October 27, 2021

RCVA Founder Conan Hayes is on the Coronary heart of Cease-the-Steal Mania

10 min read


On November 27, 2020, as then-president Donald Trump promoted election fraud hoaxes, one Twitter person appeared to share unique footage from contained in the rightwing Stop the Steal operation.

The person, @We_Have_Risen, tweeted footage of what he implied have been uncooked vote tallies photographed in Antrim County, Michigan, a key swing state on the heart of the stolen election fantasy. Amongst different choices, he included pictures of a dissected Dominion voting machine (Republicans accused Dominion of serving to rig the election, and the corporate is now suing pro-Trump outlets over these false claims). The conspiratorial captions have been properly obtained by his followers, a few of whom had beforehand taken curiosity within the person’s communications with the administrator of a QAnon-connected message board.

@We_Have_Risen was in Michigan as an “skilled witness” for an examination of Antrim County’s votes. However @We_Have_Risen isn’t an election skilled. He’s Conan Hayes, a former skilled surfer and co-founder of the favored clothes model RVCA. And in a number of states, he’s appeared in-person as a quiet however central determine in efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Donald Trump’s favor.

That behind-the-scenes work lastly burst into the highlight this week when Hayes was named onstage throughout MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “symposium” on supposed election fraud.

Hayes didn’t return requests for remark for this story. Likewise, @We_Have_Risen didn’t return requests for remark, however went personal lower than an hour after The Each day Beast first reached out in Could. However courtroom information, interviews with folks related to election lawsuits, and Hayes’s personal social media affirm his intricate involvement with the motion.

When you’ve ever tossed on a t-shirt or a pair of boardshorts from the model RVCA (pronounced “ruca”), you’ve come into contact with Conan Hayes’ legacy. Knowledgeable surfer within the Nineties, Hayes launched the model together with his co-founder in 2001, reportedly growing it to a $30 million enterprise earlier than promoting it to the bigger surfwear model Billabong in 2010.

Then Hayes took a step again from the general public eye, founding a company that made kids’s sporting items. “Nobody is aware of what I’m doing now,” he told Surfer magazine in a 2012 interview about his new enterprise. “I’ve at all times had a busy thoughts, and I simply sort of fell into this. Going exterior of surf was cool. It was ranging from scratch.”

Since 2017, although, Hayes acquired a really completely different following, beneath @We_Have_Risen, a Twitter account that promoted the QAnon conspiracy concept throughout the motion’s still-young days in 2018. That yr, the account even reached out to The Daily Beast, tweeting a QAnon graphic at a reporter who famous that QAnon followers have been attempting to draw journalists’ consideration. The QAnon conspiracy concept falsely accuses Trump’s opponents of a wide range of crimes, generally together with consuming kids’s blood.

@We_Have_Risen’s account is sparse with figuring out particulars. Final Could, nevertheless, the person tweeted an image of a certificates itemizing their title as “CJ.” The person tried to blur out his final title on the certificates however, as Twitter user @get_innocuous noted, failed to completely redact it. When @get_innocuous (who first recognized Hayes on Twitter, and tipped The Each day Beast to @We_Have_Risen’s doubtless title) raised the distinction on the certificates, it revealed the final title to be “Hayes.” The Each day Beast ran the identical experiment, to the identical outcomes.

There are skilled obligations of impartiality … and anyone who’s sharing stuff on social media would appear to have a sort of battle of curiosity.

Elsewhere, @We_Have_Risen has provided strikingly comparable biographical particulars as Hayes. The person regularly describes himself, like Hayes, as a white man from Hawaii. In a 2019 conversation, @We_Have_Risen disclosed that his father was incarcerated for 10 years for rising marijuana. By his personal previous account, Hayes’ father experienced the same, when Hayes was simply 14.

@We_Have_Risen additionally repeatedly cited surf tradition, describing himself as having attended a surfing contest in 1986 when “I used to be little.” Hayes would have been a toddler on the time. Elsewhere, he invoked his experience to assert that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was signaling assist to QAnon followers due to a spherical, nearly Q-shaped loop on Flynn’s surfboard leash. “I grew up in Hawaii and have surfed my whole life,” @We_Have_Risen tweeted. “There isn’t any manner anybody has tied a leash like that until it was on function.”

