State Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, couldn’t resist passing up an opportunity to call out former state legislator and Lincoln County Republican Party Chairman Marti Halverson during a House Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday.
Halverson was identified in a New York Times story last year as being part of an alleged sweeping effort to spy on Gov. Mark Gordon as well as others deemed to be more moderate Republicans, as well as Democrats in Wyoming, including Provenza.
During a discussion on House Bill 212, which addresses Wyoming’s relationship with the federal government, Halvorson testified remotely in favor of the bill via Zoom.
After Halverson had her say on HB 212, Provenza asked the former state lawmaker if she would support creating a legislative committee to investigate the alleged spy effort.
Provenza said Wednesday’s committee meeting was the first opportunity she’s had since the story was published to talk to Halverson directly.
“Would you support a standing committee that would investigate your actions into spying on the governor, Senator (Eric) Barlow, and myself?” Provenza quizzed Halverson.
Halverson didn’t address the question of a special investigative committee, and told Provenza that, “I’m afraid I don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.”
From there, the conversation turned back to the discussion of HB 212.
But Halverson likely has at least a clue about what Provenza was referencing as The New York Times reports it reached out to her when researching its January 2022 story.
“Frankly, I have nothing to say on the subject,” she told the newspaper, before then hanging up, The Times reported.
The newspaper reported in December 2018 that Halverson provided a list of people for operatives to target, which included the then-director of Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and then-director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Richard Seddon, a former British spy, and Erik Prince, a well-known professional mercenary who owns property in Cody, also were allegedly involved with the spying scheme, according to The Times.
The Alleged Scheme
The newspaper also reported the effort was funded by Susan Gore, a wealthy Gore-Tex heiress and Jackson resident, who founded the Wyoming Liberty Group, a conservative and libertarian advocacy group.
Gore had opposed Gordon’s campaign in 2018. She also gave $2,500 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Brent Bien in last year’s election season.
Although Gore publicly denied the accuracy of The Times report, Provenza told Mother Jones later in 2022 that Gore privately admitted to her that she did send spies into Provenza’s home.
One of the spies who allegedly specifically targeted Provenza was Cody native Beau Maier and his wife. Provenza said Maier spent time with her and her husband in their home and maintained a relationship with them for more than a year.
Maier also targeted Gillette Republican Sen. Eric Barlow, who was then a state representative and considered by some to be a more moderate Republican. According to the Times, he and his wife had dinner at Barlow’s ranch.
Reported To FBI
Provenza said Thursday that her proposal to investigate the political spy ring was theoretical and she hasn’t actually requested a committee be formed to look into the matter through the Wyoming Legislature.
“I’m throwing it out as a theoretical,” Provenza said. “It would be great if the body decided that we were going to have an investigative committee that looked into the actions of all of those people involved in this. Quite frankly, I don’t think it was investigated well enough.”
The New York Times story connecting Halverson to the operation came out shortly before the 2022 budget session started, which Provenza said distracted attention from the severity of what happened.
Provenza believes federal crimes were committed during the operation of the scheme because of the thousands of dollars in fraudulent campaign donations that were made by the organization, an act known as a straw donor scheme.
Provenza also said she filed an official report on the matter with the FBI.
“Ultimately, given the crimes that were committed, my hope is that the FBI is investigating the straw man violations and will be able to be a fact-finding authority and then we won’t necessarily look at it,” she said.
Provenza said she doesn’t plan to address or bring up the matter again with the Legislature.
But she also said if she encounters any of the people involved in the spy operation like Halverson again in public, she will confront them as she did Wednesday.
“I will use that opportunity to get as much information as I can,” she said.