RIVERTON—Brian Shuck surprised Wyoming Republican Party officials Saturday with an announcement that he would forgive $5,000 of what he was owed in legal fees so that the party could sink more money into candidates. 

Committeemen and committeewomen filling the hangar-like Chandelle Event Center outside of the Central Wyoming Regional Airport took to their feet, whooped and applauded upon hearing the party legal counsel’s pledge. They’d just endured two hours of discussion about which candidates should get a slice of the $14,500 the Wyoming GOP would mete out to Republican candidates in the upcoming general election, so Shuck’s fee write-off was a nice bump. 

Later on Saturday, the statewide party’s central committee voted to put the $5,000 into a fund that Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne could allocate at his own discretion. But Carbon County Republican Party Chairman Joey Correnti wanted to make sure everyone understood the stakes. 

“I don’t know if we’re not grasping the concept of what this money is, but it’s not a $5,000 donation,” Correnti told the body. “This is debt relief, and if we apply it to anything other than easing the pain of the $14,500 we’ve already spent, then we’re flipping debt. That’s not how we run our household budgets. We didn’t get any money.” 

Carbon County Republican Party Chairman Joey Correnti and Bob Ferguson, the Wyoming GOP’s treasurer, confer outside Riverton’s Chandelle Event Center on Sept. 17 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

Correnti’s remarks underscored the difficult financial position of the Wyoming Republican Party, which has run up legal bills for a spate of lawsuits that are nearly 2.5 times what the party will spend supporting candidates in the Nov. 8 general election. Bob Ferguson, the Wyoming Republican Party’s treasurer, told WyoFile that the costs of litigation, plus missing dues from some county parties, have required less election spending.

“To draw the line directly,” Ferguson said, “it’s very easy.” 

The state party, Ferguson explained, has missed out on $37,000 in county party shares from Wyoming’s two most populous counties: Natrona ($25,000) and Laramie ($12,000). On top of that, the Wyoming Republican Party has spent $42,000 — a sum that’s sure to grow — on “frivolous” lawsuits, he said. 

Bob Ferguson, the Wyoming Republican Party’s treasurer, in September 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

“We would have a pool of money sitting there that was an additional $80,000,” Ferguson said. “We could have easily spent $50,000 [on candidates]. We could have spent more than $50,000. We currently have enough to run the party for the rest of the biennium, and it would have given us way more money to finance candidates.” 

Infighting 

At the mid-September Central Committee meeting, the party had $119,000 in the bank, Ferguson told the Republicans gathered. It costs about $11,000 a month to keep the lights on and pay staff, he said, which means there’s just enough to keep operations going through the fiscal year. The party will need to raise additional money to pay down legal fees and fund any candidate spending that’s been pledged.

“Every dollar we spend today is a dollar we have to raise before the biennium,” Correnti told the state party. “Otherwise, we have no money.”

Much of the state GOP’s financial woes can be attributed to infighting. Laramie County Republicans have withheld their dues in protest of how the state party is being run. A formal complaint over how Laramie County carried out its election for delegates led to Laramie County delegates being barred from the state party’s convention. 

“Every dollar we spend today is a dollar we have to raise before the biennium. Otherwise, we have no money.”

Carbon County Republican Party Chairman Joey Correnti

An ongoing fight with the Natrona County GOP has proven even costlier. The county party, which has called for Eathorne’s resignation, is suing over the procedure the state party used to adopt bylaws that require each county party to pay dues or lose their delegates at the state party’s convention. That’s been a budgetary double whammy for the Wyoming GOP: the loss of dues, plus attorney fees that have eclipsed $27,000. 

“The meter is still running,” Correnti said. 

The Natrona County case was dismissed in district court, but the county party has appealed and filed a petition with the Wyoming Supreme Court. A Natrona County committeeman who was in Riverton by proxy declined an interview request. 

Lyle Williams, former chair of the Uinta County Republican Party, speaks during a roundtable panel discussion about the formation of the Wyoming Republican Party’s platform at a September 2022 meeting in Riverton. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

A lawsuit out of Uinta County is also diverting Wyoming Republican Party funds. An allegation that Uinta County GOP leadership committed election fraud was dismissed by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and in district court, but it too is being elevated to the Wyoming Supreme Court

Former Wyoming House Speaker and Campbell County Committeeman Tom Lubnau’s lawsuit over the Wyoming GOP’s selection process for replacing former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow is the third case chewing into the state party’s bank account. 

And even more litigation may be coming down the pike. Midway through the Wyoming GOP’s Sept. 17 meeting, most non-committee members were told to leave the event center so the party could hear an agenda item Eathorne deemed “confidential.” On the agenda attorney Drake Hill and his wife, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, were slated to present “the Playbook.” 

In 2013, Cindy Hill challenged a state law that stripped her position of many of its authorities and won in Wyoming Supreme Court. Similar dynamics are playing out nearly a decade later, as some lawmakers seek to restrict the election-related authorities of Wyoming’s secretary of state. Republican nominee and election fraud conspiracy theorist Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) is running unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election and is widely expected to win the office. 

Spreading scant funds

In its budget planning, the GOP earmarked $50,000 for candidate spending, but even with Shuck’s surprise $5,000 write-off the party will dole out just less than 40% of that intended amount. 

The $14,500 in funds the Wyoming GOP did allocate for candidates are predominantly going toward contested races the Republicans deemed “winnable.” The Republican Party has long enjoyed a dominant supermajority in both chambers of the Wyoming Legislature, and the August primary election determined that advantage will persist for at least the next two years: Democrats are absent from 10 of 16 Senate contests and 43 of 62 House races. 

