Here's how much the Senate's review of the 2020 election has cost Arizona taxpayers

Mary Jo Pitzl
Arizona Republic

Taxpayer costs for the review of Maricopa County's 2020 election results are approaching $5 million even more than eight months after the unprecedented effort verified Joe Biden's victory in the county, putting Arizona in his win column.

While the Cyber Ninjas packed up long ago, and while the examination of the county's election equipment concluded with no findings of improprieties, spending on the Senate-ordered audit continues as a public records fight drags on in the courts.

The latest taxpayer expense is the $518,000 Maricopa County spent in its fight with Senate Republicans over access to its voting equipment and related records. Those costs included:

• $458,000 to five different law firms, according to data the county provided in response to a public records request. Various county offices had to hire independent legal counsel as they argued against some of the demands in subpoenas the Senate had issued.

• $30,000 to hire former U.S. Congressman John Shadegg to serve as a special master overseeing an independent examination of the county's routers and logs that track internet activity.

• $26,327 for the three technology experts Shadegg hired to do the examination, as well as their travel costs. Each expert did a separate review of the equipment.

The examination concluded the county's election equipment was not connected to the internet, something county officials had repeatedly asserted in the face of Senate suspicions that the machines were hacked to throw election results in Joe Biden's favor.

Cyber Ninjas get paid, legal fees ongoing

On the Senate side, spending has reached nearly $1.1 million, according to a running total tracked by The Arizona Republic.

The most recent expenditures are:

• $100,000 to the Cyber Ninjas, to complete payment on its $150,000 contract.

• $103,000 in legal fees for work in March and April. Statecraft is a private law firm that has represented the Senate throughout the ballot review and is now defending the Senate in a lawsuit over public records related to the ballot review.

Still ongoing is Attorney General Mark Brnovich's investigation into the procedural issues the Senate sent him in September in the wake of the Ninjas' findings. Brnovich released an interim report in April saying his office had found "serious vulnerabilities" in the process.

His office did not reply to an inquiry of how much the investigation, conducted by the Election Integrity Unit, has cost.

Big costs to the county

Added to previous expenses, the publicly funded costs to date are $4.7 million, with the greatest cost coming from Maricopa County taxpayers, who are paying for both the county's and the state's expenditures.

The county has by far spent the most. In addition to the $518,000 in recent expenses, the county had to buy new tabulation machines at a cost of $3.2 million, for a total of $3.7 million.

County Recorder Stephen Richer had little to say about the costs triggered by the Senate review.

They agreed to pick up the cost of replacing the vote-tabulation machines, as well as the expense of the independent review, after the state threatened to withhold millions of dollars of shared sales tax with the county.

In reaching the settlement last fall, county officials said that would have forced a 42% cut in their budget, affecting everything from public safety to the courts and elections. 

At the time, Supervisor Bill Gates called it "a win for transparency and also a win for protecting sensitive information in Maricopa County." Handing its routers over to Senate officials could have compromised the county's computer network and exposed information on countless people referenced in county documents.

The prospect drew particularly strong pushback from Sheriff Paul Penzone, who argued it was a public safety risk.

Recent coverage:Former San Luis mayor pleads guilty to illegally collecting early ballots in 2020 primary

Private costs eclipse public spending

The costs don't stop with the taxpayer funding.

The Cyber Ninjas quickly realized the $150,000 contract it signed with the Senate would not cover the costs of their sprawling recount of the ballots at the state fairgrounds, as well as related work done by other subcontractors.

Last fall, the firm said it lost $2 million on the audit, even as it benefited from $5.7 million in private donations. The firm has since laid off its employees and is winding down, according to owner Doug Logan.

He and his wife are embroiled in the ongoing court battle over records related to the audit. They have turned over some documents after unsuccessfully arguing that they are private.

Related:New Cyber Ninjas records show disputes over contracts; thousands of documents still withheld

The Logans also have a case before the Arizona Court of Appeals regarding the $50,000 daily fine a judge levied for failure to turn over documents. And the Senate has asked the state Supreme Court to determine whether some of the documents are subject to legislative privilege as lawmakers seek to block disclosure of certain records.

This ensures that the legal fees will continue to mount as the cases work their way through the courts.

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl. Reporter Ryan Randazzo contributed to this story.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to today.