Wyoming Delegation: Rep. Cynthia Lummis among Richest Members of Congress

Cynthia Lummis first won election to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1979. She was just 24 years old at the time, making her the youngest woman in Equality State history to serve in the legislature.

Since then, the Republican from Cheyenne has spent 24 years in elected office, climbing the political rungs through both chambers of the Wyoming Legislature to the state treasurer’s office, and then to the halls of U.S. Congress.

Cynthia Lummis speaks before Barack Obama's 2010 State of The Union address.

Cynthia Lummis' rise in Congress is preceded by her success as a businesswoman and investor. Her 2007-2008 financial disclosure forms reported an estimated net worth between $20 million and $75 million. (Photo from Lummis' Facebook — click to enlarge)

Though it is not widely known, Lummis’ rise in politics has been matched by her ascent as a businesswoman. While working as a lawyer and elected official in Cheyenne, she quietly built her personal wealth through a number of real estate ventures she pursued with her husband and law partner Alvin Wiederspahn, who has been a board member of several banks.

Even before Lummis began her political career, her family was known in Cheyenne for owning the Arp and Hammond Hardware Company, along with several large ranch properties southeast of town.

But election to the U.S. House in 2008 shed more light on Lummis’ personal finances, showing that the self-described rancher and small business owner may be one of the richest lawmakers in the Capitol.

In 2007-2008, Rep. Lummis’ financial disclosure forms reported a net worth between $20 million and $75 million, landing her spot No. 15 on RollCall.com’s list of the 50 wealthiest members in both houses of Congress.

Those numbers may make her net worth appear to be larger than it actually is, because the form used by Congress allows lawmakers to report their wealth within broad ranges; if an asset is over $1 million, there are only four boxes to check: $1-5 million, $5-25 million, $25-50 million, and over $50 million. (Click here to learn more.)

Lummis’ more recent disclosure forms have reported lower values, putting her total net worth for 2010 between $5.5 million and $24 million. Still, that ranks her as the 29th richest member of the U.S. House.

On paper, Lummis’ reported wealth dwarfs that of her fellow Wyoming members of Congress: Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both Republicans. According to financial disclosure statements filed with the Clerks of the House and Senate in 2010, Barrasso’s net worth is between $2,713,015 and $8,747,000, and Enzi’s is between $440,067 to $1,878,000.  The Center for Responsive Politics ranked them as the 34th and 66th wealthiest senators, respectively.

Sen. Enzi’s biggest asset may be the three-story Washington D.C. home he bought in 1997 for $360,000, and which D.C. tax authorities valued at $874,000 in 2008.

The bulk of Sen. Barrasso’s money is his portfolio of Vanguard investment funds, valued between $2 million to $7.25 million in 2010. He earned a salary of $306,000 for his last year of work at Casper Orthopedic Associates in 2007.

If Lummis’ median estimated wealth of $14.75 million is accurate, she could be easily counted among the wealthiest 1 percent of all Americans who have more than $9 million in assets.

Lummis wrote about moving cows in Platte County during a weekend home from Washington in a recent press release. But it would be a mistake to cast her as an ordinary ranch woman. Her career trajectory and her financial balance sheet reveal an ambitious, intelligent woman from a wealthy family who gained political clout through her work on key state issues like tax revenue and the management of billions in state money.

Wealth in Property

Most of Lummis’ wealth is locked up in her shares of Arp and Hammond Company, Lummis Livestock Company, and Old Horse Pasture Inc. In 2007, she reported these three large family land companies to be worth between $5 million to $25 million each, which attracted the attention of Rollcall.com and other news outlets.

Lummis revised the values of the companies in her 2009 disclosure form,putting them between $1 million and $5 million, which dropped her out of the top 20 rankings of the wealthiest members of Congress.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis' 2011 financial disclosure form

Rep. Cynthia Lummis' financial disclosure form shows that a large portion of her income comes from businesses jointly owned by her and her husband Al Wiederspahn. (Form courtesy of Opensecrets.org — click to enlarge)

While the exact value of these companies is unknown, the real estate footprint is part of the public record. Records from the Laramie County Assessor’s office show that Lummis is part or full owner of over 14,000 acres in Laramie County assessed at $2,735,244 in 2011.

