George Santos’ former treasurer running attack ads in Arizona with Dem-sounding PAC name

schweikert santos

Reps. George Santos, R-N.Y., background, Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, right, and David Schweikert, R-Ariz., listen to Israeli President Isaac Herzog address a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

By Camaron Stevenson

March 25, 2024

An unregistered, Republican-run political action committee from Texas with a deceptively Democratic name and ties to disgraced US Rep. George Santos spent several thousand dollars this month running attack ads against an East Valley congressional candidate.

An organization called Turn AZ Blue PAC aired an ad during political talk shows targeting Marlene Galán-Woods, one of several Democrats vying to unseat Republican US Rep. David Schweikert in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. In it, the ad claimed Galán-Woods stole money from her now-deceased husband’s employer, and that she previously opposed LGBTQ rights and access to abortion.

‘Riddled with lies’

The origin of the commercial is shrouded in a cloud of obscurity usually reserved for dark money groups. Texas-based Turn AZ Blue paid TV stations in cash, and its listed contacts are a political consultant from El Paso and one of the most prolific campaign treasurers in the Republican Party with a history of campaign finance violations.

Its name appears to be purposely deceptive: While it mimics those of Democratic Party-aligned organizations like Keep Arizona Blue and Turn AZ Blue 2024, Turn AZ Blue has ties to disgraced US Rep. George Santos, the far-right, and several other PACS dedicated to helping Republicans maintain their slim majority in the US House of Representatives.

“This ad is riddled with lies from beginning to end,” Galán-Woods told The Copper Courier. “Republicans know I’m the strongest candidate in this race. They know that David Schweikert should be most fearful of my candidacy and going up against him in November.”

The Galán-Woods campaign has prepared a demand letter they plan to send to the stations that aired the ad. In it, they argue the commercial is a form of false advertising, and outline corrections to all the claims made in the ad they believe to be inaccurate.

Commercial or political speech

The Federal Trade Commission regulates false advertising and issues fines as high as $50,000 per violation. However, its truth-in-advertising rules mainly deal with misleading information in commercial advertising used to defraud consumers. When it comes to political advertising, FTC spokesperson Mitchell Katz said whoever puts on the ad has the First Amendment right to say whatever they want, whether they’re a politician, a PAC, or an individual.

“Any political speech is protected,” said Katz. “No matter who it comes from.”

Galán-Woods’ letter lists three inaccuracies in the 30-second ad, the first being that she stole money from the attorney general’s office while her late husband, Grant Woods, was in office.

The allegation stems from a 1996 investigation into the office’s use of taxpayer funds. Galán-Woods’ only connection to the investigation was airline vouchers that her husband used so the couple could attend a conference in New York, and there’s no indication that she was aware the vouchers were used inappropriately. Woods repaid the attorney general’s office for the value of the vouchers when the investigation determined they should not have been used to cover for the couple’s travel expenses.

The ad also points to various online posts from 2013 and 2017 as evidence that Galán-Woods, a former Republican, was anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion. But the blog post referenced by Galán-Woods details her personal experience that led to her supporting same-sex marriage—a shift not uncommon at the time, two years before the US Supreme Court ruled bans against same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“My position on marriage equality has evolved even further,” she wrote. “I do care. It does matter. I am now proud to fight alongside the gay and lesbian community for their rights to marry.”

Galán-Woods took particular offense to the allegation that she was formerly anti-abortion, which was derived from a confusing string of posts and reposts on Twitter/X. While she has no public statements in support of abortion healthcare before Roe v. Wade was overturned, she reiterated her support and offered her endorsement for the Arizona for Abortion Access Act, which would make abortion access a protected right in the state constitution.

“I grew up my entire life with Roe v. Wade having my back,” said Galán-Woods. “It wasn’t until Roe v. Wade went down that it occurred to all of us that my daughter, my granddaughters, don’t have the same rights that I did.”

While largely misleading, none of the allegations against Galán-Woods relate to fraud and are likely protected political speech. This may provide cover for Turn AZ Blue from false advertising violations from the FTC, but they could soon face fines from another government agency: The Federal Election Commission.

The Santos connection

Political candidates and organizations have strict requirements on how they can operate and what they report to the FEC. Any organization that accepts political contributions must register with the FEC within 10 days of receiving or spending a total of $1,000.

However, the Federal Election Commission confirmed with The Copper Courier that no entity is registered under the name “Turn AZ Blue PAC.” FCC records show that the group met the $1,000 on March 17, leaving them until March 27 to register with the FEC.

The organization’s treasurer, Thomas Datwyler, has a long history of FEC violations. His fines since November 2022 have reached over $20,000 for failing to report contributions to Republican House candidates in Washington, Illinois, and Georgia.

Datwyler has been listed as the treasurer for over 540 campaigns and political organizations since 2002, including an organization that donated $1 million to fund Cyber Ninja’s inaccurate, partisan evaluation of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results, and Santos’ 2022 campaign. Datwyler denied his involvement with Santos, but reporting by The Daily Beast revealed that he secretly worked for Santos under a pseudonym.

The only other connection Datwyler has to Arizona besides Turn Arizona Blue is Kathleen Winn, the far-right candidate challenging US Rep. Juan Ciscomani in Arizona’s 6th Legislative District. Winn has Datwyler listed as her treasurer.

Datwyler did not respond to repeated requests by The Copper Courier for comment on this story.

Meddling in party primaries

Attack ads are not uncommon in contentious party primaries—but typically, they come from opponents from the same party. Turn AZ Blue attempts to appear aligned with Democratic ideology, but its roots plant it firmly within Republican politics. Its other listed contact, Carlos Sierra, a political consultant from Texas, has a history of shrouding Republican efforts to meddle with Democratic primaries.

The PAC states it is not affiliated with any candidate, and Schweikert’s campaign did not respond to questions about any relationship they might have with Turn AZ Blue, Sierra, or Datwyler.

But other candidates in the race say they wouldn’t put it past him.

“While I was as surprised to see this ad as everyone else, the fact of the matter is we need to be ready for the negative attacks that will come from David Schweikert in the general election,” Democratic congressional candidate Conor O’Callaghan told The Copper Courier in a written statement. “Negative ads are inevitable in a targeted race like this. I think the ad bluntly raises questions about Marlene’s past positions and it will be up to her to decide how to address it.”

The Primary Election will be held July 30, and early ballots will be mailed July 3. Only voters registered as either Republican or Democrat are allowed to vote in their party’s primary election.


  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.



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