WyoFile special: Who bankrolls Wyo.’s top-funded primary candidates?

By on August 20, 2014

Editor’s Note

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Although the primary election will be old news by the time the ink dries on this issue, this article contains relevant information for voters trying to better grasp the role that campaign contributions play in the sphere of politics. Besides, it will surely be interesting to compare the primary election winners to some of the top-funded candidates listed in this story. 

The Secretary of State’s office recently released pre-primary reports detailing 2014 Wyoming campaign contributions. Photo: WyoFile.

The Secretary of State’s office recently released pre-primary reports detailing 2014 Wyoming campaign contributions. Photo: WyoFile.

Wyoming candidates for state elected offices raised more than $2.55 million in campaign funds from January to August of 2014.

For many of the top-funded candidates, self-financing played a major role in amassing campaign cash. However, a number of candidates employed their personal networks to gain small donations from a large number of donors.

Money from political groups was in evidence, but didn’t overwhelm the amount of donations from individuals.

A larger factor in the primary election fundraising is the consistent dominance of the Republican Party in generating candidates and campaign donations.

While the $2.55 million raised by state candidates may seem like a lot, it’s far less than the amount raised by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R) and Mike Enzi (R) in their bids for reelection. Enzi raised more than $4.1 million from 2009-2014, and Barrasso already has $3.1 million in cash on hand for the 2018 election.

For detailed information on who has funded the legislative candidates in your district, visit the Secretary of State’s Wyoming campaign finance website.

The Republican advantage

Republicans have a strong majority in Wyoming, making up 65 percent of registered voters in the state. It’s no surprise that this translates to a significant advantage in the number of GOP candidates that run, and the amount of money raised.

Among candidates for executive offices, Republicans out-raised Democrats by a factor of 12 to 1. The two Democratic hopefuls for Wyoming’s top elected seats, Pete Gosar and Mike Ceballos, raised a combined total of $127,455, while 13 Republicans raised $1,607,332.

In the Senate races, Republicans out-raised Democrats by 8 to 1. The four Democratic House candidates raised $13,433, while 17 Republicans raised $110,712.

Democrats did a little better in the House, but Republicans still out-raised them 3 to 1. Twenty-one Democratic candidates raised $97,738, while 75 Republicans raised $295,681.

PAC money

Out of the $2.55 million in total campaign contributions raised by all Wyoming state candidates in 2014 so far, roughly 25 percent came from Political Action Committees (PACs). The exact number is $642,923.

Since corporations can’t give directly to candidates, they form PACs to bundle money from their employees and other like-minded companies to give to candidates. The industries giving significant amounts to Wyoming candidates include coal, oil, gas, insurance, telecommunications, and tobacco, among others. Social and political groups also form PACs to bundle money from individuals.

Executive offices

Gov. Matt Mead raised more than any other candidate for statewide office. To date, he’s amassed more than $413,640 in donations, according to numbers compiled by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s election division. The majority of that money came from 242 individual donors and PACs who each gave more than $1,000.

Unlike 2010, when Mead self-financed $1.22 million of his $1.98 million campaign, this year Mead gave no money to the campaign before the primary. Instead, he raised money from 940 donors, evidencing the broad political base he’s built up during four years as an incumbent.

Those who gave more than $1,000 to Mead included a number of lobbyists, former and current staffers, fellow politicians and legislators, wealthy business owners, and a number of regular GOP campaign donors.

Three members of the Governor’s task force to remake the University of Wyoming College of Engineering gave $1,000 donations to Mead: Tom Botts of Moran (Shell), Greg Hill of Wilson (Hess Corporation), and Dick Agee of Houston (Wapiti Energy). Mead recently approved the task force’s plans and released the funds for constructing two major buildings on the UW campus.

Mead’s corporate donors from the coal industry included employee PACs for Cloud Peak Energy and Arch Coal. Oil industry donors included PACs for Marathon, QEP, BP, Halliburton, and Anadarko. The power utilities PacifiCorp and Basin Electric Power Cooperative gave Mead donations through PACs, as did BNSF Railway.

Mead’s campaign also garnered 585 donations of $400 or less.

Mead challenger Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill (R-Cheyenne) raised $110,000. More than $81,000 of that was self-financed through loans, monetary donations, and in-kind contributions.

Taylor Haynes, the third Republican candidate for Governor, has raised $137,914 to date. Haynes brought in 37 donations of $1,000 or more, 73 donations between $500 and $1,000, and 193 donations of $100 or less. Haynes also self-financed $26,597 to his campaign as an in-kind donation.

Democratic candidate for governor Pete Gosar has raised $56,000 this year. He faces no challengers in the primary election.

Coming in at a close second to Gov. Mead’s fundraising total was Ed Murray, GOP primary candidate for Secretary of State. Murray provided more than $361,000 of his own money to the $405,245 total raised by his campaign committee.

Likewise, the other candidates for Secretary of State also self-financed a large amount of their contributions.

Pete Illoway personally provided $40,000 of the $71,025 raised by his campaign. Ed Buchanan self-financed $51,500 of his $94,803 in total campaign donations. Clark Stith put $70,000 of his own money toward his $86,998 campaign.

