LARAMIE — Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne doesn’t support gay rodeos and LGBTQ causes, and doesn’t want the Republican National Committee to either.
He said the RNC donated to gay rodeo events under the leadership of Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, along with giving money to LGBTQ causes.
“There’s been expenditures made, unbeknownst to us until later discovery, that direct contributions (to) things like gay rodeos and LGBTQ causes has in fact been transacted,” Eathorne said Saturday during a meeting of the state Republican Party Central Committee in Laramie.
Eathorne didn’t provide any more information about the donations and left Saturday’s meeting before being reached by Cowboy State Daily. He also did not immediately respond to a message.
Eathorne told those at the meeting he was contacted by Wyoming residents who were concerned about the RNC donations and that he contacted RNC representatives about the matter, but got no clear answer.
“We’ve continued to try, we continue to insist that our money be spent on platform items,” Eathorne said. “There’s plenty of good causes and organizations to support those measures, not those the Democrats support.”
Eathorne arrived on the topic of gay rodeos while discussing expenditures made under McDaniel’s tenure.
McDaniel’s detractors have accused her of using RNC funds as a “personal piggybank.” Federal Election Commission filings show that nearly $500,000 in party funds were spent on her luxury Washington, D.C., apartment, which included an indoor basketball court and bowling alley, and another $75,000 was spent on beauty and spa services. Other expenses included limo rides and private jets.
“I understand rewarding donors, but to the level that we’re seeing, does not seem to be a cost-effective equation considering the RNC is now hurting for money,” Eathorne said.
The Wyoming GOP delegation voted to support conservative lawyer Harmeet Dhillon for new RNC chair in January. McDaniel was still elected for a fourth term.
Wyoming GOP Vice Chair David Holland questioned Eathorne if there is any mechanism in place to prevent frivolous spending going forward.
Eathorne mentioned new RNC Treasurer KC Crosbie of Kentucky as being a positive force for these efforts.
“She is really behind the platform and we have full confidence in her,” Eathorne said.
There is a contingency of LGTBQ Republicans across the country like state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne.
McDaniel received heat in 2021 when she announced the launch of the RNC Pride Coalition, a new outreach initiative formed in partnership with a group of LGBTQ conservatives.
Wyoming National Committeewoman Nina Webber said she doesn’t necessarily see it as a platform issue; rather, it’s about unnecessarily separating out support for a group of people.
“We have a lot of people supporting a lot of events,” she said. “It shouldn’t be based on the ideals of whether someone is gay or not, or by race or faith.”
Holland agreed and questioned, “Why we have to bring gender into anything? We support rodeo,” he said.
There are gay rodeo competitors from Wyoming and other LGBTQ athletes who have competed in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in the past. There are no publicized gay rodeos in Wyoming now.
The Wyoming Republican Party also passed a resolution Saturday supporting an election complaint made by Carbon County Republican Joey Correnti against the state Democratic Party for allowing Artemis Langford, a transgender woman from Laramie, to serve as an Albany County committeewoman.
There was little discussion on the resolution, which passed unanimously.
The party also passed a resolution supporting another election complaint filed by Correnti on Democrats for only holding their party leadership elections every four years instead of every two years, as Correnti believes state law requires.
Both complaints were filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
A motion to hold a roll call vote on the election complaint was rejected, but the resolution passed unanimously anyway.
Correnti, who is no longer a party committeeman and was participating in Saturday’s meeting by proxy, also brought a motion to reject any submissions from the Park County GOP in the next 15 days for its new committeemen and committeewomen.
In 2022, the Park County GOP passed a bylaw allowing for the removal of precinct committee members who miss three meetings in a row.
Correnti’s motion, which passed, was largely symbolic, as the Park County party won’t meet again until September when it will vote to finalize removing the committee members.
Correnti said removing someone from these positions can only happen when a precinct committee member either unregisters as a Republican, resigns or moves out of the precinct.
“I would love for this to be the way we operate, but right now it is against state law,” he said.
Park County Committeeman Vince Vanata said no committee people have been replaced and believes it an internal county party matter.
The state GOP also passed a resolution originating from Park and Weston counties condemning banks against making investment decisions based on their social and political views.
The resolution was softened from an earlier version specifically condemning JP Morgan Chase for allegedly discriminating against clients for their social and political views. This came in reference to Joe Mercola, a noted COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, who recently had his business and personal accounts canceled by JP Morgan Chase.
JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in America, with $3.26 trillion in assets.
Mercola is the author of a book titled “The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing The Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal.”
The party called on the Secretary of State’s office and Wyoming Legislature to make this type of investing illegal in Wyoming, and even gave a shout out to a similar bill brought by state Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, during the 2023 session.
Niobrara County GOP Chairman Janae Miller said her party isn’t opposed to the resolution, but that Mercola’s allegations haven’t been sufficiently proven.
“We don’t want to make any allegations against Chase Bank that are unfounded,” she said.
Miller recommended making the resolution more general and removing all references to Chase Bank, which hasn’t issued any public statement confirming or denying the revocation of Mercola’s accounts.
Hugh Hageman, brother of U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, supported the original resolution and said, “We need to name names.”
Correnti agreed with Miller and said although he’s not opposed to naming names, he wants to see more physical evidence.
Miller’s amendment passed by a 34-31 vote.
The party passed a separate resolution supporting State Treasurer Curt Meier and Secretary of State Chuck Gray’s efforts to oppose investing based on environmental, social and corporate governance scores.
The party also passed a resolution censuring Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, for “immoral and unethical public behavior” by an overwhelming majority. The resolution demands his immediate resignation as majority whip in the State House.
Western was censured by the Sheridan County GOP in March for his role in sending a 2022 political mailer that targeted various private people in his county. Allegations were made that paying for the mailer wasn’t reported by any campaign and was the work of an unregistered political action committee.
The Sheridan County resolution claims that the mailers were libelous and “disparaging” of “fellow Sheridan County Republicans.”
Gray found merit to the complaint and forwarded the case to the Attorney General’s office.
Miller questioned whether the original investigation with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing, to which Sheridan GOP Chair Bryan Miller confirmed it had been completed without any charges filed. The Attorney General’s investigation is still ongoing, Miller said.
Western told Cowboy State Daily that, “Bryan Miller is a sore loser and can’t accept the fact that he’s unelectable.”
Miller lost to Western in the Republican primary in 2022.
Sheridan County GOP Vice Chair Tod Windsor said he isn’t aware of any election code violations ever being prosecuted in Wyoming and said the resolution will send a message to the state to start taking action on these matters.
Sheridan resident Carla Klopfenstein said Western lied when he took his oath of office in January and said he wasn’t under investigation for any matter.
This is a misinterpretation of the oath of office, which only says the person taking the oath has “not knowingly violated any law related to my election or appointment.”
Western has never admitted to the allegations and none of the people targeted in the mailer were running against him.
Klopfenstein said if the party doesn’t take a stand there will be nothing to stop private people from being targeted by future campaigns.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.