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Jeff DeWit boasted about his fundraising prowess. The AZGOP’s finances are in shambles.

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Jeff DeWit boasted about his fundraising prowess. The AZGOP’s finances are in shambles.

Feb 21, 2024 | 12:30 pm ET
By Jim Small
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Jeff DeWit boasted about his fundraising prowess. The AZGOP’s finances are in shambles.
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Jeff DeWit fires t-shirts into the crowd during an October 2016 campaign event in Phoenix for Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Jeff DeWit era at the Arizona Republican Party officially ended in an ugly and public way, when the former state treasurer was forced to resign last month after Kari Lake claimed him as a trophy. 

The most prominent GOP politician in the state flexed her muscle with Republican activists and effectively seized control of the state party when she published a tape of him trying to entice her to skip the U.S. Senate race with a lucrative job offer and then — at least, according to DeWit — demanded he resign or she’d release even more damaging tapes.

But DeWit was already on thin ice with many Republicans for his mismanagement of the state party. In particular, there were mounting concerns about the party’s sagging finances, which were so bad that some had begun openly wondering if he was steering the AZGOP into bankruptcy.

As the party regroups with the election of Gina Swoboda to replace DeWit, among her tasks will be fixing the party’s dismal fundraising. 

Both the AZGOP’s state and federal campaign accounts are in a bad way, putting Republicans behind the eight ball precisely as the 2024 election is beginning to heat up.

In the 12 months that DeWit helmed the party, its federal campaign account — the most precious dollars of any state political party, which are essential for paying the staff who coordinate election activities — hemorrhaged cash for most of that time. 

It spent more than it raised from individual donors in 11 of those months. And even when transfers from the AZGOP’s state campaign committee, national Republican committees or other PACs are included, the party spent more than it received in nine months.

Things were so bad in August that the party had just $14,000 in the bank account, far less than it needed to cover its bills — including the $2,000 a month that DeWit continued to pay throughout his tenure for unspecified “consulting” work to a party activist and real estate agent who performs QAnon anthems

DeWit boasted that he’d stabilized the party’s finances to end 2023 and ended his first year with more cash in the bank than when he started, but the sudden cash infusion he pointed to wasn’t his doing. Rather, the AZOGP was gifted more than $255,000 in November from the Protect the House 2024 PAC, the committee formed by former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was winding down his PAC after resigning.

The AZGOP took in barely $1 million in federal campaign cash in 2023. More than 25% of that money came from McCarthy’s PAC.

(The fate of that money is unclear, but you can bet that the campaigns of U.S. Reps. Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert are expecting it will be set aside to boost their reelection efforts in toss-up districts that will be among the most contested in the nation this year.)

The AZGOP’s state campaign committee finances aren’t much better, and for much of the year, it seems to have been completely ignored. There were two months — July and November — when the party didn’t raise a single dime. And another three months saw a combined take of less than $75.

DeWit did snag a $200,000 contribution from a West Virginia-based PAC in September, which the group’s treasurer told the Washington Post was intended to fund the AZGOP’s efforts to fight off ballot measures to create ranked-choice voting in Arizona.

That PAC money accounted for a shade under 50% of the $401,000 the party raised all year in its state account. And another $154,000 — about 40% of the yearly total — didn’t hit the party’s coffers until December.

The bulk of that last-minute infusion of cash was a $90,000 check on Dec. 31 from Elijah Norton, the party’s treasurer. The day before, conservative activist Randy Kendrik (the wife of Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks) forked over $48,000.

Comparatively, Arizona Democrats are in much better financial shape. They ended 2023 with $725,000 in the bank for federal campaigns, more than twice the $310,000 the AZGOP had. And their state account boasted nearly $1.5 million, dwarfing the scant $159,000 Republicans have on hand.

Whether Swoboda can right the ship for Arizona Republicans remains to be seen. That she must do so at all represents just how badly DeWit fell on his face.

When he ran for party chair in January 2023, a key component of his campaign was a pledge to “drastically improve fundraising” over Kelli Ward, who had led the party for the prior four years and regularly guided it into controversy.

DeWit declared himself the only candidate who could raise the money the AZGOP would need to be effective in 2024, boasting that he oversaw “over $1 billion in campaign fundraising” as a top staffer for Donald Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

“I want to bring this expertise to Arizona to give us a fundraising, ground game, candidate recruitment, media training, and organizational leadership advantage over the Democrats,” he wrote in one campaign pitch.

He utterly failed to do so.

***UPDATE: This column has been updated to clarify that the AZGOP’s federal campaign account “hemorrhaged cash” for most of 2023, but not for the entire year.