Robert Zeidman was not planning on making the trek to Sioux Falls, South Dakota in August 2021 for a “cyber symposium” hosted by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow chief executive who was pledging to unveil hard data that showed China had interfered with the 2020 election.
Zeidman, a 63-year-old consultant cyber forensics expert who goes to the shows in Las Vegas with his wife and plays poker in his spare time, voted twice for Trump because he did not like the alternative candidates. He thinks there was some fraud in the 2020 election, though not enough to overturn the result. And he believed it was possible that Lindell could have discovered evidence voting machines were hacked in 2020. He was curious to see Lindell’s evidence, and a bit skeptical, so he thought he would follow along online.
But Lindell – one of the most prolific spreaders of election misinformation – was pledging $5m to anyone who could prove the information was not valid data from the 2020 election, and Zeidman’s friends encouraged him to go.
Zeidman decided to hop on a plane from his home in Vegas, figuring he would meet a lot of interesting people and be there for a historic moment.
“I still had my doubts about whether they had the data,” he said in an interview on Monday. “But I thought it would be a question of experts disagreeing or maybe agreeing about what the data meant.
“I didn’t think it would be blatantly bogus data, which is what I found.”
An arbitration panel ruled in Zeidman’s favor last month ordering Lindell’s LLC to pay, within 30 days, the $5m he pledged to anyone who could disprove his data. Lindell has refused to pay since the arbitration ruling on 19 April, and Zeidman filed a suit in federal court in Minnesota last week requesting enforcement of the arbitration ruling. If the judge sides with him it would allow Zeidman to collect the money.
Zeidman’s filing came after Lindell filed his own court papers last week in state court seeking to vacate the arbitration panel’s ruling (the filing said a rationale for doing so would be forthcoming). He said in an interview that the arbitrators were biased against him. But Brian Glasser, one of Zeidman’s attorneys, noted that Lindell and Zeidman’s legal team had each picked one of the arbitrators on the panel, and those two had picked the third, whom Lindell agreed to. Federal law only allows a federal court to vacate an arbitration decision where the result was produced by corruption, fraud, or in an instance where the arbitrators exceeded their powers.
Lindell won’t have to immediately pay while the cases are pending in court. Glasser, Zeidman’s attorney, predicted it would be resolved quickly and was certain Lindell would lose.
“There are no circumstances under which he will prevail on his chance to overturn it,” he said.
The suit is one of several Lindell faces after the 2020 election. He also faces defamation suits from two different voting equipment companies, Dominion and Smartmatic, as well as a separate case from Eric Coomer, a former Dominion employee. The suits against Lindell, as well as litigation against conservative news networks like Fox, Newsmax, and OAN have become understood as efforts to hold those who spread misinformation about the election accountable for their lies. Dominion reached a landmark $787.5m settlement in a defamation case against Fox earlier this year.
“People who attempt to destroy our democracy and put up $5m in support of their effort should pay it when they’re obligated to,” Glasser said.
It wasn’t long after Zeidman signed the contest rules on 10 August and began to study the data that he began to see that it didn’t prove anything about election fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, the 11 files Lindell’s team handed over didn’t really say anything at all.
There was a silent video of someone using a debugging tool without any explanation. There was a file of binary data – ones and zeroes – without any explanation of how to extract any meaningful data from it. “Very suspicious,” Zeidman said. There was also another text file provided to Zeidman that he managed to convert and see was gibberish.
“It was perfectly formatted in a word document. It was almost as if someone had typed into a word document just random characters,” he said. “Like somebody had either typed it, or more likely designed a tiny little program to write into a word document thousands of pages.”
Eventually, he wrote up a 15-page report concluding the files Lindell provided “unequivocally does not contain packet data of any kind and do not contain any information related to the November 2020 election”. The three-judge panel Lindell picked to judge the contest ultimately determined that Zeidman had not won. Zeidman, believing that he was entitled to the prize, sought a ruling from an arbitration panel. The panel issued its decision in his favor a little over a month ago.
“Mr Zeidman performed under the contract. He proved the data Lindell LLC provided, and represented reflected information from the November 2020 election, unequivocally did not reflect November 2020 election data. Failure to pay Mr Zeidman the $5m prized was a breach of the contract, entitling him to recover,” the the three arbitrators wrote.
Lindell said in a telephone interview that the panel’s ruling was wrong, and said he was taking legal action to vacate the arbitration panel’s ruling. He said his data was “solid as a rock”.
“Whatever they did, it’s the wrong decision, and it’s going to come out in court,” he said.
Zeidman “has a strong moral code” and said this is not the first time he has taken something to arbitration to prove a point.
And while he conceded it would be nice to have $5m, he said he’s not doing it for the money. “I needed to win the arbitration to get some independent confirmation that I had disproved Lindell’s data,” he said.
He plans to donate some of the money to non-profits that he put off giving to last year because of expenses, including those incurred because of the legal case. And he plans to donate some of the money to a “legitimate” organization reviewing voter integrity, he said.
“When I first met Lindell, I thought he was eccentric but had his heart in the right place and trying to do the right thing,” he added. “As I went on, I found no rational person would believe what he’s saying. I think he’s not rational.”
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