U.S. Sen. John Barrasso visiting with his constituents at home in September 2017, according to his website. The senator is known to some in Wyoming politics for his frequent visits to the state he represents. When it comes to fundraising, however, only a small portion of Barrasso’s campaign warchest comes from Wyoming. (Sen. John Barrasso’s website)

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso’s campaign committee has raised almost $3 million in 2017, according to the committee’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission. Of that money, only $66,225 — around 2.2 percent — appears to come from the state he represents.

In the first three quarters of 2017, Barrasso’s campaign committee, called Friends of John Barrasso, raised around $1.6 million from individual contributions, and a little more than $1.17 million from Political Action Committees.

WyoFile found just $58,725 from Wyoming individuals, and $7,500 from Wyoming-based PACs in this year’s fundraising. On March 13, the Making Business Excel PAC gave $5,000 to Friends of John Barrasso. The PAC is based in Cheyenne, according to the FEC. The PAC is affiliated with U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, who is not up for reelection in 2018. More recently on Sep. 6, the Cowboy PAC, of Wilson, gave Barrasso’s campaign $2,500.

The campaign has done little “active fundraising in-state” at this point in the campaign cycle, Barrasso’s chief of staff Dan Kunsman wrote in an emailed response to questions from WyoFile. They intend to raise more money from Wyoming. “We expect to add significantly in 2018 to the more than 1,000 individual Wyoming donors since the last election,” he wrote.

Barrasso is preparing for a potentially challenging, and expensive, election season, with at least two well-funded challengers publicly considering campaigns. Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Jackson Hole millionaire Foster Friess in mid-October both discussed potential challenges to the incumbent senator.

Barrasso’s campaign has $5 million in cash, according to the FEC. His latest financial report, however, is only for campaign contributions through Sept. 30 — before Prince and Friess made their considerations public.

Therefore the $2.9 million Barrasso has raised this year would not reflect contributions stimulated by the potential challengers’ announcements, including from donors hoping to help the Senator fend off anti-establishment challengers. Barrasso has always prepared “strongly” for the possibility of a primary challenger, Kunsman wrote.

Barrasso is the fourth-highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, and is considered a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

The Republican party has split nationally, in a widely publicized feud among long-time party figures considered part of the Washington D.C. political establishment, and others who believe new politicians are needed to advance an ideological agenda that is further to the right. If such a fight spills into Wyoming’s 2018 Senate race, the campaign is likely to be more expensive than past ones, political observers say.

Never miss a WyoFile story — sign up for our free weekly newsletter

In addition to the money spent directly by candidates’ committees, there’s also the potential for spending by outside groups.

Sen. Barrasso’s staff did not provide a list of fundraising events held by the campaign committee as requested by WyoFile.

However, several series of donations in the latest FEC filing imply a fundraising event, or at the very least a targeted effort to raise contributions from certain groups of people.

For example, on one day in September a group of high-ranking employees from the energy company Chevron made a series of individual contributions. On Sept. 29 the campaign committee raised $21,400 from seven individuals who listed the Chevron Corporation as their employer. They listed titles such as executive vice president, vice president and executive as their occupation. All seven of the Chevron donors listed towns in the San Francisco Bay Area as their homes.

The single day’s haul from California residents was more than twice what the campaign raised from Wyoming individuals during that fundraising quarter — which lasted from July 1 to Sept. 30.

John Watson, at the time Chevron’s CEO, gave $5,400. He has since been replaced by Michael Wirth, according to report from CNBC. Wirth also donated to Sen. Barrasso’s campaign on Sept. 29, giving $2,700.

In a separate example, the committee raised $20,450 from 55 different urologists in Virginia on Sept. 30, according to the filings. The vast majority of that amount came from individual contributions of $350. Only two urologists gave more than that amount. On Sept. 30, Barrasso was in Laramie attending a University of Wyoming football game, according to his Twitter account.

On Sept. 30, Barrasso was in Laramie for a University of Wyoming football game, according to his Twitter account. On that day, his FEC filings show gifts from 55 urologists in Virginia. (Sen. John Barrasso via Twitter)

“The campaign is proud of the many supporters Senator Barrasso has from around the country who share our Wyoming priorities to create good jobs, lower taxes, protect American freedom and eliminate federal regulatory overreach,” Kunsman wrote.

Sen. Barrasso is a frequent recipient of both doctors’ and the healthcare industry’s largesse. The senator worked as a doctor in Casper before entering politics, and is often featured on television as a healthcare policy expert.

The same is also true of the energy industry, which has benefitted Barrasso both through Political Action Committees and donations from individual employees.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions over the life of a politician’s career on its website opensecrets.org, Barrasso’s top contributors are employees of the Chevron Corporation, both through PACs and donations from individual employees. The next biggest contributor are PACs connected to and employees of Berkshire Hathaway, owned and managed by famous financier Warren Buffett. Beneath that come three healthcare-related corporations: insurance giant Blue Cross/Blue Shield, pharmaceutical corporation Amgen and Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy.

