Oct 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Jeff Flake seeds new voting nonprofit

Former Sen. Jeff Flake is seen during a public event.
Jeff Flake. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Former Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who's now President Biden's nominee to be ambassador to Turkey, is funding a nonprofit focused on election processes in his home state of Arizona, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Arizona is ground-zero for election conspiracy theories. While those behind the Public Integrity Foundation say that's not the impetus for the group, they hope it will address some of the underlying issues.

What's happening: Flake's Senate campaign committee — which is still active — donated $150,000 to the Foundation in late September, days after it was formed, according to Federal Election Commission records.

  • Tyler Montague, the Foundation's chairman, told Axios the group approached Flake about backing its efforts, and his donation is its largest financial commitment, so far.
  • "Jeff Flake is a long time friend, and he’s also interested in one of the charter purposes of the foundation, which is to do research and education around alternative forms of voting," Montague said in a text message.
  • Like Flake, Montague is a Republican who's been critical of Donald Trump. He also runs the Public Integrity Alliance, a Mesa-based advocacy group that sued Maricopa County last year over ballot instructions it said violated state law.
  • Flake did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his donation.

The details: Montague said the Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, will study practices such as ranked-choice voting and approval voting.

  • "We aren’t limiting ourselves to any one particular method," he said.
  • The group is eyeing models such as Alaska's, which in 2020 included a top-four primary and a ranked-choice general election.
  • "Ranked-choice voting has a lot of merits even though NYC botched their first election with it," Montague said.

Between the lines: The Foundation is launching in a state bedeviled by controversies and conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election.

  • While a Republican-led "audit" of the state's election confirmed Biden's victory last year, state and national GOP leaders continue to falsely claim that fraud tainted the outcome.
  • Montague said that controversy wasn't the impetus for the Foundation but improved election processes could be an antidote in the future.
  • "It’s definitely a sign that there is a disconnect between the agenda of who we are electing and what the general public believes/wants," he said. "Which is one of the key arguments made by people who advocate for something like RCV over our current election methods."
Go deeper