Kari Lake paid $50,000 to appear with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. But did she benefit?

Kari Lake in Florece for the Trump event on Jan. 15, 2022.
Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic

Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake paid more than $50,000 to Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where she held a fundraiser in mid-November with the former president, according to campaign finance records.

It's not clear whether she got much in return.

In all of 2021, Lake paid over $55,000 to Trump's properties. The bulk of that went to Trump's compound in Palm Beach in the two weeks before she held a fundraiser there, according to her first campaign finance report filed Jan. 15.

Lake's fundraising in November, the month of the Mar-a-Lago event, was middle-of-the-pack when looking at her monthly fundraising totals since she launched her campaign in June. Lake reported $9,594 in donations to her campaign committee on Nov. 12, the day of the fundraiser — roughly a fifth of what the campaign paid to the event space.

Instead, it appears Trump's endorsement in late September provided Lake with the real financial boost. She tallied her best day of fundraising soon after receiving his blessing, and her best month followed the endorsement and included her announcing the Mar-a-Lago fundraiser.

For all of 2021, Lake raised over $1.46 million in donations, far behind some of her opponents, and she's already spent much of it, with $375,000 in the bank to end the year, according to her report.

Lake, the former Fox 10 news anchor, is among a host of politicians and political hopefuls who paid to hold events at Trump's Florida club, although her campaign finance report can't completely capture the political value of Trump's attention.

At least 20 Republican candidates for office across the nation held events at Trump properties in 2021, and a dozen of them received Trump's endorsement, according to the Washington Post. Sarah Sanders, a former Trump press secretary who is running for governor of Arkansas, paid a total of $59,000 for two events in March and April, for example.

Trump's endorsement can only help candidates facing contested primary elections, as Lake is, because of his loyal following within the Republican party.

On Saturday, Lake warmed up the crowd before Trump took the stage at a rally in Florence. Even when it was Trump's turn, he called her back to the stage, prompting the crowd of thousands to break out in cheers: "Lake! Lake! Lake!" 

"Kari Lake, I'll tell you she is incredible," Trump said. "She's been with us from the beginning on the election fraud and everything else and she's going to be your next governor."

Lake's Nov. 12 fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago carried ticket prices of $1,000 up to $30,000, a package that included a photo with Lake and Trump and golf at two of Trump's clubs.

It is unclear if Trump, who is likely to run again in 2024, profited off the bash because federal campaign finance reporting deadlines are not until later this month. Lake did receive a $5,000 donation from Save America, Trump's political action committee, on Dec. 28.

Lake's campaign did not respond to questions about the Mar-a-Lago fundraiser or her payments to Trump properties.

Four payments totaling $48,339 were made between Oct. 28 and Nov. 10, just days or weeks before the Nov. 12 fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, the report says. Each was for "event site rentals," according to the report.

The other payment to the Florida compound, of $4,093, came 11 days before Lake received Trump's endorsement. Her most lucrative fundraising month, October, followed Trump's Sept. 28 endorsement and brought in just over $300,000 in donations. And on Sept. 30, Lake tallied more donations than any other day of her campaign in 2021 at $58,600.

In November, the month of the event, Lake banked $193,800, according to her report.

Lake also paid about $3,600 to Trump hotels in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and West Palm Beach for meals and "event rentals."

Momentum hasn't translated to cash

Lake announced on June 1 she was running for the Republican nomination for governor, and she has embraced and furthered Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. She garnered the former president's attention, and raucous applause, during a July rally in Phoenix and has been considered the Republican frontrunner since.

But her fundraising, one metric of the strength of a candidate, has lagged behind her deep-pocketed Republican opponents, and even the leading Democratic challenger. All are hoping to replace Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term limited and will leave office in early 2023.

Republicans Karrin Taylor Robson and Steve Gaynor have banked $3.7 million and over $5 million, respectively. Taylor Robson loaned her own campaign $1.95 million, with $1.7 million coming from donors. Meanwhile Gaynor's own money accounts for all but $8,000 of his fundraising haul in 2021.

The Democratic frontrunner, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, reported raising over $2.9 million, but she's already spent roughly half of that going into the election year.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

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