What We Know About The Company Hired by the GOP to Review the Pennsylvania 2020 Elections Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG – More than a year after Joe Biden won the presidency, Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers in the state Senate announced Friday that they had signed a contract with Iowa-based envoy Sage to lead their investigation into the 2020 election .

The review will cost taxpayers $ 270,000 over a six-month period, but the contract is renewable, said spokesman Jason Thompson. Work can begin once Senate Secretary Donetta D’Innocenzo signs, a formality that will be done shortly, Thompson said.

Republicans are pushing the review despite an active legal battle over its legality. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, and Senate Democrats have filed lawsuits to block a GOP subpoena calling on Governor Tom Wolf’s government to release millions of voter records, including non-public information such as the last four digits of their social security number, and Driver’s license number.

The cases have been consolidated and a jury of Commonwealth Court judges is due to hear their arguments in Harrisburg on December 15th. Whatever the decision of the court, the decision can be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

What do we know about Envoy Sage?

Envoy Sage is a consulting firm founded by Steven Lahr, an Army veteran who worked in the Department of Defense. Lahr founded Silverback 7, a defense company, in 2005 and served as its chief executive officer until it merged with another military contractor, the Patriot Defense Group, in 2017. Lahr left the Patriot Defense Group in 2020 to start Envoy Sage.

He offered to speak by phone but didn’t answer the call late Friday.

Public records show that Lahr filed for Envoy Sage on August 5, 2020 in Dubuque, Iowa. Additionally, public records reveal very little about the company’s work or customers.

Envoy Sage’s website describes investigating fraud and embezzlement in the oil industry, investigating a corporate merger and uncovering fraud involving non-governmental organizations.

Both Thompson and Lahr said the team behind the company had decades of experience working under Republican and Democratic governments. The company has six employees, Thompson said, but their names aren’t listed on the website.

“We are entering this project without preconceived notions about what we will or will not find when examining the Commonwealth’s electoral systems and data,” Lahr said in a statement.

How did the Republicans in the Senate choose Envoy Sage?

Senator Cris Dush, chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Operations, is an Air Force veteran with experience working for the Department of Defense. Thomspon said that he found Envoy Sage through contacts with the Department of Defense and veterans groups.

The committee screened several companies to conduct the investigation, Thompson said, but declined to name which companies or how many.

Envoy Sage is a “new company with old faces,” he said, with decades of experience in handling sensitive information from employees. It has no party affiliation, Thompson said, another important criterion for the committee.

The Democrats on the committee did not participate in the process, he said.

Dush described the company in a statement as “very competent, impartial and experienced”.

“We were specifically looking for a company with no political affiliations, which implies that we are not actively supporting both current candidates and candidates voting in the 2020 or 2021 elections in Pennsylvania to ensure that this investigation is carried out in a professional and impartial manner can be completed, ”he said.

Does Envoy Sage have any experience investigating elections?

Neither the company’s website nor any of the Senate Republicans’ information on the contract says anything about any past work investigating or scrutinizing elections.

What will Envoy Sage do?

Although Republicans had previously told the media they would wait to hire a salesperson until a judge ruled on a pending lawsuit filed to end the investigation, Thompson said Friday that Envoy Sage was now on the job can begin, e.g. about their personal experiences with perceived electoral fraud.

Any further work will depend in part on the outcome of the litigation.

Thompson said the company would provide “any planning and advisory services necessary to the continuation of the investigation, including recommendations on how best to verify the information that will ultimately be obtained from the Pennsylvania State Department.”

“The contract includes document analysis, advice, electoral review and affidavits presented to the committee, analysis of other electoral integrity initiatives across the country, and more,” said Thompson.

It’s unclear what Envoy Sage would do beyond reviewing citizen tips if the courts shut down the subpoena or investigation altogether. Even if the courts order the State Department to share voter data with Senate Republicans, it remains to be seen what happens afterward.

How does the company secure private information?

Democrats and good government groups like Common Cause have criticized the attempt to solicit non-public information about voters as it violates privacy, poses a security risk, and could put off potential voters in the future.

Republicans have not stated how they will protect sensitive data other than making it a top priority and requiring vendors to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Thompson said Envoy Sage staff “not only processed sensitive information for government agencies, but also kept classified information safe for the Department of Defense”.

Republicans leading the investigation say the state government regularly deals with sensitive information, including with third-party vendors. In an updated FAQ on their electoral investigation website, they said Friday that the treaty includes information protection language that “matches the language used by the Pennsylvania State Department” with outside contractors who keep the state’s electoral roll.

“If this language is strong enough to protect sensitive voter information at the Ministry’s third-party providers,” the website says, “then it is strong enough for this investigation.”

What do Democrats say?

“This is malicious action by the Senate Republican committee,” Senate minority leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) said in a statement. “They agreed to wait and then hired their own company to carry out this political, unnecessary, and costly witch hunt. They acted unilaterally and prematurely to spend more than $ 250,000 in taxpayers’ money. “

He noted that the treaty was signed the same week that Corman, the senior Senate member, announced his campaign for governor. “This is not a good government; it’s bad politics, “said Costa.

The author Jonathan Lai contributed to this article.

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