The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce CEO said claims by a state senator that the organization wanted a list of gun owners is “a lie” and “100% false”.
Dale Steenbergen spoke with Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday, hours after Sen. Anthony Bouchard , R-Cheyenne, made his claims on social media.
“Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce wants the list of gun owners. What does this have to do with growing business?” Bouchard wrote on his personal Facebook page. “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!”
The situation actually stems from a complaint filed by Steenbergen and the chamber against the Wyoming Gun Owners Association regarding ads it ran during the 2020 election season.
The chamber argued WYGO wasn’t registered with the secretary of state’s office, as required to run ads supporting or opposing candidates or issues. WYGO officials maintained the group’s ads only educated voters on candidates for office and did not urge people to vote against those candidates.
“During Anthony’s election in Laramie County last year, he was saying some things about his opponent that were outright lies,” Steenbergen said. “That’s illegal in Wyoming law. We saw a number of issues, so we called a bunch of attorneys that were involved with the chamber and asked them to look into it.”
Bouchard is the founder of WYGO, and Steenbergen and the chamber felt uneasy about some of the issues they saw during the election, especially about the lack of disclosure regarding WYGO’s donors. Therefore, a letter was sent to the secretary of state and attorney general’s offices about the organization.
Steenbergen said his and the chamber’s concerns were to do with electioneering, not guns. He reiterated this point throughout the interview, noting that in his 13 years with the chamber, the organization had never been involved in any weapons-related issues.
“Nonprofits shouldn’t be enriching their managers off of money they raised in Wyoming,” he said. “We want to make sure dark money stays out of Wyoming. If you want to donate campaign money, that’s great, but you need to do the paperwork.”
On Bouchard’s Facebook page, Steenbergen said Bouchard’s claim was “100% false” and “a lie”.
Steenbergen said the next steps will depend on what Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Attorney General Bridget Hill determine about the WYGO situation.
According to an Associated Press article, the organization must register with the secretary of state’s office and disclose its donors or face a $500 fine.
Steenbergen doesn’t think the election officials will determine what WYGO did was legal, but if they do, he and the chamber will begin work on campaign finance reform.
“We’re very concerned about this, because if a state that can’t keep its election climate in a good place, that’s bad for business,” he said. “We want integrity in election process and we’re asking for that to happen.”
Earlier this year, Bouchard announced he will be running against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in 2022.