Former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake talks in the Spin Room after former President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Hialeah, Florida, on Nov. 8, 2023.
Arizona Republican Kari Lake, the likely GOP nominee for Senate in Arizona, is headlining a campaign fundraiser hosted by the wife of controversial “finfluencer” Grant Cardone this month in Texas.
Elena Cardone is the longtime spouse of Grant Cardone, who oversees a real estate investment empire he claims is worth billions. Grant Cardone and the firm he founded, Cardone Capital, have faced scrutiny and a string of lawsuits over the alleged exploitation of renters and accusations that Cardone — who has 7 million Facebook followers and millions who follow him on other social media platforms — overhyped his investment fund and lured followers into expensive contracts for his programs.
HuffPost reported, in a lengthy investigation in July, that “court records from lawsuits involving Grant Cardone’s training programs include claims from former clients who say they were trapped into lengthy, inflexible contracts that they were unable to pay for or get out of.” But none of the legal cases so far appear to have resulted in a determination of wrongdoing against Cardone Capital.
It’s not clear what Elena Cardone’s role in the business entails, though her website says that she and her husband “together … have created a real estate portfolio worth $5.2 billion.” She has her own big following online, where she claims to “build women so they can build an empire.”
Elena Cardone is listed as one of a dozen hosts of the Feb. 15 fundraiser for Lake in Round Rock, Texas, according to a copy of the invite obtained by HuffPost. It costs $1,000 just to get in the door and $13,200 per couple to become a “leadership committee” co-chair.
It’s perhaps the latest example of Lake, the 2022 GOP nominee for governor in Arizona and a prominent election-denier during that campaign, undermining the notion that she’s distancing herself from sources of potential controversy to appease national Republicans.
Lake was scheduled to headline a Feb. 2 fundraiser in Prescott, Arizona, hosted by Caryn and Michael Borland, wealthy GOP donors known for sharing QAnon posts on their social media accounts. Lake’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether she went ahead with that event.
In 2020, then-Vice President Mike Pence backed out of a Montana fundraiser with the Borlands over their apparent support of QAnon, a conspiracy theory whose adherents falsely believe Donald Trump and Robert Mueller were working together to stop an international cabal of powerful sex traffickers.
Vivek Ramaswamy and Elena Cardone speak during the 10X Ladies Empowerment Seminar at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa on Aug. 4, 2023, in Aventura, Florida.
Elena and Grant Cardone, who live in Florida, have donated to other GOP candidates over the years. In 2022, the couple maxed out contributions to Bernie Moreno, the former car dealer running again for the GOP Senate nomination in Ohio. Elena Cardone also contributed $11,400 to Trump’s campaign in 2020.
In 2022, Trump appeared at Grant Cardone’s annual real estate summit.
“Some of you will know this guy because he’a real estate mogul,” Grant Cardone said, introducing Trump on stage at a South Florida beach resort. “But most of you motherfuckers will know him because he’s the 45th President of the United States of America.”
On Tuesday, Grant Cardone posted to his YouTube account an interview with James O’Keefe, the right-wing provocateur who founded Project Veritas, an activist group that secretly records videos of its subjects and deceptively edits them.
Grant Cardone, whose social media persona is that of an over-caffeinated, bro-y sales guy, has built an empire doling out financial advice to millions of followers, building a brand as one of the world’s foremost “finfluencers,” shorthand for financial influencer. His fans include celebrities like Tom Brady and Kevin Hart. Grant Cardone posts videos on YouTube with titles like “How to Get Anything You Want in Life” and “5 Steps to Becoming a Millionaire.”
Grant Cardone sells his followers access to seminars and the ability to invest in his real estate firm, which oversees a gigantic portfolio of multi-unit apartment complexes located mostly in the Sun Belt. As recently as last year, he had been embroiled in a class-action lawsuit alleging he misled investors by overhyping the potential for investment returns, but a judge ended up tossing the complaint in October.
An investigation from The New Republic in August revealed that “Cardone has ratcheted up rents, skimped on property maintenance, survived off wide-scale evictions, and engaged in dubious investment practices.”
Grant Cardone did not respond to the specific allegations made in either piece but has lamented that people attempted to use the courts to go after his company for “doing great things.” He did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment about those reports.
Elena Cardone attends the 10X Ladies Empowerment Seminar on Aug. 4, 2023, in Aventura, Florida.
It’s not clear how much of an active role Elena Cardone plays in Cardone Capital’s real estate ventures and overall business strategy. Her website describes her as a licensed realtor as well as a “lifelong competitive sport shooter, and now wife, mother, author, businesswoman, empire builder, event producer, mentor, public speaker, and visionary.”
In an email, Elena Cardone confirmed to HuffPost that she is hosting the fundraiser for Lake and that she is endorsing her, but did not elaborate on her role in the company.
Elena Cardone has 528,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts lifestyle content with advice on “how to stop being broke” and “how to know when it’s time to break up with a guy.”
Lake, who’s potentially facing a three-way race for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, was outraised last quarter by Gallego, who brought in $3.3 million to Lake’s $2.1 million. Sinema, who hasn’t announced yet whether she’s running for reelection, raised less than $600,000 last quarter, but still had $10.8 million cash on hand at the start of the year.
Arizona could end up having one of the most expensive Senate races in the country this year if all three end up competing in the general election.