Lummis Livestock paid a distribution ranging from $48,000 to $50,000 to Cynthia Lummis from 2007-2009, but paid nothing in 2010. One parcel owned by Lummis Livestock contains a gravel pit that could be generating income.

With her husband Wiederspahn, a Cheyenne Lawyer and former board member of Rocky Mountain Bank and First National Bank of Wyoming, Rep. Lummis owns the Colony Building and the Carey Block in downtown Cheyenne, along with a warehouse at 1112 Dunn Street. Those three properties were assessed at $1,114,100 in 2011.

Wiederspahn also owns Equipoise Corporation, a real estate and historic preservation development firm valued between $1 million to $5 million. Through Equipoise Corporation, Wiederspahn owns a three-story apartment building with 11 bathrooms at 912 Country Club Avenue in Cheyenne, plus a lot at 410 Randall Avenue. The latter property was to be the site of The Irwin, a luxury condo building that has not yet been built. Those properties are valued at $618,253 in 2011.

Buildings owned by Cynthia Lummis

A map of the property near Cheyenne owned by the Lummis Family. (Graphic by Guy Padgett with data from Laramie County Assessor — click to enlarge)

Equipoise also owns an 80-acre parcel at the foot of the Wyoming Range in Lincoln County, near the Star Valley community of Etna.

County tax assessment records show Wiederspahn and Lummis own 1,600 acres of ranchland in Platte County, located on Cooney Hills Road west of Wheatland near the Laramie Range. They own another 1,200 acres in Albany County.

Wiederspahn and Lummis’ primary residence is on Bent Avenue in Cheyenne, valued at $314,277 in 2010. Lummis also owns a condo on New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. valued at about $501,440 according to tax assessment records.

Lummis’ assets and those of her husband have not grown extravagantly since her election to Congress, though she did manage to pay off two ranch mortgages between 2008 and 2009 valued between $1.1 million and $5.25 million.

In 2010, Lummis reported between $115,000 and $250,000 in real estate income from the Colony Building, the Carey Block, and the warehouse at 1112 Dunn. Though not reported in the disclosure statement, she also earned a yearly salary of $174,000 as a member of Congress.

State Treasurer 1999-2007

Lummis’ power may have reached a peak during her years as state treasurer, when she was responsible for the investment and diversification of the massive windfall Wyoming saw during the natural gas boom.

During her two terms as state treasurer from 1999 to 2007, the state had received over $6 billion in revenue. Lummis oversaw the growth of the state’s investments from $3.5 billion to $8.6 billion, and led the conversion from mostly fixed income funds to a diversified portfolio.

As one of the five members of the State Land and Investment Board, she championed a strategy to put 50 percent of state investment funds into equities. Up to that point, the fiscally conservative state had kept most of its investments in fixed-income bonds.

During the course of Lummis’ term she helped choose fund managers like Cheyenne Capital Fund, which invested $257 million in state money, and State Street Global Advisors, which invested $952 million by December 2006.

Lummis’ treasurer’s report for 2006 shows other large investments were made through Fisher Investments and Capital Guardian Trust, which managed $350 million each. Western Asset Management and Lehman each managed over $330 million in fixed income funds. Friess Associates and GAMCO (Gabelli) each managed over $180 million in equities. Subsequently, donors connected to Lehman, Friess, and GAMCO all gave money to Lummis’ congressional campaign.

The array of new investments created a modernized growth portfolio that many hoped would help equalize the boom and bust cycles of mineral revenue that wreak havoc on the state’s budget.  As Lummis said in her closing treasurer’s report for 2006, “Perhaps no State Treasurer will have as unique an opportunity as I to effect such significant change on Wyoming’s investment portfolios using modern institutional portfolio theory.”

