by Marley Parish, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 5, 2021
With a finalized six-month agreement, the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate has released a redacted version of its $270,250 contract with Envoy Sage, LLC, the vendor investigating the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections.
Chosen by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, in conjunction with GOP caucus leadership and Republicans on the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, Envoy Sage is tasked with analyzing documents from the Department of State and screening submissions from Pennsylvania voters who claim they witnessed election violations or irregularities.
Now-President Joe Biden won the election in the commonwealth by 80,555 votes. Efforts to review the 2020 election come after a months-long campaign by former President Donald Trump, who made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud and misconduct resulted in his loss. Legal challenges to the results failed in court, and two post-election audits carried out in Pennsylvania after the presidential election found no evidence of fraud.
Dush and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, who recently entered the 2020 race for governor, have said the probe aims to identify strengths and weaknesses in the state’s electoral process. The Senate review is not a recount, nor will it reinstate Trump to office.
Envoy Sage, founded by Steven Lahr in August 2021, is also expected to make recommendations for future legislative election reform and voter integrity measures. Though an Iowa-based company, the address listed for Envoy Sage on the Senate contract is in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Lahr, an Army veteran who worked for more than two decades within the United States Department of Defense, has not responded to interview requests or a detailed list of questions about the taxpayer-funded investigation and Envoy Sage’s credentials the Capital-Star sent the company last month.
During a brief Nov. 23 press call, Lahr described the firm’s role as “[providing] investigative expertise, tools, and analysis that are not organic to the Senate.” He failed to answer questions about how many people the company employs and told reporters he could not answer questions about previous projects, saying most of his work is “confidential and classified at the highest levels.”
The firm, which has no direct experience reviewing elections, will screen approximately 700 emails, including 125 “emails of interest,” and 100 affidavits submitted to the committee through the committee’s election investigation website.
Earlier this year, the 11-member Senate panel, chaired by Dush, voted along party lines to subpoena voters’ partial Social Security and driver’s license numbers from the Department of State, which has election oversight.
In the meantime, Envoy Sage will review some information — but not voters’ private information — received as part of the legislative subpoena.
As the Capital-Star previously reported, vendor negotiations occurred behind closed doors because the Legislature does not fall under Pennsylvania’s Procurement Code, which outlines how offices for the governor, attorney general, treasurer, auditor general, state boards, commissions, and other agencies acquire services and supplies.
Through a GOP spokesperson, Dush told the Capital-Star Envoy Sage was “one of several companies suggested to us through military and professional contacts.” Dush’s office said the names of other firms that were considered will not be released to the public “out of privacy concerns for their business.”
“They were selected based on their status as a government contractor with a standing record of success completing several sensitive contracts with the Department of Defense and were not connected to Senate Republicans or individual senators previously,” Dush’s office said in a statement, adding that Envoy Sage was a “natural fit” for the review.
If necessary, Envoy Sage could hire additional team members to help conduct Pennsylvania’s review, Lahr added. According to the agreement, Envoy Sage should prioritize “the hiring and staffing with subcontractors and participants who have election work experience when possible.”
“If Envoy Sage needs to hire any subcontractors to complete their work, those subcontractors will be required to meet the same stringent information protection standards and political affiliation restrictions as Envoy Sage and will be subject to approval under the original vendor agreement,” Dush’s office said.
Since taking over the probe from Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, in August, Dush has vowed a transparent process, stressing the importance of protecting voters’ private information during the review. Without going into specifics about review procedures, Lahr has reiterated that commitment.
In the agreement, the Senate prohibits the vendor from having political associations, including “existing business relationships” in Pennsylvania.
As part of the search process, Dush said the Senate wanted to contract with a company free of political associations, defined in the contract as “active support of a political party or candidate” who appeared on the ballot during Pennsylvania’s 2020 general of 2021 primary elections.
Federal Election Commission reports show that Lahr has donated to the National Republican Congressional Committee and a series of Republican candidates, including $250 to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, in October 2020.
“I have worked professionally for both administrations, Democrat and Republican, and I’ve been able to put a firewall between my personal and professional business dealings,” Lahr, a registered Republican voter, told reporters last month, explaining donations to GOP candidates. “I see myself as a very bipartisan, fair, and will conduct myself as such.”
The contract outlines security measures and confidentiality requirements Envoy Sage must uphold during the review, including a provision that prohibits copying information except when “essential for authorized activities.”
A breach of confidentiality could result in contract termination. If there is a data breach, Envoy Sage is required to report any incidents and offer anyone affected by a breach at least 12 months of credit monitoring at the firm’s expense.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: email@example.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.