Politics

Show Me the Money, Wendy Rogers. Most of Her Campaign Money Comes From Beyond Arizona

Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers has cultivated a national base.
Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers has cultivated a national base. Gage Skidmore via Flickr
This fall, Nick Jongebloed, a wellness coach out in Lewisville, North Carolina, began to pay attention to one particular lawmaker in Arizona — Wendy Rogers.

He had no connection to the state. But he was captivated by her social media crusades on voter fraud and believed Rogers when she said that she was fighting for a “movement” beyond just Arizona. He became a $15-a-month contributor to her campaign.

As Arizona’s high-profile, far-right state lawmaker begins her campaign for re-election, Rogers has plenty of money in her political war chest.

Much of it comes from people like Jongebloed: small-time donors with little connection to Arizona but are devoted to Rogers’ platform. A Phoenix New Times analysis found that donations came from every state in the country, spiking when Rogers appeared on far-right podcasts or collected endorsements.

This following has given Rogers significant resources, despite being rebuked and censured by her colleagues in the Senate in recent weeks. This, despite her refusal to apologize for increasingly unhinged comments, which critics say often tacitly endorse white nationalism and racist conspiracies.

Rogers is a 67-year-old Air Force veteran and business owner. She frequently plays up her age and military service, calling herself at times a “sweet grandma,” and at other times a “hardcore fighter patriot.”

Over the last decade, she has run for office six times. Rogers did not win one until 2020, when she secured her seat in the Arizona Senate.

She has used her emerging national profile and cash to push a flood of radical legislation, including a “Donald Trump Day” state holiday, a ban on voting machines in elections, and diverting $700 million to border wall construction at the Arizona-Mexico border.

Though some of her bills have stalled, including one to fund the border wall, others have garnered momentum at the state capitol, alarming critics.

Last week, the Washington Post wrote a feature on the national influence Rogers has cultivated from Arizona, framing Rogers as an example of a new brand of far-right politics. As the Post put it, for some, Rogers’ success has become emblematic of “the political and financial incentives of going to extremes.”

And the donations have kept pouring in.

Fellow Senate members — even prominent ones — hardly come close to the figures that Rogers has posted. Republican Senate majority whip Sonny Borrelli, who represents a district along the California border that includes Lake Havasu City, raised around $13,000 in 2021, the same period that Rogers raised her $2.5 million. Democratic minority whip Martin Quezada, meanwhile, raised a little less than $80,000 in that time.

Put another way, Rogers raised more than nine times as much in an off-cycle year as the two most powerful state lawmakers combined, during an election. House Speaker Russell "Rusty" Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann took in $270,000 in new contributions in their 2020 bids for office.

A closer look at the nearly $2.5 million she raised, largely from individual donations like Jongebloed’s, demonstrates how dedicated a following she has built across the country.

Of the tens of thousands of donations that Rogers received, the vast majority — around 85 percent of the total number of individual donations, according to Phoenix New Times’ analysis of the data — came from out of state.

And they came from every state across the U.S.

Arizona topped the donations, at 8,389, closely followed by California at nearly 7,000. But Rogers picked up at least a hundred donations from every other state, save North Dakota, which totaled only 97. Thousands hailed from Texas, Florida, and Colorado. Donations came in even from Puerto Rico and Guam.

Back in North Carolina, Jongebloed said Rogers' platform was “bigger than just her community.” He was particularly taken in by her claims that she is trying to uncover widespread (and debunked) election fraud across the country.

“What she is fighting for, for her constituents, are the same things that I wish that I had representatives fighting for here in my state,” Jongebloed said. “Their discoveries [in Arizona] will, in turn, impact other areas of the country.”

Jongebloed is deeply convinced, he said, that the electoral system is rigged. He wanted his representatives, he said, "to give me confidence that my elections are legitimate and my vote counts." Rogers was working for this, he said.

Rogers is currently gearing up for what could be a bitter race to keep her Senate seat. After redistricting in the fall, both she and like-minded conservative Republican Senator Kelly Townsend found themselves in the same district.

Currently, Rogers represents a sprawling rural district that includes her home in Flagstaff but also portions of Gila, Yavapai, and Navajo counties. Townsend currently represents District 16, which includes much of Mesa and Apache Junction.

The two will compete in the newly drawn Seventh District, which stretches from Flagstaff to Globe.

