Santos’ ex-treasurer may be meddling in Democratic primary to aid at-risk Republican

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Leading Off

● AZ-01: A super PAC called Turn AZ Blue is running TV ads as part of what appears to be an attempt by Republicans to meddle in the July 30 Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. David Schweikert in Arizona’s swingy 1st District, though the operation does not appear to feature an all-star cast.

The Arizona Republic’s Laura Gersony reports that the PAC is attacking one of the six Democratic candidates, former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods, as a “political opportunist” who “used to be anti-choice.” Galán-Woods, a former Republican who says she’s long supported abortion rights, is attempting to get the commercial taken off the air by telling stations it is “riddled with lies and falsehoods.”

It’s not clear how much the group is spending, in large part because the group does not appear to be in compliance with relevant campaign finance laws. Even though it began running ads in March, Gersony writes that the PAC has yet to register with the FEC.

The FEC requires committees to submit paperwork within 10 days of receiving or spending $1,000. More than three months ago, the Cooper Courier’s Camaron Stevenson reported that Turn AZ Blue had already deployed more than the minimum. EMILYs List, which supports Galán-Woods, asked the FEC to probe the PAC in April, but there have been no public developments since then.

One of the few pieces of information the group has provided is the name of its treasurer, Thomas Datwyler, a GOP operative who previously filled that role—or at least, appeared to—for none other than George Santos.

Datwyler denied having anything to do with the super PAC in an interview with Gersony and insisted someone had unwittingly placed his name on the documents. Datwyler, though, attracted national attention last year when his own lawyer said his client had deceived him by falsely claiming he’d never been treasurer to the disgraced congressman from New York prior to his expulsion.

The Daily Beast also reported last fall that a new Santos treasurer, one Andrew Olson, was actually a pseudonym for Datwyler.

“I don’t know if that makes Datwyler the George Santos of treasurers,” Campaign Legal Center official Saurav Ghosh told the site, “but it doesn’t make him a good person or honest in any way.”

The Daily Beast also noted that Mississippi’s Republican attorney general, Lynn Fitch, announced last summer that she was investigating Datwyler over unrelated campaign finance allegations in her state, though no further details have become public. And the Courier’s Stevenson cataloged still more examples of what he characterized as Datwyler’s “long history of FEC violations.”

The other name that Turn AZ Blue identified was that of Carlos Sierra, a Texas consultant who is no stranger to attempts to influence Democratic House primaries. In 2018, Sierra led an outside group that ran ads encouraging voters in the El Paso area to reject the frontrunner, Veronica Escobar, in favor of a more conservative opponent. The campaign didn’t work, though, as Escobar won the nomination in a landslide before easily claiming Texas’ 16th District in the fall.

Sierra, unlike Datwyler, acknowledged he’d been paid to work for Turn AZ Blue when Roll Call’s Daniela Altimari contacted him in April. It’s unlikely, though, that he wants to turn Arizona’s 1st District blue at Schweikert’s expense: Gersony notes that the congressman himself endorsed Sierra’s expertise in “politics” on LinkedIn.

The PAC’s offensive comes at a time when Democrats have a busy and hard-to-handicap primary to choose Schweikert’s opponent in a Phoenix-area constituency that Joe Biden carried by a tight 50-49 margin four years ago.

In addition to Galán-Woods, the field consists of businessman Andrei Cherny; orthodontist Andrew Horne; former Arizona regional Red Cross CEO Kurt Kroemer; investment banker Conor O’Callaghan; and former state Rep. Amish Shah. There hasn’t been any outside spending here yet—among the groups that have properly filed with the FEC, that is.

2Q Fundraising

The second fundraising quarter of the year, covering the period of April 1 to June 30, has come to an end, and federal candidates will have to file campaign finance reports with the FEC by July 15. But as per usual, campaigns eager to tout their hauls are releasing numbers early, which we’ve gathered below:


● CA-20: Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced Monday that he was ending his campaign and endorsing his fellow Republican, Rep. Vince Fong, in the November general election. Boudreaux, whose name will remain on the ballot, badly lost to Fong 61-39 in the May special election to succeed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in this conservative Central Valley seat.