She later wrote a chapter called “Combating the mineral curse: the case of Wyoming” in the book Sovereign Wealth Management for the World Bank. The publisher, Central Banking Publications, flew Lummis on a one-night all-expenses paid trip to London, according to her 2010 financial disclosure form.

In Lummis’ 2008 run for Congress against Democrat Gary Trauner, her campaign materials touted her role in the state’s $4 billion investment growth that occurred during her two terms as treasurer. Gov. Dave Freudenthal told the Casper Star Tribune that the energy boom, not Lummis, should be credited for the growth.

Whether or not the credit can be given to Lummis, it’s clear that the state’s portfolio has been growing in the right direction overall. As of June 30, 2011, Wyoming’s investments had a market value of $14.4 billion.

The increased exposure to growth also brought increased risk, and there have been some setbacks. In 2009 the state portfolio declined in value from $11.5 billion to $10.9 billion, an unrealized loss of $600 million on paper.

Even so, the portfolio is up nearly $6 billion since Lummis left the state treasurer’s office. That growth has been good for Wyoming, but it has also been good for the fund managers. For example, Cheyenne Capital Fund initially collected a yearly management fee of $1.9 million when it was chosen to manage state funds in 2003. Cheyenne Capital Fund founder John Fitzgerald said the company’s formula for calculating management fees is complicated, but usually comes out to about 1.55 percent annually, which is in line with the industry average. His fund charged the state a $2.9 million fee in 2010.

Business and Politics

Over the course of her career Lummis has been involved in many major transactions and policy initiatives, and several of her efforts have resulted in criticism.

In particular, Lummis’ connections to royalty in kind have drawn media scrutiny. As reported by WyoFile, Lummis voted in 2005 to commit Wyoming’s 50 percent interest in mineral royalties from federal lands to the royalty in kind program in the Department of the Interior, an experiment that ended in controversy after a lack of oversight by the Minerals Management Service caused the government to lose hundreds of millions in royalties.

The accounting problems arose during the Clinton years, but were left uncorrected during Bush’s tenure when Wyoming’s Rejane “Johnnie” Burton was director of the federal Minerals Management Service. Burton resigned from that job in 2007, before reports of major corruption in of the service’s Lakewood, Colo. offices surfaced in September of 2008.

Cynthia Lummis with Regulation papers

Rep. Lummis poses in front of a stack of government regulations. Questions surfaced after Lummis hired Johnnie Burton as a field representative in her Cheyenne office in January of 2009. Lummis had a long association with Burton, who served in the state legislature and chaired the Wyoming Department of Revenue from 1995-2002. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Lummis' Facebook page — click to enlarge)

After the Lakewood scandal broke, Lummis hired Burton as a field representative in her Cheyenne office in January of 2009. Lummis had a long association with Burton, who served in the state legislature and chaired the Wyoming Department of Revenue from 1995-2002.

In June 2010 Lummis’ Democratic challenger David Wendt criticized her continued employment of the controversial former Minerals Management service director. Burton then defended her record in a July 2010 article in the Casper Star Tribune, saying the press had crucified her. She said that she had initiated an investigation of the Lakewood office in 2006, and that the royalty in kind program had made money for the government.

Lummis paid Burton a yearly salary of $50,000 for her work in Cheyenne in 2009 and 2010, but that was reduced to a salary of $19,000 for January to September 2011. As of this writing, Burton continues to work in Lummis’ Cheyenne office.

Lummis also attracted media scrutiny in June 2011 when the Associated Press reported that several fund managers hired by Lummis during her tenure as state treasurer had gone on to contribute to her congressional campaigns in 2008 and 2010.

As shown below, this was not illegal, and may have been a case of political fundraising as usual.

The Associated Press article noted that donors to Lummis for Congress included John Fitzgerald of Cheyenne Capital Fund and several of his associates. Contributions from the Fitzgerald family amounted to $15,800 from 2008-2010.

As treasurer and member of the State Loan and Investment Board, Lummis had made several moves that benefited Cheyenne Capital. She voted for an investment of $125 million in state money with Fitzgerald’s fund in 2003, and then voted to invest another $100 million with the company in 2004.

