Wyoming Chapter Of National Libertarian Group Raises Eyebrows With Endorsements

The Wyoming arm of Libertarian-leaning Americans For Prosperity is raising eyebrows with its primary endorsements. At issue: the group believes civility as a state legislator is an important trait.

Leo Wolfson

July 09, 20247 min read

Tyler Lindholm runs the Wyoming chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Tyler Lindholm runs the Wyoming chapter of Americans for Prosperity. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Former state legislator Tyler Lindholm is well-known at the Wyoming Capitol, easily recognizable by his tall frame and frequent presence in the halls. His organization, Americans For Prosperity, was less known by most until recently.

Libertarian conservative political advocacy group Americans For Prosperity has emerged as a major player in the state’s political scene this election cycle, campaigning around Wyoming and endorsing more than a dozen candidates in legislative races.

The choice of those candidates has drawn some attention from supporters and detractors.

AFP has endorsed 14 Republicans for the Wyoming House and Senate so far, and this week plans to officially announce three more. They are House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, in his bid for the Senate, and state Reps. Martha Lawley, R-Worland, and Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Thermopolis, in their bids for reelection.

The top goals for AFP Wyoming this election season are to remove what it sees as barriers to improving school choice and reducing governmental regulation in Wyoming.

Lindholm said the major factor in deciding whether AFP will engage in a race is whether the group believes it can make a difference in the final result.

Of all the candidates it’s endorsed, only two are members of the farther right Wyoming Freedom Caucus. Many are members of the Wyoming Caucus, a group of Republican legislators that have organized in opposition to the Freedom Caucus.

Rep. Daniel Singh, R-Cheyenne, is one of the two Freedom Caucus members endorsed by AFP. He told Cowboy State Daily he is very enthusiastic to get AFP’s endorsement and considers himself politically aligned with the group.

Lindholm said that for what it’s worth, he hopes both caucuses fail.

“I think the only caucus you should belong to is your constituency,” he said.

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle.
Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Point Of Contention: Civility

What seems to be a particular point of contention about AFP getting involved in Wyoming races for some is that the group is endorsing some candidates who are opponents of legislators that scored higher on AFP’s own 2023 scorecard rankings.

For instance, the group is endorsing two challenger candidates taking on incumbent Reps. Ben Hornok, R-Cheyenne, and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, despite both legislators receiving respectable scores in the rankings.

Conversely, the group is also endorsing Reps. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, and Ken Clouston, R-Gillette, despite both doing worse than Hornok, Rodriguez-Williams and Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, Crago’s opponent.

“AFP has endorsed candidates that score poorly on their own legislative scorecard, further proving that their out-of-state money is simply being used to help Lindholm’s liberal friends,” Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, told Cowboy State Daily.

Lindholm said the reason for that discrepancy is because his group considers another factor with equal weight — civility. He said the whole AFP Wyoming team studied each legislator’s behavior on social media and discussions during the legislative session when deciding who to endorse.

“We place civility just as high as principle,” Lindholm said. “We’ve got a lot of folks out there that are really good on principles, not so hot on civility, so we don’t engage in those races.”

Steinmtez, who’s not up for reelection, said she has a big problem with the consideration of civility, which she believes furthers a “liberal stance on policy — at best.”

“At worst, it enables AFP to lie openly about candidates that stand in their way,” she said.

Although Sommers did not score particularly well on the AFP scorecard, Lindholm said he ended up serving as a valuable ally during the 2024 session in helping get school choice legislation passed into law despite opposing those efforts the year before.

“After looking at it all summer long and doing a bunch of research on it he became one of our biggest champions,” Lindholm said. “Because of that, his ability to put his nose down and get to work, we’re pretty proud to endorse Speaker of the House Albert Sommers.”

During the last legislative session, Lindholm believes certain people voted against the bill expanding school choice in Wyoming simply because of who sponsored the bill: Clouston, a member of the Wyoming Caucus.

“That’s a big flag for us,” Lindholm said. “That means it’s not about principles and about politics, and we’re damn sure we’re going to show up in those races.”

Many of those who opposed Clouston’s bill argued it didn’t go far enough to expand school choice.

Who Is AFP?

AFP was founded by the Koch brothers of the political dynasty family behind Koch Industries. Historically, the group has supported rescinding energy and environmental regulations and expanding domestic energy production, lowering taxes and reducing government spending.

Although AFP gained significant popularity for its alignment with the Tea Party movement that sprouted under former President Barack Obama’s administration, it appears to have shifted its policies a bit over the last five years.

According to a 2019 Politico story, the organization said it was considering supporting Democrats in the 2020 United States elections as part of a broader effort to adjust its strategy.

Three years later in 2023, AFP opposed then-President Donald Trump's reelection as president and sought out an alternative to Kari Lake in her 2024 Arizona Senate run, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Later that year, the group supported Nikki Haley in her Republican bid for president but stopped giving her money as soon as she lost the primary in South Carolina, her home state.

AFP Wyoming’s grassroots engagement director is Amy Womack, who served as the political director for former congresswoman Liz Cheney until 2022. In 2014, Womack was a field director for former Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who later went on to openly criticize Trump after his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“The organization is a front group for liberal policy,” Steinmetz said. “Funded entirely by out-of-state mega donors and supporters of Nikki Haley and Liz Cheney. The people of Wyoming will reject them at the ballot box, like they did Cheney and Lindholm.”

Although AFP may not be as conservative as some like Steinmetz would like, it would be hard to argue they don’t at least lean to the right.

During the 2024 legislation, AFP Wyoming made expanding school choice one of its top priorities, a position supported by most Republicans and opposed by every Democrat in the Legislature.

Over the past year, AFP Wyoming has also put out numerous ads and campaigns speaking firmly against President Joe Biden’s policies, which it believes can be blamed for the current levels of inflation.

Tyler Lindholm, director of the Wyoming chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative activist group, working to fight the Biden administration’s economic policies, at Hi Market in Cheyenne.
Tyler Lindholm, director of the Wyoming chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative activist group, working to fight the Biden administration’s economic policies, at Hi Market in Cheyenne. (Pat Maio, Cowboy State Daily)

Extensive Efforts

The basic overarching priorities for the group are improving liberty and reducing governmental regulation. More specifically, 2023 surveys conducted by AFP show that school choice, inflation, the economy and immigration are the biggest issues for Wyoming voters, which it’s using to guide its campaigning.

“As far as what we’re talking about, that’s all put together by people right here in Wyoming,” Lindholm said. “We drive our priorities based on what we’re hearing at the doors.”

Now, the group has about 20 local volunteers working around the state, knocking on doors seven days a week and informing people about the candidates AFP is supporting in their area.

Since June 1, Lindholm said the group has hit more than 21,000 doors and made direct contact with 4,375 people in Wyoming. He finds canvassing efforts like these one of the most effective forms of campaigning.

“The biggest question we always ask is, ‘What’s the biggest way government impacts your life?’” Lindholm said. “Whether that’s a positive or negative interaction, we want to know those things.”

It’s also his goal for AFP Wyoming to be the top grassroots advocacy organization in the state. Lindholm believes to truly be grassroots in a cause, local people must be involved. His group provides various seminars and classes on how people can get involved in various forms of political advocacy.

By the time the election season is over, Singh said he expects AFP to be one of the biggest players for money spent.

According to Facebook ad data, AFP Wyoming has spent $15,482 in Facebook ads since 2023.

Lindholm said since the group’s digital and mail efforts in support of its endorsed candidates are still in progress, it’s difficult to produce an accurate estimate of expenditures to date. These numbers will be available through the Secretary of State’s office in mid-August before the primary election.

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter