By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
During his nearly three months in office, interim Secretary of State Karl Allred hasn’t been shy about remaining involved in state politics.
On Wednesday morning, Allred sent an email message out to Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee members asking for money to support the Uinta County Republican Party in a legal fight with the Wyoming Supreme Court.
A Mountain View man is appealing a lawsuit he filed claiming certain Uinta County GOP party officers should not have been allowed to vote in the county party’s 2021 leadership election.
Allred said the attorney handling the lawsuit for the party, Caleb Wilkins of Cheyenne, said it will cost the Uinta GOP $30,000 to continue litigating the case. But the county party only has $900.
‘At The End Of Our Rope’
Allred says in his pitch that the party is “at the end of our rope” financially.
“I hate nothing more than to come asking for financial help, but they have ran us down and since they have unlimited funds that isn’t costing them a dime of their own money it really puts us at a disadvantage,” Allred wrote.
The message was sent from Allred’s private email at 7:24 a.m. Wednesday.
Allred said the request for money was done as a private person, not in his capacity as secretary of state.
“The email was sent from my personal email on my personal laptop from home,” Allred explained to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday afternoon. “It was not done from the office or on my work computer.
“My personal laptop never comes to the office. The email did not reference my job in any way. It is a stretch to say that my personal life has anything to do with my job as they are separate.”
Allred also explained this point to his Central Committee members in a follow-up email Wednesday, where he complained about his email being leaked to the media, which he said works “against the Republican Party.”
Appointed In September
Allred was appointed interim secretary of state in September after former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan took a judgeship in Goshen County.
When running for the appointment, Allred talked about conflicts of interest, saying he wouldn’t hold back from communicating with state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, about internal office affairs before Gray was officially elected for the job in November.
Allred has a few weeks left in his duties as Gray, the secretary of state-elect, will take over in early January.
Not A Good Look
That the secretary of state would become involved in the ongoing lawsuit to the point of soliciting money isn’t a good look, says a former Wyoming secretary of state.
“The optics are just not good,” former Secretary of State Max Maxfield told Cowboy State Daily.
Despite claiming action as a private person, “you still represent the state,” Maxfield said.
Allred oversaw his first and only election in November. The election went smoothly with no major issues addressed.
How involved an elected official should be with politics in private life is more a question of ethics and optics rather than breaking any laws.
As secretary of state, the question may require particular sensitivity, as the job involves overseeing the state’s elections and enforcement of political laws, Maxfield said.
“I think it shouldn’t happen,” Maxfield said about Allred’s email. “Even if it’s on private letterhead, it’s still the secretary of state.”
Maxfield said he disengaged from all politics while serving in the role from 2007-2015 because he saw himself as a “critical figure” representing the state’s elections.
“Those lines shouldn’t be crossed,” Maxfield said.
Differing Points Of View
Some have argued officials should curtail their political involvement to the extent of not contributing to other candidates, while others have argued there should be almost no limits.
During the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries, former Wyoming Secretary of State Kathy Karpan endorsed Tennessee Sen. Al Gore for the Democratic Party’s nomination. In 1992, she also endorsed Bill Clinton for president.
Buchanan gave $500 to Save Wyoming, a political action committee working on U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman’s behalf while he was in office this summer. State Treasurer Curt Meier gave $25,000 to other campaigns during the election cycle.
But Allred’s email pertains to a matter he directly stands to gain or lose from.
Jon Conrad, the Mountain View man who originally filed the lawsuit, argued that certain Uinta County GOP party officers should not have been allowed to vote in the county party’s 2021 leadership election because those officials lost their respective precinct committee elections in August 2020.
This resulted in Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson winning the county chairman seat, Allred becoming state committeeman and Jana Williams named state committeewoman.
Conrad, a Republican, was elected to House District 19 in November. Allred finished second to Conrad in the August primary election.
In July, a District Court judge dismissed Conrad’s lawsuit, deciding the county party’s rules allow leadership to decide who can vote for future county party leaders.
District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel ruled that state law was purposely written in an unambiguous manner to avoid overregulating political associations and asserted that political party bylaws can supersede state laws.
State Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, said the county party spent $22,000 defending itself.
Conrad appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court in August.
“Unfortunately, this ends up being not only a Uinta County issue because if they win they will be coming after the state bylaws again and more counties,” Allred wrote in his email.
When Washakie County Republican Party Chairman Tami Young inquired where she could send a donation to, Allred responded during business hours from his private email Wednesday, saying the donations could be mailed to a P.O. box in Evanston and made out to “Allred Litigation.”
Allred was outspoken about a number of issues at the state GOP’s Central Committee meeting in November, serving in his role of state committeeman for the Uinta County Republican Party.
Later in the meeting, he also gave a report on behalf of the secretary of state’s office, recapping the November election. He was introduced to the audience by Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne as “Secretary Allred” before speaking.
Oral arguments for the Supreme Court case will be heard Jan. 18. Allred did not provide a deadline for when the $30,000 needs to be raised by.