Questions have been raised about a series of apps that are providing information on Arizona’s conservative candidates.
In fact, thanks to the Trump campaign’s ex-chief operating officer and financial patron to Arizona gubernatorial aspirant Kari Lake, the Grand Canyon State has a whole slew of them.
The app Superfeed Technologies developed for Lake appears to be the most popular of the four apps which the Phoenix-based firm has developed for GOP candidates in Arizona—seemingly free of charge.
More than a thousand Android users and an unknown number of iPhone holders to date have downloaded the tool, which provides regular updates from Lake’s social media feed, notifies users of campaign events, and connects them with donation and volunteer sign-up portals.
One problem: Arizona campaign finance records show no record of Lake’s campaign—or any political committee—having paid Superfeed for this service, despite the company explicitly describing its work. And that, according to election lawyer James Barton, would make the app’s operation a violation of state contribution rules.
“In some states, corporations and unions can contribute directly to campaigns. That’s not the case in Arizona,” Barton told The Daily Beast. “They may have for-free promoted her, and if that’s the case, that’s illegal, because that would be an in-kind contribution from a company.”
In fact, the only flow of money reflected in public records has passed from the mobile app developer to the TV host-turned-politician. In personal financial reports Lake filed with the state earlier this year, she reported receiving compensation for work as a “communication advisor” to FeedMe, Inc. The forms do not specify the amount of the commission, except that it exceeded $1,000.
Arizona corporate records, and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, show that FeedMe was an old moniker that Superfeed abandoned more than a year before Lake made her disclosure. Why Lake, whose campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Beast, used a defunct name for the company in the official filing is unclear. The address Superfeed lists on its website is the same UPS Store which Lake identified in the disclosure as the location of her and her husband’s personal businesses.
FeedMe, now Superfeed, first gained attention in 2019, when The New York Times described it as a venture of the right-wing news site Western Journal. But when The Daily Beast contacted Western Journal founder Floyd Brown, the longtime conservative operative claimed he was no longer involved with the firm, and said the operation is in the hands of former Arizona state treasurer Jeff DeWit.
The Daily Beast could not confirm this because the Arizona incorporation papers are several years out of date, and because DeWit, the former Trump campaign COO and longtime surrogate, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
However, DeWit’s LinkedIn does identify him as Superfeed’s CEO.
The Daily Beast did reach representatives of other campaigns that received apparently free Superfeed apps. Stephen Puetz, campaign manager for Jim Lamon—a businessman who lost the Republican primary to challenge sitting Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ)—professed that he had never heard of Superfeed and was unaware that the now-expired campaign had its own app available on Google Play and the Apple app store. He suggested that the app may have been developed as a demo but never properly launched.
Puetz did not make good on promises to obtain more information, and The Daily Beast subsequently learned that DeWit served as Lamon’s campaign chairman. Federal campaign finance laws also largely forbid corporate gifts to campaigns.
A spokesperson for Chandler restaurant owner Kelly Cooper, who is challenging Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ), told The Daily Beast that DeWit had approached the campaign with a demo app that the company promised would “consolidate social media feeds.” But the spokesperson insisted Superfeed never submitted an invoice for the service, and that the campaign was unaware the company had ever actually launched the app.
As of this writing, Superfeed’s Kelly Cooper for Congress had continued to update users of Cooper’s activities, and connected them with opportunities to volunteer and donate, through November 2.
The Daily Beast was unable to reach the fourth and final candidate with Superfeed apps, state legislature hopeful Austin Smith. Smith has attended at least one event with DeWit, and according to his LinkedIn works as an enterprise director for the conservative activist group Turning Point Action.
Superfeed’s Google and Apple stores show it has developed apps for both Turning Point Action and its Phoenix-based parent organization, Turning Point USA. Neither organization replied to requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
Barton left open the possibility that Superfeed had received payment from at least some of these candidates via another vendor, which could have then subcontracted with the mobile app developer. However, no one company has provided services to all four campaigns. The attorney suggested that Arizona’s Clean Elections Commission, which he represented during his time at the state attorney general’s office, could probe the situation and determine whether Superfeed had committed campaign finance violations by providing professional services free of charge.
But there is no way that work will be done by the time the candidates face their opponents on Election Day.
“I think it’s something that they would investigate,” Barton said. “It’s just, it’s going to take a few months.”
The Clean Elections Commission did not answer repeated requests for comment from The Daily Beast.