GOP candidate says "back the blue" — but campaigns with felon who plotted to kill an FBI informant

Kari Lake, Trump's pick for Arizona's next governor, is using campaign funds to pay a convicted felon

By Igor Derysh

Published February 25, 2022 5:30AM (EST)

Republican governor candidate for Arizona Kari Lake points to the crowd at a rally for former President Donald Trump at the Canyon Moon Ranch festival grounds on January 15, 2022 in Florence, Arizona. The rally marks Trump's first of the midterm election year with races for both the U.S. Senate and governor in Arizona this year. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Republican governor candidate for Arizona Kari Lake points to the crowd at a rally for former President Donald Trump at the Canyon Moon Ranch festival grounds on January 15, 2022 in Florence, Arizona. The rally marks Trump's first of the midterm election year with races for both the U.S. Senate and governor in Arizona this year. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Donald Trump's pick to be the next governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, a former local television reporter with no political experience, praises cops, touts "back the blue" on her campaign website and vows to increase resources to tackle violent criminals. She's also hit the campaign trail multiple times with a convicted felon who was accused by the Justice Department (DOJ) of trying to kill an FBI informant.

According to a finance report recently amended by Lake's campaign, the former TV news anchor who has repeatedly echoed Trump's election lies paid $2,000 to Kenneth Ulibarri, a repeat violent offender who pleaded guilty after the DOJ accused him of trying to hire a hitman to kill an FBI informant and an unrelated state charge of battery on a peace officer.

Ulibarri spoke at Lake's "Stand for Freedom" rally in Scottsdale last July, the first rally of her campaign. He was introduced as a man who's "been addicted to drugs, imprisoned, and totally hopeless" before a "miracle came" and he became a small business owner "on a mission to help others break free from addiction." Ulibarri used his rally speech to rail against "liberal policies that are destroying our country" and a laundry list of conservative culture war issues while touting his nonprofit work helping teenagers become "soldiers for Christ."

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"She stands for all the things that I believe in," Ulibarri said, adding that he would not send his kids to public school or college because they might "come back with purple hair and gay."

Campaign finance records show that the campaign paid $2,000 to Ulibarri at an address where he is listed as the statutory agent for a natural hair services business.

Ulibarri also appeared at a roundtable event with Lake earlier this month, according to images posted to Instagram. It's unclear how many campaign events in total Ulibarri has appeared in. Ulibarri and Lake's campaign did not respond to questions from Salon.


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During his July speech, Ulibarri made references to his past but did not mention the extent of his criminal record. As the Justice Department alleged, in 2015 Ulibarri "attempted to murder an FBI informant to prevent that informant from testifying" in a New Mexico trial related to a drug distribution ring. Ulibarri admitted in a plea agreement that he told another FBI informant that he and others "were hiring a hitman to kill" the FBI informant, though he denied that he was serious and claimed that he only wanted to get money from the second informant under the guise of hiring a hitman, court documents show.

Ulibarri in 2019 pleaded guilty to a 2014 charge of battery upon a peace officer, New Mexico court records show. In 2006, he was arrested on a felony drug warrant after he was found with a known associate of a man charged with killing a New Mexico sheriff, according to KRQE. He was also convicted in 2014 on a charge of driving under the influence, according to state records. In 2000, he pleaded guilty to receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle and criminal damage to property. In 1999, he and others were accused of beating another inmate at a New Mexico jail, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Ulibarri was also charged with two counts of assault on a peace officer in 2002, though those charges were later dropped, and hit with a litany of drug offenses and evidence tampering charges between 2002 and 2013 that were also dropped.


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Fellow Republican primary contender Karrin Taylor Robson's campaign called out Lake over her ties to Ulibarri. "Real conservatives who support a secure border and back the blue don't pay a campaign operative with a criminal history that includes drug trafficking, battery of a female officer and attempted murder of an FBI informant," Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Robson's campaign, said in a statement to Salon. "Like everything else involving Kari Lake, her words don't match her actions."


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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Arizona Elections 2022 Gop Kari Lake Politics Reporting Republicans