Kari Lake woos D.C. lobbyists at fundraiser, private meetings as Arizona Senate race heats up

Former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake announces her bid for the seat of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) at JetSet Magazine on October 10, 2023 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake has been quietly meeting with lobbyists and raising money in Washington in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Lake has built her political brand around her willingness to buck the D.C. establishment wing of the GOP.

On Tuesday, Lake met with about a dozen lobbyists in the nation’s capital, and the following day she attended a campaign fundraiser that was heavy with D.C. hired guns.

Lake also met separately with a top GOP lobbyist recently to strategize how to get her in front of even more industry players, according to sources familiar with the meeting. Like others in this story, they were granted anonymity to describe private events.

The Arizona Senate race is poised to be one of the most competitive and high profile contests in the nation this fall. President Joe Biden won the state by a mere 10,000 votes in 2020, less than half a percent.

Arizona’s late primary date — July 30 — means the Senate race will also likely be one of the most expensive in the country, as large fields of candidates on both sides spend the next five months raising money to duke it out for the nomination.

Lake’s whirlwind D.C. schedule marks a significant departure from her message to voters in January. “I don’t give a damn what the lobbyists think,” Lake wrote in a tweet on X.

“I don’t care how much they vilify me in the media. I don’t want a seat at the table with the political elites. I care about kitchen table issues,” she wrote.

Now, it appears a candidate who built her career around the idea of being an anti-establishment culture warrior is evolving into one who is ready to partner with the forces that wield real power on Capitol Hill.

In the hours before her Wednesday fundraiser, Lake met with the most powerful Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. As recently as August of last year, Lake tore into McConnell, questioning his health and his ability to lead the party.

Guests at the Wednesday fundraiser included a lobbyist for tech giant Microsoft and another who works for the American Bankers Association, according to a source who was at the event. Other guests included over a dozen senators, according to an invitation obtained by CNBC.

The evening was a success, raising $330,000 for the Kari Lake Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that benefits her campaign, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a third Lake leadership PAC called Keep America Red Indefinitely, or KARI.

Reception details for U.S. Senate candidate, Kari Lake on March 6, 2024.

Kari Lake Advisory

Press representatives for Microsoft and the ABA did not reply to requests for comment on Lake’s campaign from CNBC.

Lake also recently met with Rick Dearborn, a partner at the lobbying shop Mindset, according to sources familiar with the matter. The meeting focused on the types of future events Lake could host with attendees from a variety of business sectors.

A former White House deputy chief of staff under Trump, Dearborn has a rolodex full of clients that could potentially be interested in meeting with Lake, including Shell, Amazon Web Services, Verizon and Meta, according to public lobbying disclosure reports.

Lake, who has already been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, previously ran a failed Arizona gubernatorial campaign in 2022. When she lost that race, she claimed that widespread election improprieties caused her defeat. She campaigned, in part, on the false idea that Trump’s 2020 election defeat was the product of a rigged vote.

In a recent radio interview, Lake suggested that she still believes there are issues with elections.

Yet in conversations with lobbyists, the topic of the last election and election integrity issues has not come up, these sources explained. The discussions instead focus on a wide range of policy issues, including the economy.

Lake said in an interview with the National Review recently that if she is elected to the Senate, she will vote to extend the tax cuts passed under Trump’s administration, some of which are scheduled to expire next year.

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