Channeled through PACs and self funding by wealthy candidates, money has flooded the Equality State in the most recent gubernatorial primary. (.sanden. / Flickr Creative Commons)

The 10 candidates vying to be Wyoming’s next governor have raised $7,798,212 in advance of the Tuesday Aug. 21 primaries according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday — with the majority of it coming from the candidates themselves.

Investor Foster Friess holds the money edge in the competitive Republican field with $2,511,420 in total contributions followed by State Treasurer Mark Gordon with $2,061,707, businessman Sam Galeotos with $1,809,774 and Cheyenne Attorney Harriet Hageman with $922,791. Perennial candidate Dr. Taylor Haynes and Sheridan businessman Bill Dahlin trail the pack from a distance with $70,954 and $3,225 respectively.

The contest for the Democratic nomination appears to be a one woman race at this stage — at least in the eyes of funders. Cheyenne attorney Mary Throne claims $150,855 in contributions in her latest report, bringing her total raised for the campaign cycle to $282,764. Her competitors have filed $830 in contributions between them.

The race has been largely self-funded thus far with direct personal contributions and loans from immediate family and the candidates themselves accounting for $5,650,379 — the largest single category of contributions and roughly 72 percent of the total.

Most notably, Friess has staked his campaign to the tune of $2,421,315 in direct personal contributions and loans. Gordon has backed his own bid with $1,525,435 and Galeotos has anted-up $1,525,100.

Giving from political action committees also figures prominently. Hageman has emerged as the PAC favorite, having received $615,000 of her $922,791 from one Worland based committee.

Individual support — direct campaign contributions from actual people —  totalled $1,072,262, less than 14 percent of the total raised thus far.

The Pre-Primary Reports filed yesterday with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office include contributions made through Aug. 7. Candidates are required to make a more thorough disclosure after the primary on on Aug. 31. That report will include what the money has been spent on.

Not all of the money engaged in the governor’s race, however, is accounted for in official campaign filings. This week, a lawmaker in charge of the Wyoming House committee that writes elections law issued a press release bemoaning the entrance of “dark money” in the form of anonymous mailers targeting registered Republicans.

House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Chairman Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) condemned campaigns “using ‘dark money’ and being unaccountable to the voters of this state.”

There have been at least two statewide mailers aimed at peeling voters away from Gordon by labeling the treasurer a liberal. A glossy, well-produced statewide mailer is not a cheap endeavor. Zwonitzer said he had reason to believe more mailers were coming.  

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Foster Friess

Friess’ financial edge at this point appears more modest than some expected. The more distinguishing feature is the degree to which he’s funded that advantage on his own. While Galeotos and Gordon made significant loans to their campaigns, the vast majority of Friess’ self-funding is listed as a donation, not a loan. Since May 3, he has donated  $2,237,592 to his campaign.

He loaned the effort $183,721.

In addition to his own support, Friess has received $90,100 in individual contributions. Of the 67 individual contributions he’s received, 24 have come from donors listing a Wyoming address. Fourteen of those were from Jackson or Wilson. Friess has expressed frustration about overcoming Wyoming voters skepticism of both Jackson residents and his wealth.

WyoFile did not find any Wyoming lawmakers listed among the donors to Friess’ campaign.

Friess gave $2,500 to Sen. Leland Christensen (R-Alta), who is running for state treasurer. His wife Lynette Friess gave another $2,500.

Mark Gordon

State Treasurer Mark Gordon’s campaign sent out a press release on Tuesday boasting of “support from over 1,000 donors in every WY county.” WyoFile has not confirmed the claim. Individual contributions made up $522,432 of the $2,070,732 in Gordon’s war chest.

The vast majority of the rest — $1,525,000 — came in personal loans from himself and his wife, Jennie Gordon. In June and July, Jennie Gordon lent the campaign $200,000 every two weeks.

At least seven state legislators are counted among Gordon’s individual campaign contributors — House Revenue Committee Chairman Mike Madden, Rep. Clark Stith (R-Rock Springs), Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan), Sen. Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette), Rep. Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull), Rep. Pat Sweeney (R-Casper) and Rep. Daniel Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne). State Auditor Cynthia Cloud also gave the campaign $200.

Sam Galeotos

Cheyenne businessman Sam Galeotos listed $1,809,744 in total contributions through the end of the pre-primary filing period — Jan. 1 to Aug. 7.

He collected $167,921 from individual contributors.