Campaign finance observers say self-financing can be a potential handicap for candidates. “If you self-finance you are more likely to lose,” said Pete Quist, director of research for the Montana-based National Institute for Money in State Politics. “If you get lots of donations of $5, all those people are more likely to vote for you.”

However, it’s possible that the large amount of self-financing among all candidates for secretary of state may equalize any disadvantage in this race.

Sheryl Lain (R) led fundraising among candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction, bringing in $86,830. Nearly all of that money — $85,380 — was self-financed through immediate family and personal donations.

Democratic candidate for Superintendent Mike Ceballos raised $71,415 ($41,000 self-financed).

Superintendent candidate Jillian Balow (R) brought in $40,205 ($24,295 self-financed), while Bill Winney (R) garnered $24,686, self-financing all but $650 of the campaign.

In the race for Treasurer, incumbent Mark Gordon (R) attracted $124,546 in donations from 181 donors, and self-financed $80,644 of the campaign. Challenger Ron Redo raised $938, all self-financed.

Incumbent State Auditor Cynthia Cloud (R) faces no challenger. She raised $17,746 by the August 12 pre-primary filing date, self-financing $5,131.

Senate races

Sen. Fred Emerich (R-Cheyenne) is the top-funded campaign for Wyoming Senate so far, raising $19,055. That’s twice the amount raised by his primary challenger Rep. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne), who raised $9,571.

Emerich out-raised Hutchings primarily through $10,000 in large-size donations from PACs and individuals. This includes $1,000 each from PACs for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, Wyoming Public Employees Association, Wyoming Realtors, CONPAC Contractors, and the Farmers Insurance Group.

He also received 10 donations of $500 from PACs for PacifiCorp, Chesapeake Energy, and the Wyoming Education Association, among others.

Lobbyist Jody Levin gave $500 to Emerich. Levin is public sector chair of Wyoming’s chapter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), while Emerich is the Wyoming senate chair for ALEC.

Hutchings received three donations of $1,000. They came from her husband Thomas Hutchings, the socially conservative WyWatch PAC, and Susan Gore, heiress and founder of the Wyoming Liberty Group.

Rep. Hutchings also rolled over $2,698 in funds from her Hutchings for House campaign committee that financed her successful 2010 run for office.

The second highest fundraiser for Wyoming Senate is incumbent Sen. Drew Perkins (R-Casper) who is facing a challenge from Casper landman Bob Ide.

Perkins raised $16,489 to Ide’s $4,615. Thirteen PACs contributed a total of $6,500 to Perkins, with the rest of his money coming from 25 individuals.

House races

Minority floor Leader Rep. Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne) had the top-funded campaign for House, raising $16,800 from 20 donors.

Throne loaned more than half of that money — $10,000 — to her own campaign. Donations from 16 PACs, three individuals, and the Laramie County Democratic Party Central Committee made up the rest of her funds.

Throne faces no challenger in the Democratic primary, but will go up against Republican Phil Regeski in the general election.

The second highest fundraiser among House candidates is citizen lobbyist Cheri Steinmetz (R) of Lingle, who raised $15,917. Steinmetz is a socially conservative property rights advocate who has been active in several grassroots groups. She took no money from PACs, and got significant support from more than 60 donors who gave $100 or less. One of her $1,000 donors was Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange), the very man she ran against in the 2010 election.

This year Steinmetz is going up against House Education Committee Chair Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) who raised just $1,850 before the primary. Teeters co-sponsored Senate File 104, and introduced the House Amendment that resulted in the banning the State School Board from considering the Next Generation Science Standards.

The third highest fundraiser in the House primaries is former legislator and Joint Appropriations Committee chair Tom Jones of Cheyenne, who raised $14,400. Jones is unusual for being a non-incumbent who received support from PACs, bringing in a total of $3,950 from 12 groups. Jones is running against Theodore “Jim” Blackburn in the primary, who has raised $3,120.

In terms of dollars, the most evenly matched race in the House this year pits Rep. Tom Lockhart (R-Casper) against radio broadcaster Chuck Gray.

Lockhart raised $12,271, with nearly 75 percent of the money coming from individuals and Wyoming PACs, and just $359 dollars coming from immediate family/personal donations.

Gray raised $11,971, self-financing $9,000 of his campaign.

Late filers

A number of candidates for office didn’t file their per-primary campaign finance reports by the deadline on August 12. These included a dozen incumbents, many of whom filed the following day.

As of Monday, August 18, the Wyoming Secretary of State elections website showed it had still not received reports from incumbents Sen. Paul Barnard (R-Evanston), Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange), and Rep. Stephen Watt (R-Rock Springs).

Well-known Tea Party challenger Bob Berry, who is running against Rep. David Northrup (R-Cody), also had not filed his report as of August 18.

Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. He writes the Capitol Beat blog. Contact him at greg@wyofile.com or follow him on twitter @GregNickersonWY.

This story was originally published on WyoFile here.

About Gregory Nickerson

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