And in a 2020 dialog about COVID-19 with @We_Have_Risen, one in every of his followers appeared to drop his authorized title. “Yeah! Thanks Conan! Good strive China!” the follower tweeted at him.

By November 2020, @We_Have_Risen had latched onto conspiracy theories about voter fraud and attracted greater than 40,000 followers. On 8kun, the discussion board that hosted the QAnon concept, customers regularly shared @We_Have_Risen’s posts, especially when he interacted with 8kun administrator Ron Watkins. (A brand new documentary argues that Watkins controls the nameless account authoring the QAnon concept, a cost Watkins denies.)

On November 11, after Trump’s defeat was official, Watkins tweeted his curiosity in reviewing the “supply code” for Dominion-brand voting machines. The units turned a focus for voter fraud conspiracy theories after Biden’s victory, feeding a right-wing media echo chamber that resulted in a series of massive lawsuits.

“Ship me a DM buddy,” @We_Have_Risen replied to Watkins, prompting hypothesis that he (and shortly Watkins) had particular entry to the voting firm’s program.

Quickly, @We_Have_Risen would discover his solution to real-world election involvement.

A number of the loudest allegations of voter fraud centered on Antrim County, Michigan, the place a county clerk (a Republican) briefly introduced an incorrect preliminary vote rely, earlier than issuing a correction that confirmed Trump to have gained the county. Trump supporters seized on the error as proof of widespread inaccuracies within the state’s elections. Following a lawsuit by a neighborhood man, the state allowed a team of “expert witnesses” to look at voting info in Antrim County’s Central Lake Township.

These witnesses weren’t precisely consultants, as the Traverse City Record-Eagle first reported. The group was led by ASOG, the Texas-based group. And among the many group’s Antrim County delegation was retired Military colonel Phil Waldron (who would quickly go on to make debunked claims about voter knowledge in a congressional listening to) and Doug Logan (a tech CEO who promoted voter fraud claims with Watkins on Twitter). After inspecting the voter knowledge, ASOG issued a notoriously error-ridden report that alleged voter fraud, partly as a result of the report’s authors had accidentally mixed up the states of Michigan and Minnesota.

Hayes was a type of witnesses, stated Matt DePerno, the legal professional arguing the Antrim case.

“I knew him from when he got here to Antrim County and helped with the gathering of forensic info and the evaluation of the data we put into the ASOG report on December 14,” DePerno instructed The Each day Beast in Could. “That is his involvement in our case.” (Days after that dialog, a judge dismissed the case. DePerno, who’s interesting the choice, didn’t reply to new requests for remark this week.)

Hayes or attorneys seem to have obscured his title in an an early list of “expert witnesses,” the place he was listed as “C. James Hayes,” his first preliminary and center title. An up to date witness record, filed in April when the plaintiffs requested to re-examine voting machines, named him as “Conan Hayes.”

Deperno confirmed that Conan Hayes and C. James Hayes are the identical particular person. “I believed his title was C. James Hayes,” Deperno instructed The Each day Beast. “We amended it. I’m unsure it makes a distinction.” (Conan Hayes seems to be the one particular person of his first and final, to not point out center, title dwelling within the U.S.)

Hayes’ work as an “skilled” in Antrim late final yr raised considerations concerning the plaintiffs’ professionalism, as he appeared to share footage of his work alongside conspiratorial captions on Twitter.

On November 27, when the group was conducting its forensic evaluation in Central Lake Township, the @We_Have_Risen account tweeted footage of what seemed to be unfurled rolls of voter knowledge, a part of a Dominion voting machine, and no less than two different paperwork (a barcode and a spreadsheet).

The rolls of voter knowledge have been unfold out on a carpet with grey stripes that ran in alternating instructions. A report by ASOG appeared to point out the identical two rolls from a special angle, on the identical grey carpet, additionally photographed on November 27. @We_Have_Risen additionally included his personal evaluation alongside the pictures.

“Who confirmed up for Trump huge time!” he wrote above the image of the rolls. “What I picked up on was a sample 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5 and repeat from 1 in 2’s then 4’s again to 1’s after a giant adjustment…”

On December 6, the ASOG-led staff returned to Antrim County for one more evaluation. As soon as once more, @We_Have_Risen prompt he was in attendance, tweeting footage from a neighborhood airport.

