Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer started a “pro Democracy” political action committee (PAC) in 2021 to stop GOP candidates who believe the 2020 election was stolen, it has been revealed.
Richer, like Maricopa County Supervisor Chairman Bill Gates, is a Republican, and has been vocal in defending the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
The PAC, Pro Democracy Republicans of Arizona, declares on its website that Republican candidates should “accept and acknowledge” that former president Donald Trump lost the election.
The Arizona election wasn’t stolen. We Republicans simply had a presidential candidate who lost, while we had many other candidates who won. It’s time we Republicans accept and acknowledge that fact.
Candidates come and go. But our democratic institutions are long-lasting, and peaceful transitions of power are a hallmark of the United States. We should not abandon this history in favor of conspiracy theorists and demagoguery.
To that end, we are launching this PAC to support pro-democracy Arizona Republicans.
We hope you will join us. We will win some races. We will lose some races. But either way, we will be strengthening the processes that have long undergirded Arizona and the United States.
In November of 2021, Richer told the Arizona Mirror that the PAC’s “primarily focus” would be “on legislative and county races,” but that assertion does not track with the PAC’s recent financial activity.
According to Transparency USA, Pro Democracy Republicans of Arizona raised $88,443 in total contributions, and spent most of it ($69,761) in the third quarter of 2022.
Richer claimed ownership of the PAC last November, after a Kansas City Beacon reporter drew attention to it on Twitter.
Meg Cunningham from the Kansas City Beacon tweeted that “the Maricopa County recorder [Richer], is launching a PAC to support Rs running for non-federal AZ offices who ‘acknowledge the validity of the 2020 election and condemn the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as a terrible result of the lies told about the November election.'”
News: @stephen_richer, the Maricopa County recorder, is launching a PAC to support Rs running for non-federal AZ offices who "acknowledge the validity of the 2020 election and condemn the events of Jan. 6, 2021 as a terrible result of the lies told about the November election."
— Meg Cunningham (@Meg_Cunn) November 17, 2021
Richer retweeted her saying, “Thanks to a few generous donors this is now launching. Join me if you care about traditional Republican ‘stuff’ (free people, free markets, rule of law), but also don’t believe in conspiracies about the 2020 election or that Jan 6 was a tourist event.”
Thanks to a few generous donors this is now launching. Join me if you care about traditional Republican “stuff” (free people, free markets, rule of law), but also don’t believe in conspiracies about the 2020 election or that Jan 6 was a tourist event. https://t.co/Gyr1w8xtVk https://t.co/xm3v0sT9LD
— Stephen Richer—Maricopa Cnty Recorder (prsnl acct) (@stephen_richer) November 17, 2021
The PAC’s biggest donor ($20,000) was Francis Najafi, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pivotal Group. Najafi donates heavily to Democrats, including ActBlue Arizona, Arizona Democratic Party, and Elect Katie Hobbs, according to Transparency USA.
Richer and Gates are now facing accusations of incompetence and/or malfeasance after Election Day irregularities and screw-ups disenfranchised mostly GOP voters who intended to vote for MAGA candidates like Blake Masters for U.S. Senate and Kari Lake for governor. Masters has been declared the loser in his race, while Lake is trailing behind the current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (49.5 percent to 50.5 percent).
Most of the money raised by the PAC ($45,000) went to Defending Arizona Values.
Independent Arizona, a group that believes “there is more to be gained by working across political and cultural lines than trying to push politics to the extreme,” also donated $7,650 to the group. Defending Arizona Values sent most of those donations ($52,631.73) to Consilium Consulting, a firm run by Kirk Adams, former Chief of Staff to Governor Doug Ducey.|
The Arizona Mirror noted last November that “it’s highly unusual” for an elections official such as Richer “to get involved in elections the way he’s planning to do, and by spending in elections that his office will oversee, he may open himself up to allegations of impropriety from candidates his PAC opposes.”
Former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, a Republican who held the position from 1989 to 2017, said it’s a bad idea for Richer to run a PAC while serving as the county’s top election official. During her 28 years as county recorder, Purcell went so far as to shy away from even endorsing another candidate. A rare exception came in 2014, when she endorsed longtime ally Michele Reagan in the race for secretary of state, which she now believes was a mistake.
Purcell said people might question the results if election officials involve themselves politically in elections — particularly if a race is close. And that is doubly true now, she said, given the skepticism that many people have about the election process due to the allegations about the 2020 presidential race.
“People are too skeptical about our election process. So, stay above that fray so you don’t have any questions,” Purcell said.
Richer, however, said he’s not concerned and doesn’t consider it inappropriate for an elections official to run independent expenditures.
Nearly a week after the election, Richer finds himself under fire after Election Day irregularities appeared to disenfranchised GOP voters.
Arizonans know BS when they see it.
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) November 15, 2022