In both cases she argued that Cheyenne Capital was the best manager, and subsequently the fund has had an internal rate of return of over 12 percent. (See Cheyenne Capital Fund – Private Equity Commitments and Investments for more information on the fund’s performance.)

Gov. Freudenthal voted against investing with the fund both times, but the measures passed anyway.

Then in 2006, Lummis signed a confidentiality agreement with Cheyenne Capital Group, which sealed their records to the public to protect industry secrets. That agreement was overturned earlier this year by a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Associated Press.

Lummis originally met Fitzgerald in the late 1980s through her husband’s banking interests. Fitzgerald was a lawyer for Kirkland and Ellis when he represented a consortium of equity firms that was headquartered in Cheyenne. Wiederspahn was a board member of Rocky Mountain Bank at that time, and worked with the consortium as it looked for assets to purchase.

In an interview with WyoFile, Fitzgerald said he may have met Lummis once through Wiederspahn at that time, but that he didn’t do any business with her until years later when she called him as state treasurer looking for equity funds to invest in.

While she was treasurer, Fitzgerald invested state money allotted to Cheyenne Capital Fund with several other private equity managers. After Lummis left the treasurer’s office, many of those managers donated to her 2008 congressional campaign, including Paul and Paula Balser of Ironwood Partners in New York ($8,100 from 2008-2011), James Gordon of Edgewater Funds in Chicago ($2,300 in 2008), and J. Martin of Platte River Ventures in Denver ($2,300 in 2008).

Cynthia Lummis speaks at U.S. Capitol

Rep. Lummis speaks in Washington D.C. on the launch day of the 10th Amendment Task Force. Some of the biggest individual contributors to her campaign are managers of private equity and large-scale investment funds who she's been associated to in the past. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Lummis' Facebook page — click to enlarge)

According to watchdog groups, managers of Wyoming’s larger investment funds also donated to Lummis, including the Jackson-based Foster Friess family of Friess Associates ($9,200 in 2008), Mario Gabelli of GAMCO ($3,300 in 2008 and 2009), and Theodore Roosevelt IV of Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital ($3,157 in 2008 and 2009). In most cases, Lummis was only one among dozens of candidates that these fund managers contributed to at regular intervals.

Since Lummis left the state treasurer’s office in 2007, she had no authority to invest additional funds with the managers or change their compensation. Of the fund managers who made donations to her congressional campaigns after 2008, none of them donated to her campaigns for state treasurer in 1998 or 2002.

Contributions from all managers with ties to Cheyenne Capital totaled over $31,000, a small amount compared to the $1,530,454 total she raised for 2008.

Other sectors represented a much larger portion of her funding. For example, Lummis received over $177,000 from political action committees (PACs) and individuals connected with the energy and natural resources sector.

Aside from the stir caused by the fund manager donations, Lummis has had run-of-the-mill donors for a Wyoming candidate. In her fundraising efforts for her 2010 race she raised over $780,000. More than $279,000 of that came from individuals, while another $412,000 came from PACs.

Lummis held three fundraisers at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. The events took place on March 11, June 17, and September 28, and helped net major contributions from oil industry and sugar industry PACs.

Notable donors who gave the individual limit of $2,400 included John Fitzgerald, manager of Cheyenne Capital Fund and Seneca Equity Partners; Diemer, Henry, David, and Susan True, all members of the Casper oil family; Jim and Mari Martin, Casper oil investors; Cheyenne businessman Tim Hu; Robert Model of Cody; and R. and Carol Holding of the Sinclair oil company.

Several of these individuals have a long history of supporting Lummis. In her 1992 race for Wyoming Senate, Lummis received contributions from Holding, Hu, and True.

PAC contributions for 1992 included Exxon, Arco, Texaco, Marathon, Burlington Northern, Chevron, Conoco, and many other interests.

Her list of campaign contributors for the 2002 treasurer race read like a who’s who of Wyoming Republican politics: Alan Simpson, Diemer True, Tom Stroock, Eli Bebout, Robert Peck, Judy Catchpole, Ray Hunkins, Cliff Hansen, Jim Geringer, and many others.

