Southwest Wyoming residents can party this weekend at a prom-themed “Conservatives in Crimson” fundraiser thrown by the Republican Parties of Uinta, Sweetwater and Carbon counties.
For a $60 entry fee to the Rock Springs gala, revelers Saturday evening can sip on “spiked punch” and enjoy the ceremonial crowning of the “Republi-King” and “Republi-Queen.” Attendees should also get to make acquaintances with candidates running to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) in the midterm election. Carbon County Republican Party Chairman Joey Correnti emphasized the event is a fundraiser for the county parties, not candidates.
“We always provide equal opportunity to all candidates,” Correnti said, “and a couple of them have taken us up on sponsoring a table.”
The Hageman for Wyoming campaign sponsored a table and Harriet Hageman is expected to be there, he told WyoFile. An event webpage shows a $550 price tag for table sponsorship.
Retired Army colonel and U.S. House candidate Denton Knapp has also paid and is planning to go, he said.
But Liz Cheney is not expected to attend.
“She hasn’t responded to anything we’ve sent her in over a year,” Correnti said. “So no, she did not confirm.”
Cheney is instead expected to be rubbing shoulders with journalists at the annual Wyoming Press Association conference in Casper that night, according to her campaign communications director, Jeremy Adler.
Hageman’s decision to invest her time at an event — the Conservatives in Crimson gala — that’s geared toward grassroots fundraising is a hallmark of her campaign. “Harriet Hageman has driven 9,042 miles within Wyoming, meeting with voters in all 23 counties in the state,” according to her campaign website.
That strategy isn’t paying off in terms of overall dollars and cents, but the Donald Trump backed challenger for Cheney’s seat has outshined her opponent for dollars raised from Wyoming voters.
Wyoming’s three-term congresswoman has elevated her profile by contesting Trump’s disproven claims of a stolen election, earning herself a top-of-the-page entry onto the former president’s list of enemies. The feud has translated into donor support, and Cheney has raised nearly $7.2 million for her 2022 reelection bid — more than all but eight other U.S. House candidates nationally. In their first full dueling quarter (October through December), Cheney outraised Hageman more than four-to-one, $2.04 million to $443,000, according to campaign documents filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.
Cheney’s burying Hageman in total contributions, yes. But the FEC data tells a different story when carving out who’s getting funds from Wyoming residents.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, just 1.3% of Cheney’s $2-million haul came from individual in-state donors. The sitting congresswoman’s candidacy attracted 32 resident donations totalling $25,830.
But for Hageman, Equality State residents willing to personally donate were relatively more important. The Cheyenne attorney scored $188,850 from 150 in-state individual donors, which pencils out to 43% of her total quarterly contributions. Overall last quarter, Hageman raised $7 from Wyoming residents for every $1 Cheney took in.
This isn’t that
University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King told WyoFile it’s premature to make too much of that divide. He declined to speculate what it says about voter preferences.
“The dynamic plays out differently for challengers and incumbents in fundraising,” King said. “We don’t know a lot yet about how this is going to look in the end.”
What the data shows definitively so far, King said, is that Cheney is raising a lot of money, and mostly from out of state.
“That’s probably why she has a seven-to-one advantage of cash on hand right now,” King said. “What we can see from this is that Cheney hit the ground sprinting and Hageman hit the ground trotting. Cheney’s fundraising operation is significantly more efficient.”
Out-of-state and political action committee money has been important for Hageman, too.
Hageman received $5,000, the maximum amount allowable, from Donald Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee. She also received $5,000 from the Madison Project PAC directed by conversative former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun and his family and $1,000 from America Matters PAC created by ultra consevative Southern California political activist Joy Miedecke.
Cheney, meanwhile, received several hundred thousand dollars in donations from more than 50 corporate and law firm PACs.
Her affiliated Great Task and Cowboy PACs brought in additional in-state money, including $16,600 bundled from three Wyomingites not listed as individual donors in Federal Election Commission filings.
There’s nothing new about out-of-state money coming into Wyoming elections, said former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, who was in federal office from 1979 to 1997. What’s more novel, he said, is the total explosion of funds pouring in. Still, the 90-year-old Cody Republican wasn’t surprised by what’s happening given the modern race’s stakes.
“The amount of money might be staggering, but this is a big-time test,” Simpson said. “This is the real test of Trump. Whenever he opens his mouth, she sticks it right back at him and he must be furious.”
Simpson’s take was that differences between Cheney and Hageman’s fundraising hauls might not matter.
“When they close that ballot box in November, don’t be surprised with what you’re going to get,” he said. “I think a lot of people are going to say, ‘I’m tired of this, and I’m tired of him.’”
King, the UW professor, also made the point that the outcome of the U.S. House race wouldn’t necessarily hinge on whose coffers swell the most.
“Money makes it easier to campaign, money makes it easier to get out a campaign message,” King said. “But you can’t simply look at money as the indicator.”
Fundraising — or lack thereof — says more about the viability of candidates who are significantly behind, King said. It doesn’t mean they can’t do well in the election itself, but somebody who’s lagging behind in campaign resources isn’t going to have the opportunity to get his or her message out, he said.
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne), who’s also targeting Cheney’s seat, said that he’s fine with that. The pro-Trump candidate’s contributions have fallen off: He took in $26,000 last quarter, after having raised $600,000-plus earlier in the election cycle, according to Bouchard’s FEC filings.
“There’s no doubt that billionaires raising money for Harriet has certainly hurt [my] fundraising, but that’s OK,” Bouchard said. “People in Wyoming don’t like big money coming in from outside of Wyoming, so I’m just kinda sitting back and waiting for people to see with their own eyes what’s happening.”
Knapp, meanwhile, told WyoFile he is also staying in the race, despite having raised just $21,000 in total so far: “I’m not discouraged about the fundraising,” he said. The Gillette resident has spent all but a few thousand, and is set to fork over a few hundred more for a table at the Conservatives in Crimson gala in Rock Springs Saturday.
Knapp intends to partake in the fellowship of the event, talk to people around the room and introduce himself to members of the Republican Central Committee. He doesn’t necessarily see the gala as much of an opportunity for him to solicit donations and fundraise.
“I think I’d make more impact if I went to Rock Springs and went door-to-door and talked to voters,” Knapp said. “Because in reality, the Central Committee has their mind made up, and that’s [to endorse] Harriet Hageman.”
Hageman’s campaign did not respond to WyoFile’s interview request for this story.
—Rone Tempest contributed reporting to this story