The central committee awarded four Republican candidates $2,000 each: Andrew Byron, who’s up against Bob Strobel, an independent, in a race with no incumbent for House District 22; Sarah Penn, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Andi LeBeau (D-Riverton) in House District 33; Bryan Shuster, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Trey Sherwood (D-Laramie) in House District 14; and Jim McCollum, who seeks to unseat incumbent Rep. Mike Yin (D-Jackson) in House District 16. 

Uinta County committeeman Karl Allred reviews documents at a Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee meeting in Riverton in September 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

County representatives made a case for each of those candidates receiving funds, and in some cases so did the candidates themselves and others. Uinta County committeeman Karl Allred, for example, spoke to the need to support McCollum — father of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum — and take down Yin. 

“If any of you have met him or dealt with him in any committee meetings, the guy [Yin] is a flippin’ idiot,” Allred said. “And we need to get rid of him.” 

Censure and shots across the bow

In its two-day meeting the Wyoming GOP Central Committee also censured Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) and condemned his efforts to seek an independent candidate to challenge Gray in the general election for secretary of state. The party also voted to make the symbolic move to no longer recognize Republicans who run in the general election as independents or under another party’s flag. 

The assembly also set party priorities for the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session. Revising Title 22 of the Wyoming Election Code to close primaries and prohibit party-registration changes will be the party’s main aim. Other goals include improving election integrity, developing pro-life legislation and imposing no new taxes except for a “parity tax” on renewable energy. Downlist priorities were to have “no protected classes of people,” oppose any legislation seeking to legalize or decriminalize marijuana and call for an audit of the federal government.

Because of public notice requirements, the GOP Central Committee did not go through the selection process for interim secretary of state candidates following the early departure of Secretary of State Ed Buchanan. That selection will instead take place at 1 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Wind River Recreation Center in Pavillion.

Mike Koshmrl

Mike Koshmrl reports from Jackson on state politics and Wyoming's natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures...

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  1. So they make it priority to “oppose any legislation seeking to legalize or decriminalize marijuana.”

    Way to signal you are all dinosaurs sinking into the tar pits. Science and widespread experience have shown marijuana has no significant harms. NO ONE has ever died from consuming marijuana. That makes it safer than aspirin, caffeine and peanuts!

    Polls show 70 percent of ALL Americans want to end this insane witch-hunt. All you do with the fraudulent prohibition is drain Wyoming of business and tax revenues, since consumers will just go to Montana, Colorado and soon South Dakota to purchase the near harmless plant.

    Shameful and sad.

  2. Wow. Maybe the current leadership will run out of money and….. can’t live in the past forever.
    Is it too hopeful to expect leadership with 21st Century ideology who respect women rights with a plan to become a destination rather that a place to leave when the opportunity presents?

  3. In the past, dimwits would be laughed at, ignored and dismissed. But somehow, the “old guard” left its guard down (no pun intended) and right out in the open these dimwits united and hijacked the Wyoming GOP. While it’s been a pleasure watching these dimwits implode, the question to ask is: who’s going to pick up the pieces? My guess is that these dimwits have ruined the Wyoming Republican Party into such a decay that it’s not fixable.

    1. You know the old axiom, “The pendulum swings like the pendulum do”, but unfortunately for Wyoming, it might not swing soon enough. With a large part of all Americans supporting this type of craziness, it’s hard to be optimistic. Perhaps the national midterms will be telling one way or the other.

  4. Gun toting Karl calling Yin an idiot is the absolute definition of Dunning-Kruger.

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias whereby people with low ability, expertise, or experience regarding a certain type of a task or area of knowledge tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge.” – Wikipedia

    1. Tough to say who’s worse… Eathorne given the railroading he orchestrated on the Laramie GOP delegation or Allred for his attack on Yin – presumably because he’s not a grumpy old white guy? The Wyo GOP is circling the drain and I pray they don’t take us and what’s left of our democracy with them….

  5. Gosh. I’m shocked. You mean to say the Grand Dragon of the Republican Party… the Orange Oracle of Obfuscation … the emperor Trumpius… won’t send the ultra-loyal Wyoming GOP any petty cash to help them in their time of dire need ? Shouldn’t burning Liz Cheney at the stake in her home state be worth a paltry $ 100,000 at least to The Donald , self proclaimed billionaire ?

    I have to say that were the stakes and outcomes not so high, simply observing the Wyoming GOP thrash themselves to mulch is as perversely good as any sit-com or phony reality show on television. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills can’t hold a zippo lighter to the Surreal Cowpunchers of Wyoming and their unique style of faux patriotism follies.

  6. Wyoming Republicans are living so far in the past that they are destroying the state. In a decade there will be no money to be had and the old gray hairs will be begging for a handout.

  7. Let’s hope this totally out-of-control and wacko political party continues to implode! Perhaps saner and more intelligent individuals can reestablish it into something a bit more progressive and moderate.

  8. It’s amusing to see the result of this party’s infighting. Apparently using hateful rhetoric, election lies, condemnation and division as a tactic comes at a cost.

    1. what will be even more amusing is watching the democratic party being reduced
      to minor party status after the november election cycle.

  9. I am glad to hear they are having money problems. I haven’t given to them for years and don’t intend to until they get rid of the extremists at the top. I encourage all moderate Republicans to quit donating until they give us the respect we deserve.

  10. Start by getting rid of Frank Eathorne. Maybe the in-fighting will end and the party will get back to business at hand. Everytime you turn around you are cencuring somebody else. Quit it! Get back to work!!

    1. “I am the only true republican”-said a few thousand GOP members who support armed insurrection sponsored by a president who claims an election is stolen without a single shred of evidence