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Ariz. GOP chair out after alleged 'ethical breach' involving Kari Lake

Jeff DeWit is stepping down after the release of audio tapes of a conversation with Lake in which he allegedly offered her money to exit politics.
Kari Lake and Jeff DeWit
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jan 24, 2024

The head of the Arizona GOP is stepping down after audio tapes with U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake were released, in which he reportedly offered Lake money to stay out of this year's senate race and to focus on running for governor. Chairman Jeff DeWit released a statement Wednesday in which he adamantly denied Lake's accusation, but he also announced his resignation in the statement. He accuses Lake's team of threatening to share another "more damaging" recording if he did not resign today. DeWit says the recorded conversation that was released took place while Lake was employed by his private company, and added, "the ethical breach in her recording of our conversation, while Lake was my employee, raises serious legal and moral concerns." He added that he believed his decision to step down at this point would get rid of the "distraction" it had caused, and that his actions "will always reflect what's best for Arizona Republicans." Lake told KTAR Radio Wednesday that she called on DeWit to resign because the conversation was "disrespectful and unethical." Lake also told KTAR that she has had a strained relationship with DeWit since the conversation occurred.

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In DeWit's lengthy statement, he wrote that the conversation was meant to determine who would be the right candidate. 

DeWit wrote, "In light of the recent revelation that Kari Lake has released a selectively edited audio recording of our private conversation, I must clearly address this deceptive tactic. The recording, from over ten months ago, is not only taken out of context but also undermines the integrity of private discussions critical for party leadership," DeWit wrote.  He continued: "As Chairman, my primary duty is to strengthen our party, which often involves challenging dialogues and strategic decisions. These conversations are meant to assess and enhance the viability of our candidates. The truth is, when I took the helm, our party was in disarray — financially unstable, organizationally weak, and lacking in momentum. Today, we have made significant improvements in acquiring a new office headquarters, legal victories for election integrity, and historic fundraising achievements. 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." 

DeWit accused Lake of possibly violating laws, writing, "In fact, for over a year and a half we had many conversations where I was looking out for her financial interests. The ethical breach in her recording of our conversation, while Lake was my employee, raises serious legal and moral concerns. This act of recording was not just a betrayal of trust but also a violation of the fiduciary responsibilities of an employee. Contrary to accusations of bribery, my discussions were transparent and intended to offer perspective, not coercion. Our relationship was based on friendship, and the conversation that is now being scrutinized was an open, unguarded exchange between friends in the living room of her house." 

Lake had not released a specific statement on the matter by Wednesday. 

DeWit continued in his statement, writing, "I genuinely believed I was offering a helpful perspective to someone I considered a friend. Lake has a massive megaphone that I cannot compete with. I am just a business and financial guy that got recruited into this unpaid role that demands the amount of time of roughly two full time jobs — nights, weekends, holidays, and more are all workdays. My motivation for accepting this position was that I wanted to contribute positively, with the primary focus being the betterment of Arizona and our nation through the election of competent individuals." 

DeWit said he told Lake it would be a good idea to pause her campaign, but said she has tried to "destroy" his reputation. 

DeWit wrote in his statement, "The release of our conversation by Lake confirms a disturbing tendency to exploit private interactions for personal gain and increases concerns about her habit of secretly recording personal and private conversations. This is obviously a concern given how much interaction she has with high profile people including President Trump. I question how effective a United States Senator can be when they cannot be trusted to engage in private and confidential conversations."

DeWit describes the interaction as a "set up," writing, "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."

DeWit said he supports Donald Trump and he has chosen to resign after the recordings were released. 

This story was originally published by Scripps News Phoenix, with edits by the Scripps News national staff.