Top Maricopa County vote counter addressed conference organized by anti-Kari Lake group

Special to WorldTribune, November 16, 2022

Analysis by Joe Schaeffer, 247 Real News

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, one of the key officials presiding over the scandalous vote-count shenanigans occurring once again in Arizona, appeared as a featured speaker at a February “summit” conference hosted by an organization that specifically targeted GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake for defeat in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer / Video Image

A group called Principles First ran the Feb. 26-27 gathering in Washington, D.C. “Event partners” serving as sponsors included notorious Never Trumper Bill Kristol’s website The Bulwark, Illinois anti-Republican Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s Country First political action committee and Kristol’s virulently anti-Trump organization the Republican Accountability Project.

The Republican Accountability Project pledged to spend $2 million in Arizona during the general election on TV ad buys to take down Lake. A page on the group’s website promoting the effort is titled “Kari Lake: Enemy of Democracy.”

One of the ads aired despicably blamed Lake for the death of Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering two strokes but that has not stopped establishment figures from pushing the false narrative that he was murdered by “insurrectionists” loyal to President Trump.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney served as “Opening Keynote” speaker for the event. Cheney, who had pledged in September that she would do “everything I can to to make sure Kari Lake is not elected,” enjoyed splashy big-box media headlines on Nov. 14 with her social media taunting of Lake immediately after Richer’s office released the drawn-out vote counts that appear to give Democrat Katie Hobbs a razor-thin victory.

Principles First explicitly singled out Lake and other America First hopefuls as candidates it sought to prevent from winning electoral office in 2022.

The group even went so far as to post an updated hit list onto Twitter on Nov. 14, the day Richer released the delayed votes that allowed big-box media outlets everywhere to declare Hobbs the winner.

“Defeat Kari Lake,” the tweet read, with a green checkmark showing that the task had been completed:

Job done indeed.

Additional speakers at the conference alongside Cheney and Richer read like a who’s who of America First haters from the pre-2016 Swamp Republican heyday. Soggy names such as Mona Charen and David Frum, Joe Walsh, ex-Virginia U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman and Charlie Sykes abound.

Another unsurprising speaker at the Principles First gathering was Alexander Vindman, the ex-National Security Council aide who starred in the first impeachment coup against President Trump in 2019.

D.C. think tanks were also well represented. Cato Institute “expert” Alex Nowrasteh’s smiling face is prominently displayed among the list of speakers. In January, Nowrasteh was quoted in an astonishingly upfront article in The Dallas Morning News in which he defended the need for massive immigration into the U.S. to fuel “economic growth.”

As WorldTribune reported, Nowrasteh is an absolute lunatic on this subject. In September 2021 he declared that the increased threat of lethal harm to Americans posed by open borders can be justified by crunching the numbers. “[W]e could have much higher levels of terrorism from immigration and it would still pass the cost-benefit test,” Nowrasteh asserted.

This is who these people are.

One month after again calling for massive immigration in the name of cheap labor to fill out a ludicrously loaded article in The Dallas Morning News, Nowrasteh was a featured speaker at the summit.

This is what they mean by Principles First.

This is why they hate America First.

This is the company Stephen Richer keeps.

Richer appeared on a summit panel discussion titled “Defending Democracy: Principles of Protecting Elections.” The panel was hosted by Bulwark publisher Sarah Longwell. Nowrasteh’s Cato colleague Walter Olson joined Richer on the panel.

Matt Grodsky was director of communications for the Arizona Democratic Party from 2019-21. He currently serves as a party state committee member. In March, two weeks after the summit ended, he wrote an op-ed in The Arizona Republic that unmistakably defines the overarching purpose of the conference: to map out a plan to destroy the America First political movement:

With the threat of authoritarianism looming and a hostile faction threatening a democratic nation, it is incumbent upon us to support and coordinate with the insurgency.

I’m not talking about Ukraine. I am describing Democrats supporting Republican refugees within the insurgency of the GOP, people who belonged to the party of Reagan and now find themselves impressed into the party of Trump.

That’s why I traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Principles First conference, a gathering of moderate Republicans many of whom are actively working to restore the GOP and cleanse it of Trumpism.

Grodsky specifically names Richer right after warbling about the allies he found at the conference for the coordinated effort to defeat “radical candidates,” which he makes abundantly clear throughout his piece refers to MAGA types such as Kari Lake:

I went to engage with Republicans in hopes of identifying collaborative ways to elevate moderates in their party primaries – funding PACs, working together to dismantle radical candidates and elected officials, establishing sound communications strategies, nationwide candidate recruitment, and more.

There were many like-minded people at Principles First.

Several voiced support for President Joe Biden and democratic policies. The event included Rep. Adam Kinzinger, David Frum, Bill Kristol, Charlie Sykes, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, and it honored heroes like U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

Grodsky stressed that eradicating America First populism must be a shared effort between Democrats and Republicans, who need to unite to preserve the “two-party” system of “moderate” politics that has worked so well for the ruling establishment over the years:

I had plenty of disagreements with attendees on a myriad of issues. But our most concrete areas of common ground were that Jan. 6 was an insurrection, Trumpism is bad, Putin is evil, and “Let’s go Brandon” is a dumb slogan.

In the event the Trump fever doesn’t break before 2024, forgotten Republicans in their party should reach out to Democrats. I encourage Democrats to reach back across the chasm.

Grodsky served as communications director for the campaign of Arizona Democrat Secretary of State nominee Adrian Fontes, who went on to claim yet another razor-thin midterms election victory in Arizona over Trump-endorsed GOP nominee Mark Finchem.

To recap:

  • In February, Liz Cheney is keynote speaker for a “summit” meeting of anti-America First zealots in which top Maricopa County vote counter Stephen Richer specifically discusses how elections must be conducted in a way that “defends democracy.”
  • In March, an Arizona Democrat official writes that he met many “like-minded people” at this conference that he traveled to in order to help “coordinate” an organized effort between Republicans and Democrats to destroy the American First political movement. In his next paragraph, he points out that Richer was in attendance at this conference.
  • In October, Liz Cheney calls Kari Lake a threat to democracy.
  • In November, the entire nation is forced to wait for almost a full week as Maricopa County slow-rolls its vote count in a clumsy and confusing manner with no plausible explanation given as to why this must be so. By the time Richer’s snail count finally hits 99%, Lake is down by about 17,000 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast.
  • Liz Cheney immediately proceeds to take a nationally reported victory lap as soon as ruling establishment media outlets call the race against Lake.

No intelligent American of good will can possibly put these five paragraphs together and not harbor the strongest doubts that free and fair elections were held in Arizona.


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