Paid operatives linked to a GOP firm are helping Cornel West in Arizona

A dozen paid operatives registered with Arizona’s secretary of state on Sunday to collect signatures on behalf of left-wing presidential candidate Cornel West, listing their employer as a Republican-leaning firm that recently worked for GOP House candidate Blake Masters.

Arizona, unlike most states, requires paid or out-of-state petition-gatherers to register with the state. On their public registrations, some of circulators working to help West get on the ballot in Arizona struggled to spell his name, listing it as “Carnel west” or “Cornelle West.”

All checked boxes indicating they are out of state and that they are being paid. All listed Wells Marketing LLC — or some variation, with a few misspellings — as the company they are working for.

It’s unclear who is paying them. Wells Marketing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The Democratic Party & the mainstream media are fabricating stories about us having ties to GOP operatives. False!” West campaign spokesperson Edwin DeJesus said. “We’re not hiring Republicans or Democrats. This is a clear smear because we’re championing workers, while they protect the interests of the wealthy elite.”

“They falsely claim we’re aiding Trump to discredit us, but we stand with poor and working people,” he added.

NBC News recently uncovered Republican-linked operatives secretly collecting signatures for West in North Carolina, another key swing state. Last week, the Democratic majority on North Carolina’s State Board of Elections voted against giving initial ballot access to West via a new political party started on his behalf, citing the NBC News report and other concerns.

West will have to collect tens of thousands of signatures to get on the ballot in Arizona, but it’s unlikely the West campaign is paying the circulators. The campaign is essentially broke, reporting in its most recent campaign finance report that it owed more money than it had on hand. And the campaign has said it is ideologically committed to using volunteers instead of paid canvassers.

Wells Marketing collected signatures earlier this year for several Arizona Republican candidates, including Masters, state Rep. Justin Heap and GOP Senate candidate Elizabeth Jean Reye, according to the secretary of state’s records. It also reported working on behalf of Green Party Senate candidate Mike Norton, whom the Arizona Green Party has disavowed as one of two plants running on behalf of the major parties.

Some prominent Republicans have promoted West’s left-wing candidacy as a way to “take away votes from Joe Biden.” West is a famed Black academic and racial justice activist who has made a central focus of his campaign the plight of Gazans suffering during Israel’s war on Hamas.

Republicans looking to boost West have said they are focused on general election battleground states like Arizona, where a few thousand votes could decide whether President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump wins in November.

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