A Regular Wyoming Politician

Unlike Sen. Enzi, Cynthia Lummis does not appear to use her political connections or campaign funds to directly enrich her family.

As reported by WyoFile in September, Sen. Enzi’s campaign paid $70,910 to his son’s wife Danielle Enzi for her work as campaign manager from July 2010 to July 2011. Watchdog groups and some members of Congress frown on the practice of elected officials paying their relatives with campaign funds or otherwise, which can turn running for election into a way to build up family wealth. A Department of Energy stimulus grant paid Sen. Enzi’s son Brad $128,000 in consulting fees for his work on carbon storage study related to the slow-moving Two Elk power plant project.

Lummis speaks at a GOP Women's press conference on healthcare reform on July 24, 2009. Research shows that the finances of Lummis and her family are largely unconnected to her political activities. (Photo from Lummis' Facebook page — click to enlarge)

Campaign disbursement reports show that Rep. Lummis pays Wiederspahn $900 quarterly to rent an office space in the First National Bank of Wyoming Building at 2015 Central Avenue in Cheyenne, plus reimbursements like $300 for office expenses, and occasional large ticket items such as $1,000 spent on postage. Total rent and reimbursements paid to Wiederspahn were $10,592 for 2009 and 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Lummis’ daughter Annaliese Wiederspahn served as deputy campaign manager for her 2008 House race, before taking on the role of campaign manager in 2010.

Lummis for Congress paid Ms. Wiederspahn no salary for her managerial work, though she received $14,603 in reimbursements for mileage and expenses in 2009-2010. Lummis’ campaign expenditure reports can be found here.

Lummis for Congress also spent $161,876 on a loan repayment to Cynthia Lummis for money she loaned to her own campaign in 2010, plus $15,000 to Lummis for an unspecified expense in 2009.

Alvin Wiederspahn’s wealth seems to be largely independent of his wife’s political activities. In 2003, he partnered with Mick McMurry of Casper and Robert Jensen of Cheyenne in restoring the historic Plains Hotel in downtown Cheyenne.

McMurry was a major early player in the discovery of the Jonah natural gas field near Pinedale, and Jensen was Chief Operating Officer of the Wyoming Business Council at the time.

Wiederspahn also served on the board of directors of the First National Bank of Wyoming. The company is based in Laramie, but has branches in Cheyenne and Fort Collins.

In 2004, Lummis and Wiederspahn purchased shares of First Capital West Bankshares, the holding company of First National Bank of Wyoming. The president of the corporation is Timothy Borden, a banker and small-engine foundry owner from Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Rep. Lummis’ financial disclosure statements indicate that the debt to Timothy Borden is held by Lummis’ spouse, Alvin Wiederspahn. From 2009 to 2010 the amount owed to Borden dropped from a range between $500,000 and $1 million to between $250,000 and $500,000. So even amid the global economic downturn, Lummis and Wiederspahn have maintained their ability to pay down debts.

Despite WyoFile’s repeated attempts to reach Rep. Lummis’ offices for comment on this article, neither she nor her staff offered a response.

However, Tammy Hooper, Chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, provided a statement on Lummis’ investment record as state treasurer: “We’re appreciative of her efforts and always have been. (Cynthia Lummis had) an intuitive ability to invest Wyoming’s money well when she was treasurer, to the benefit of the state and the citizens of Wyoming.”

Hooper noted that Lummis’ fiscal experience of balancing the state budget on a yearly basis has informed her current work in Washington: “She’s carrying that forward to how the government is spending the money, and where it’s spending its money, and she’s trying to tackle the deficit spending.”

While Lummis has a much higher net worth than the average Wyoming voter, Hooper said that distinction is irrelevant to how the representative does her job.

“I don’t think that her personal wealth determines or impacts her decision making to do what’s best for the country and for the people she represents in Wyoming. You’re elected to do the job, which is to represent the people,” Hooper said.

