When the government enters into a contract with a company, it entrusts that business to put taxpayers’ dollars to good use. If a company demonstrates that it is unworthy of this trust, the government owes a duty to the public to refrain from working with it in order to prevent waste and abuse.
Cyber Ninjas — the firm that led the Arizona Senate’s costly sham audit of the 2020 presidential election — is such a company. That’s why on Monday, the Brennan Center sent a letter to federal officials asking them to prohibit Cyber Ninjas and its CEO Doug Logan from receiving federal government contracts for up to three years.
The federal government has an official process for contract prohibition — known formally as “debarment” — through which it determines whether such a prohibition would be “in the public interest.” This process applies not only to companies with existing federal contracts, but also to companies that “reasonably may be expected to submit offers” for them. Having bid for (and won) multiple federal contracts since 2016, and having maintained an active registration status as of March 2022, Cyber Ninjas meets this condition.
Cause for prohibition can arise when a company receives a civil judgment against it for violating the law. In this case, an Arizona court held Cyber Ninjas in civil contempt in January when the company failed to comply with an order to produce public records. The court instructed Cyber Ninjas to pay $50,000 per day until it complied — an amount that stood at over $3 million in March. (The Arizona Court of Appeals denied the company’s May 2022 request to reverse the order, and Cyber Ninjas has recently petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for review of the order.) This finding of contempt clearly qualifies as a “civil judgment” that undermines Cyber Ninjas’ integrity and honesty. After all, if the company brazenly ignores a court order for production of public records, how can the government expect it to responsibly carry out a contract?
More generally, the government has cause to refrain from contracting with a company for any “serious and compelling” reasons that affect its “present responsibility.” To be responsible, a company must, among other things, have a record of satisfactory performance, integrity, business ethics, and necessary technical skills. Cyber Ninjas cannot meet this standard as it has a clear public record of unsatisfactory performance and a lack of integrity, business ethics and necessary technical skills.
As we’ve detailed previously, Cyber Ninjas failed to satisfy basic security, accuracy, and reliability measures when attempting to carry out the Arizona Senate contract. The chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform declared that its “sloppy, insecure practices jeopardized the integrity of ballots and voting machines, forcing Arizona taxpayers to spend millions to replace the compromised machines.”
Further, Logan’s false statements and rebutted claims made while representing Cyber Ninjas during and after the audit fueled a disinformation campaign, which spurred death threats against election officials. Logan also repeatedly refused to produce documents requested by the House committee, further highlighting his unwillingness to cooperate with officials and engage as an honest actor.
Under federal regulations, the aforementioned behavior more than justifies barring a company from receiving federal contracts. And, given that Cyber Ninjas and Logan are both still active in the cybersecurity sphere, it would indeed be in the interest of the public to guarantee that the federal government will not work with either down the road. It is clear that they are, in the words of the U.S. General Services Administration, “not good business partners.”
For these reasons, the Brennan Center has sent a referral letter to the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee on behalf of All Voting Is Local Arizona, Arizona Democracy Resource Center, Living United for Change Arizona, and Mi Familia Vota. These local groups have witnessed firsthand the harm that Cyber Ninjas can cause to the public, and wish to prevent it on a national scale. The letter urges the committee to designate a “lead agency” to review this referral and prohibit Cyber Ninjas and Logan from receiving federal contracts.
As far as what’s next, the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee will choose whether to designate a lead agency to consider our request. This agency would be tasked with deciding whether any further action should be taken. To arrive at this decision, the agency will determine whether a contract prohibition would be a taxpayer-protecting move (and not simply a punitive measure). If the lead agency ends up proposing a prohibition, Cyber Ninjas will receive notice and an opportunity to respond. After this, the agency will determine whether to officially bar Cyber Ninjas and Logan from federal contract procurement. In other words, it’s in the government’s hands now.
This prohibition would apply not only to Cyber Ninjas, but also to any future entity set up by Logan. In addition to being ineligible for federal contracts, they would be unable to receive federal grant money. The prohibition would apply government-wide and could last as long as three years, during which Americans could rest assured that one less company will be wasting millions of their tax dollars.
As the General Services Administration states, the federal government “only does business with contractors that have business honesty, integrity, and appropriate internal controls.” If this is true, it must abstain from doing business with Cyber Ninjas and Doug Logan.