An Election Off Year, Millions Raised And Spent On Wyoming Politics In 2023

Although 2023 wasn’t an election year, campaign finance reports show millions of dollars were raised and spent to support Wyoming political causes, candidates and lawmakers.

LW
Leo Wolfson

January 04, 20245 min read

Members of the Wyoming House of Representatives meet during the 2023 session at the Capitol in Cheyenne.
Members of the Wyoming House of Representatives meet during the 2023 session at the Capitol in Cheyenne. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

There were no elections in Wyoming 2023, but that didn’t stop people and groups from spending millions of dollars on upcoming Cowboy State races, candidates and causes.

The release of end-of-year campaign finance data with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office this week shows that about $500,000 was spent on political action committees and campaigns for state lawmakers in 2023. This is in addition to the millions of dollars donated to Wyoming’s congressional delegation during the year.

Wyoming Caucus Vs. Wyoming Freedom Caucus

Many have speculated that the campaigning efforts of the Wyoming Caucus and Wyoming Freedom Caucus, which make up the two biggest factions of the state Republican Party, play prominent roles during the upcoming legislative session and 2024 campaign season.

The Wyoming Caucus PAC greatly outraised the funding arm of the Freedom Caucus, the Wyoming Freedom PAC in 2023.

The Wyoming Caucus PAC raised $131,495 and spent $5,375, for a balance of $126,041.

The Freedom PAC raised $43,175 and spent $13,881, for a balance of $29,025.

The Wyoming Caucus PAC’s biggest donor was Cody resident Jessica Case, who gave $20,000. Jackson resident Brad Mead and Sheridan resident Gary Miller each gave $10,000.

State Reps. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale; Ken Clouston, R-Gillette; Forrest Chadwick, R-Evansville,; Tony Niemec, R-Green River; Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn; Barry Crago, R-Buffalo; Andrew Byron, R-Jackson; Don Burkhart, R-Gillette; Ryan Berger, R-Evanston; Lane Allred, R-Afton; David Northrup, R-Powell; Sandy Newsome, R-Cody; J.T. Larson, R-Rock Springs; Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne; Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne; Cody Wylie, R-Rock Springs; Tom Walters, R-Casper; and Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs; and Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, all donated to the PAC. Walters and Barlow were the largest donors at $5,000 each.

Other notable donors include Wyoming Supreme Court finalist Tim Stubson ($250), former House Speaker Tom Lubnau ($500), former congressman Al Simpson ($500), former Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rob Wallace ($2,082), former Wyoming GOP Chairman candidate Frank Moore ($1,500), former state legislators Mary Flitner ($400) and Mark Kinner ($500), and former Park County judge Steve Cranfill ($500).

The Freedom PAC’s largest donors were Jackson residents Dan Brophy and John Kemmerer III, who each gave $10,000 to the group. Brophy and his wife and Kemmerer are well-known donors for many far-right candidates in Wyoming.

Other notable donors were Wyoming Treasurer Curt Meier ($9,500), Gore-Tex heiress Susan Gore ($1,000), House Majority Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, ($1,000), and former state legislator Marti Halverson ($600).

Party Finances

Federal reports show that the Wyoming Republican Party raised $90,754 and spent $145,393 through the end of November 2023, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Kemmerer and his wife each gave $6,500 to the Wyoming GOP in 2023, while Gore and Brophy each gave $1,000. Party Chairman Frank Eathorne gave $1,600 over the course of the year.

The Wyoming Democratic Party raised $77,464 and spent $318,745 in 2023. In addition, the Biden Victory fund transferred $450,000 into the state party’s coffers.

Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros gave $9,938 to the state party, and Hollywood film producer and media mogul Jeff Katzenberg gave $10,000 to Wyoming Democrats.

State level financial reports for both parties were not available.

Individuals And PACs

Gov. Mark Gordon received the most of any individual state-level politician at $23,949. He was followed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder with $16,909, which includes $10,000 from the Wyoming Hope PAC.

Behind her was Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who raised $14,750, but all but $250 of that total was from himself.

Among state legislators, Crago led the way with $7,250 raised, $3,900 coming from PACs.

Laramie Democratic state Rep. Karlee Provenza received $1,550 of her $1,615 total 2023 fundraising in the week following a Wyoming GOP resolution passed to find a candidate to unseat her in 2024.

Only candidate and committee reports were available for state legislators, leaving a few individual finance reports for people like House Speaker Sommers missing.

The WY Realtors PAC raised the most money of any Wyoming-based PAC in 2023 at $138,895. This follows on the heels of the $214,950 it raised during the 2022 campaign season. That year, the PAC spent money on behalf of and gave directly to Republican candidates — and a handful of Democrats — throughout the state, with donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 each.

Act Blue, a funding arm for the Democratic Party, raised the second most at $25,322.

BCR Voter Initiatives, a group seeking a 2024 ballot initiative to slash property tax assessments by 50% across Wyoming, raised $4,649.

What About Congress?

Financial reports for federal candidates have different deadlines than in Wyoming, as year-end congressional numbers for 2023 aren’t due until Jan. 31.

As of last September, Sen. John Barrasso was dominating campaign fundraising among Wyoming’s delegation with more than $2 million raised through the first three quarters of the year.

Barrasso has a high stakes election coming up this fall with a potential bid for a top Republican leadership position in the Senate if he’s reelected. His only opponent so far is Republican Reid Rasner, a financial advisor from Casper.

Barasso’s fellow Sen. Cynthia Lummis isn’t up for reelection in 2024.

Wyoming congresswoman Harriet Hageman is, and she raised $1.1 million through the end of September. On Thursday morning, she officially announced her intent to run for reelection.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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LW

Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter