Tom Lubnau: Anonymous Websites and Rating Services

Columnist Tom Lubnau writes, "It takes a particular brand of arrogance to hide behind the cloak of secrecy, and tell people in Wyoming which candidates have 'integrity' or can call themselves 'Republicans.'"

Tom Lubnau

May 11, 20245 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

In 2022, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan sought to enforce a Wyoming Statute requiring someone who spent more than $500 campaigning to file a campaign report with the Secretary of State.  

In August 2020, before Wyoming's August primary election, WYGO paid a Cheyenne commercial radio station roughly $1,200 to run a minute-long radio spot. The radio advertisement mentioned two opposing state senate candidates by name; Anthony Bouchard and Erin Johnson.

The ad commended Bouchard as a champion and "a nationally known conservative leader who has always led the fight for Wyoming gun owners."

The ad criticized Erin Johnson, "a self-described country-club, chamber of commerce moderate" for failing to discuss gun rights on her political website. The ad stated this failure was "pathetic" and so was Erin Johnson.

Arguments over the truth of the advertisement still exist to this day.

Wyoming Gun Owners filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the Wyoming Campaign Finance Law was an unconstitutional infringement on their First Amendment Rights.

Federal District Court decided the election reporting statute unconstitutional and allowed WyGO to avoid disclosing their sources and uses of funds to the campaign electorate.

As a result of the decision, entities can legally, now,  anonymously spend money and comment on elections and election processes.  

Back in the old days, the mass media was controlled by an editor. 

The editor’s job was to protect the veracity of the news presented to the public. Generally, the editor closely followed the journalism cannons of ethics, to present the news fairly, and to clearly separate opinion from reporting. 

Cowboy State Daily and other Wyoming newspapers operate under this philosophy.

But, nowadays, anyone with computer, internet connection and a social media account has the ability to access mass media. This ability, coupled with the anonymity allowed by the federal court has allowed anonymous pundits to spout their opinions secretly.

Now, internet trolls with nom de plume accounts who feel free, cloaked with internet anonymity, to say whatever the hell pops into their mind without fear of accountability.

We are also seeing well-funded anonymous organizations spending lots of money to endorse or disparage candidates.

The reason we had election disclosure laws was to make sure we knew who it was that was trying to spend monies to influence Wyoming elections, and what their political motivations might be.  As a result of federal court decision, we do not have that type of information anymore.

We have to learn to be wise consumers of election information.  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Anonymous Internet Trolls have something to hide.”

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

 A couple radical-right websites serve as examples.

The Jackson Hole News and Guide investigated who was behind Honor Wyoming and came up with a dry hole. Honor Wyoming lists Jimmy Anderson and Kerry Powers as leadership, but no disclosure of finances appears on their website. 

Honor Wyoming purportedly ranks the “integrity” of Wyoming Legislators. Interestingly enough, voting with the Wyoming Freedom Caucus appears to be the only measure of “integrity."   If the website and the organization had “integrity” it would disclose who they are and what their definition of “integrity” is.  

Before someone accepts a blanket statement on who has integrity, one should judge who or what is defining that integrity. Integrity has little to do with whether one votes with the Wyoming Freedom Caucus and has everything to do with whether a person is morally upright. 

What level of integrity does it take sit back, grin and silently accept the endorsement of an anonymous internet troll?

WyoRino hides behind that attorney-client privilege. An investigation of that organization and its members leads to an attorney in western Wyoming. They purport to create a “Voting Index” based on ten key bills out of the hundreds of bills that come in front of the legislature. They do not disclose which ten bills they pick.

One wonders if the candidates endorsed are a foregone conclusion.  In other words, do these websites decide upon which candidates to endorse and work backwards to determine the criteria.

Finally, it takes a particular brand of arrogance to hide behind the cloak of secrecy, and tell people in Wyoming which candidates have “integrity” or can call themselves “Republicans."  

The voters of Wyoming are the best people to judge both the integrity and ability of elected officials in Wyoming – not some skulking well-funded pundit, perhaps from out-of-state, who lectures Wyoming voters on who is worthy.

These anonymous opinions rendered by those skulking in the shadows while trying to change our elections should be swept into the dustbin of history.

Tom Lubnau served in the Wyoming Legislature from 2005 - 2015 and is a former Speaker of the House. He can be reached at:

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Tom Lubnau