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WYGO

Sec. of State Buchanan Says State Will Challenge Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGO) Ruling

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan is contesting a recent federal court ruling that allowed the firearms advocacy group Wyoming Gun Owners to keep a list of its contributors private.

Buchanan and the state attorney general’s office on Friday notified the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of the state’s intent to challenge the ruling narrowing the spectrum of entities that need to declare political campaign expenditures in the Cowboy State. 

In March, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled the state could not force Wyoming Gun Owners to share the names of its donors. 

No arguments were made in the half-page appeal of Skavdahl’s ruling filed with the court in Denver. The secretary of state’s office declined to comment on the appeal.

“Go To Hell”

However, Aaron Dorr, policy advisor for Wyoming Gun Owners, said the appeal showed state officials are not paying attention to the wishes of their constituents.

“Ed Buchanan and the political elites in Cheyenne aren’t getting the message,” Dorr told Cowboy State Daily. “They didn’t listen when gun owners threw their anti-gun RINO (Republican In Name Only) friends out of office in 2020. They didn’t listen when Wyoming Gun Owners told them to go to hell when they demanded a list of our donors.”

Dorr said WyGO welcomes the chance to argue its case in appeals court.

“Maybe they’ll listen when we beat them again in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Dorr said. “WyGO looks forward to the chance to invalidate this entire unconstitutional law to cast a much broader legal precedent.”

Ruling Sets Precedent

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily Monday morning, Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) said the ruling sets a precedent for any charitable nonprofit organization that takes part in an election. He added Wyoming Gun Owners is being specifically targeted because it is a pro-gun rights group. 

Bouchard said the NAACP was targeted in a similar way during the civil rights movement of the late 1950s by the State of Alabama, and won its case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s not surprising in their quest for power,” Bouchard said of the state’s appeal. “They don’t want opposing opinions. They don’t want people to know what they’re doing. This doesn’t just affect gun owners. Want to have a list of people who contribute to a gun group? This is a gun registration.”

“Campaign Electioneering”

The action stems from to Buchanan’s determination that during the campaign of 2020, a $1,200 radio ad WyGO issued in support of Bouchard amounted to “campaign electioneering.”

The ad portrayed Bouchard as a champion of Second Amendment rights while calling his opponent for the state Senate, Erin Johnson, “pathetic” because she did not mention gun rights on her website.

Under state law, any group spending more than $500 on “electioneering communication” must report all contributions of $100 or more “related to” the communication.

Bouchard argued the advertisement did not qualify as “campaign electioneering” because it did not urge listeners to vote for or against either candidate.

But the state disagreed and decided WyGO had violated state election laws. The organization was fined $500 as a result.

WyGO paid the fine, but appealed the ruling to federal court, where Skavdahl ruled it would be too difficult to determine which contributions to WyGO were used to pay for political ads and which were used for other purposes.

“There is no way to determine, under the current statutory language, what goods, services, or promised expenditures are sufficiently ‘related to’ electioneering communications,” Skavdahl wrote. “Based upon its current language, the statute could also encompass many more, indirectly related expenditures.”

Unconstitutional

Skavdahl said the law itself was unconstitutional because of how vaguely it was written.

Bouchard said the secretary of state’s fine against WyGO, which he founded, showed the state is selectively enforcing its laws and selected WyGO as an easy target.

“There are all these pretend organizations that pop up behind registered agents,” he said. “Nobody investigates them. Those are the people that help the establishment.”

The Legislature, during its budget session earlier this year, approved a bill aimed at expanding the “electioneering communication” law.

It clarified “electioneering communication” to mean any public political advertising and said any expenses or contributions of $1,000 or more for this purpose must be reported. The bill, which was signed into law in March by Gov. Mark Gordon, also said internal communications would not count as electioneering communication.

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and Deputy Attorney General Brandi Monger are representing Buchanan, Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler, Election Division Director Kai Schon and state Attorney General Bridget Hill in the case.

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Wyoming Gun Owners’ Aaron Dorr Hails Federal Court Ruling

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

An official with a Second Amendment advocacy group is hailing a judge’s decision in the group’s favor in its lawsuit against the Wyoming secretary of state.

Aaron Dorr, policy advisor for Wyoming Gun Owners, said he was pleased that a federal court ruled as unconstitutional a state law that would have made the group disclose its donors.

“”With help from the Institute for Free Speech we won … securing a victory for the First Amendment and the Second Amendment at the same time,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “On to the primaries!”

The lawsuit stemmed from a radio ad purchased by WyGO in August 2020 that portrayed state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, who was seeking re-election, as a champion of Second Amendment rights and his primary opponent, Erin Johnson, as “pathetic” because she did not mention gun rights on her website.

The Wyoming secretary of state found the ad to be “campaign electioneering” and said as a result, WyGO would need to provide its list of campaign income and expenses in keeping with state law.

The law in question requires organizations that spend more than $500 on “electioneering communication” to report its income and expenses “related to” the communication.

WyGO sued the secretary of state’s office, claiming the law created an unconstitutional hinderance to the right to free speech.

“Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan thought he could put a muzzle on Wyoming Gun Owners as a favor to his political friends in Cheyenne,” Dorr said. “He never thought we’d drag him into federal court.”

Judge Scott Skavdahl, in his ruling Monday, agreed the debate centered on the right to engage in political speech.

Skavdahl said while the state does have an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate before an election, it must narrowly tailor its laws make groups only report donations made to support advertising.

