The Liz Cheney fishing license tangle

By Gregory Nickerson
— August 13, 2013

The revelation that Liz Cheney bought a Wyoming resident fishing license before she met residency requirements captured national media attention last week, less than a month after announcing she would run against three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Enzi.

For a candidate already facing criticism for being a Wyoming outsider, the fishing license residency question spotlights the short amount of time Cheney has lived in Wyoming.

“It’s a serious misstep,” Teton County resident and political consultant Liz Brimmer told the New York Times. “…being a resident sportsman is, by law, an earned privilege. Wyoming people will take this very seriously.”

That observation has been repeated numerous times on social media this week:

Despite such observations, the degree of political fallout remains a matter of speculation, especially with the 2014 primary still a year away.

The fishing license story broke last Monday, August, 6th, when Ben Neary of the Cheyenne Associated Press bureau and Kyle Roerink of the Casper Star-Tribune published stories within minutes of each other.

Subsequently, the New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, Politico,, and many other outlets reported the news.

The incident in question occurred in August 2012, when Cheney purchased a license from Westbank Anglers in Wilson, which is in the same part of Jackson Hole as the home she purchased in May of that year. (She had already been fishing on the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho in July, according to images she posted on twitter.)

Following usual procedure, the license clerk asked Cheney if she was a resident, and she responded in the affirmative, apparently without knowing that resident fishing and hunting licenses are only available to those who have lived in Wyoming for at least one year.

“I told them I was a resident,” Cheney said in an Associated Press interview last week. “I wasn’t aware that you had to be a resident for a year in order to have a resident license. I was a resident as of May.”

Some residents didn’t buy that explanation. “You have to know that you have to live here one year to get a resident license,” said state representative Stan Blake (D-Green River). As a 54-year Wyoming resident, he sees the residency regulation as common knowledge.

The license Liz Cheney bought indicated not only that she was a resident, but also that she was a resident for the last 10 years.

Cheney did not claim responsibility for that factual error. “The clerk must have made a mistake,” she told the Casper Star-Tribune. “I never claimed to be a 10-year resident.”

Rep. Blake took issue with this statement too. He believes that clerks who sell licenses “all day long” know what they are doing and are unlikely to make mistakes. “What really galled me was to blame the local clerk,” he said. “I found it disturbing to blame the local clerk instead of saying, ‘I was wrong.’”

Other politicians criticized Cheney but stopped short of saying the candidate had lied deliberately. Teton County Commissioner Melissa Turley posted this message last week:

The Cheney family has been active in the Jackson Hole fly-fishing community for decades. Liz Cheney’s father Dick Cheney spent many vacations fishing in the Snake River while serving as Vice President of the United States.

Liz Cheney shares his passion for fly-fishing, as shown by her volunteer work with in Rivers of Recovery, a fly-fishing program that rehabilitates veterans of war.

The Wyoming Game and Fish is currently investigating the incident to see if Cheney made a false claim in buying her license, a misdemeanor crime that is punishable with a $220 fine.

The statute in question is Wyoming Statute 23-3-403. If local Game & Fish wardens issue a ticket, Cheney will have the option to pay the $220 bond, or appear in court to contest the charge. At that point the judge will have the discretion to levy fines, or wipe the misdemeanor from Cheney’s record if it is warranted.

Either way, the incident has splashed mud onto Cheney’s image.

“It’s not a great way to go fishing for votes,” Blake said.

Fishing license update

— 4:40 pm August 13, 2013

WyoFile contacted Baker Salsbury of Westbank Anglers in an attempt to reach Richard Hutson, the agent Cheney said made a mistake in issuing her license.  Salsbury declined to comment on this story and did not have a way to contact Hutson.

In addition, WyoFile initiated a public records request with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to obtain Liz Cheney’s 2012 fishing license records. The department provided an electronic record showing the information the clerk entered when Cheney applied for her conservation stamp and fishing license.

Conservation stamps cost $12.50 and are required for all non-resident and residents who purchase hunting or fishing licenses in each calendar year. An annual fishing license for Wyoming residents costs $24, while a yearly non-resident fishing license costs $92.

The electronic record documents Cheney’s purchase of a conservation stamp and a resident fishing license that lists her years resident as 10. WyoFile chose to redact personal information like the address, Sportsman’s ID number and license number. The rest of the information appears as it was entered by the license clerk, and certified by Cheney’s signature on the license.

The fishing license record was first published online by the Quinton Report on August 6th.

Liz Cheney's 2012 resident fishing license record from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. (Wyoming Game & Fish image — click to enlarge)
Liz Cheney’s 2012 resident fishing license record from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. (Wyoming Game & Fish image — click to enlarge)
Liz Cheney’s 2012 resident fishing license record from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. (Wyoming Game & Fish image — click to enlarge)
— Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. Originally from Big Horn, he holds an MA in history from the University of Wyoming and currently lives in Laramie. Contact him at or follow him @GregNickersonWy on twitter.

