By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Owing the Wyoming Republican Party more than $12,000 in unpaid membership dues, the state GOP will charge Laramie County party members $30 each to participate in future state party meetings.
At the state GOP Central Committee meeting in Casper on Saturday, the party escalated a feud between the county- and state-level groups.
The state GOP approved a measure to charge Laramie County’s three committee members a roughly $30 per person fee to participate in future meetings.
The revenue generated from the fees will go toward paying the county party’s outstanding debt of $12,099. The $30 rate may fluctuate from meeting to meeting and is merely a rough estimate based on the $2,000 cost to host the party’s Central Committee meeting in September, divided by the 69 voting members of the party, then rounded up to $30.
Laramie has paid 15% of its $15,000 annual dues for 2022 but did not meet the June 30 deadline to have 50% of its annual dues paid off.
Because of this, Laramie County party chairman Dani Olsen said the county party was informed it would not be allowed to seat more than six delegates at the state convention in 2024, whether or not it pays the remaining amount owed any time in the future.
The Laramie County Republican Party voted 52-20 in October to not discuss paying dues to the state GOP until after the 2024 state party convention.
“They intended to not pay their dues until 2024,” Park County Committeeman Vince Vanata said, who brought the motion against Laramie County.
The Natrona County Republican Party also owes the state party about $25,000.
Vanata said he finds these county party debts to be an “insult” to the state party.
Both county parties had a significant number of delegates removed for the state convention in May.
Laramie was only allowed to seat three of its 37 delegates because of a procedural mistake made during its county convention in the spring.
The Wyoming GOP is still paying off legal expenses from two court cases this year, which it has paid $52,000 toward so far. Because of low funds, the state party was not able to give as much money as it typically does to candidates this past election season.
“It is to cover the costs and the expenses of the Wyoming GOP,” Vanata said of the new fees. “The Wyoming GOP cannot print money. These meetings cost money.”
There wasn’t much discussion at Saturday’s meeting about the ethics or reasons behind this move.
Olsen was able to get the party to delay making a decision on the motion for about half the day, arguing the county-level party wasn’t given enough notice about the proposal.
The state GOP determined later in the day that enough notice was given.
Olsen wouldn’t say if the county party is considering legal action on the matter, but said there are “legal questions” that need to be asked.
Won’t ‘Cave To The Bully Tactics’
She couldn’t say exactly what the county party plans to do moving forward.
“I do know my county does not tend to cave to the bully tactics used by select members of the state Central Committee,” Olsen wrote to Cowboy State Daily on Monday evening. “We are given statutory authority, and an obligation, to attend the meetings regardless of a ‘standing rule’ passed by that body.”
Laramie County has the largest population of any county in the state and the most registered Republicans. Second for registered Republicans is Natrona County.
“We are kind of like a legislator; if they don’t pay taxes are they not allowed to represent their constituency?” Olsen asked. “The answer’s no. They’re still allowed to represent their constituents.”