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Controversial businessman with Dallas ties sees renewed fame as election 'expert'

Insurrectionists on one side of a police barricade, with police on the other. The U.S. Capitol building is in the background.
Julio Cortez/AP
Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier. According to news reports, a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection obtained a PowerPoint presentation titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN" based on the theories of J. Hutton Pulitzer.

Longtime Dallas businessman J. Hutton Pulitzer once promoted triple-edged wiper blades and a device called the CueCat that found a spot in the Museum of Failure. More recently, he’s tried to sell something else – allegations of election fraud.

The New York Times is reporting former President Trump’s final chief of staff Mark Meadows submitted a PowerPoint to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. That PowerPoint, the Times says, “is similar to a 36-page document available online, and it appears to be based on the theories of Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, a Texas entrepreneur and self-described inventor.”

Pulitzer, also known as Jovan Philyaw, attained fame – or perhaps infamy – when he convinced several companies in the late 1990s to invest in the CueCat, a much-derided computer accessory. If you haven’t heard of Pulitzer, here are some important things to know:

  • CueCat. Time magazine ranked it Number 5 on a list of the 50 worst inventions of all time. A 2001 article in the Wall Street Journal summed it up: “a hand-held, cat-shaped scanner that attached to a PC. Hold it up to the bar code in an ad or catalog or a can of soup, and your computer whisks you to a web page connected to the product.”

    Radio Shack reportedly invested $30 million; The Dallas Morning News invested even more than that. People didn’t take to it, and the legacy of CueCat is that of a humorous, expensive waste. 

  • Georgia’s 2020 election. In their efforts to support Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, conservative legislators in Georgia called Pulitzer as an expert witness. In December 2020, Pulitzer spoke before the Georgia state Senate, according to The Verge. 

    But the Georgia Secretary of State’s office discredited his claim he had hacked into a poll pad, noting Pulitzer provided no evidence. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, excoriated the state lawmakers who invited Pulitzer to speak and described him as a “failed treasure hunter.” 

    “Fake news is hard enough to combat when mainstream media outlets push it out, but when a small cadre of Georgia legislators do it, it’s a whole different story,” Raffensperger said. 

  • Maricopa County’s election “audit.” Maricopa County is home to Phoenix and is the second-largest voting jurisdiction in the United States. The Arizona state Senate hired a firm with no prior election experience to conduct a much criticized “audit” of the county’s 2020 ballots. The Arizona Mirror reported auditors used Pulitzer’s technology to examine the ballots, but Pulitzer said he was unable to discuss his past experience reviewing ballots because of a nondisclosure agreement. County officials said the audit’s final report included falsehoods about elections there.  

Trump also called on Texas to conduct an audit of the 2020 election, and Gov. Greg Abbott complied.

Experts say claims about election fraud that are not backed up with facts and evidence undermine faith in elections and the voting process.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.