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Big Lie Millionaires Played A Key Role In Colorado Voting Machine Breach

Ex-Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne appears on a cable news interview on Aug. 22, 2019
June 27, 2022 12:12 p.m.

A new report by the New York Times on Sunday confirmed the role of a former pro surfer in compromising the security of election machines in Mesa County, Colorado — and added new details about the role of wealthy Trumpworld influencers in funding the effort to undermine the democratic process. 

The surfer, Conan Hayes, has acted basically as an IT guy for the election conspiracy theory movement. Among other things, he helped put together the insanely shoddy “report” based on Antrim County, Michigan’s voting machines that falsely asserted “that the Dominion Voting System is intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results.” Donald Trump and others repeatedly used that report as evidence in their effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Here’s where the millionaires come in. In Sunday’s Times article, CEO Patrick Byrne said he’d paid Hayes $200,000 in 2021 to continue his work for a year. Byrne is an active funder of the election theft movement, helping pay for the effort in Antrim County, as well as other election denial projects across the country, including the phony Maricopa County, Arizona “audit.”

But that’s not all. The new Times report also confirms another item on Byrne and Hayes’ résumé: The breach of Mesa County, Colorado’s voting machines. 

For the unfamiliar, a brief refresher: Tina Peters is the Trump-supporting county clerk of Mesa County and, now, a strong contender to be Colorado’s next secretary of state. She’s also facing felony charges for allegedly breaching her county’s election security protocols.

Details around what exactly happened remain murky, but, somehow, copies of the county’s election machines made during a May 2021 in-person software update known as a “trusted build” were subsequently leaked publicly and shared widely at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium” in August 2021, creating more fodder for election deniers.

A grand jury indicted Peters on several felony counts in March 2022, accusing her of committing criminal impersonation by allowing someone else to access the county’s voting machines using a badge created for a local IT guy, Gerald Wood

Reporters, including me, have suspected for months that the ID badge created for Wood was actually used to get Hayes in the room. Hayes and Byrne now seem to have confirmed that detail to the Times. Here’s the Times report: 

According to an account from Mr. Byrne, and confirmed by Mr. Hayes, he attended the trusted build on May 25, 2021. Mr. Hayes called Mr. Byrne from inside the Mesa County election offices, speaking in a hushed voice and explaining that he’d been invited to make backup copies of machines by a government official who thought that a cover-up was underway, Mr. Byrne said. When the two spoke over FaceTime, Mr. Byrne saw Mr. Hayes was dressed like a computer “nerd” and wearing someone else’s identification tag, Mr. Byrne said.

That appears to be confirmation that Hayes, the Byrne-funded IT man and fellow veteran of the Big Lie ecosystem, was a key player in the breach of a county’s election machines. Unlike Peters, Hayes does not face charges for the breach.

In our coverage of the Republican Party’s attacks on voting rights and election integrity, we’ve tried to stress that this isn’t happening in a vacuum. High-powered and influential political forces, from the former denizens of the White House to influential conservative think tanks and even county sheriffs, are fueling the effort to undermine democracy. 

Crucially, so are a coterie of obsessed millionaires. 

Lindell, in addition to Byrne, has been a critical player in Mesa County: After Peters’ leaked voting machine data was aired publicly at Lindell’s “symposium,” the bedding magnate helped Peters go into hiding briefly as authorities investigated the breach. More recently, he has said he is funding Peters’ legal defense fund. 

Byrne is also helping Peters out politically, the Times noted: A new super PAC in Colorado recently spent around $100,000 in advertisements attacking a primary opponent of Peters. The group also recently received a $100,000 donation from a group founded by… Patrick Byrne.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the charges against Peters as federal rather than state charges. We regret the error.

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