Arizona Republican Party Chairman Jeff DeWit resigned Wednesday after bombshell audio emerged of him apparently trying to entice Kari Lake not to pursue the GOP nomination for Senate this year.
In a statement, the 51-year-old DeWit said he opted to step down rather than fight for his position after Lake’s team threatened to release a “more damaging recording.”
The audio, which was recorded in March of last year, was published by the Daily Mail Tuesday.
“I said things I regret, but I realize when hearing Lake’s recording that I was set up,” DeWit said.
“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.”
Lake’s campaign denied the accusations that someone from their team “threatened or blackmailed DeWit.”
“There are very powerful people who want to keep you out,” DeWit pleaded in the audio, per The Daily Mail. “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?’”
An annoyed-sounding Lake, who unsuccessfully ran for Arizona governor in 2022, responded: “This is about defeating Trump and I think that’s a bad, bad thing for our country.”
“Is there a number at which….,” DeWit later began.
“I can be bought? That’s what it’s about,” Lake interjected.
DeWit then suggested Lake “pause for a couple of years” and then come back into politics. Lake swatted down that notion, saying, “This is not about money, it’s about our country.”
After the audio emerged, Lake, who attended Trump’s New Hampshire primary victory party in Nashua Tuesday night, confirmed the contents of the tape and demanded DeWit step down.
“I want corruption rooted out of our government. I don’t care if it’s on the Democrat side or the Republican side: we are going to root out corruption,” Lake told Just the News.
Lake has disputed her defeat by Democrat Katie Hobbs in the 2022 gubernatorial election, but her claims of a stolen vote have been rejected by the courts.
Her Senate campaign said in a statement that, “the tape speaks for itself” and “DeWit attempted to bribe Kari Lake.”
“Thankfully Kari is an extremely ethical person who rejected DeWit’s multiple attempts to offer her money and corporate board seats in exchange for Kari not running for public office,” the campaign said in a statement obtained by The Post.
“It is unfortunate that Dewit hasn’t recognized how unethical his behavior was and still hasn’t apologized to Arizona Republicans.”
Lake, a former TV news anchor, enters the Senate race as the clear GOP frontrunner and most powerful figure in the state party.
Arizona, once regarded as a solid red state, has trended purple in recent election cycles. In addition to Hobbs’ victory over Lake in 2022, the Grand Canyon State has not elected a GOP senator since the late John McCain in 2016.
In the 2020 presidential election, Arizona went for the Democratic candidate for just the second time since 1952.
DeWit also decried the release of the audio as a “betrayal of trust but also a violation of the fiduciary responsibilities of an employee.”
At the time of the recording, DeWit’s software firm, Superfeed Technologies, was paying Lake as an adviser.
“Contrary to the notion of me being an enemy of Lake’s, this conversation was recorded while I was actually employing Lake in my private company. In fact, for over a year and a half, we had many conversations where I was looking out for her financial interests,” DeWit said Wednesday.
“Contrary to accusations of bribery, my discussions were transparent and intended to offer perspective, not coercion,” he went on. “I genuinely believed I was offering a helpful perspective to someone I considered a friend.”
DeWit is a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, serving as the chair of the 77-year-old’s 2016 campaign in Arizona, the CFO of NASA from 2018 through early 2020, and the COO of Trump’s 2020 campaign.