Pennsylvania GOP Hires Firm With No Election Experience to Perform Voting 'Investigation'

After speaking to reporters Tuesday, it is still unclear what Iowa-based consulting firm Envoy Sage and its president Steve Lahr could potentially accomplish as the firm hired last week by Pennsylvania Republicans to conduct a "forensic investigation" of the 2020 election.

Hired last week on a six month, $270,000 contract, according to The Associated Press, the firm has no discernible experience evaluating elections. The hire was likely made due to pressure from former President Donald Trump and his supporters hoping to find their first piece of evidence that last year's presidential election was stolen.

Lahr told reporters in a conference call Tuesday his company was hired to examine last year's presidential election and the state's primary election from last May, along with analyzing tips sent to the Senate Republicans' request for citizen evidence of "election improprieties".

He also said the firm could hire more than their current six employees or other subcontractors with election expertise if they deem it necessary.

The firm's website lists their work history of "investigating fraud and embezzlement in the oil industry, researching a corporate merger and exposing fraud in nongovernmental organizations," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Critics of the state's Senate Republicans say the ones who pressed for the "forensic investigation" are only motivated by the irrational potential of having Trump reinstated, according to the AP.

State election administrators say an audit like this would be redundant, as counties and the state already completed one following the election, and uncovered no evidence of misconduct.

Trump's own repeated claims have been struck down by dozens of courts, members of his own former Justice Department, and several state recounts. No prosecutor, judge or election official outside of the group of Senate Republicans have voiced concern about fraud in the state.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

2020 Election, Voter Fraud, Pennsylvania Republicans
Anti-Trump voters hold a street party to demand that every ballot be counted, outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center where mail in ballots are being counted to determine the winner of the 2020 Presidential election in the state on November 6, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Republicans recently hired a firm with no discernible experience investigating elections to perform a "forensic investigation" of the 2020 election. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Ultimately, the firm aims to "provide recommendations based on analysis of facts for future elections and voting integrity legislation," Lahr said.

Lahr described his experience as having conducted investigations and audits, developed "crucial information and intelligence" from "extensive, complicated and sensitive investigation research and multi-discipline analysis," both in the military and as a Defense Department contractor.

Asked for details, he said that most of it is confidential and classified at the highest levels of the federal government and the Department of Defense, and that he cannot discuss those contracts.

Lahr's previous firm, Silverback 7, had an extensive list of federal contracts.

Republican-controlled committees in both the House and Senate already held hearings on last year's election throughout last spring and produced reports, as well as legislation that Democrats opposed. One bill was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Gregory Miller, chief operating officer of the California-based OSET Institute, which is devoted to research on election infrastructure and administration, said there is no established election "investigation" concept for what Republicans are carrying out in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona.

But, Miller said, there are election administrators who have expertise in running elections, information technology firms that can analyze the security of computers and networks and the voting-system manufacturers that have a deep understanding of their hardware and components.

Mark Lindeman, a political scientist who has written on and consulted on post-election audits, said many people have experience in working closely with various kinds of election records and equipment, such as paper ballots, vote totals and registration and voting records.

"Experience matters because novices can misinterpret the routine quirks of elections as anomalies or evidence of fraud," Lindeman said.

For instance, he said, Republicans' widely discredited election "audit" carried out in Arizona's Maricopa County was riddled with unfounded allegations based on basic misunderstandings.

"Inexperienced, partisan consultants tend to leap to invidious conclusions," Lindeman said. "They shouldn't lead serious investigations."

Lahr said he sees himself bipartisan and fair, and has no pre-conceived notions about the task before him.

However, the man who hired Lahr's firm, Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, signed a letter last year urging Congress to object to Pennsylvania's electoral votes being cast for Democrat Joe Biden, despite a certified victory of more than 80,000 votes.

In a Facebook post last Jan. 1, Dush proclaimed that "there was no election. There was a scam."

Even if Republican senators avoid repeating Trump's baseless election claims about fraud, they have perpetuated the idea that Democrats cheated by distorting Pennsylvania's election laws and the actions of courts and election officials leading up to last year's election.