Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who is leading the GOP primary race, accused opponent Karrin Taylor Robson of tricking elderly Arizonans into donating to her campaign by pretending the money would go for “Trump, Truth Social & the Wall.” She also accused the mostly self-funded candidate, who is the other main contestant left in the primary, of fooling donors into committing to automatically renewing their donations each month.

In a video, Lake holds up over 1,000 pages she says represents “potential victims.” She said she is warning retirees or those married to a retiree about “a fundraising ploy that they could have very likely gotten caught up in, especially if they are patriotic and worried about the direction this country is going.” She added, “Thousands and thousands of Americans, most of them retirees, most of them living on Social Security, got tricked into donating to my opponent in one of those recurring donation schemes.”

Lake displayed screenshots of fundraising text messages that Robson’s campaign sent to voters. They obtained their phone numbers from voter registration records.

Even though Donald Trump endorsed Lake, and called Robson a “weak RINO,” one of Robson’s text messages stated, “Are you excited? Trump is back! His team launched his new social media & he needs your support! 15 mins to let us know if you’re with Trump.” A link went to donating to Robson’s campaign, where a small box was already pre-checked to continue the donation every month.

Two other Robson fundraising texts Lake displayed asked for money to “fight back” against Democrat Beto O’Rourke “jumping into the Texas Governor’s race” and a similar version of that. A fourth text said, “GOP is going to miss its end-of-month goal without your help.”

Lake said another message declared, “Help Texas build the wall at the border.” Lake and Robson have clear differences on border security and illegal immigration.

But during her service as a regent for Arizona State University, Robson voted to give illegal immigrants subsidized tuition at Arizona universities, which is lower than the rates American citizens pay in other states. She also worked as a paid lobbyist for the leftist, open-borders Chicanos por la Causa in 2018.

Lake said, “It was a recurring donation to a woman they don’t know, and let me tell you, they probably don’t want to know her.” Lake’s campaign spoke to some of the victims, and emphasized, “they’re the lucky ones who figured it out.”

The ad played recorded phone calls of Lake’s team members calling and speaking to various elderly people who admitted they did not realize they were contributing to Robson.

One regretful donor stated, “I did not give her a donation. She’s a thief.”

Lake pointed out that Robson “doesn’t even need their money; she’s being funded by her 95-year-old billionaire husband.” Lake said she suspects Robson is tricking small donors because she has no grassroots support, whereas 95 percent of Lake’s donations “come from small donors here in Arizona.”

Lake said 1,200 people have requested refunds from Robson so far, “a record in politics.” But there are thousands more, Lake said, who have not yet figured out these charges are coming out of their bank accounts. She cited a woman named Mrs. Foster, who is disabled and unemployed, who got tricked into donating $10 per month.

The Arizona Republic labeled Robson’s activities as “aggressive if not deceptive fundraising tactics.” They interviewed the daughter of an 80-year-old woman who lives in Mississippi, who discovered four charges totaling $100 on her credit card. The daughter swore and apologized for swearing, saying “My mom has been through so much. I don’t like anybody taken advantage of.”

A 91-year-old man in Texas had $400 charged to his card, including five charges in one day. His daughter told The Republic, “He feels like he is a treasured member of a small committee. He has no idea. It breaks my heart.”

After the newspaper’s investigation and “days spent defending the practice,” The Republic said the Robson campaign finally agreed to stop pre-checking the boxes for recurring donations. The newspaper found that Robson had the highest refund rate of all the gubernatorial candidates. Lake’s refund rate is less than one-half of 1 percent, while Robson’s is almost 4 percent.

The online processing company used by Robson, WinRed, is currently under investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James for its “use of pre-checked recurring donation boxes in political solicitations.” It has become such a problem that legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate last year to ban the practice in political campaigns. The bipartisan Federal Election Commission unanimously urged Congress to pass the legislation.

The practice is a known problem targeting elderly people. On AARP’s “4 Ways to Avoid a Charity Scam,” the association for senior citizens advises, “regularly review your credit card account to make sure you weren’t charged more than you agreed to give or unknowingly signed up for a recurring donation.” Take Care, which provides “smart money tips for older adults and family caregivers,” has an entire article devoted to instructing people how to deal with the problem.

Lake’s original video was taken down by Twitter, the campaign says they believe, due to the Robson campaign complaining that Lake’s tweet  used their phone number in the video. Lake told The Arizona Sun Times her campaign removed the phone number and put the video back up.

Lake urges people to look through their elderly relatives’ bank and credit card statements for recurring donations to “Karrin for Arizona.” She said victims can call their credit card company or contact Robson’s campaign directly to ask for a refund.

The Sun Times asked the Robson campaign whether any of the donations were used for the purposes in the text messages — such as building the wall, helping Trump and Truth Social, stopping Beto O’Rourke, or going to the GOP — and received no response by press time.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kari Lake'” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Karrin Taylor Robson” by Karrin Taylor Robson. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.