By practically every metric, Arizona Republicans' utterly bonkers election "audit" is a fiasco for the ages. A variety of prominent state GOP officials are increasingly mortified by this embarrassing debacle, and as of last week, the IT company that was in charge of running the day-to-day process no longer wants anything to do with the scheme.
The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors recently urged the GOP-led state Senate to put a stop to the madness, calling the outlandish process a "spectacle that is harming all of us," adding, "Our state has become a laughingstock."
The assessment was more than fair given the circumstances. But there is one relevant metric that Republican proponents of the ridiculous "audit" are likely celebrating. The Arizona Republic reported yesterday on the fiasco's financial rewards:
The Arizona Republican Party, along with other Trump-leaning groups, has used the state Senate's ongoing ballot review as a way to raise funds for their causes and candidates. The fundraising has helped revitalize the Arizona GOP financially, tying its fortunes extremely closely to Trump.
The report added the state Republican Party, in the first part of 2021, has "taken in and kept far more cash" than at comparable periods in recent years.
The same article went on to note that this extends beyond just the Arizona GOP: "Pro-Trump individuals who tout election conspiracies and have set up companies to raise money for the ballot review claim to have collected millions of dollars, though those statements are not subject to the financial standards of filings with state and federal election authorities."
This comes on the heels of related reporting on people at One America News (OAN) -- a rabidly pro-Trump, far-right cable outlet that has been given special access to the Arizona process -- also trying to use the election "audit" to raise money.
If all of this sounds familiar, it's probably because of a certain former president: Donald Trump and his Republican Party raised more than $255 million in the eight weeks that followed Election Day 2020. Trump kept telling his followers that he'd won the election he lost, vowing to fight against the results, and his supporters kept giving him more of their money.
The result is a twisted set of incentives: Republicans have reason to keep pushing fact-free election conspiracy theories, confident that financial rewards will soon follow.
I don't doubt that many of the unhinged conspiracy theorists genuinely believe that the farcical Arizona "audit" will magically produce evidence that will tell them what they want to hear, reality be damned. But for some in positions of authority, the veracity of the crackpot ideas may not be entirely relevant. What matters is what's lucrative, not necessarily what's true.
Sure, many Republicans, in Arizona and at Mar-a-Lago, see the Arizona scheme as a way of chipping away at confidence in our democracy. But with many in the GOP looking at their base as marks, there's also an incentive to push ridiculous ideas that encourage their unsuspecting supporters to reach for their wallets.
Is it any wonder why Republicans in other states are eager to export Arizona's nonsense far and wide?