Arizona G.O.P. Chairman Resigns After Tape Suggests Attempt to Bribe Kari Lake

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The chairman of Arizona’s Republican Party resigned abruptly on Wednesday, a day after the publication of a 10-minute recording of a conversation between himself and Kari Lake, a former nominee for governor, in which he appeared to offer a bribe to persuade Ms. Lake to drop her 2024 Senate campaign.

In the recording, which was published by The Daily Mail, Jeff DeWit, the chairman, tells Ms. Lake that there are “very powerful people that want to keep you out” of the race, and suggests he is passing on a message from them. He says he had been told to ask her: “Is there any companies out there or something that could just put her on the payroll and give her — to keep her out?”

Later in the conversation, which Mr. DeWit repeatedly urges Ms. Lake not to repeat to anyone, he starts to ask, “Is there a number at which — ” before Ms. Lake interrupts, saying “I can be bought?” He replies, “Not be bought,” but instead wait a few years before running.

Ms. Lake brushed off the attempts, repeatedly telling Mr. DeWit that she was offended by the approach. “That’s immoral — I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror,” she says, according to the recording.

The recording concludes with one more request from Mr. DeWit: “I actually just wish you’d give me a counteroffer that’s big,” he says. She replies: “I can’t be bought.”

Ms. Lake, a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2022 with a fervent embrace of his false claims about the 2020 election. Arizona voters instead picked her opponent, Katie Hobbs, flipping control of the governor’s mansion to a Democrat in a key battleground state.

On Wednesday, Mr. DeWit accused Ms. Lake of releasing a “selectively edited” recording of the conversation, which he said had happened in person at Ms. Lake’s house more than 10 months ago. He indicated he had not realized he was being recorded in the conversation.

“Contrary to accusations of bribery, my discussions were transparent and intended to offer perspective, not coercion,” he said in a statement, though he also acknowledged that he “said things I regret.” Mr. DeWit said he suspected Ms. Lake had prepared for this situation and had “crafted her performance responses” during the conversation with the intent of later releasing the recording.

He also said that Ms. Lake had pressured him to resign on Wednesday, threatening to release a second recording if he did not.

“I received an ultimatum from Lake’s team: resign today or face the release of a new, more damaging recording,” Mr. DeWit wrote in the statement. “I am truly unsure of its contents, but considering our numerous past open conversations as friends, I have decided not to take the risk. I am resigning as Lake requested, in the hope that she will honor her commitment to cease her attacks, allowing me to return to the business sector — a field I find much more logical and prefer over politics.”

Ms. Lake’s team then pushed back.

“No one from the Kari Lake campaign threatened or blackmailed DeWit,” Garrett Ventry and Caroline Wren, senior advisers to Ms. Lake, said in a statement, adding that the tape showed that Mr. DeWit “attempted to bribe Kari Lake,” but “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.”

Mr. DeWit declined to comment further.

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