Jan. 6 legal defense fund for 3 Arizona Republicans attracts donors to 'fight back'

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
Arizona Republic
Arizona legislators Mark Finchem, left, and Anthony Kern were in D.C. during the Capitol riot.

A dark money nonprofit established by an Arizona Republican donor to “fight back” against alleged “malicious, defamatory and fallacious” assertions involving three Republican lawmakers and their ties to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has received significant, but undisclosed, support from small-dollar donors, its director said.

The Guardian Defense Fund was created in the aftermath of the pro-Trump rampage to help U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and former state Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, address assertions about their activities on that day. 

Before Jan. 6, all three touted the false narrative of a stolen 2020 presidential election. Each was in or around the U.S. Capitol that day. 

The defense fund, director Dwight Kadar said, is intended to help demonstrate that Gosar, Finchem and Kern have been “wrongfully accused” of playing any role in the events leading up to the deadly riot. 

Kadar, a long-time GOP donor from Sedona and former chief investment officer for a global manufacturing company, said Republican supporters are eagerly donating to the fund.

“A lot of it is small-dollar donations; we’ve been talking to people at the various (GOP) clubs and counties and so forth, it’s been very well received,” he said. “We want to attempt to expand the reach because we think there are opportunities across the country.” 

Among conservatives, Kadar said there is a desire to fight back against the mainstream media and “big tech.”

“We finally have somebody who's willing to fight back for our side, and that's what this is about, is to not to just sit back and take anymore,” he said. 

Kadar, known for his contributions to GOP candidates and causes, declined to say how much money the organization has raised. 

Unlike political parties and other political groups, the nonprofit social welfare organization formed on Feb. 3 does not have to disclose its financial backers and is only required to reveal limited information. 

Aside from the defense of the three individuals, the group said in paperwork filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission it will develop and advocate for legislation, regulations, and government programs "to improve and protect" election integrity and freedom of speech in Arizona and beyond. It also intends to research and publicize the positions of elected officials on those to matters.

Fundraising efforts around the events of Jan. 6 have been a financial boon for some Republicans. 

Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, who led objections in the U.S. Senate to President Joe Biden’s win, raked in millions of dollars during the fundraising quarter after the riot. 

In the House, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. and Gosar, both high-profile voices falsely suggesting the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud, raised more money than they did two years ago at the outset of the election cycle. 

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., takes the stage to help out Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., at the "America First" fundraiser event in Mesa, Ariz. on May 22, 2021. They arrive at a time when Gaetz is battling possible criminal charges and Greene has been stripped of her committees by Democrats. But to conservatives, they are some of the most prominent fighters in the post-Trump era.

Ahead of the riot, Gosar repeatedly used social media to tout the "Stop the Steal" rallies in Arizona and has called assertions by a House Democrat who called for an ethics inquiry of him over the riot “fraudulent” and “devoid of reality.”

Finchem was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and took photos as rioters gathered on the steps. "What happens when the People feel that they have been ignored and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud," he posted on Twitter that day. 

Kern had signed a letter with several other Republican legislators asking Congress to throw out Arizona’s electoral college votes and he traveled to Washington, D.C., on the day of the count, too. 

A photo from Jan. 6 appears to show Kern on the Capitol steps wearing a coat and tie.

The Guardian Defense fund said on its website it will underwrite the defense expenses “in the unlikely event that any criminal investigation or charges” are brought against the men. It will also pay for the costs to defend Finchem from an ethics complaint filed against him by Democratic state legislators. 

In February, the chair of the state House of Representatives ethics committee said she would not take action on complaints filed against Finchem, a 2022 candidate for Arizona secretary of state. Finchem and Kern later sued a Democratic state lawmaker who signed onto a letter with other Democratic lawmakers in urging the Justice Department to investigate their activities related to Jan. 6. 

Have news to share about Arizona politics? Reach the reporter on Twitter and Facebook. Contact her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com and 602-444-4712.

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