Without such limits, groups such as WyGO would have to separate out donations from people who only want to support activities such as lobbying or the creation of newsletters, Skavdahl said.

“Otherwise, small incidental donors with no intention of contributing to electioneering communications will be reported, which does not support the state’s interest in knowing who is speaking before an election,” he wrote.

While the secretary of state’s office argued WyGO could be required to account for the way different donations are made and used, Skavdahl said that would be too much of a burden for the group.

“If the statute is written in such a way that organizations like WyGO are required to design specific bookkeeping systems to comply with the statute, it is not clearly written or narrowly tailored,” he wrote. “It is on the state of Wyoming to prove they have narrowly tailored the statute to meet their interests and putting the responsibility on WyGO to keep proper records does not meet that burden.”

Skavdahl also found a section of the law requiring the reporting of expenses which “relate to” campaign advertising to be unconstitutionally vague.

“By this broad phrase, nothing prevents the state of Wyoming from requiring disclosure of expenses spent on gas driving to the … radio station,” his ruling said. “A reasonable person could read the statue and have trouble deciphering what ‘relate to’ means.”

Dorr, in a video posting, said if the law had been allowed to stand, groups like Wyoming Gun Owners would not be able to share information on candidates.

“But if we let these bureaucrats muzzle us through these two tyrannical First Amendment attacks via campaign finance laws, we will lose our right to expose these people at election time,” he said. “And if that happens, it will directly begin to impact our gun rights in a very very, very negative way.”

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Al Simpson Blasts Wyoming Gun Owners Association (Wygo) And Dorr Brothers

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson isn’t one to shy away from controversial topics — and gun advocacy groups are about as controversial as they come these days.

On Cody’s local radio talk show “Speak Your Peace,” Simpson offered disparaging comments for the brothers who run the Second Amendment advocacy group Wyoming Gun Owners and similar groups in other states.

The groups have stirred up controversy by championing controversial legislation touted to protect the Second Amendment.

“They’ve been exposed as as absolute nut cases,” Simpson said of Aaron, Chris and Ben Dorr.

“They flood the airwaves … and there are people who’ve been knocked off who were Second Amendment people,” Simpson said, adding “They ought to be in prison.”

While on the radio show Tuesday, a Cody resident called in to ask Simpson about his stance on WyGO’s recent attack on Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police. In an April 1 post on the group’s Facebook page, Dorr called Oedekoven “a cancer on the Second Amendment here in Wyoming.”

Simpson defended Oedekoven, whom Dorr had accused of being anti-Second Amendment because he opposed a bill in the Wyoming Legislature called the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”

Oedekoven was speaking on behalf of sheriffs in all 23 Wyoming counties in denouncing the bill, which WASCOP said would have tied the hands of law enforcement officers when investigating crimes by banning the seizure of weapons from anyone not convicted of a crime. The bill was defeated.

“He speaks for the peace officers,” Simpson pointed out. “Somebody has to speak for peace officers.”

While Wyoming Gun Owners began as a Wyoming group, founded by now-state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, its management now seems to be handled outside of Wyoming. The company’s listed address for an office is a Cheyenne post box in the office of a shipping company. Its mailing address is in California.

The group has become well known for targeting solid Republican lawmakers at the state and national level.

Simpson said any organizations associated with the Dorr brothers must be carefully examined.

“Wherever the Dorr brothers are, you’ll want to stay away from them,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 16, to correct the erroneous information that the Dorr brothers are involved in the group Gun Owners of America (GOA). While the brothers run several state Second Amendment advocacy groups, such as Wyoming Gun Owners, they are not connected with Gun Owners of America.

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WYGO Director: Second Amendment Preservation Act Is ‘Must Have’

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By The Center Square, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming legislators are looking to strengthen the state’s Second Amendment laws in the wake of President Joe Biden’s policies on gun control.

Elected on a strong gun control platform, Biden supports a national prohibition on high-capacity magazines, restrictions on firearm sales and laws that would make firearms manufacturers civilly liable for guns used in certain crimes.

So far, several pro-gun rights bills are in the works in Wyoming, including bills to repeal gun-free zones and eliminate residency requirements for concealed carry permits.

Another is the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.

A version of this bill was narrowly defeated last year, but the new version has teeth, said Aaron Dorr, director of Wyoming Gun Owners.

Dorr said Biden has declared open season on gun owners and the Second Amendment, and SAPA is the “must-have” legislation for gun owners.

“The Preservation Act would state that all federal gun control laws are null and void here in Wyoming, and it would do that by requiring that all Wyoming’s peace officers, whether it’s state troopers, county deputies or city officers, could only enforce state law passed by the state legislature when it comes to guns, ammunition or accessories,” Dorr told The Center Square. “So this is no feel-good bill, this is a very serious effort on our part to nullify federal gun control.”

It also would allow for civil lawsuits against any official who upholds a federal law in opposition to a state law, according to Dorr.

Dorr said he hasn’t heard any arguments against SAPA’s constitutionality.

“The whole concept behind SAPA legislation is the anti-commandeering doctrine, which has been around for hundreds of years,” he said. “The idea, very simply, is the states are independent sovereign entities and they have an absolute right to enforce the laws of their own making, and the federal government does not have, and has never had, the right to simply commandeer the states’ legislative process and order the states to enforce federal law.”

This doctrine is upheld by a litany of Supreme Court rulings from 1842 to 2013 during the Obama administration, according to Dorr.

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