Embattled Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona promised voters that her campaign would "suspend all campaign fundraising" for the first two weeks of April in favor of "15 Days of Giving," but finance records released last week show that the campaign seems to have raised $300,000 in that time, and apparently kept all of it.
"For the next 15 days, McSally for Senate will suspend all campaign fundraising and instead raise as much money as possible for The Salvation Army of Arizona," the campaign claimed in an April 1 press release.
McSally also announced the plan in a video posted that day to Twitter: "I'm announcing today that my campaign will pause all fundraising for the next 15 days, as I launch a 15 Days of Giving campaign," she said.
The campaign statement also said that McSally would "donate her entire Senate paycheck for the month of April to help people impacted by the coronavirus." It's unclear if she delivered on the promise.
In an April 2 interview McSally told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that the campaign was "ceasing fundraising," and shared a video of the interview to social media.
"I'm spending the next 15 days putting politics aside & raising money for the Salvation Army of Arizona. They're providing rent assistance, household essentials & meals for kids & families. Make a donation today at http://15daysofgiving.care. We're in this together! #15DaysofGiving," McSally tweeted.
The next day the Arizona Republic published a report citing information from the campaign and an interview with the candidate: "Today, she's not even asking for money. Instead, McSally is raising money for 15 days for The Salvation Army of Arizona."
On April 11, McSally promoted a TV segment which suggested she had "stopped fundraising."
The campaign also promoted a landing page designed to collect email information, which reads: "For the first 15 days of April, our campaign is committing 100% of our campaign resources to raising money for The Salvation Army's COVID-19 relief efforts in Arizona."
However, a Salon analysis of the campaign's finance filings does not show that those funds went anywhere other than toward the campaign's own account for future use. The donations came from large PACs and small-dollar individual contributors alike.
The campaign characterized that money as "passive."
"Any money that passively came in during this period was from recurring donations, past money coming in the door, or joint fundraising committee disbursements," campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg told Salon in an email.
"Senator McSally and her team channeled 100% of their efforts during these 15 days to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the thousands of Arizonans served by the Salvation Army and any suggestion otherwise is outrageous and a misleading attempt to politicize this important work," she added.
The campaign provided information from the Salvation Army claiming that McSally's page had raised more than $212,000, adding that McSally's team volunteered "many hours of their time" at Salvation Army Corps Community Centers, "packing and delivering food boxes and household essentials for Arizonans in need."
It nonetheless appears that McSally repeatedly conflated her campaign with the fundraising effort, calling them "our funds" in her launch video. She conducted the fundraising through a separate landing page, paid for by her campaign, which routed donors who entered contact information to make a direct donation to the Salvation Army.
McSally has found herself consistently trailing Democratic opponent Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and the husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was severely injured in a 2011 shooting. Kelly has held a double-digit margin over McSally for months, and recent polling puts the spread at around 12 points.
Last week the Cook Political Report shifted the race from "Toss Up" to "Lean" Democrat.
"The bottom fell out for us at the end of May and June," a Republican strategist told the outlet.
Kelly has consistently outraised the Republican incumbent, more recently raising $12.8 million to McSally's $8.9 million in the second quarter of this year.
A former Air Force combat pilot and two-term House member, McSally ran for an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona in 2018, but was narrowly defeated by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Then McSally was appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to fill Arizona's other Senate seat, left vacant by the death of Sen. John McCain. She could end up losing two U.S. Senate races in the same state within two years, a rare accomplishment.