LANSING, Mich. — The campaign to further investigate unproven claims of wrongdoing in Michigan’s 2020 presidential election has become engulfed in claims of wrongdoing that its top supporters are lodging against each other.

The infighting has played out on social media in recent weeks, culminating Tuesday with Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, a vocal critic nationally of the election and the author of books about treasure hunting, publicly criticizing Michigan Republican Party Co-Chairwoman Meshawn Maddock.

Pulitzer, whom a Michigan Senate committee previously accused of spreading false information, contended Maddock and her husband, GOP state Rep. Matt Maddock, were involved in a scheme to take money from candidates in exchange for helping them get endorsements from former President Donald Trump.

Gustavo Portela, the Michigan Republican Party’s communications director, said Pulitzer’s statements were “absolutely not true.”

“Michigan officials demand the payment (which we tracked down) and then you (Michigan GOPers) go to POTUS and say ‘this is our guy,'” Pulitzer tweeted Tuesday. “That I have a problem with.”

He has 119,000 followers on Twitter.

Meshawn Maddock fired back at Pulitzer on social media, asking if he was accusing Trump of “being paid off for endorsements.”


“I just want to be sure before I give him a call,” Maddock said, referring to the former president.

For months, Republican activists have been unsuccessfully pushing for a “forensic” audit of the 2020 election in Michigan. Democrat Joe Biden won the state by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points, a result that’s been upheld by a series of court rulings, dozens of past audits and an investigation by the GOP-controlled state Senate Oversight Committee.

But those details have not deterred Trump and “forensic” audit supporters, who maintain there was widespread voter fraud.

With the Republican-controlled state Legislature declining to pursue an audit, a group of pro-Trump activists began crafting plans to launch an initiative campaign by gathering petition signatures to force lawmakers to consider an audit.

On Oct. 12, during a rally outside the Michigan Capitol, Jon Rocha, a Republican candidate for the state House from Rutland Township, said he planned to submit petition language to the Michigan Department of State in the coming days. The filing would be the initial step in the process of attempting to initiate a change in law while circumventing a veto from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Forty-three days later, no petition language has been submitted to the Department of State.


In the meantime, a feud has broken out in public among Rocha, Rocha’s supporters, Pulitzer and GOP state House candidate Mellissa Carone, one of the most outspoken critics of the election in Michigan.

Carone and Pulitzer have been at the center of sparring.

Carone was a contractor for Dominion Voting Systems at the TCF Center, where Detroit’s absentee ballots were counted in the November 2020 election. Afterward, she leveled a series of allegations about wrongdoing at TCF and was eventually parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”

In December 2020, lawyers representing Dominion Voting Systems asked her to “cease and desist making defamatory claims” and preserve records related to her “smear campaign against the company.”

On Oct. 31, Carone posted a video on Facebook, accusing individuals working with GOP state Rep. Steve Carra of improperly taking language from another group that was crafting an audit proposal.

She described the second group as the “DePerno Pulitzer Vote Act team,” apparently referring to Pulitzer, Republican attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno and the name of their audit plan.

“I get Steve Carra’s updated bill, set it side by side with our bill, and it is totally identical word for word,” Carone said.


In an interview with the conservative website “Us Against Media,” Carone said Pulitzer’s side of the dispute had even tried to copyright their language but wasn’t able to.

Carra introduced a bill to require an audit in June. He said Carone’s claims were simply not true. Before the 2010 election, which saw a GOP wave, the tea party movement was focused on holding people accountable, Carra said. The unity was fruitful, he said.

“Fighting amongst one another is a recipe for disaster within the grassroots,” Carra said.

As for Carone, she said the petition language for an audit will soon be submitted to the state. The audit will be achieved by the actual authors of the proposal, she said.

“I know exactly what happened. It wasn’t Carra directly stealing anything,” Carone said. “It was infiltrating from other people.”

On Nov. 12, Pulitzer escalated the feud among audit activists in Michigan through a Facebook video in which he said candidates were jumping on the audit “bandwagon” to try to help their campaigns for office.


Pulitzer said candidates in Michigan, including Rocha, were using websites, like auditmi.gor, that seemingly focus on an audit to gather emails they then use to promote their personal campaigns.

“They’re collecting your name and address and they’re adding it to their campaign lists,” Pulitzer said.

Pulitzer called the strategy a “racket” and a “campaign violation.” He said it’s producing a “big squabble fest.”

In text messages, he’s told candidates in Michigan to stop using the audit push to benefit their own campaigns, and they’ve responded with videos mocking him, he said.

“They send videos of fart jokes,” Pulitzer said.

Rocha and Pulitzer didn’t respond to interview requests in recent days.

Pulitzer, who’s reportedly from Texas, has been involved in unproven election claims in a number of key battleground states, including Michigan, Georgia and Arizona.


A past statement from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office described Pulitzer as a treasure hunter who unsuccessfully searched for the Ark of the Covenant and “the inventor of CueCat, a cat shaped device that, when connected to the computer, allowed users to scan barcodes on ads that would bring up the website.”

“In 2006, it was listed as one of the ’25 worst tech products of all time’ by PC World magazine,” the Georgia statement said.

In its report on the 2020 election, the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee said Pulitzer’s testimony, “which purported to have on-the-spot access to manipulate voting files and vote counts,” was a “complete fabrication.”

“He did not, at any time, have access to data or votes, let alone have the ability to manipulate the counts directly or by the introduction of malicious software to the tabulators,” the GOP-controlled committee’s report said.

Pulitzer blasted Meshawn Maddock and her husband in a series of tweets Tuesday night.

Like Pulitzer, the Maddocks have supported unproven claims about the 2020 election in Michigan. They were part of an effort to submit an alternate slate of presidential electors in December 2020.


“The MI GOP has the worst reputation and of course are the only ones fighting against Michigan full forensic audits, but to find out an endorsement is nothing more than someone paid you to get one is highly dubious and questionable,” Pulitzer tweeted. “There’s always a money trail.”

Jeff Timmer, a Trump critic and former Michigan GOP official, said of the situation, “I don’t want to interrupt Meshawn while she consumes her hatchlings.”

Michigan is among the states where Trump has been the most active endorsing candidates in recent months.

The former president has endorsed 11 Michigan candidates, including DePerno; Carra, who’s running for the U.S. House; Rep. Maddock, who’s campaigning to be the next House GOP leader; and Rocha, who’s running for the state House.

Pulitzer’s claims that money was somehow involved in the endorsements were “nonsense,” Carra said.

Carone, who’s running for the state House in Macomb County, has not yet received an endorsement from Trump. Asked about Pulitzer’s claims about Maddock, Carone said she has heard similar rumors in the past but she declined to comment further.


In order to get a petition initiative to the Legislature, a group would have to gather 340,047 valid signatures within 180 days, a difficult task that would become more challenging if supporters were feuding among themselves.

“It certainly doesn’t help,” Carra said of the infighting.

As an example, Tami Carlone, who is the coalition’s vice chairwoman for the Michigan Republican Party, posted on Facebook this week that she decided to step back from the board of the audit petition drive.

The role had “brought on behavior by others I will not stand for,” Carlone wrote.