This story is part of an occasional WyoFile series about the finances, records and political work of Wyoming’s congressional delegation. Read the previous installment: Rising From the Right: Barrasso’s climb in senate follows increasingly conservative course

Gregory Nickerson is a University of Wyoming-trained historian and writer from Big Horn.  He has worked on documentary films in Nicaragua, Yellowstone, and Philadelphia, and held jobs as a museum curator and hunting guide.

REPUBLISH THIS STORY: For details on how you can republish this story or other WyoFile content for free, click here.

— If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.

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Published on December 13, 2011

{ 9 comments }

George December 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Your report is highly inaccurate with respect to the Federal RIK program. There has never been a credible report showing losses to the Federal Treasury. On the contrary, Interiors own reports to Congress indicate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue enhancements from RIK.

RESPONSE: “The Government Accounting Office and Minerals Management Service argued for several years about how much money was lost by Royalty in Kind. Accounting procedures made it difficult to evaluate the performance of RIK. In 2004 GAO found RIK decreased oil sale revenues in the Gulf of Mexico by $7.2 million. In 2007 GAO estimated over $1 billion had been lost due to a 1998-1999 mistakes that resulted in the absence of price thresholds to make royalties kick in above a certain price per barrel. In March 2008, GAO questioned the accuracy of royalty data reported by companies to the MMS. Then in August 2009, MMS calculated it was owed $21 million for past imbalances in RIK, but also said it had collected $150 million more (see page 4) than it would have if royalties were accepted as cash. GAO issued a report in September 2009 that found $160 million in uncollected royalties from leases in the Gulf of Mexico (see page 13). Generally, the GAO criticized the RIK program because it lacked transparency. It allowed companies to adjust numbers for their self-reported mineral production after MMS audits, making it very difficult to ascertain if the government was getting a fair value for the oil and gas it sold.” — Gregory Nickerson

Resources:
2008 POGO report — http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/reports/natural-resources/drilling-the-taxpayer/nr-rik-20080918.html

GAO report — http://wyofile.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/RIK.d04448.pdf

GAO comments on RIK data — http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-560T

2009 GAO report — http://wyofile.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/RIK.2.123312.pdf

Patrick December 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I’m wondering if Mr. Nickerson knows whether the following appeared as income on any of Lummis’ disclosures:

“From 2009 to 2010 the amount Lummis owed to Borden dropped from a range between $500,000 and $1 million to between $250,000 and $500,000. So even amid the global economic downturn, Lummis has maintained the ability to pay down her debts.”

Presumably, this should have been booked as income in some form, correct? Either she earned that money from other sources and used it to pay down the debt (in which case it should appear as income for Borden) or this was a gift from Borden.

Am I understanding this correctly?

RESPONSE: Rep. Lummis’ financial disclosure statements indicate that the debt to Timothy Borden is held by Lummis’ spouse, Alvin Wiederspahn. (The article has been corrected to reflect this detail.) The reduction in the debt to Borden between 2009 and 2010 is not balanced by any specific income. Lummis did not report receiving any gifts from Borden. Lummis reported between $175,000 and $350,000 in income for 2010 from Lummis Livestock, the Colony Building, the Carey Block, and the warehouse at 1112 Dunn. Beyond that, Lummis earned her salary as a member of Congress, and Wiederspahn also earned an undisclosed salary as an attorney. Wiederspahn’s yearly salary is not required to be disclosed. — Gregory Nickerson

Inky December 15, 2011 at 6:15 am

I hope you’ll also get into her voting record in Congress. While she has been a good little GOP soldier since the GOP took the House in 2010, before that she was a radical extremist in the minority. Very often, if you puruse the voting records, you’ll find Lummis co-sponsoring whacko bills with the likes of Steve King or Michelle Bachmann, or taking the most extreme conservative position — even if it meant voting against the majority of her own party, much less the hated Dems.
I’ve long lost any illusions that Lummis is a “grownup.” She has zero interest in making government work or work better — only wants to roll back the 20th century.

