Home>U.S. Congress>Jeff DeWit Pulls a Sam Bankman-Fried on Kari Lake

Jeff DeWit interacting with supporters of Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, October 29, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Jeff DeWit Pulls a Sam Bankman-Fried on Kari Lake

AZ GOP chair allegedly tried to bribe Republican candidate not to run for US Senate

By Ken Kurson, January 23, 2024 1:44 pm

The entirety of the Arizona GOP is abuzz this afternoon as word leaked out that state party chairman Jeff DeWit evidently tried to bribe conservative firebrand Kari Lake not to throw her fashionable hat into the ring for this year‘s US Senate race.

Garret Lewis alluded to the story on his KFYI radio program yesterday and by this afternoon, the Daily Mail had the actual audiotape, turning it into a national, and even international story.

On the recording, DeWit can be heard begging Lake to reconsider.

“’There are very powerful people who want to keep you out,’ he says on the phone call, which the Daily Mail asserts was placed in March 2023.

The chairman then asks Lake not to mention the conversation to anyone, and makes his opening offer.

“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?’”

Kari Lake speaking with attendees at the 2022 AmericaFest at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, December 20, 2022. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The Arizona Globe has reached out to chairman DeWit to ask him to clarify who these mysterious forces “back east” might be. As of press time, we have not heard back, but will update this story if he chooses to shed additional light.

However, the light that’s already been shed does not look pretty. A state chairman is in charge of marching the party’s candidates to victory. So it’s not uncommon for him to prefer someone he sees as more electable become the eventual nominee. However, it’s all but unheard of to allegedly offer what sounds to my ears as a literal bribe.

In fact, the technique is not entirely novel. Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of so many misdeeds that the authorities decided not to pursue his political shenanigans. That left unexplored one of the most serious charges against SBF, which was featured in Michael Lewis’ book Going Infinite. According to Lewis, Bankman-Fried not only hatched, but at least pursued the initial stages of a cockamamie scheme to pay Donald Trump not to run for president in 2024. It’s unclear how far the plan got. Lewis maintains that SBF “got a price” of $5 billion for that endeavor. As I wrote elsewhere, there’s no confirmation that the number came from anyone anywhere near Trump. And even SBF, who was not exactly punctilious about following rules, is said by Lewis to have fretted that a $5 billion payout might not be legal.

The fact that DeWit appeared to have pursued an agenda similar to one of the most notorious rip-off artists of recent vintage puts him in dubious company.

Later in the call, DeWit, tries a different tack.

‘Just say, is there a number at which….’.

Lake cuts him off: ‘I can be bought? That’s what it’s about!’

He can feel the target slipping away and says, “You can take a pause for a couple of years. You can go right back to what you’re doing.”

There are already calls among Arizona Republicans, including Maricopa County Republican Committee Chairman Craig Berland, for DeWit to step down from his role. With Lake having cleared the field and already preparing for what looks like a very tight three-way race against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand and likely Democratic nominee Ruben Gallego, there are credible polls showing Ms. Lake with a slender lead.

Presumably, the Republican party will need as much unity as it can muster, and even a strong showing from independents and moderates to send a Republican to the US Senate this fall. Whether they’ll do so with chairman DeWit still atop the party is increasingly unclear.

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