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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
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Election logistics firm sues perpetrators of voter fraud smear campaign

Konnech Inc. sells software to help manage elections and has nothing to do with counting ballots. But a Texas group that supports former President Trump's voter fraud conspiracy theories claims the company is subverting U.S. elections for the Chinese Communist Party.

HOUSTON (CN) — Election logistics firm Konnech Inc. says in a lawsuit filed Monday its founder and his family had to leave their home due to threats from supporters of True the Vote, a voter fraud conspiracy group spreading lies that the company is a vehicle of the Chinese Communist Party to control American elections.

Making claims of defamation and computer fraud, Konnech sued True the Vote Inc., a Texas nonprofit, its founder Catherine Engelbrecht and board member Gregg Phillips in Houston federal court.

Started and led by Eugene Yu, a U.S. citizen of Chinese descent, Konnech sells election logistics software called PollChief to U.S. governmental entities, which they use to manage poll workers and coordinate distribution of equipment and technical support staff to polling places.

Though its software is meant to help county, city and local governments run elections more efficiently, Konnech underscores the limits of its services in its lawsuit.

“Konnech’s software products are not involved in any way in the registration of voters, the production, distribution, scanning, or processing of ballots, nor the collection, counting or reporting of votes," the complaint states. "Indeed, Konnech never handles any ballots and no ballots or other voting counts ever enter any of Konnech’s computer servers.”

Nonetheless, Konnech says, True the Vote’s directors made it a target of their social media- and podcast-fueled smear campaign during an Aug. 13 event they dubbed “The Pit.”

In ads for the event, True the Vote said it would reveal definitive proof the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

But with Right Side Broadcasting Network livestreaming the event, Engelbrecht and Phillips took the stage with much less than a smoking gun.

They merely announced an advertisement for a website they had created, and said subscribers could log in to see purported evidence of election fraud, according to the lawsuit.

The big reveal came after they turned off the livestream, Konnech claims.

Citing social media posts of the 100 people True the Vote had invited to the event, Konnech says Engelbrecht and Phillips revealed they had been working on “The Tiger Project,” a code name for their campaign against Konnech.

They said they had sent dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests to Konnech’s customers, in an apparent bid to raise suspicions about the software company, the lawsuit alleges.

“But even more shocking, defendants falsely claimed that they discovered that Konnech had an unsecured server located in Wuhan, China, which defendants hacked into and stole data from," the complaint states.

It continues, "Specifically, Defendants claimed to have illegally downloaded from Konnech’s server personal data on 1.8 million U.S. poll workers, which they claim is a vehicle for the Chinese Communist Party to breach U.S. elections."

Konnech states all its U.S. customer data is secured and stored on servers within the U.S., and only a small group of its employees have authority and know-how to access its computers containing poll worker data.

With no regard for the truth, Konnech says, in the weeks following The Pit, True the Vote posted an article claiming Konnech is owned by the Chinese Communist Party and involved in the subversion of U.S. elections; shared posts on Truth Social – a Twitter-like site started by one of Trump’s companies in 2021 – that said Konnech is connected to a spike in votes for Joe Biden in the November 2020 election; lied that the FBI is investigating Konnech and a grand jury indictment of the company is imminent; and accused Konnech of bribing the city of Detroit for a contract.

Konnech says Phillips, on an Aug. 23 episode of a podcast called “Prophets and Patriots,” admitted he had hired hackers who had met with him at a Dallas hotel room where they infiltrated Konnech’s server. He said he planned to release Konnech’s data to subscribers of True the Vote’s website.

A week later, Konnech asserts, Phillips repeated the hacking story on another podcast titled “Here’s How They’ll Try to Steal the Midterms.”

Engelbrecht and Phillips allegedly bragged they had taken all their information about Konnech to the FBI and made a formal complaint.

But this was merely a ploy, Konnech claims, to elicit support from Trump supporters who are angry with the FBI for raiding the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Aug. 8.

“Unsurprisingly, defendants sought to capitalize on certain public sentiment against the FBI on the heels of the recent raid on Mar-a-Lago, and claimed that the FBI turned the tables on them, and began an investigation of defendants for hacking Konnech’s protected computers and stealing its data,” the lawsuit states. (Emphasis in original.)

Konnech says thanks to True the Vote’s smear campaign, Yu, its CEO, has received death threats which have forced him and his family to leave their home.

Represented by Constantine Pamphilis of the Houston firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Konnech seeks damages on claims of defamation, tortious interference, conversion and violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and two Texas statutes: the Harmful Access by Computer Act and Theft Liability Act.

Konnech also seeks an injunction to stop True the Vote from accessing its servers and ordering the group to return its stolen data.

Attorney James Bopp of Terre Haute, Indiana, is True the Vote’s general counsel. He said he was unaware of Konnech’s lawsuit when contacted about it and sent a copy Monday afternoon.

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