Oct 26, 2022 - Politics

Arizona political groups are using news sites and voter guides to tout their views

Hand dangling puppet strings holding various forms of media like TV and newspaper

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Democratic and Republican groups are running websites that are disguised as local news sites and nonpartisan voter guides but are actually chock-full of partisan messaging.

Why it matters: Voters could be misled into making decisions based on information that either overplays or understates reality.

Driving the news: A network of at least 51 locally branded news sites associated with national Democratic operatives have popped up across the country since last year, Axios' Lachlan Markay and Thomas Wheatley report.

  • In Arizona, the Mesa Times, Valley Gazette, Pima Times and Yuma Standard all have articles about hiking and local events but also feature stories about GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake's divisiveness, lawmakers' views on abortion and other Democratic talking points.
  • All of the sites can be tied to The American Independent (TAI), which is funded in part by American Bridge, an opposition research-focused Democratic super PAC.
  • TAI would not tell Axios whether it has editorial control over the sites' content.

The other side: This tactic is also being used by Arizona conservative groups that are publishing voter guides that appear nonpartisan.

  • One of these is azvoterguide.com, which looks official and claims to be nonpartisan, but is run by Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative anti-abortion advocacy group.
  • CAP asked all candidates to respond in support or opposition of a number of policies, but almost no Democrats responded to the voter guide request.
  • CAP says in the voter guide that it researched those candidates' views and decided where they stood on issues based on past public comments. CAP's president, Cathi Herrod, tells Axios the voter guide is produced separately from the group's political arm, which endorses candidates, and is meant only as a voter education tool.

Yes, but: At the bottom of the home page, a graphic encourages voters to support four Republican-backed ballot propositions. It includes a QR code directed toward candidate endorsements by Center for Arizona Policy Action, the group's political advocacy arm.

What they're saying: "If you're trying to pass off a specific viewpoint as objective, verifiable truth, then that's a problem. What we're doing is reinforcing biases," ASU media literacy expert Kristy Roschke tells Axios Phoenix.

  • She says it's OK to look at websites or guides that share viewpoints or analysis that favor one political stance, but it's important to investigate who is behind the information and hear out the other side, too.

Be smart: If there's an issue you really care about, check multiple sources to make sure you've done your due diligence.

  • The Poynter Institute and other media literacy groups have a checklist to help you determine if a website is credible.

Our humble brag: Here at Axios Phoenix, we aim to be extremely transparent about who is writing our content and why (to help you get smarter faster).

  • We also have an actual nonpartisan voter guide to help you navigate all the choices on your ballot.
  • And if you have friends living in other states, we may have them covered, too. Check out all of our voter guides produced in our local markets.

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