fernandez, a Yuma Democrat who he claims defamed him. Its treasurer is audit spokesman and former Arizona Republican Party chairman Randy Pullen. (Pullen also serves as the treasurer of another one of Finchem’s PACs.) 

Finchem has been at the forefront of spreading discredited theories about the 2020 election and has made the baseless claims that Donald Trump and other Republicans lost their elections because of fraud the centerpiece of his nascent campaign for secretary of state.

The newly released documents are part of thousands of records released this week in response to a court order after liberal watchdog group American Oversight sued the Senate under the state’s public records law. The Senate is still withholding some 3,000 records, as well as documents and communications created by lead vendor Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors. 

Within the documents are invoices from Law Enforcement Specialists detailing the hours and officers who conducted security for the “audit.” As of July 8, the Senate owed the company $401,160.45

Law Enforcement Specialists charged $60 an hour for officers to work 12 hour shifts, though the invoices show that some officers worked up to 14 hours at a time. The average hourly pay for police officers in Arizona is around $21 an hour

In documents released to American Oversight earlier this year, the Arizona Senate signed a contract with the Arizona Rangers, requiring a $20,000 “contribution”.

The Arizona Rangers have been fundraising as well, leader Mike Droll previously told the Arizona Mirror, as many of the Rangers involved are driving from areas far away from the audit. The group has raised more than $180,000 on a GoFundMe page. 

Shortly before the election review began, Finchem appeared on former Trump aide Steve Bannon’s show from the floor of the “audit” to say that his fund was paying for “additional security”.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.