Patrick December 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

Could I also simply note the irony of quoting Tammy Hooper’s comments on finance? Isn’t she currently paying fines to the IRS because the state Republican party failed to make regular filings and keep up on its back payments of penalties?

Doesn’t that merit a mention here?

RESPONSE: Patrick is correct that the Wyoming Republican Party recently paid fines for failure to properly file IRS paperwork, including W-2s and forms required to keep its non-profit status. It also made mistakes in reporting some $129,000 in expenditures that supported Cynthia Lummis’ 2008 campaign. Over $124,000 paid for postage and printing campaign materials in October 2008, plus $4,200 given directly for Lummis for Congress, was reported late after the November election because of a change in accounting software. The glitches occurred prior to Tammy Hooper’s tenure as director of the Wyoming Republican Party. WyoFile did not include these items in the original article because the state party’s accounting troubles are a separate issue from Lummis’ management of finances.

Here are links to the relevant Casper Star-Tribune articles:

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/agency-fines-wyo-gop/article_04f93958-a885-59a2-b680-6e17bad67402.html

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/wyoming-republican-party-in-trouble-over-tax-paperwork/article_72b5f63b-0867-57b4-ab12-dd217a9ea3a6.html

http://trib.com/opinion/editorial/wyoming-republicans-must-create-transparent-process/article_cb6ddf62-a620-5a5a-ac29-31c78c4e2dc4.html

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/wyoming-republican-party-paid-in-irs-penalties/article_77f088a8-239f-5ea3-a54f-249a0ffe4a70.html

— Gregory Nickerson

Jim Star December 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

sounds like you are envious of Lummis

Patrick December 14, 2011 at 11:34 am

I appreciate stories like this and wish to commend Wyofile for providing in-depth reports on the state’s congressional delegation.

In the interests of constructive feedback, there may be a few areas where these reports could benefit from additional detail. This is both because some areas are inherently murky, and because Wyoming’s disclosure laws allow pubic officials extraordinary latitude and reporting in this state demands additional scrutiny.

I believe there are two such areas in this piece:

- The influence of PACs. It’s difficult to assess how influence and money co-incide without understanding the structure of and relationships between PACs. Many PACs do little but obscure influence, and many operate through feeder funds that make that influence very difficult to trace. Greg Nickerson’s contention that the Lummis has not benefitted in any untoward way from her actions as a public official is simply unsupported here. We need far more detail about the PACs in question and about fundraising efforts in generally to draw any conclusion at all. Nickerson refers to “watchdog groups” who have made judgments about donations, but this invites more questions than it answers. Likewise, the business transactions in question were given a very cursory treatment in the article. I’d like to see far greater detail here before any conclusion is reached.

- The performance of funds invested by the state of Wyoming. In a state with such a large trust fund, it’s vital that Wyoming’s voters be able to understand and evaluate the performance of state officials who act as fund managers – even if their only decision is to delegate that authority to hedge fund managers like Carlyle Capital (or others). The deals struck offer so little transparency – into fund performance or the fee structure used to compensate fund managers – that Nickerson’s conclusions about the performance of Wyoming’s trust fund are largely unsupported. Again, these conclusions are unsupported largely because the information presented isn’t even close to what would be required to make such a judgement. We can’t know if the funds were invested wisely or unwisely, or whether Wyoming pays a king’s ransom or a pittance for investment advice unless we can evaluate the performance, risk and liquidity of these investments. Obviously, we need visibility into the compensation structure for the firms managing these funds, which from appearances appears to be unusually generous to those firms. A FOI request broke the confidentiality agreement, but we have yet to see any in-depth treatment of that agreement or its costs/benefits to the state.

I’m delighted at coverage like this and don’t wish to have my comments construed as displeasure. I would simply like to see more of the good work that Mr. Nickerson has started here.

RESPONSE: PACs have been strong supporters of Cynthia Lummis campaigns, but their influence is not as obscure as might be expected. Most of the PACs that give to Lummis are associated with national associations or individual companies. The list of top PAC and individual donors over her career can be found here: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00029788&type=I

One group that does have an obscure-sounding name is the Making Business Excel PAC, which is operated out of Cheyenne. The treasurer for the PAC is Danielle Enzi, Sen. Mike Enzi’s daughter in law.

