Federal prosecutors are investigating efforts allegedly made by Wyoming conservatives like Gore-Tex heiress Susan Gore and others to infiltrate the state Democratic Party.
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily the federal investigation is a continuation of the recent prosecution efforts against former President Donald Trump and former Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe by the media and federal government.
“It’s no surprise that both Trump and O’Keefe are mentioned in these string of political fantasies written by the fake news,” Bouchard said. “And a Democrat administration that uses threats of prosecution against their political enemies.”
Investigation And Journalism
According to media reports, prosecutors recently subpoenaed Gore, a major Wyoming Republican donor who lives in Cheyenne. People familiar with the investigation said prosecutors are looking into whether campaign finance laws were violated as a result of the alleged spying efforts.
The investigation stems from a 2021 New York Times story that detailed a Wyoming-based “undercover operation by conservatives to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns, and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle.”
The Times reported that this alleged sweeping effort included spying on Gov. Mark Gordon as well as others deemed to be more moderate Republicans, along with Wyoming Democrats like Laramie state Rep. Karlee Provenza.
Gordon declined to comment on the alleged investigation.
For her part, Provenza’s reaction to a DOJ investigation is 180 degrees from Bouchard’s.
“I’m grateful that the Department of Justice is looking into it and these actions that took place that are flying in the face of American democracy,” Provenza told Cowboy State Daily.
Provenza said she has not been contacted by prosecutors about the investigation and only learned about it when The New York Times contacted her for its story. She said the nature of the spying that happened against her isn’t likely illegal.
But Provenza said she confronted Gore about the matter when Gore testified before the state Senate Minerals Committee in 2022.
Provenza shook her hand and said, “You paid over $1 million to have spies sent to my home.”
Provenza said Gore replied, “I know, I made you famous,” adding that Gore “essentially admitted guilt to me.”
State Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, agrees with Bouchard about the weaponized nature of the investigation.
“I’m not surprised because we’re living in an age where the government is being weaponized under President Biden and as a tool of the Democratic Party,” he said.
Bear said when he entered politics, he was warned that he may be spied on and his family targeted. Although he does not know of any incidents like this happening, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if he found Democrats or even moderate Republicans had.
“The moment I got into politics, I knew that was the cost,” he said.
Richard Seddon, a former British spy, and Erik Prince, who owns property in Cody, also were allegedly involved with initiating the spying scheme, according to the Times.
Gore and Prince did not respond to Cowboy State Daily requests for reaction to the alleged investigation.
After the Times story came out in 2021, Gore released a statement calling it a “hit piece” and a “nothingburger.”
Prince told Cowboy State Daily he has not had contact with the FBI regarding this matter.
Bouchard compared the news reports to “yellow journalism” of the 1920s, saying that, “History repeats.”
One of the subpoenas, which was reportedly sent in the past two weeks, seeks documents and communications from 2018 through the present involving numerous limited liability companies and individuals, including Gore, Seddon, Prince and O’Keefe.
“They are working overtime to ‘chill’ the free speech of patriots,” said Bouchard, who received $1,500 from Gore during his 2020 reelection campaign.
The Times reported that two operatives trained by Seddon gave sizable political donations ranging from $1,250 to $10,000 to Democratic organizations and candidates.
“I’m glad these people are being investigated,” Provenza said. “Anyone who wants to subvert the people’s will and spend money to illegally influence elections is a disgrace to the people of Wyoming.”
These alleged spies, who Provenza said she and her husband were targeted by, are identified by the Times as Cody native Beau Maier and his wife Sofia LaRocca. Maier and LaRocca are specifically identified in one of the subpoenas, according to the Times.
Giving fake names to spend time and even spy on people isn’t generally considered a crime, but cloaking the real source of campaign donations is; a practice known as a straw-donor scheme. It is not clear where Maier and his wife got the money to make sizable political donations ranging from $1,250 to $10,000 to Democratic organizations and candidates.
Maier gave $6,850 to the Wyoming State Democratic Party and he and LaRocca gave $10,000 each to the Democratic National Committee in 2020.
Gore By The Numbers
Gore founded the Wyoming Liberty Group, a conservative and Libertarian advocacy group that has been very active in Wyoming politics in the past, but has since toned down its efforts.
During the 2020 election cycle, Gore was active in Wyoming Legislature races, giving a combined $35,450 to candidates statewide. In 2022, she gave $15,400.
Among those to receive donations from Gore was Secretary of State Chuck Gray, $2,500 for his 2022 campaign and $1,500 in 2020 for his reelection campaign for the state House.
Provenza noted that Wyoming officials have taken no action into investigating Maier and LaRocca’s donations.
It would be Gray who would likely be responsible for opening an investigation into Gore on a state level. He did not respond to requests for comment from Cowboy State Daily.
“It’s bad that the person responsible for overseeing the state’s elections received money from her,” Provenza said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.