Colorado elections clerk Tina Peters woke up Tuesday to find FBI agents preparing to execute an early morning search of her home, apparently over a leak of election data from an as yet unidentified leaker to QAnon conspiracy theorists. Agents elsewhere in the state also raided the homes of three of Peters’ associates, including the former campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
But Peters’ troubles don’t end with an FBI raid of her house. Instead, the right-wing star is embroiled in a host of legal and political problems.
Peters took office in 2019 after campaigning against supposed waste in the Mesa County Clerk’s office. Under her stewardship, however, the clerk’s office became embroiled in repeated elections-related slip-ups—the same kind of malfeasance that Peters and other Trump fans cite when criticizing elections.
During Peters’ first year as clerk, her office forgot to count more than 570 ballots because they left them outside in a box for months. The following year, the clerk’s office installed a faulty ballot drop box that sent paper ballots flying across town in the wind. (By this point, most of Peters’ initial 32-person staff had quit or been fired, including an employee who had been hired to help Peters clean up her elections.)
But Peters’ biggest election trouble began in late May, when someone turned off the security cameras monitoring Mesa County elections machines. During that blackout, someone using the name “Gerald Wood” accessed the voting machines and copied internal data, which was soon leaked to Ron Watkins, a former administrator of the QAnon-hosting forum 8kun who has been accused of running the conspiracy theory movement.
The leaked data did not show anything unusual in Mesa County’s 2020 election. Still, the Mesa County leaks became a talking point at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium” on supposed election fraud in August. Peters traveled to the symposium on Lindell’s private jet (she also used taxpayer money to buy a United Airlines ticket to the event) and gave a speech about the data leak onstage, turning her into a star among amateur voter-fraud sleuths. But Watkins, who also appeared at the event, threw the symposium into chaos when he said his lawyer warned him the election data was potentially stolen from Mesa County.
“ Lindell criticized the FBI’s decision to bring battering rams to execute the warrants, before abruptly hanging up.”
A spokesman for Watkins’s congressional campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on the FBI raids.
Peters went into hiding after the speech, with Lindell claiming to have stashed her in one or more “safe houses” since August. She returned to Colorado in mid-September.
Legal complaints have piled up in Peters’ absence. In addition to an investigation into the voting machine breach, Peters is facing a lawsuit filed last week by the Elections Division of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, which accuses Peters of failing to file a campaign finance report since January 2019. That’s especially troubling because Peters is actively soliciting donations for re-election, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office says. The agency says it sent Peters two warning letters in the past two months, telling her to report her campaign finances.
Other Colorado agencies are raising similar red flags about Peters’ finances. On Tuesday, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled that a local activist’s ethics complaint against Peters can move forward. The complaint accused Peters of violating Colorado’s constitution by accepting gifts worth more than $50. The complaint cited favors from Lindell, including airfare on his private plane.
In a brief conversation with The Daily Beast, Lindell criticized the FBI’s decision to bring battering rams to execute the warrants, before abruptly hanging up.
Much about the FBI investigation is still unclear. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Denver office said only that the agency “conducted authorized law enforcement actions today in support of an ongoing investigation.”
Other Peters associates have also come under legal scrutiny. A Peters deputy, Belinda Knisley, was charged in September with second-degree burglary and a misdemeanor count of cyber crime, after she allegedly violated an order to keep away from the clerk’s office, where she was accused of creating a “hostile” work environment. Knisley is accused of sneaking back into the office in late August and using Peters’ work computer to access the county’s secure network. (At this point, Peters was already in hiding.)
During a live-streamed conversation with Peters on his web show Tuesday night, Lindell said that one of the houses raided that night had been that of Sherronna Bishop. A Peters peer who also spoke at Lindell’s Cyber Symposium, Bishop is a former campaign manager for Boebert, working with the now-congresswoman until after Boebert’s primary victory in June 2020. Boebert has also embraced the baseless idea that the 2020 election was stolen.
Neither Bishop nor Boebert returned The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.