Industries from which Lummis has received particularly strong support include oil and gas, livestock, mining, retirees, leadership PACs, lawyers, health professionals, commercial banks, and crop production/processing:
http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00029788&type=I

To clarify the statement about Watchdog groups, no particular group has come out against Cynthia Lummis or made judgments about donations to her campaigns. Opensecrets.org serves mostly to organize financial disclosure statements and campaign finance documents into an easily digestible and search-able format.

In 2005 WyoFile contributor Rone Tempest wrote about the practice of congressional family members making money on the campaign trail while he was working at the LA Times. His article quotes a member of the group Common Cause, saying “Public service should not be a way to build a family fortune.”

Question II:
Information about the performance of Wyoming’s investments can be found at the State Treasurer’s website. Currently Cheyenne Capital Fund has the only individual company report listed on the website. John Fitzgerald told WyoFile that the fund’s compensation is in line with industry averages. The fund invested over $291 million in 2010, and the management fee of $2.9 million comes to about 1%.

Since this article was largely about Lummis’ finances and her influence in state investments, the piece did not undertake an analysis of the performance of the state trust fund or its management decisions. — Gregory Nickerson

robert fowlkes December 14, 2011 at 10:08 am

How is it that you are rated one of the richest congress peoplein the party? You should be helping the American people,with jobs,and health care suppliments.Maybe your buddy Barrasso might have the time and energy to partner up with a plan to save Wyoming from “the rich get richer and the poor don’t exsist.” Well come election time we want you out of office and out of the state. Move back to Weatland or party up with your buddy Dick Cheaney,in Jackson Hole eating fillets or lobster tails flown in from Maine. How can you live with yourself,knowing you do nothing for our country,state and our troops?

William Harasym December 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

This is a good article, and quite detailed. It painted a picture of a career politician and how her job related activity, like investing in certain capital investment companies had it’s perks, the unwritten quid pro quo that happens in politics.
Tammy Hooper was dead wrong though in her assertion regarding Lummis’s job performance- “I don’t think that her personal wealth determines or impacts her decision making to do what’s best for the country and for the people she represents in Wyoming. You’re elected to do the job, which is to represent the people,” Hooper said. Well, Cynthia does not represent the best interests of all the people (Just the rich and powerful, like herself.)—she wants to eliminate and/or get rid of the EPA, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, under the guise of 10th Amendment state’s right’s meme, but in reality it is to benefit big energy and oil and their activities. You even highlighted some recent fund-raising dinners in Washington, as “Lummis held three fundraisers at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. The events took place on March 11, June 17, and September 28, and helped net major contributions from oil industry and sugar industry PACs.”
Nor can we forget Lummis’s stance on Medicare and Social Security, that is, their elimination through vehicles such as the Paul Ryan Budget Plan, yet wants to lower tax rates for the upper 1%—Hey Tammy, how is this helping the regular folks? I find it hysterical that one of the richest members of Congress is in the Tea-Party Caucus, as those folks are clueless to what they actually stand for, because these happy (deleted) have been co-oped by the rich and powerful—so much for a grassroots group. Also with Lummis wanting to rid the poor and elderly of their “entitlements”, stuff we paid into our entire lives, she has no problem excepting 10s of thousands of dollars in farm subsides for her farm/ranch activities. What’s wrong with that picture? Just like Bachmann, they want to screw with the poor and elderly and their Social Security and Medicare, yet have no problem themselves sucking off the government teat for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars from various programs—that my friends is called a hypocrite, and Washington is full of them!
Good article though.

Alice December 13, 2011 at 7:54 am

A very good article–seems quite well researched. I would note that one really does not want to elect people who had poor money management skills in life to positions where financial skills are essential. Likewise, electing someone with only inherited money rarely works out. Cynthis Lummis seems to be someone with the right balance. Thank you for the informative article.

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