How Martha McSally's campaign turned '15 Days of Giving' into a cash grab
Embattled Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona promised voters that her campaign would "suspend all campaign fundraising" for the first two weeks of April in favor of "15 Days of Giving," but finance records released last week show that the campaign seems to have raised $300,000 in that time, and apparently kept all of it.
"For the next 15 days, McSally for Senate will suspend all campaign fundraising and instead raise as much money as possible for The Salvation Army of Arizona," the campaign claimed in an April 1 press release.
The campaign statement also said that McSally would "donate her entire Senate paycheck for the month of April to help people impacted by the coronavirus." It's unclear if she delivered on the promise.
In an April 2 interview McSally told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that the campaign was "ceasing fundraising," and shared a video of the interview to social media.
"I'm spending the next 15 days putting politics aside & raising money for the Salvation Army of Arizona. They're providing rent assistance, household essentials & meals for kids & families. Make a donation today at http://15daysofgiving.care. We're in this together! #15DaysofGiving," McSally tweeted.
The next day the Arizona Republic published a report, citing information from the campaign and an interview with the candidate: "Today, she's not even asking for money. Instead, McSally is raising money for 15 days for The Salvation Army of Arizona."
On April 11, McSally promoted a TV segment which suggested she had "stopped fundraising."
The campaign also promoted a landing page designed to collect email information, which reads: "For the first 15 days of April, our campaign is committing 100% of our campaign resources to raising money for The Salvation Army's COVID-19 relief efforts in Arizona."
However, a Salon analysis of the campaign's finance filings does not show that those funds went anywhere other than towards the campaign's own account for future use. The donations came from large PACs and small-dollar individual contributors alike.
The McSally campaign did not reply to Salon's request for comment.
McSally has found herself consistently underwater against Democratic opponent Mark Kelly, an astronaut and husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was severely injured in a 2011 shooting. Kelly has held a double-digit margin over McSally for months, and recent polling puts the spread at around 12 points.
Last week the Cook Political Report shifted the race from "Toss Up" to "Lean" Democrat.
"The bottom fell out for us at the end of May and June," a Republican strategist told the outlet.
Kelly has consistently outraised the Republican incumbent, more recently raising $12.8 million to McSally's $8.9 million in the second quarter of this year.
A former Air Force combat pilot and two-term House member, McSally ran for an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona in 2018, but was narrowly defeated by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Then McSally was appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to fill Arizona's other Senate seat, left vacant by the death of Sen. John McCain. She could end up losing two U.S. Senate races in the same state within two years, a rare accomplishment.