Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit spent much of the summer and fall overseeing finances for president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign as chief operating officer, an unpaid effort that ended as he watched Trump give a victory speech.
Now that his candidate has won, DeWit is back in Arizona full time but dogged by talk that he’s going to benefit from his support by getting a post in the new administration.
DeWit won’t say definitively that he won’t leave. But he’s not looking for a job and says he’s happy being treasurer for the next two years. His wife and three daughters love Arizona, and he’s not inclined to leave the state.
But that doesn’t mean Trump hasn’t offered “some fantastic opportunities,” DeWit said.
“And I certainly want to do all I can to help his administration be successful and be a part of draining the swamp, quite frankly,” DeWit said in an interview this week. “And one of the things that excites me the most is trying to fix our broken system. I very much want to be a part of that.”
DeWit first met Trump in early 2015 at a meeting of Republican state treasurers in South Carolina, before Trump announced he was running for president. He waited outside the conference hotel, settling himself up as a kind of ambassador for the treasurers in order to wrangle a chance to meet the businessman.
“I’m a geek and a business guy, and I grew up always admiring business leaders, the Bill Gates of the world,” said DeWit, who ran for office in 2014 with no political experience and touted his own business background. “And so Donald Trump, obviously, for a lot of people in my generation, my age bracket, he was a leading business figure that was always in the news, doing big things and big deals and was someone to admire.”
He and Trump ended up talking for 20 minutes, and he offered to help out on a campaign if Trump were to jump in.
The emerging campaign kept in touch, speaking with DeWit every week or so, he said. By July 2015, Trump was formally a candidate, and DeWit helped set up one of his first big rallies, at the Phoenix convention center.
“I picked him up at the airport, I took him to the event, was with him the whole time and took him back to the plane,” DeWit said. “I sat on his plane for almost an hour.”
Also on the plane was a Washington Post reporter, who sat nearby as Trump urged DeWit to run in the 2016 primary against Republican Sen. John McCain. DeWit never signed on, but the Post story was the first inkling that DeWit was becoming close to Trump.
DeWit was Arizona campaign chair, went to debates, helped out the national campaign and often spoke on national news shows about his support.
Then in June, Trump fired campaign manager Cory Lewandowski after controversies on the campaign trail and amid concerns that he was unprepared to run the general election campaign.
Within hours of the Monday, June 20, firing, DeWit got a call from Trump Tower in New York.
“Wednesday morning, I was in his conference room, and they’re telling me they want me to do more for the campaign,” DeWit said. “Later that day I was COO of the campaign, COO and CFO, essentially.”
DeWit spent substantial time in New York, running the campaign’s financial planning, flying home to handle treasurer business when he could.
“I’m approving every expense, so I’m keeping track as all the money comes in, I’m doing the budgeting,” he said. “If there was a dollar spent on the campaign I had to approve it.”
That’s a lot of approving, with the campaign raising about $300 million in all.
“I was trying to plan and make sure that we could get through the campaign, know exactly how much we could spend, how much could we spend on ads,” he said.
It ended with a big win for Trump, one that leaves DeWit pleased he was an early backer and asked constantly whether he’s leaving the state for a role in the presidential administration.
“I never want to conclusively say one way or the other what I will do because you never know. One thing I will say is that Mr. Trump is a very persuasive man,” he said. “But my plan right now is to remain state treasurer and do the very best I can do for the taxpayers and voters that elected me.”