Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Photo from Sarah Sanders Facebook

Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders took her whole family to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this month — one of the most expensive sporting events of all time. And now the GOP darling is being cagey about how she managed to snag luxury VIP box seats and get exclusive access to some of the biggest stars at the game.

Talking Points Memo (TPM) did a deep dive to estimate how much Sanders' Super Bowl trip would have cost, when accounting for suite passes for herself, her husband, and her three children combined with other perks, like field-level access to Usher's halftime show and access to Chiefs star tight end (and Taylor Swift's boyfriend) Travis Kelce. Ken Solky — a highly regarded ticket broker in Las Vegas — estimated that the face value of tickets for a high-level box like the kind in which Sanders was seen partying on Instagram was in the neighborhood of $37,500 per person.

"It definitely looks like a suite," Solky told TPM when viewing the images Sanders posted. "[N]ot just a suite but a pretty damn good suite."

Each additional pass the Sanders family had to access special events came with a price tag of anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 per person. TPM estimated that on the low end, Sanders' excursion cost more than $202,000. It's unlikely that she paid for the trip out of her own pocket, as that amount is far above her gubernatorial salary of $160,000, and more than her $165,000 annual salary as former President Donald Trump's White House press secretary. But whether she was gifted the passes or used taxpayer resources is still shrouded in mystery.

The Arkansas governor's 2023 ethics disclosure form — in which Arkansas public officials have to disclose any gift of more than $100 — didn't disclose that she received any six-figure gifts. And expenses relating to her travel and security are exempted from the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines, after Sanders convened a special legislative session last year specifically to change FOIA laws. That special session was notably convened in the wake of public reporting surrounding her office's purchase of a $19,000 lectern.

One big clue TPM found was a photo of Sanders in a VIP box with Tavia Hunt — a prominent GOP donor who is also the wife of Kansas City Chiefs co-owner Clark Hunt — which would been among the most expensive seats at Allegiant Stadium. Such gifts would necessitate reporting as it could be constituted as an out-of-state special interest attempting to curry favor with Arkansas' governor.

"If you’re in a luxury suite, it would be the highest face price ticket to the event," Graham Sloan, the director of the Arkansas Ethics Commission, told TPM.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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Far-Right Media Still Pushing Super Bowl Conspiracy Theories

Taylor Swift embraces Travis Kelce after Chiefs Super Bowl victory in Las Vega on February 11, 2024

Reuters/Brian Snyder

Following months of right-wing attacks on singer Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce, far-right social media accounts continued to push baseless conspiracy theories about the singer — as well as the game itself — during and after the 2024 Super Bowl.

  • Right-wing media figures relentlessly attacked Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce leading up to the Super Bowl, eventually drawing criticism from some right-wing peers
    • Swift’s relationship with Kelce has been drawing right-wing ire for months. In September, Kelce’s appearances in advertising campaigns for Pfizer and Bud Light spurred anti-vax and anti-LGBTQ attacks against the couple. [Media Matters, 9/27/23]
    • Prior to the Superbowl, right-wing figures claimed Swift was a Democratic operative or part of a “psyop.” They also claimed that the game would be rigged for Kelce’s team to win and that a Chiefs victory would strengthen Swift’s potential endorsement of President Joe Biden. [Media Matters, 2/1/24]

    • Even some right-wing media figures started begging fellow conservatives to stop attacking Swift. Some figures recognized the absurdity of such theories, asking their colleagues and peers to focus on more important issues heading into the 2024 election cycle. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro said, “Guys, not everything you don’t like is a conspiracy.” [Media Matters, 2/2/24]
  • QAnon figures and far-right accounts accused Swift’s Super Bowl guest Ice Spice of being a “satanist” and “summoning demons”
    • QAnon account Shadow of Ezra claimed that Ice Spice, who came to the game with Swift, was “seen making hand gestures associated with Satanic symbolism while wearing an upside-down cross.” The account also said the Super Bowl was “nothing but a major Satanic ritual.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 7/17/23]
    • QAnon influencer Brian Cates said Ice Spice threw “up the devil sign with both hands and then does the double-hand collar lift to hold up the upside down cross to make sure attention is drawn to it.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 5/18/23]
    • QAnon influencer John Sabal (aka “QAnon John”) called Swift an “alcoholic harlot who likes to hang out with Satanists,” asking if “that thing next to her” was “summoning demons” with an “upside down cross.” [Gab, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 9/27/23]
    • QAnon influencerMJTruth posted a video of Ice Spice and Taylor Swift at the football game titled “A satanist performing a satanic ritual, while the drunken harlot gets hammered.” [Rumble, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 7/28/23]
    • Right-wing Twitter account For America posted, “With Chiefs down 3 how many more demons will Ice Spice summon?!?” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
    • Anti-vaccine figure Erin Elizabeth posted on Twitter, “Ice Spice who accompanied Taylor Swift to tonight's game throwing up satanic symbols while wearing an upside down cross.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 11/22/22]
    • Right-wing account End Wokeness said Ice Spice was showing “demonic hand gestures on the big screen” with an “upside down cross” and “not even hiding it.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
    • Former Fox News producer Kyle Becker accused Ice Spice of “demon summoning,” sharing a video of her touching her necklace. [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
    • Real America’s Voice’s Ben Bergquam claimed that Swift was in “all black chugging while her friend Ice Spice wearing an upside down cross signs to the devil.” Bergquam called this “spiritual warfare” and asked God to “rebuke the evil and witchcraft of this generation.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
  • Other far-right figures claimed that the Super Bowl was “rigged” and the NFL is a “scam”
    • QAnon influencer Sun Tzu called the NFL a “scam” because it had announced “the address of the stadium in Las Vegas after Kansas City won the Super Bowl,” which was “333.” According to SunTzusWar, “Who has ever announced the address of the stadium of the Super Bowl? Just saying.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 12/12/23]
    • “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander called the Super Bowl “totally fake & rigged,” adding, “Notice no grass stains.” [Telegram, 2/11/24]
      • The Biden Twitter/X page posted a Dark Brandon meme, and QAnon John said it was “signaling to everyone that the Super Bowl was RIGGED in their favor.” He also called it “direct comms.” [Gab, 2/11/24; Jezebel, 2/12/24]
      • QAnon personality Woke Societies posted, “Tell me the nfl isn’t rigged.” [Telegram, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 4/18/22]
  • QAnon figures have continued the trend of labeling Swift a “psyop”
      • QAnon John posted screenshots of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama congratulating the Chiefs and “Taylor Swift’s boyfriend” with the caption “PSYOP CONFIRMED.” [Gab, 2/12/24]
      • QAnon influencer Jordan Sather: “There’s more aliens featured during this game than Taylor Swift. Subliminal soft disclosure be strong. Prepping our minds for something later this year? Psyop me harder baby.” [Telegram, 2/11/24; The Hill, 6/15/21]
      • A user on the QAnon forum TheDonald posted a picture of Taylor Swift with the caption “totally not a psyop.” [, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 12/12/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.