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For more on the Enzi-Cheney race, read these WyoFile stories by Wyoming political reporter Gregory Nickerson:
—   Wyoming, Meet Liz Cheney
—   Liz Cheney and Philip Perry: A prominent couple in Washington D.C.
—   Liz Cheney’s staff draws on family roots and Wyoming expertise
See also these WyoFile columns by opinion writer and veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake:
—   Liz Cheney can win in Wyoming, but she has hurdles in her way
—   And in this corner: Liz Cheney, her dad and a mountain of cash
—   Playing the age card won’t help Liz Cheney

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on

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  1. Mike Krampner, hate to say it, but Dick Cheney wasn’t born in Wyoming as you suggest. He’s a cornhusker.

  2. Geez Brodie, label people much?

    This “tea partier” agrees with you that this smacks of wealthy elitism. I’ll go a step farther to say that I have a feeling that Liz has lived her life with a certain amount of entitlement as a result of her father’s political status and maybe it’s that sense of entitlement that she needs to get a grip on. Wyomingites take their hunting and fishing privileges seriously and hearing she and her supporters suggest that this isn’t a big deal, will only flam the flames against her even stronger. She needs to admit she screwed up. She needs to write the check paying fines both for obtaining the license illegally and for every fish she caught illegally and she needs to quit blaming the clerk. She signed the license and as Tom Lubnau pointed out, the license specifies that a resident must be a resident for 1 year. She’s a lawyer. I think she should be use to reading the fine print before she signs things.

  3. Ms. Cheney-Perry, who appears to have come to her parents’ state of birth believing she can oust an incumbent Republican back-bencher and then return to her home in Virginia as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming, displays contempt for law, for honesty, and for the people of Wyoming by making a false statement on her license application, and then claiming ignorance of the law and blaming the clerk in the store.
    Has this individual ever had a job which was not the result of nepotism or family connections? Is she just a spoiled, privileged child of the political class who feels entitled to govern?

  4. This seems like a matter of integrity and honesty. Not telling the truth about your residency status and then blaming the clerk? That seems rather pathetic. If nothing else, she should have noticed something wasn’t right when she paid for the license.

    This issue is not as important as many facing our state, but it could be indicative of the standard of integrity to which Ms. Cheney holds herself. We should elect people who are honest in their dealings – whether it’s on the floor of the US Senate or at a fishing shop in Teton Village.

  5. Followup: i got a quick and courteous same day reply from Wy-DOT drivers license division when I asked them if Liz Cheney had a bona fide Wyoming Driver’s License.

    She does. As we who have renewed ours in the past couple year know what a tall hoop that is to jump thru , thanks to the federal Real ID requirements.

  6. I guess I’m one of the few who read the certification right about my signature on the fishing license, which says:

    Under penalty of prosecution, I swear that the information given by me above and below my signature is true and correct. I swear under the penalty of prosecution that I am a Wyoming resident as defined in W.S. 23-1-102(a)(ix)(xv) and 23-1-107 and have domiciled in Wyoming for not less than one (1) year and have not claimed residency elsewhere for any purpose duirng the one year immediately preceding the purchase of this license.

  7. Even beyond the license issue, what about the fish, photographed yet, caught in JULY before she even bothered to get the license.

    Surely that is an open and shut case, with the picture and all. There must be more than a fine of $220 for that.

  8. Anybody present when Lizzie went to get her Wyoming Drivers License ? It’s mandatory after 30 days residence here.

    And we all know from experience how fun it is to have to produce those 5 certified forms of residency and citizenship stubs and such . Maybe the newshounds should call Wy-DOT for a spot check of Lizzie’s Wyoming driving privileges, just to be sure.

  9. A serious misstep? Who gives a flyin brown trout. Eighty three thousand Wyoming residents don’t have health insurance. Shouldn’t we be doing something about that instead of worrying whether Liz Cheney has earned the right to catch a Wyoming trout. There’s bigger fish to fry.

  10. I’m curious why, with the extensive reporting of this issue, none of the media has picked up on the full story here. If a person just looks up the statute, the potential misdemeanor she committed was falsifying her residency. But presumably she went fishing once, twice, maybe even a dozen times if she’s an actual fishing connoisseur. You don’t have to catch a fish to have committed additional misdemeanors, just have to have dropped a line in the water. Why is no one from the G&F to the media determining how many additional violations were committed? As the late Helen Thomas would say, ask the question…

  11. Of course Liz lied to the clerk. Blaming the clerk is just more carpetbag thuggery. She’s continuing to lie to the press.

    I have never bought a license anywhere in Wyoming over the last 21 years without the clerk ensuring that I was a legal resident–that is, ensuring that I met the statutory requirement of one year residency in the state.

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Liz is here because she thinks she can buy her way into the US Senate in Wyoming riding Daddy’s coat-tails. She can’t do it in Virginia.

    I think she’ll find that Daddy’s coat-tails aren’t that long or strong.

  12. So how much trouble will this fish license snafu cause Lizzie? The hardest of hard-core Tea Partiers, who want to cripple much of the federal government, will let it slide.
    However, Joe Sixpack and Betty Soccer-mom aren’t going to take this kindly. It smacks of the wealthy elitism they despise so much about Jackson.