By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort owner John “Jay” Kemmerer III is taking some criticism for political donations he has made to various Republicans candidates this year, including controversial Colorado U.S. House Rep. Lauren Boebert.
Some of the candidates he’s donated to support climate change policies that conflict with most of the ski industry’s stance on how to deal with climate change, and even actions Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has taken to address climate change itself.
“Nowhere is the imminent risk of climate change more clear and potentially dire than in regions based around an outdoor economy,” said Mario Molina, executive director of Protect Our Winters, a ski industry-focused climate change group based in Boulder, Colorado. “And perhaps none are as remote and fully dependent on an outdoor way of life and outdoor tourism as the Jackson region.
“That is what makes Kemmerer’s direct support for politicians who actively deny climate change and work against actions to reduce emissions so confounding.”
Kemmerer declined Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment, but the ski resort released a statement on his behalf that the policies of the business are separate from its owner’s personal political interests.
“The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has not and will not make contributions to any political candidate or political party,” the statement reads. “In addition to this commitment, campaign finance law dictates that corporations cannot donate directly to political candidates.”
Protect Our Winters does not see align with this argument.
“The power of being the chairman and owner of the largest mountain resort in the state gives Kemmerer the freedom to have a significant impact on our national politics,” Molina said in his statement to Cowboy State Daily.
Kemmerer’s donations were made as a private person and there are no political action committees tied to the ski resort. He did list Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as his employer on a number of the donations.
“JHMR encourages each of our employees to research political candidates and issues and supports everyone’s right to vote in accordance with their priorities,” the resort statement says.
Kemmerer has made more than $260,000 in donations to Republican candidates this year, including Wyoming U.S. Congress candidate Harriet Hageman, Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, all of whom have risen to the defense of oil and gas companies when it comes to climate change.
Kemmerer gave $25,000 to Wyoming Values in June, a PAC working on Hageman’s behalf. Hageman also received $11,600 in direct donations from Kemmerer and his wife.
During a June interview with Cowboy State Daily, Hageman didn’t deny the existence of climate change, but said she does not believe it to be human caused.
“The climate has been changing on our planet for millions of years, and it’s important to remember that just a few decades ago, scientists were warning us of a looming ice age,” she said. “I am confident that as the result of both historical and continuing advancements in technology we will be able to protect our environment; our success in that regard confirms that fact.”
Hageman said she would not support efforts “to harm our own economy in the name of climate change when there are polluting nations like China that are not held to the same standards.” She also complimented the work of Wyoming’s energy producers and said these organizations should not be held by government regulation.
Thousands For Boebert
Kemmerer and his wife, Karen Kemmerer, also gave a total of $11,600 to U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., this past summer, tied for the fourth largest donation her campaign has received from individual donors this year.
Boebert hasn’t denied the existence of climate change but takes a much different approach to dealing with it than most environmental groups support.
She has vehemently opposed President Joe Biden’s “30 x 30” plan, part of a larger executive order to combat climate change by more than doubling the amount of federal land and waters. In a January Aspen Daily News story, Boebert criticized communities in her district for making commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and declaring a climate emergency.
She also has been very combative with environmental organizations, recently grilling a representative of one of these groups during a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing and accusing her organization of trying to take away jobs.
Particularly at odds with the environmental movement has been former President Donald Trump. Kemmerer gave $11,600 to Trump-endorsed candidate Herschel Walker in Georgia and $2,900 to J.D. Vance in Ohio, also supported by Trump.
Kemmerer’s spending comes not only at odds with many of the views held by many Teton County residents, but also his own ski resort, Molina said.
“No one has more to gain by slowing warming than our ski resorts and mountain communities,” Molina said, adding that in many ways, JHMR has taken substantial steps toward fighting climate change.
In 2019, the mountain transitioned to 100% green power for its electricity needs, sourcing wind power directly from the Horse Butte Wind Farm in nearby Idaho, the closest source of wind energy available. One year later, the resort committed to attaining environmental certification for all its future construction projects. It also has made commitments to purchasing sustainable products, providing environmental education outreach, reducing waste and water contamination and restoration of habitat.
Like many ski areas, Jackson Hole has been making significant investments in its summer operations, a possible acknowledgement of shorter and warmer winter seasons.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council had no comment on Kemmerer’s donations beyond reiterating its stance that climate change needs to be addressed in an effective manner.
“We can all confidently say climate change is real and is caused by humans,” said Alan Rogers, a spokesperson for the Outdoor Council.
Liz Storer, a Jackson resident and Democratic candidate for the Wyoming Legislature, was sympathetic to the Kemmerers.
“They’re individuals. They have the right to make contributions just like everyone else does,” she said, “just like people have the right to frequent their business or not.”
Storer also said she doesn’t know why anyone would support the candidates the Kemmerers have been giving money to and believes in corporate responsibility and holding businesses accountable for their actions.
In 2021, Kemmerer hosted a fundraiser in Jackson for the House Freedom Caucus, a group that includes Boebert and has opposed many federal policies aimed at fighting climate change.
This fundraiser led to the clothing brand Patagonia pulling all its products from JHMR’s retail stores.