Wyoming State Senate Republican PAC Fined $5,000 By IRS

A political action committee supporting Wyoming’s State Senate Republicans has been fined $5,000 by the IRS over a tax filing discrepancy. State Sen. Brian Boner said it was a mistake in the paperwork.

Leo Wolfson

April 24, 20244 min read

State Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas.
State Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

A political action committee supporting Wyoming’s state Senate Republicans has been hit with a $5,000 fine from the IRS.

State Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, chairman of the Wyoming State Senate Republican Conference PAC, confirmed to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that his organization was recently fined by the federal agency.

“I’m disappointed that I made that mistake, but I owned up to it with the conference and made sure that I’ve backfilled the cash that we had to pay for the fine with my personal campaign funds to ensure there’s no disruption to the PAC itself,” Boner said.

Boner said the fine came as a result of the group making a technical mistake when filing its taxes that made the IRS believe it had been concealing itself as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Boner said his group had been exploring the possibility of claiming this status, but no longer is.

According to the IRS, to be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. Political finance website Open Secrets reports that in 1959, the IRS clarified that 501(c)(4) groups can participate in some political activity as long as politics isn't their primary purpose.

“It was a mistake in the paperwork and we’re working through it now,” Boner said.

Boner said he’s been told by his accountant that the fine will likely be looked at as a technical error and once he pays it, will be reimbursed in full by the IRS, but he isn’t sure when.

“It was a learning experience for me and I’m making sure nobody else is negatively affected by it,” he said.

What Does It Do?

The State Senate PAC, which has existed since 2010, is set up to financially support Republican senators and turning Democratic Senate seats to red. Since founded, the Senate has turned two Democratic seats red and claimed ownership of a new district seat in 2022.

“I think the Republican brand in Wyoming is strong,” Boner said. “That’s due to the pretty significant shift in the way Democrats view working-class people, particularly in the energy industry.”

During the 2022 election, the group spent a total of $1,250 supporting three Republican candidates in their general election campaigns, of which two won. That year, it received a total of $5,420 in individual $200 donations from every Republican state senator.

The purpose of the PAC is to support all incumbent Republican senators in their reelection campaigns, and the campaigns of aspiring GOP candidates seeking to fill the seat of a Republican stepping down or a seat held by a Democrat in the general election. The PAC was most recently successful in 2020 for its efforts supporting Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, against former Democratic legislator Liisa Anselmi-Dalton in her reelection bid.

“At some point you’re faced with the laws of diminishing returns, but I’m proud of our work, I stand by it,” Boner said.

Boner said despite the fine, the PAC will continue its efforts for the 2024 election season, where there will be 15 Republican Senate seats up for election. He said Senate Republicans will focus on bread-and-butter policy issues like energy during the campaign season.

“There’s been no disruption to our operations, we’re just as strong as ever,” he said. “We’re looking to defend the seats we have.”

Still Going Strong

There was a visible divide among Senate Republicans in this year’s legislative session that resembles the same gap that’s been growing in the state House. The biggest issue this past session was the biennial budget, but there was also a lot at play when it came to an ongoing dispute between Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Senate Vice President Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan.

“I think our conflict is within primarily two members of our leadership team and I Iook forward in moving past that dynamic,” Boner said. “What happened last session is unfortunate, but it’s easily fixable if we just move past the personalities involved in that conflict.”

Boner doesn’t believe the political differences among Senate Republicans are significant or an obstacle in getting senators to support each other moving forward.

Each $200 donation a senator gives is put in a general pot, which is then used by an outside consulting firm hired by the PAC for in-session public relations messaging and direct campaign promotion for the general election.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter