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Former Gov. Ducey will lead a political action committee

Saying he wants to fight a "push toward socialism," Doug Ducey has signed on as the new chief executive of Citizens for Free Enterprise.

And look for it to continue to try to influence voters and elections across the nation, at least in an indirect way.

In a prepared statement and video release Tuesday, the former Arizona governor said his new role is a return to where he started in launching Cold Stone Creamery, a system of franchises for ice cream.

"It's that entrepreneurial effort that ultimately inspired me to run for governor," Ducey said, winning the first of his two terms in 2014 after four years as state treasurer. And Ducey said his tenure "turned Arizona into a leader of free-market innovation."

"But lately, free enterprise is under attack everywhere we turn: bigger government, needless regulation and a push toward socialism," the former governor said.

Ducey said the newly revamped organization would allow Americans to "push back" against all that with an effort to "motive more people who care about free enterprise to get involved in elections."

Until now the organization has been using its resources to directly influence elections.

Reports from Open Secrets show that in the 2020 election it spent more than $5.7 million to defeat Democrats in congressional races and another nearly $1.2 million in support of Republicans. And that money came largely from Joe Ricketts, the founder and former CEO of Ameritrade.

Ducey, who has remained largely silent since leaving office at the end of last year, declined to comment beyond his written and video statements.

But J.P. Twist, a Ducey political ally who will serve as the organization's executive director, told Capitol Media Services that all that is changing. "The group existed in limited scope and form," he said, saying Ducey was brought on to revamp and grow the organization. "It will look nothing like it has previously," Twist said. "All we're keeping is the name."

But the former governor also will be called on to raise money.

Twist said that when Ducey headed the Republican Governors Association he raised "record amounts" from donors across the country to help elect its candidates. "He will bring that experience and those relationships to grow CFFE," he said.

Twist specifically said the organization is launching a new "social welfare" organization. Under Internal Revenue Service rules, these can run commercials and advertisement in support of or against candidates.

But Twist said those efforts will be "less candidate and more issues focused."

Tom Maxedon is the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition on Saturday and Sunday from 6-10 a.m. and All Things Considered on Monday from 3-6 p.m.