When a Federal Election Commission complaint was filed against Secretary of State Chuck Gray in 2022, Gray strongly denied the allegation, accusing media that reported on it of colluding with the complainant, whom he called a liar.
Gray received some vindication for that stance when the FEC ruled in March that former Secretary of State Max Maxfield’s complaint against him lacked evidence to back up the allegations.
“The FEC's dismissal of Max Maxfield's false, bogus complaint against myself and my family is a complete and total victory for truth,” Gray said.
In a filing submitted just weeks before the August 2022 Republican primary, Maxfield accused Gray of lying about the source of nearly $298,318 in loans Gray said were made to himself “from his personal accounts” during his U.S. House campaign in the first half of 2021.
FEC complaints are typically confidential until a final ruling has been made on them, but Maxfield leaked the complaint to media.
“The (Casper) Star-Tribune obtained this leaked, false complaint and printed it without any attempt to evaluate the facts two weeks before the election,” Gray said. “Not only did Maxfield collude with the radical left-wing media to fabricate a phony narrative targeting our campaign in a last-ditch effort to subvert the will of Wyoming voters, but they also went after my family.”
Gray dropped out of the U.S. House race in September 2021 after former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman in her successful campaign. In spring 2022, Gray entered the race for Secretary of State.
Maxfield’s complaint was one piece of a Secretary of State campaign that took on an unprecedented level of attention, with candidates strongly criticizing each other in a variety of ads.
Challenging Gray was state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, and Centennial resident Mark Armstrong.
Gray vowed to increase the security of Wyoming elections and expressed skepticism about the results of the 2020 presidential election throughout, hosting free showings of the “2000 Mules” movie. This movie relies on questionable evidence and conclusions to assert that through ballot harvesting, the 2020 election was rigged in certain states.
Gray earned Trump’s endorsement four days after Maxfield filed his complaint.
Maxfield argued that based on Gray’s 2021 income of $15,000, he couldn’t have afforded to loan himself the money. He opined that Gray must have received the money from his father, Jan Charles Gray.
Gray had already reported receiving $100,000 from his father through the Protect Wyoming Values super PAC, an organization set up on behalf of his Congressional campaign.
In his response to the complaint submitted in October 2022, Gray’s attorney, Nick Oberheiden of Houston, Texas, argued that Gray’s income stemmed from the liquidation of a trust and inheritance money he received in 2017 and 2021, both of which were sourced from his grandfather Siegfried Ringwald.
Gray did not report this in his campaign income.
Although Gray received $550,000 from his grandfather in 2021, the U.S. House Committee on Ethics determined inheritance proceeds don’t need to be reported.
“At all times during Mr. Gray’s contemplation to run for office and during his campaign, he has properly acted regarding his reporting and disclosure obligations,” Oberheiden wrote.
During the 2021-2022 election cycle, individuals could make up to a $2,900 donation to a candidate, but there is no limit on how much candidates can donate to themselves from their personal funds.
In an executive session of the Federal Election Commission on March 28, the commission decided 6-0 in Gray’s favor, citing a lack of evidence.
Maxfield was secretary of state in Wyoming from 2007-2015 and state auditor from 1999-2007.
He told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon he hadn’t seen Gray’s response to the complaint’s dismissal, so he couldn’t directly respond to the FEC’s decision.
Gray said Maxfield, whom he’s dubbed a liar and an insider, was colluding with the media to get Nethercott elected. He plans to evaluate his legal options against Maxfield and the media outlets “that participated in Maxfield’s scheme.”
“This is another case study of how the left-wing media and the insiders work together to try to stop an outsider like myself from being elected,” Gray said. “With the FEC's dismissal of Maxfield's frivolous complaint, the Star-Tribune has zero credibility left.”
Maxfield said that Gray labels anyone who disagrees with him as being from the “far left.”
“I’ve never been accused of being on the far left in my life,” Maxfield said. “So, I take that worth a grain of salt.”
Gray also accused Nethercott of failing to include the “paid for” designation on her political yard signs, and filed a complaint with the state about it.
According to Wyoming state law, “small campaign items such as tickets, bumper stickers, pens, pencils, buttons, rulers, nail files, balloons and yard signs” are excluded from the requirement mandating disclosure of the source that paid for a campaign advertisement.
Federal law does require that yard signs have a “paid for” designation on them, but it doesn’t preempt state law.
Contact Leo Wolfson at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.