● FL-01: An outside group called Florida Patriots PAC is spending over $880,000 to tie far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz to former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, a onetime Gaetz friend who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor in 2021. The offensive comes ahead of Gaetz’s Aug. 20 primary battle against Navy veteran Aaron Dimmock.

“Gaetz allegedly grooms Greenberg for higher political office and makes payments to him,” a voice-over narrates. “Greenberg reportedly uses a ‘sugar daddy’ app to find college girls and pays for sex on Congressman Gaetz’s behalf.”

Greenberg, who was often described as Gaetz’s “wingman,” was at the center of a federal investigation over alleged sex trafficking of a minor and other accusations. However, while Greenberg agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his own plea deal in 2021, the probe into Gaetz ended two years later without any charges.

The House Ethics Committee, though, announced last month that it had reopened its own investigation into Gaetz in 2023, after pausing it at the request of federal prosecutors. The committee said one of the things it was still looking into was whether Gaetz had engaged in “sexual misconduct.” ABC News’ Will Steakin recently reported that Greenberg is cooperating with the ongoing probe.

Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and is trying to fend off Dimmock to win renomination in Florida’s 1st District, a dark red seat located in the Pensacola area. One person rooting hard for the challenger is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who is reportedly trying to unseat Gaetz as part of a “revenge tour” against the eight Republicans who voted to oust him as leader of the House last fall.

Florida Patriots PAC, whose donors are not yet known, is also airing ads touting Dimmock’s service flying missions over New York City following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The advertising blitz comes shortly after Gaetz began attacking Dimmock on TV as a “raging liberal” who supports Black Lives Matter and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

● MI-08: A conservative group called Winning for Women is deploying at least $377,000 to help retired Dow Chemical Company executive Mary Draves, who has spent the last several weeks on the receiving end of attacks by 2022 GOP nominee Paul Junge ahead of their Aug. 6 primary. The PAC’s opening ad, which does not mention Junge, touts Draves as an ardent Donald Trump ally who is “from mid-Michigan and for mid-Michigan.”

● MN-07: America Leads, a conservative super PAC, is airing commercials boosting Rep. Michelle Fischbach ahead of her Aug. 13 primary against Steve Boyd, a little-known opponent who unexpectedly prevented the congresswoman from winning the GOP’s official endorsement at a party convention in April.

There is no word how much America Leads, which has devoted itself to stopping hardline candidates who could cause headaches for the House GOP leadership, is spending on this ad, which praises Fischbach as a border security hawk.

Boyd, who has attacked the incumbent as too “legislation-driven,” secured enough support at the Republican convention to keep Fischbach below the 60% she needed to earn the blessing of party delegates in the conservative 7th District. But Boyd, who recently told the Star Tribune he doesn’t reject the label of “Christian nationalist,” had very little money available at the end of March, though we’ll soon see if that’s changed over the ensuing three months.

Ballot Measures

● NV Ballot: Nevada election officials announced Friday that a proposed abortion rights amendment will appear on the November ballot. The amendment must prevail in both the 2024 and 2026 general elections to become law. Abortion is legal in the Silver State until about 24 weeks into pregnancy, but advocates argue the measure is necessary to safeguard these protections by enshrining them into the state constitution.

Poll Pile

  • MI-Sen: EPIC-MRA: Elissa Slotkin (D-inc): 44, Mike Rogers (R): 42 (49-45 Trump in two-way, 42-38 Trump with third-party candidates) (Feb.: 39-38 Slotkin)
  • MT-Sen: Torchlight Strategies (R) for Common Sense for America (pro-Sheehy): Tim Sheehy (R): 47, Jon Tester (D-inc): 41, Sid Daoud (L): 2, Michael Downey (G): 1 (51-35 Trump in two-way)
  • NM-Sen: 1892 Polling (R) for Nella Domenici and the NRSC: Martin Heinrich (D-inc): 46, Nella Domenici (R): 42 (49-47 Biden in two-way, 43-42 Biden with third-party candidates)
  • PA-Sen: Cygnal (R): Bob Casey (D-inc): 46, Dave McCormick (R): 42 (48-44 Trump in two-way, 42-38 Trump with third-party candidates)

Ad Pile

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