Barrasso’s connection to Amgen has been questioned in the past, after the New York Times reported in January 2013 that the corporation stood to reap a massive financial windfall from a last-minute addition to a fiscal bill that year. The corporation had given heavily to U.S. senators leading up to that decision.

Other prominent Barrasso donors have been employees of the Sinclair Companies, the oil corporation that has two refineries in Wyoming. Individual Sinclair employees have given $37,500 to the Senator’s campaigns over the life of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Kathleen Holding, a Dayton, Wyoming resident who lists herself as a Sinclair Companies executive, gave $5,400 to Barrasso this last quarter. Her gift was more than half of the Senator’s individual contributions from his home state that quarter.

Regardless of where the money comes from, “our campaign will spend its resources in Wyoming for Wyoming,” Kunsman wrote.

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

Join the Conversation


Want to join the discussion? Fantastic, here are the ground rules: * Provide your full name — no pseudonyms. WyoFile stands behind everything we publish and expects commenters to do the same. * No personal attacks, profanity, discriminatory language or threats. Keep it clean, civil and on topic. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted. *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This is not surprising, as Wyoming Congressional representatives have long been cheaply purchased votes for out of State interests. Dick Cheney was the best Representative of Texas that Wyoming ever had.

    None the less, thank you for the excellent reporting.

  2. While Senator Barrasso is not Senator Enzi he does a good job. Despite being Chairman of the Policy Committee (a heavy hitter for our small population) he still visits rural Wyoming regularly.

    A possible explanation of the Wyoming non Wyoming fundraising is Wyoming voters get to vote for the candidate. A California Republican can express their speech effectively only by donating to senate candidates that can actually win (in another state.) I like Senator Barrasso but do not contribute to him because I have little doubt he will win.

  3. Great reporting as usual. Just one quick question.

    Do his contributions show any funds from Russia in thanks for his GOP Convention work on the Platform Committee when he killed language for the US to help Ukraine? And by extension, to benefit Putin?

    This same amendment got Carter Page in hot water during a meeting of the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017 due to its pro-Russian stance. I guess the House doesn’t have the wherewithal to question the actions and influence of Senate.

    But we all know, follow the money.

  4. That explains Barrasso’s disregard for the best interests of Wyoming and why he rarely bothers to meet with us. When are we going to start demanding more of our elected officials? They are full speed ahead on the disastrous “tax the middle class and inflate the debt to give gifts to the wealthy” bill, and full throated endorsement of “destroy the beauty of Wyoming for (someone else’s) profit”. Surely we can find people who will actually represent Wyoming, but it might require voting for a “D” on occasion. We don’t have to settle for people that are bought and paid for, and sometimes live, out of state. So why do we?

  5. Senator Barrasso has become one of the largest alligators in the swamp we call Washington D.C. it is time for him to get out of the swamp and return to dry Wyoming.

  6. I cannot gauge what proportion of Barasso’s advertising will be spent “in Wyoming for Wyoming” but perhaps it will be more than 2.2% of his budget. The campaign is under way already and here, in south central Wyoming, we know that because we are seeing Barasso’s advertising on National TV channels. Our satellite TV providers can’t figure out how to get us Wyoming TV stations so we normally end up seeing Colorado political ads. Then again, in this day and age of targeted advertising, I don’t know that the ad I am seeing on the History Channel is the same ad being shown on that channel elsewhere.

    It is disheartening to know that people outside of Wyoming can exert more influence on our representatives than the people that actually vote them into office.

  7. After Barrasso had won his first election I wondered where he got his campaign contributions. I researched and found that Texas contributors had given double what Wyoming people had. He spent very little of his contributions on the campaign considering what had been contributed. I emailed him wondering what he did with million dollars plus. He called me. I ask if he represented Texas or Wyoming and that I thought he was bought and paid for by Texas and Texas had figured out how to buy two Wyoming senators. He told me he represented the voters of Wyoming. Then I asked him where the extra money was and he told me in a bank in Casper. I asked him what he could do with the money and his reply was that it had to be spent on getting re-elected but the day he retired he could spend it on anything he wanted.

  8. Thank you, again, Mr. Graham, for your in-depth research and illuminating reporting. Every Wyoming voter should have access to your pieces!

    As an aside, what’s up with the 55 Virginia urologists?!

  9. To say that John Barrasso represents the people of Wyoming is a long stretch.
    That is about as civil as I can phrase it. What I honestly believe about Barrasso’s ” representation ” is unprintable here.

    The good news is he finally has some serious intra-party competition for his seat in the 2018 primary . The bad news is neither of the other two potential candidates would represent Wyoming-at-large any better. No good choices. (yet)