Despite her popularity on the right in Arizona, Townsend has raised a tiny fraction of Rogers’ haul. Townsend’s cumulative annual report for 2021 listed just $9,300 in total income, $6,756 of which was from individual contributions.

During their time in the Arizona Senate, Townsend and Rogers have appeared to be political allies. Rogers endorsed her fellow senator in her short-lived run for U.S. Congress this year.

But Townsend has recently rebuked Rogers for some of her more extreme comments, writing on Twitter that Rogers' was "endorsing" white supremacists. "Good and decent people are also free to find it repulsive and un-American," Townsend wrote.

Rhetorically, Rogers has shown little restraint in going to extremes. Last month, her appearance at the America First Political Action Conference, as well as social media tirades that deployed anti-Semitic tropes and slurs against trans people, drew a rebuke from colleagues in the Senate.

AFPAC is a conference organized by political pundit and right-wing personality Nick Fuentes, who has a long history of espousing white nationalism. Rogers gave a prerecorded speech, alongside U.S. Representative Paul Gosar, in which she called for her political enemies and “criminals” to be hanged.

But this was hardly an anomaly. During her yearlong tenure as a state senator, Rogers has egged on Fuentes’ extremist supporters, evoked racist conspiracy theories, and become an election fraud evangelist, pushing other states to “audit” their elections.

But her reach seemed to mushroom in early August, according to a review of her campaign finance records. That month, the average number of individual donations was nine times higher than the previous month.

As it happened, on August 4, Wendy Rogers appeared on The Stew Peters Show, where she thanked him for “being brave to get this truth out,” as he falsely claimed that there was no evidence for the existence of the COVID-19 virus. A podcaster, Peters has been kicked off various mainstream platforms, including Spotify, for spreading misinformation.

A former bounty hunter, Peters rose to prominence in right-wing media last year, gathering a major following on the far right. In a profile, the Daily Beast called Peters a “sort of slightly less unhinged version of Alex Jones,” the conspiracy theorist. Peters' show has become a new “hub for conspiracy theories.”

In just three days after her appearance on the Peters show, Rogers had an influx of more than 3,000 donations — more than she had previously received in a single month. In those three days, she raised $110,834. It was more money than the $98,943 she had raised in the entire month of July.

The momentum continued. Her following on the messaging app Telegram has grown to nearly 150,000 people.

An endorsement by former President Donald Trump, which arrived at the end of November, also brought in more cash to Rogers’ campaign. The next day, November 30, she received nearly 1,000 donations, totaling $42,389.

Rogers’ supporters reported a wide range of professions. Jongebloed is a business owner and wellness coach. Many said they were retired. Others were doctors, insurance agents, and teachers.

Three self-reported correctional officers at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office gave money to Rogers, as did a Phoenix police lieutenant and four other Phoenix police and fire employees.

Eleven donors said they were Customs and Border Protection officers or Border Patrol agents, based in states including Arizona, California, Texas, and Alaska.

One donor, a financial adviser in Missouri, responded to New Times’ questions about her support for Rogers by sending a single John F. Kennedy quote: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden … to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

In an email to Phoenix New Times, Eric Hananoki, an investigative reporter at the watchdog group Media Matters who has been tracking Rogers’ rise, emphasized the dangers of Rogers’ national profile.

“She’s trying to use her platforms and status as an elected official to bring legitimacy to the white nationalist movement,” he said.


Vincent James Foxx, like Fuentes, has a long history of associating with hate groups, including the group responsible for beatings during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Rogers is a big fan: “Vincent James run for office,” she wrote on her Telegram.

Rogers, who generally refuses to speak with local media, did not reply to New Times’ interview requests for this article, and did not reply to a detailed list of questions provided to her office. But she has embraced the attention, good and bad, she has garnered during her time in office.

On Wednesday, she posted a photo of a recent Arizona Republic profile of her on Telegram. The headline read: “Rogers’ Hard-Right World.”

“I love you ALL,” she wrote.

And they love her. How much so will become apparent next month when she reports her contributions from the first quarter of this election year.
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Katya Schwenk is a staff writer for Phoenix New Times. Originally from Burlington, Vermont, she now covers issues ranging from policing to far-right politics here in Phoenix. She has worked as a breaking news correspondent in Rabat, Morocco, for Morocco World News, a government technology reporter for Scoop News Group in Washington, D.C., and a local reporter in Vermont for VTDigger. Her freelance work has been published in Business Insider, the Intercept, and the American Prospect, among other places.
Contact: Katya Schwenk