Arizona political groups use news sites and voter guides to spread their views

Hand dangling puppet strings holding various forms of media such as television and newspapers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Democratic and Republican groups operate websites masquerading as local news sites and nonpartisan voter leaders, but are in fact chock full of partisan news.

Why it matters: Voters could be misled into making decisions based on information that either exaggerates or underestimates reality.

Driving the news: Since last year, a network of at least 51 locally branded news sites linked to national democracy activists have emerged across the country. Axios’ Lachlan Markay and Thomas Wheatley report.

  • In Arizona, the Mesa Times, Valley Gazette, Pima Times, and Yuma Standard all have articles about hiking and local events, but also stories about the split in GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, lawmakers’ views on abortion, and other Democratic talking points.
  • All sides can be linked to The American Independent (TAI), which is funded in part by American Bridge, an opposition research-oriented Democratic super-PAC.
  • TAI would not tell Axios whether it has editorial control over the content of the pages.

The other side: This tactic is also used by conservative groups in Arizona, which publish election guides that appear bipartisan.

  • One is azvoterguide.com, which looks official and claims to be non-partisan, but is operated by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative anti-abortion advocacy group.
  • CAP asked all candidates to comment for or against a number of policies, but almost no Democrats responded to the voter guide’s request.
  • CAP says in the voter guide that it researched the views of these candidates and decided where they stand on issues based on previous public comments. CAP President Cathi Herrod told Axios that the voter guide is produced separately from the group’s political arm, which supports candidates, and is intended solely as a voter education tool.

Yes but: At the bottom of the home page, a graphic encourages voters to back four Republican-backed nominations. It contains a QR code targeting candidate endorsement through the Center for Arizona Policy Action, the group’s political advocacy arm.

What you say: “If you’re trying to pass off a particular point of view as objective, verifiable truth, then that’s a problem. What we’re doing is reinforcing prejudice,” ASU media literacy expert Kristy Roschke told Axios Phoenix.

  • She says it’s okay to look at websites or guides that share viewpoints or analysis that favor a political stance, but it’s important to examine who is behind the information and hear the other side as well.

Be smart: If there’s an issue you really care about, check multiple sources to make sure you’ve done your due diligence.

  • The Poynter Institute and other media literacy groups have a checklist to help you determine if a website is credible.

Our humble boast: Here at Axios Phoenix, we want to be extremely transparent about who is writing our content and why (to help you get smarter faster).

  • We have one too indeed impartial voter’s guide to help you navigate through all the choices on your ballot.
  • And if you have friends who live in other states, we can cover those too. View all of our voter guides made in our local markets.

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