AZGOP Chairman Jeff DeWit resigns after Kari Lake leaked a tape of him trying to ‘bribe’ her

Jeff DeWit resigned as chairman of
the Arizona Republican Party a day after Kari Lake, the front-runner to
be the GOP’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, released an audio recording in which the party leader dangled a job to keep her out of the race.

In his resignation announcement, he
blasted Lake for publishing the “selectively edited” recording — and
disclosed that Lake was, in fact, his employee when the recording was
made.

“The ethical breach in her recording
of our conversation, while Lake was my employee, raises serious legal
and moral concerns,” DeWit said. “This act of recording was not just a
betrayal of trust but also a violation of the fiduciary responsibilities
of an employee.”

DeWit said he was resigning from
AZGOP chairman in response to an ultimatum from Lake: resign or she
would release “a new, more damaging recording.”

“I am truly unsure of its contents,
but considering our numerous past open conversations as friends, I have
decided not to take the risk,” he said.

Statement from Jeff DeWit

Lake and her allies accused DeWit of trying to bribe the former
newscaster, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2022. In the
conversation, which happened at Lake’s home in March 2023, DeWit asked
Lake to name her price to “take a pause” from seeking elected office
“for a couple of years.”

“There are very powerful people who
want to keep you out, and what they’re willing to do is put their money
where their mouth is in a big way,” he told Lake.

DeWit, who was chief operating
officer on former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, told Lake he
was working on behalf of unnamed Republican power brokers in Washington,
D.C., who didn’t believe she could win the Senate race against likely
Democratic nominee Ruben Gallego, a congressman from Phoenix. It is
unclear if Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who was elected to the Senate
in 2018 as a Democrat, will run for re-election.

“So, the ask I got today from back
east was, ‘Is there any companies out there or something that could just
put her on the payroll to keep her out?’” DeWit told Lake.

Lake’s response was indignant, saying
that the effort was really about defeating Trump, which she called “a
bad, bad thing for our country” and that she had no intention of
stepping aside.

Later in the conversation, DeWit again sought to see if Lake could be persuaded to abandon her U.S. Senate plans.

“Just say, is there a number at which….” he said.

Lake immediately cut in: “I can be bought? That’s what it’s about.”

DeWit confirmed that’s what he meant.
“You can take a pause for a couple of years. You can go right back to
what you’re doing,” he explained.

But Lake refused, telling him there was no amount of money that could keep her out of the race.

In his resignation announcement, DeWit acknowledged that he said things he regrets, but contends he was set up. 

“I believe she orchestrated this
entire situation to have control over the state party, and it is obvious
from the recording that she crafted her performance responses with the
knowledge that she was recording it, intending to use this recording
later to portray herself as a hero in her own story,” he said.

DeWit said his relationship with Lake
soured after the March 2023 conversation, and “she has been on a
mission to destroy me” since, culminating in this recording being
leaked.

He also said her “disturbing tendency
to exploit private interactions for personal gain” poses potential
problems, given her frequent interactions with top Republicans,
including Trump — and it throws into doubt her ability to be an
effective senator.

“I question how effective a United
States Senator can be when they cannot be trusted to engage in private
and confidential conversations,” DeWit said in his announcement.

Lake said on X, formerly Twitter,
that she “can’t be bribed” and “can’t be bought.” She also posted a
statement from two of her senior advisors, Caroline Wren and Garrett
Ventry, responding to DeWit’s resignation disputing the former chairman’s accusation that the Lake campaign issued him an ultimatum to force him to resign.

“No one from the Kari Lake campaign
threatened or blackmailed DeWit,” they said. “It is unfortunate that
DeWit hasn’t recognized how unethical his behavior was and still hasn’t
apologized to Arizona Republicans.

“DeWit’s false claims are just par for the course. The Arizona GOP must be relieved to have his resignation.”

The details of Lake’s employment with
DeWit are unclear, including what company she worked for, what she was
hired to do, when she was employed and how much she was paid. DeWit and
the Arizona Republican Party did not respond to questions seeking more
information.

As a U.S. Senate candidate, Lake must file a financial disclosure
statement that will include any income she made in 2023. Last year, she
sought an extension, and her disclosure must be filed by Jan. 31.

Chris Baker, a GOP political
consultant and longtime campaign aide to U.S. Rep. David Schweikert,
said DeWit faced an impossible task as head of the Arizona Republican
Party.

“He walked into a very difficult
situation with a party that is, right now, literally ungovernable,” he
said. “I don’t blame him for resigning. I’m surprised he lasted this
long.”

The revelation that DeWit tried to
keep Lake out of the race came just days before the AZGOP’s Jan. 27
annual meeting and amid an insurgent effort to force him out of office.
Some party activists have been gathering signatures from state
committeemen, the elected grassroots members of the party who can vote
on official party business, to remove DeWit as chairman.

That effort was expected to culminate
at the Jan. 27 meeting. Michelle Rugloski, one of the party activists
leading the effort to oust DeWit, has said the former chairman attempted to bribe party officials in her legislative district in order to settle a dispute over who leads the local party.

She said it was “shocking” that DeWit
attempted to “bribe” Lake to not run for Senate, and had damaged his
ability to lead the party. Prior to his resignation, Rugloski said the
recording all but guaranteed the effort to oust him his chairman would
succeed.

DeWit had already been sharply criticized for the AZGOP’s poor fundraising through much of 2023, which he oversaw.

Under the AZGOP’s bylaws,
an election for a new chairman will be held at the Jan. 27 meeting. The
bylaws authorize the party’s first vice-chairman to call an election
within 45 days to replace a chairman, unless there is a statutory or
mandatory meeting scheduled within 90 days of the vacancy.

It’s unclear who will vie to be the
next chairman, but DeWit won in January 2023 by defeating a candidate
tied to the nascent Patriot Party of Arizona, which generally believes
the GOP isn’t conservative enough and is largely organized around a
belief that massive voter fraud led to Trump’s 2020 loss to Joe Biden.

Baker said he hopes the next party chairman will be someone “who can run the party competently.”

“There are things that a political
party needs to do well to give its candidates a good chance of winning,”
he said. “I hope the new chairman prioritizes winning in 2024 over
everything else.”