FILE - US Donald Trump 1-6-2021

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Senate Republicans have agreed to pay an Iowa consulting firm up to $270,000 to investigate the results of the 2020 election, despite a promise to hold off until related legal matters are settled in court.

Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee Chair Cris Dush, R-Wellsboro, announced the committee will contract with the Dubuque, Iowa-based consulting firm Envoy Sage to conduct an investigation into the 2020 election and 2021 primary election. The contract, worth up to $270,000 over the next six months, will be paid out of Republican caucus funds, which are taxpayer dollars.

“I am thrilled to announce the selection of such a highly competent, impartial, and experienced vendor that is committed to a fair and thorough investigation of Pennsylvania’s elections,” Dush wrote Friday in a prepared statement. “As a service-disabled veteran-owned small business specializing in research, investigation, program management, and communications, I believe they are uniquely qualified to complete this investigation in a way that will help to restore Pennsylvanians’ faith in our election system and data.”

The investigation stems from allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election, mostly from supporters of former President Donald Trump, who lost the state by more than 80,000 votes.

The probe follows a related subpoena seeking voter data from the intergovernmental committee to Gov. Tom Wolf. It is awaiting a Dec. 15 hearing in Commonwealth Court.

Jason Thompson, spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, told the Capital-Star last month the committee wouldn’t move forward with the contract until after the court proceedings.

Democrats on the 11-members committee have decried the investigation as a partisan “witch hunt” and complained they have been shut out of the process for selecting the firm. Democrats pointed to promises on a special website set up by the committee, which vows a “responsible, thoughtful, and transparent” investigation.

“This is a bad faith action by the Senate Republican Caucus,” Sen. Jay Costa, D-Pittsburgh, said. “They agreed to wait, and then went ahead with hiring their own firm to carry out this political, unnecessary and costly witch hunt. They’ve unilaterally and prematurely acted to spend more than $250,000 in taxpayer money for this.”

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Costa also noted the announcement came around the same time Corman revealed his intent to run for governor in 2022.

“I find it particularly troubling that they are fast-tracking this Trumpian sideshow the same week that the leader of their caucus announces his gubernatorial ambitions,” Costa said. “This is not good government; it is bad politics.”

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania also issued a statement last week about the “highly questionable review of an election that has been certified and verified” that raises concerns about the lack of transparency in the process, the vendor and the use of tax dollars.

“LWVPA has numerous questions about the contractor who was selected, the employees of that contractor, its expertise and ability to do this work, the scope of the contract, the controls on the conduct of the vendor, whether all senators on the committee and in leadership will be included in discussions, will receive complete reports and have full and complete access to the work that the vendor will do, which is what should be the case if taxpayer dollars are being used,” the statement read.

Dush attempted to counter many of those concerns in his statement on selecting Envoy Sage.

“A significant portion of the selection process was devoted to ensuring that any vendor would be able to appropriately safeguard the personal information of Pennsylvania voters,” he wrote. “Envoy Sage is well-suited to do so, as they not only have handled sensitive information for government agencies, but also have kept classified information safe for the Department of Defense.

“We specifically sought a firm without political associations, which includes refraining from actively supporting both current candidates and candidates who were on the 2020 or 2021 ballots in Pennsylvania to ensure this investigation can be completed in a professional, non-partisan manner,” Dush wrote.

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