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.

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.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUBSCRIBE

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 should 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 — like the Jan. 27 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.”

Comments are closed.