Election denial is lucrative: Kari Lake raised $2.5 million after Election Day

Donors wanted to help her overturn the election, but less than 10% of Lake’s post-election spending went to lawyers

By: - Tuesday January 24, 2023 3:18 pm

Election denial is lucrative: Kari Lake raised $2.5 million after Election Day

Donors wanted to help her overturn the election, but less than 10% of Lake’s post-election spending went to lawyers

By: - 3:18 pm

Kari Lake, who lost her 2022 bid for governor, addresses a Turning Point USA event in Phoenix on Dec. 18, 2022. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Kari Lake, who lost her 2022 bid for governor, addresses a Turning Point USA event in Phoenix on Dec. 18, 2022. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The day that Katie Hobbs was declared the winner of the governor’s race, cash poured into Kari Lake’s campaign, as people from across the country heeded her call to fight back against an election system she said was “BS.”

More than 8,000 people contributed $338,388 to Lake’s failed campaign on Nov. 14. Less than a quarter of those contributions came from Arizona, though the Grand Canyon State led the way with about 1,700 donations. Money arrived from every state, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Lake took in more money that day — six days after the election — than she did on any other day of her campaign, which began in mid-2021. It was the first of five days after the Nov. 8 election that Lake’s campaign would tally more than $100,000 in contributions from across the country, according to the Arizona Mirror’s analysis of her campaign finance reports.

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The failed gubernatorial candidate saw another surge in cash a week later, as she made the circuit on right-wing media in advance of her soon-to-be-filed lawsuit that sought to overturn the election results. On Nov. 22, Lake’s campaign collected just shy of $196,000. The next day — the day the election challenge was filed — she raked in another $157,000.

Between the day after the election and the end of the year, Lake received more than 57,000 contributions from 37,281 people. All told, the former television news anchor turned MAGA star raised $2,515,169 after the election. 

Almost 80% of that money came from Kari Lake fans outside Arizona who were seeing her incendiary social media posts and listening to her false proclamations on conservative media that she didn’t really lose by 17,000 votes because the election was stolen from her.

And that money doesn’t include what Lake raised into a 501(c)(4) nonprofit called the Save Arizona Fund. It was created in early December 2022, and has since become the primary vehicle for Lake to raise cash to continue her legal fight against her election loss.

Lots of spending, but little on lawyers

Following the election, Lake’s campaign spent $3 million. And while she was telling her supporters that the money was needed to contest the election and ensure she was installed as the rightful governor of Arizona, that didn’t happen.  

Only $228,000 was spent on the lawsuit aiming to overturn the election — less than 10% of her post-election haul. Most of that, about $187,000, went to D.C. corporate and employment attorney Kurt Olsen, the lead lawyer on the lawsuit. Another $40,000 went to Scottsdale divorce attorney Bryan Blehm, who was co-counsel on the election challenge.

(Lake also spent another $62,500 on attorney’s fees after the election, but they were for attorneys who did not participate in the election challenge.)

More than half of the $3 million in post-election spending went to TAG Strategies, a Virginia-based marketing and communications firm that received payments nearly every day. It’s unclear what most of that $1.52 million in expenses was for, as the Lake campaign categorized the vast majority of those payments as “administration — other” in its finance reports.

But more than $433,000 of that was spent on “telemarketing/auto dialers,” according to the campaign finance reports. 

That lines up with the services the firm performed for Lake prior to Election Day. In the six weeks before the election, she paid TAG Strategies nearly $2.2 million for “telemarketing/auto dialers.” The firm charged roughly $1 million for consulting fees, as well.

In all, Lake paid TAG Services more than $4.8 million — nearly one in every three dollars her campaign spent.

Lake’s campaign did not respond to questions about its post-election fundraising or spending.

Ubers, airfare, resorts and food

It’s not unusual for campaigns to record expenses after Election Day for work that was done before voting ended. For instance, Lake’s campaign paid Virginia-based mail vendor Fulfillment Solutions almost $42,000 on Nov. 10.

But other payments were clearly not made for work performed or services provided before the election. For instance, Lake’s campaign incurred 63 Uber trips between Nov. 9 and Dec. 31, including 13 trips on Dec. 5. 

And Lake spent nearly $14,700 over the course of a month at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, the swanky AAA Four-Diamond hotel where the Arizona Republican Party held its election night bash. Lake appears to have booked at least 11 rooms at the resort the day before the election and at least seven for election night.

But even after the election activities were over, she continued to spend money at the pricey hotel. Campaign finance reports show 17 charges totalling more than $6,700 at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on Nov. 14. Three days later, it spent another almost $2,900. On Dec. 7, the campaign racked up another $2,059 bill at the resort.

Another $11,900 went to airline tickets on American and Delta in 17 separate transactions. The campaign spent more than $5,000 on Hotels.com during the same time, and Lake forked out more than $2,600 to stay at the Hilton West Palm Beach in late November when she went to spend time with Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort. She also spent more than $3,300 at Trump’s resort that month.

And Lake’s campaign incurred 27 charges to DoorDash for more than $1,300 in the nearly two months after the election.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the 501(c)(4) nonprofit that Kari Lake created as the "Save America Fund" instead of the "Save Arizona Fund."

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. News organizations and journalists under his leadership have won numerous state, regional and national awards for accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.

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