Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R) raised more than $100,000 Saturday night at an event headlined by popular Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R). The money will go toward paying lawyer fees accrued when Hayworth was implicated in the Abramoff scandal. Hayworth gained notoriety when he became a far-right talk radio host after losing his House seat to Rep. Harry Mitchell (D). Recently, he made headlines when a Rasmussen poll showed him in a statistical tie with Senator John McCain in a potential run for his Senate seat.
Hayworth lost his seat primarily because he was publicly implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal and had to hire a lawyer to respond to the subsequent investigation. Hayworth was also one of the largest recipients of campaign contributions from Abramoff, and he refused to return Abramoff's donations even after his Congressional colleagues returned Abramoff-tainted funds. Hayworth also used Abramoff's skyboxes for free; later (when it became public) Hayworth reimbursed two Native American tribes for the use of the skyboxes even though the skyboxes belonged to Abramoff. Questions remain whether Hayworth funneled Abramoff money into his personal household by paying his wife to run his political action committee (TEAM PAC), which received a hefty sum of money from Abramoff.
According to Jason Rose, the host of Saturday's fundraiser, Hayworth raised more than $110,000 from more than 400 supporters for Hayworth's Freedom in Truth Trust, which was set up to help Hayworth pay off $140,000 in outstanding legal debts (lawyer fees) incurred in relation to the Abramoff investigation.
Rose also said that comments made Saturday night indicated that Hayworth will likely run against McCain in the Republican Senate primary. Hayworth previously said he is in the "due diligence" stage and indicated that he will not make a final decision until January 2010. Hayworth went on to indicate that because McCain has one of the largest war chests in the country, his own ability to raise money could determine the matter, hinting to supporters that paying off his legal debt could persuade him to run.
When Hayworth last ran for office, the Arizona Republic said Hayworth had "devolved" over his terms in Congress "from a windy and sometimes cartoonish politician into an angry demagogue" and "bomb thrower." Their endorsement of Mitchell went on to say that Hayworth's "outraged-partisan routine" works better on talk radio or Fox News than in Congress. Fittingly, Hayworth went on to become a local talk radio host.
Despite his disreputable past, Hayworth is a popular conservative leader in Arizona today, especially among Tea Partiers. Hayworth has been a featured speaker at Tea Party events across the state including the Tax Day Tea Party in Phoenix and October's Tea Party in Tucson. He has also promoted the Tea Parties and their events on his talk radio show.