Galeotos loaned $1,525,100 to his own campaign, Galeotos for Governor, Inc. Though the number mirrors Gordon’s self-loans the similarity appears to be a coincidence. There is no limit on the amount of money a candidate can loan themselves, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

He received $105,000 from Momentum 307, a political action committee that supports “Wyoming people supporting entrepreneurship, technology, innovation and business.” Wyoming Liberty Group founder Susan Gore contributed $100,000 to the PAC.

Another $5,000 came to Momentum 307 from Holland & Hart, a prominent Cheyenne law firm. Matt Micheli, listed as Galeotos’ campaign chairman on the candidate’s original filing, is a partner at Holland & Hart.

Galeotos listed 290 individual contributions. He received 26 contributions of $2,500, including one from Gore. Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who endorsed Galeotos early, donated $2,400, state records show.

Other notable financial support came from Sens. Affie Ellis and Steven Pappas, both Cheyenne Republicans. Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, also gave $500 in donations, and $75 of in-kind donations.

Harriet Hageman

Natural resources attorney Hageman carried $98,154 over from an earlier report and saw $922,791 in contributions for a total of $1,013,703 as of the filing date.

Her campaign logged 432 donations in the most recent filing period, records say.

Hageman’s self funding of her campaign paled in comparison to that of her principle rivals. She lent herself $25,000, and another $125,000 in loans came from her husband, John Sundahl.

Though Hageman did not spend as prolifically from personal wealth, she outpaced her competition on leveraging PAC support. State statute limits individual donations to $2,500, but donors can give an unlimited amount to PACs. Several wealthy Wyoming residents used the vehicle to support Hageman.

The PAC Right for Wyoming contributed $615,000, the filings say. The PAC raised $655,000 during the filing period.

David Hamilton of Worland, a client Hageman successfully represented in a lawsuit against the EPA, according to a story in Northern Ag Net, is a significant contributor to that PAC. He gave the committee $450,000 during the filing period.

Daniel Brophy, a Wilson resident known for backing ultra-conservative candidates in legislative races, gave $75,000 to the PAC. Other major donors to Right For Wyoming include Daniel Starks of Dubois, who gave $25,000, Ron McMurry of Casper, who gave $50,000, Michael Garmon of Jackson, who gave $25,000, and John and Karen Kennedy of Gillette, who gave $10,000 each.

State Reps. Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle), Jim Allen (R-Lander), Mark Jennings (R-Sheridan), Rep. Timothy Hallinan (R-Gillette) and Sens. Charles Scott (R-Casper) and Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) all backed Hageman with contributions. Meier is also a candidate for state treasurer.

Sec. of State Ed Buchanan donated $1,000 to Hageman’s campaign. Buchanan was previously Hageman’s campaign chairman. He resigned from that position when Mead appointed him to succeed Ed Murray as Secretary of State.

John Birbari, a former Fremont County Republican Party chairman and radio talk show host, gave $200 to Hageman’s campaign.

Haynes and Dahlin

Dr. Taylor Haynes has raised $67,663 since Jan. 1. He donated, not loaned, $22,124 to his campaign. Haynes raised another $43,025 from individual givers. No donations from state legislators appear in the report.

Haynes candidacy has been challenged by questions about his residency. A judge recently declined to rule on the issue before the primary is over, and threw out an attempt by the Secretary of State and Wyoming Attorney General to remove Haynes from the race.

Bill Dahlin carried $49,842 forward from 2017. He raised $3,225 since the beginning of the year. He listed 22 donations, the largest from William Bernhagen of Sheridan, who gave $2,500.

Democrats

Among democrats Mary Throne carried $185,643 over from the 2017 reporting period. Since then, she has raised $100,973 in individual contributions, though her primary race has widely been considered uncompetitive.

Michael Allen Green and Kenneth Casner listed no contributions.

Rex Wilde listed $830 in contributions, all from himself.

Throne has $282,764 in her war chest as she approaches the general election, according to the report.

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CORRECTION: This article has been amended to remove “Sen. Brad Boner (R-Douglas)” from the list of legislative Gordon supporters. Brian Boner, not Brad, is the senator from Douglas and he has not contributed to the Gordon campaign. 

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  1. Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. James 2:5-9

  2. This is an interesting article. I do wish you would show photos of the candidates along with their info.
    Remember, a photo is worth 1000 words! A persons charactor is more evident in their portrait than in any report.
    You do a great job! Thank you so much.