“I hope @We_Have_Risen is in Michigan in the present day,” one in every of his followers tweeted.

“Thanks my pal,” @We_Have_Risen replied. “You calllleddd it.”

Specialists on elections legislation instructed The Each day Beast that tweeting from inside an investigation was, on the very least, unprofessional.

“If it is a one that is a part of a staff of consultants who, due to their experience, have been appointed by the courtroom to conduct some sort of evaluate of voting practices, then no matter whether or not it’s unlawful, it’s actually a violation of the skilled code of ethics that applies to skilled witnesses doing forensic evaluation,” College of Buffalo legislation professor James Gardner instructed The Each day Beast. “There are skilled obligations of impartiality, of professionalism, and anyone who’s sharing stuff on social media would appear to have a sort of battle of curiosity that will preclude them from serving as a impartial skilled.”

Hayes may additionally have been concerned in an ongoing vote “audit” in Arizona led by Doug Logan, who additionally served as an Antrim County witness. In Could, political analyst Garrett Archer of Arizona’s ABC15 tweeted that Hayes had been on the audit website, the place he was described as a “subcontractor.” (A spokesperson for the Arizona audit didn’t return requests for remark.)

However Arizona and Antrim weren’t the top of Hayes’ alleged involvement in voter fraud conspiracy theories. On Wednesday evening, his title was invoked in a “symposium” on voter fraud, by one in every of his former allies.

The symposium, hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, was a catastrophe writ-large, with one Lindell’s personal “cyber consultants” admitting to the Washington Times that Lindell’s claims of voter fraud couldn’t be confirmed. In a standout second of confusion, Ron Watkins (who was teleconferencing into the occasion) interrupted himself whereas discussing a voting machine breach in Mesa County, Colorado.

“My lawyer simply known as me,” Watkins stated. “He stated I ought to put out this assertion: I simply realized that Conan James Hayes could have taken, with out authorization, the precise arduous drives from the Mesa County—or, the Mesa, Colorado County Clerk and he wants to provide these arduous drives instantly and return them to the clerk, and we must always cease this knowledge evaluate till he produces the arduous drives.” (@We_Have_Risen, which had gone public once more in June after going personal when The Each day Beast reached out in Could, went darkish once more after Watkins’ announcement.)

If Hayes had taken arduous drives with out permission, it would be trigger for concern on the symposium. Mesa County, Colorado is the newest focus for election truthers, after a pro-Trump county clerk allegedly leaked her county’s voting machine passwords to a conspiracy website, earlier than heading to Lindell’s symposium. Colorado’s secretary of state accuses clerk Tina Peters of turning off video surveillance methods and permitting an unauthorized particular person to entry voting machines in Could. Peters didn’t return requests for remark. Investigators say the unauthorized particular person used the title “Gerald Wooden,” though they’re uncertain whether the name was a pseudonym. Metadata from the leaked voting machine info exhibits that it was accessed by an individual who signed in with the username “cjh,” Twitter user @get_innocuous noted.

Later within the symposium, Peters refuted Watkins, stating that Hayes had not improperly accessed the machines.

Watkins, by his legal professional Ty Clevenger, instructed The Each day Beast that Conan James Hayes of the alleged Mesa County breach was the identical particular person as Conan James Hayes the surfer and RVCA founder.

Clevenger instructed The Each day Beast that Watkins’ staff had spoken with Hayes on a number of events, however that they have been now starting to treat him with higher scrutiny, after Hayes reportedly aligned himself with Dennis Montgomery, an infamous hoaxster who promoted voter fraud conspiracy theories. Clevenger stated Hayes was anticipated to behave as a conduit between Montgomery and different election truthers, however that Hayes got here up empty-handed when requested to show over sure knowledge.

“My understanding is that Conan then stated ‘Dennis has had a stroke,’” Clevenger stated. (Reached for remark at a quantity listed for Montgomery, a person answered the telephone to that title, requested who was calling, and hung up upon studying that it was a reporter. He didn’t return renewed requests for remark.)

Clevenger stated his staff’s response to Hayes was “‘what the heck, anyone ought to be capable of produce the information.’ It has not been produced and I don’t assume it ever will probably be produced.”





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