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Why is the AZGOP paying a company tied to a QAnon singer?


Why is the AZGOP paying a company tied to a QAnon singer?

Sep 25, 2023 | 2:07 pm ET
By Jim Small
Why is the AZGOP paying a company tied to a QAnon singer?
A woman holds up a QAnon sign to the media as attendees wait for President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation on Sept. 22, 2020 in Moon Township, Penn. Photo by Jeff Swensen | Getty Images

The Arizona Republican Party has paid at least $13,000 to a company connected to a legislative district chairwoman who is a full-throated QAnon evangelist, even as the party is struggling so badly to raise money that it can’t pay its bills.

It’s unclear why the AZGOP is writing $1,000 checks twice a month to Conservative Communication Strategies LLC. The payments are listed as being for “strategic consulting,” but the party did not respond to detailed questions about what services the firm is providing.

Little is known about the company aside from the payments: It has no online presence, and sources who work in Republican politics and campaigns say they’ve never heard of it. That’s likely because it was formed in Delaware on Feb. 14 — just 13 days before the AZGOP first paid it $1,000.

Businesses are frequently incorporated in Delaware because the state shields almost all information about companies from public view, including who owns them. But the AZGOP’s federal campaign finance reports disclosing the payments shed some light on the company.

The party must list an address for every vendor it pays, and the address it disclosed for Conservative Communication Strategies LLC is a single-family home in north Peoria. 

That address is the same used by Arizona Christian Patriots LLC, a company formed in 2021 by Lori Bango, who rents the house and lives there with her family, according to public records searches. 

Bango, a real estate agent, is the chairwoman of the Legislative District 28 Republican Party. She did not respond to a text message seeking comment, and the voicemail on Bango’s cell phone was full and not accepting new messages.

Kathy Petsas, a longtime Republican precinct committeewoman and a former chairwoman in a Phoenix legislative district, said she has never seen the AZGOP pay a district chairperson — and never through a company that cannot be easily traced.

“You would never do something like this unless you thought there’d be a problem if it came out who the money was going to,” she told the Arizona Mirror. “It’s not really kosher.”

Bango is an avowed QAnon believer. In its simplest form, the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory that alleges that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles are running a global sex-trafficking ring, control world governments and are trying to bring down former President Donald Trump — who is himself single-handedly dismantling the cabal.

Bango is also a singer who has recorded at least two QAnon anthems. Both songs, “Great Awakening” and “Here Comes the Pain,” feature lyrics that are taken directly from Q postings. The music videos for each directly references numerous Q posts and QAnon generally.

In October 2020, Bango and her son, Jacob, with whom she wrote the songs, performed at QCon Live in Scottsdale. According to the event’s schedule, they took the stage immediately after a presentation by Jim Watkins, a QAnon conspiracy theorist and the operator of the imageboard website 8chan/8kun where QAnon began.

Videos for both songs were posted on YouTube, but were taken down for violating the streaming platform’s terms of service. In archived pages for the songs “Here Comes the Pain” and “The Great Awakening” that Bango posted to her personal YouTube page, she wrote that the songs are dedicated to President Donald Trump, members of the military, “the alternative truth media combating the FAKE NEWS” and “the Anons on the Chans” — referring to anonymous users of sites like 8chan, where QAnon originated — because they “dedicate their brilliant minds to solving clues from the greatest military operation of all time – Qanon.”

“We began following the Q posts as a family since November 2017, and joined patriots across these great United States of America, and all over the world, to spread the message of TRUTH, HONOR, GOODNESS, and awaken people to the REAL fight between GOOD VS. EVIL,” she also wrote.

The page features numerous links to QAnon websites and the YouTube pages of more than a dozen QAnon influencers.

In another video that Bango posted in 2019, titled “Trump #17 QProofs! #Q17,” Bango referred viewers to her QAnon anthems and to a QAnon website. (The number 17 refers to the letter Q, the 17th letter of the alphabet.)

On YouTube, Bango has also made a playlist (archive link) titled “Qanon Great Awakening.” 

Bango regularly posts about QAnon (archive link) and uses QAnon-related hashtags (archive link) on Facebook. In 2019, she posted (archive link) about being appointed as a Republican precinct committeeman and included #WWG1WGA, meaning “Where We Go One, We Go All,” a phrase used as a rallying cry among the so-called “digital soldiers” of the QAnon community.

“17=Q … Coincidence? I think not!!! #MAGA #WWG1WGA #QArmy #GreatAwakening,” she wrote on Jan. 20, 2020 (archive link), along with an image of a Trump tweet. Except for #MAGA, all of the other hashtags are explicitly related to QAnon.

Two months later, she posted (archive link) about her belief that Trump was “Q+,” indicating she believes that the former president was Q’s boss and was essentially orchestrating QAnon.

Chris Baker, a Republican political consultant whose clients include U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, said it’s “utterly embarrassing” that the Arizona Republican Party would pay Bango any money — much less when its finances are in shambles.

“It’s grossly irresponsible, and idiotic, for a party facing the financial strains it’s facing to pay $13,000 to a member of QAnon,” Baker said. “For a party that desperately needs to restore trust with mainstream conservatives, this is terrible optics.”

Petsas said prospective donors need to know that the AZGOP will spend its money responsibly, and this demonstrates the opposite.

“I think donors will be just so appalled,” she said. “This is like a huge stop sign for donors.”

***UPDATE: After this story was published, Lori Bango deleted a YouTube playlist she had created and made her Facebook page private. Prior to publication, the Arizona Mirror archived pages whenever possible and also took screenshots. Links to those archives and/or screenshots were added to this story on Sept. 27, 2023, in cases where Bango deleted or restricted access to her online activity.