The Arizona Republican Party is in turmoil after the revelation of a secret recording that exposed the chairman’s attempt to bribe Kari Lake, a GOP Senate candidate, to stay out of politics. Jeff DeWit, who was appointed as the party leader in February 2023, announced his resignation on Wednesday, claiming he was “set up” by Lake.
The Leaked Audio
The audio, which was obtained and published by the Daily Mail on Tuesday, was recorded in March 2023, when Lake was considering running for the Senate seat vacated by Democrat Mark Kelly. Lake, a former TV anchor, had lost the 2022 gubernatorial race to Democrat Katie Hobbs, but remained popular among the Republican base for her support of former President Donald Trump and her allegations of election fraud.
In the 10-minute recording, DeWit can be heard offering Lake various incentives to “pause for a couple of years” and not run for office, such as money, corporate board seats, and endorsements from “very powerful people”. He also implied that he was acting on behalf of some influential figures from “back east”, presumably referring to Trump or his allies.
Lake, however, rejected DeWit’s overtures, saying that she was motivated by her love for the country and her desire to “defeat Trump”, who she accused of being behind the 2020 election theft. She also expressed her distrust of DeWit, saying that he was “not a friend” and that he had “betrayed” her in the past.
After the audio was made public, Lake confirmed its authenticity and demanded DeWit’s resignation. She said that she was “shocked and disgusted” by his behavior and that he had tried to “corrupt” her. She also said that she had recorded the conversation for her own protection, as she felt threatened by DeWit’s pressure.
Lake’s campaign issued a statement saying that “DeWit attempted to bribe Kari Lake” and that “thankfully Kari is an extremely ethical person who rejected DeWit’s multiple attempts to offer her money and corporate board seats in exchange for Kari not running for public office”. The campaign also denied that Lake or anyone from her team had “threatened or blackmailed” DeWit with the release of the recording.
DeWit, on the other hand, claimed that he was the victim of a “deceptive tactic” by Lake, who he said had “orchestrated this entire situation to have control over the state party”. He said that he had employed Lake in his private company at the time of the conversation and that he had never asked her not to run for office. He also said that he had resigned rather than fight for his position, as Lake had threatened to release a “more damaging recording”.
DeWit’s resignation was met with mixed reactions from the Arizona GOP. Some praised him for his service and leadership, while others criticized him for his “unethical” and “disgraceful” conduct. Some also expressed their support for Lake, who is the frontrunner in the GOP primary for the Senate seat, according to recent polls.
The scandal has shaken the Arizona Republican Party, which is already divided over the 2020 election results and the ongoing audit of the ballots in Maricopa County. The party is also facing a tough challenge from the Democrats, who have won both Senate seats and the governorship in the last two elections.
The leaked audio has also raised questions about the role and influence of Trump and his allies in the Arizona GOP and the Senate race. Lake, who attended Trump’s New Hampshire primary victory party on Tuesday night, is widely seen as his favorite candidate and a potential running mate in 2024. DeWit, who was Trump’s former NASA chief and campaign finance chairman, is also a loyal supporter of the former president.
The scandal could also affect the public perception and trust of the Republican candidates and the party as a whole, especially among the independent and moderate voters, who are crucial for winning the general election. The scandal could also provide ammunition for the Democratic candidates, who are expected to highlight the corruption and chaos within the GOP.