Gee, I wonder. Have you even heard about this? The Arizona state chairman of the GOP caught on tape attempting to bribe Kari Lake to go away for a few years, at the behest of Deep State RINOs “back east.” Sounds like a pretty juicy story, right?
I’m tight on time, but here is cut and paste coverage from the always reliable Jeff Childers:
There’s bribery, and then there’s bribery. On Tuesday, another literally unscriptable story broke in the UK Daily Mail:
In the bizarre story, Kari Lake accused Arizona’s GOP Chairman, Jeff DeWit, of trying to bribe her to drop out of the Senate race for vague financial or professional rewards offered by powerful, unidentified people “back east.” The Daily Mail’s exclusive included ten candid minutes of their conversation appearing to back up her claims.
The story broke like a hand grenade going off in a GOP convention hall. Social media, already burning hotly, assumed Solar levels of furious conflagration. While all we had yesterday was the unverified Daily Mail story, it was already obvious that one of their political careers was over, depending on whether the story was true.
It quickly developed that Jeff DeWit’s political career was over. Yesterday The New York Times ran this headline:
The looming question of whether the audio was authentic was settled yesterday, by DeWit himself, who resigned with two single-spaced pages of public non-explanation. DeWit, you see, is the real victim here. In his letter, DeWit denied breaking any laws.
He explained that politics is a messy business, frequently requiring finesse, and claimed Kari set him up and also the audio was “selectively edited.” But he didn’t specify how it was selectively edited. DeWit admitted he’d said things he “regrets,” but not which things. Projecting, DeWit claimed Kari was blackmailing him, and had threatened to release even worse audio — DeWit claimed ignorance of its substance — unless he resigned as Arizona’s GOP party chair.
Welp. Then he resigned. So I guess it worked.
Lake’s campaign hotly disputed threatening DeWit.
To give you the gist, I drafted a concise dialog, boiling ten minutes of conversation down into one minute. This is merely meant to convey the essence of the conversation and isn’t a transcript. Listen to the whole audio for the precise details.
As you read this, imagine Kari Lake eating a bag of corn nuts and sipping on a nearly-empty Big Gulp, which is what the background noises sounded like:
Kari Lake: Jeff. So what’s going on? What is it? (rustle, crunch)
Jeff DeWit: I’ve got a proposition for you.
Kari Lake: Oh? What kind of proposition?
Jeff DeWit: Well, there’s some very powerful people back east who want you out of politics for a couple of years. They really want someone different.
Kari Lake: And what do they want me to do?
Jeff DeWit: They want you to stay out for two years. I can tell you what I can offer you. They’re willing to pay you a lot of money and put you on the payroll of a company. Whatever we need to do.
Kari Lake: Are you serious? (slurp)
Jeff DeWit: Yes. It’s a good offer. You could take a break from politics and come back in a couple of years.
Kari Lake: I’m not interested in being bought off. This is about stopping Trump! I don’t think that’s good for the country.
Jeff DeWit: It’s not about being bought off. It’s about taking a step back and letting things cool down.
Kari Lake: I don’t need to cool down. I’m fighting for what’s right. This is a hill worth dying on.
Jeff DeWit: I understand that, but this could be a good opportunity for you. DC is a big back-scratching club. You’re in no position to scratch anybody’s back.
Kari Lake: I don’t need any opportunities from those people. I’m going to keep fighting. The battle is right now, Jeff, not two years from now. They’re going to have to kill me to stop me.
Jeff DeWit: Alright. Just thought I’d let you know about the offer. You should be honored. I wish you’d just make me a huge counter-offer. Gimme a counter. Is there a number where you’d … just take a pause?
Kari Lake: No. No. I have to go work on my book. I’m flattered, and offended. But thanks for letting me know. Bye-bye.
Jeff DeWit: Goodbye.
Throughout the conversation, which apparently happened at Lake’s house, DeWit’s tone was subtly apologetic. He sounded for all the world like he had no control over events; he was just the messenger. He repeatedly seemed to agree with that Kari it was wrong. At one point, Kari suggested that DeWit go public about the attempted bribe. DeWit immediately rejected the idea, ominously joking, “Then I turn my key in my car and — boom! I like my car.”
DeWit is probably right he didn’t commit any crimes. Election law is complex and I’m not an elections specialist. But since Kari isn’t (yet) a ‘public official,’ none of the bribery crimes I reviewed apply. Nor did DeWit try to influence any ‘official act.’
But the question of whether it was a crime or not was the tiniest question of all.
Who are the ‘very powerful’ people ‘back east’ (presumably DC)? Did the bribe come from a single wealthy donor, or even just a small group of influential donors? How common are these kinds of “deals”? Was Kari in the wrong? Given they were friends, did Kari betray DeWit’s trust, showing she’s untrustworthy? Or was Kari brave to release the audio, knowing it would make mortal enemies? How angry should GOP voters be that these kinds of backroom deals are happening?
Regardless of where you come down on those questions, and regardless of the technical legality about what happened, it all feels gross and sneaky and un-American.
Kari was smart not to take the deal. If she had taken it, or even started negotiating, “they” would have owned her forever. Bribery time would have changed to blackmail time. Similarly, DeWit was smart to immediately resign. His position as Arizona’s GOP Chairman was completely untenable. He had to go, and I assume he got that message loud and clear from inside the party.