CASPER, Wyo. — In a race primed to break all campaign finance records in Wyoming, supporters of Sen. Mike Enzi have created the first super political action committee for a candidate in the state’s 2014 Republican primary.
The PAC’s name is Wyoming’s Own — an ostensible poke at Senate candidate Liz Cheney’s residency status. It was founded by Casper accountant and political strategist Bill Cubin and Dick Bratton, co-chairman of the Wyoming Business Council and manager of Jonah Inc.
Wyoming generally doesn’t feature races that require donors with deep pockets, unlike many congressional districts where tens of millions are spent on primary and general elections. Enzi spent $1.6 million on his 2007-08 campaign.
But campaigning against Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, will be different. She has access to something neither of Enzi’s past opponents had: Dick Cheney’s powerful establishment of donors.
“Liz Cheney can raise a lot of money, and she can raise enough to make this race competitive,” Cubin said. “The purpose of our PAC is to prevent that.”
Wyoming’s Own will be rolling out its campaign toolbox once its network of donors starts filling its coffers. There will be newspaper, TV, radio, mail and online ads. The purpose, Cubin said, is to remind Wyomingites why “they like Enzi.”
Cheney declined to comment for this story.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations were entitled to free speech and unlimited campaign spending. As a result, last year’s presidential and congressional races became even more encumbered by nonstop advertising, finger-pointing and political jockeying. Wyoming’s Own will try to stay away from that, Cubin said.
“Our purpose isn’t to throw muck,” he said. “Enzi is a humble, soft-spoken, hard-working public servant for Wyoming. He, along with Sen. (John) Barrasso and Rep. (Cynthia) Lummis, are really one of the strongest delegations in Congress. We want to protect that delegation.”
Still interest in Cheney
Early polls suggest Enzi has a lead over Cheney. However, at events around the state, an increasing number of voters have shown interest in Cheney. Along with a widespread group of die-hard Cheney fans who have supported the family since the former vice president was a Wyoming legislator, she’s appealed to Tea Party activists and others who express strong frustration with Washington.
Both campaigns have hit private fundraising events on the East Coast and received cash from groups throughout the country.
Political followers throughout the state are eagerly waiting to see what both candidates have raised since the primary race took off with Cheney’s announcement on July 17. The FEC will release third-quarter congressional campaign finance reports on Oct. 15. It will be the first finance report for Cheney’s congressional campaign.
“I believe we’re doing extremely well, especially this early in the campaign,” Cheney campaign finance Chairwoman Margaret Parry said. “I think we’re doing much better than we expected coming out of the gate.”
Fundraisers in Jackson, Casper, Cheyenne, Cody and smaller towns have been successful, she said. Without a Cheney super PAC available to collect unlimited amounts of election cash, numerous donors have given Cheney’s campaign the $5,200 maximum limit to a candidate, Parry said.
“I’ve had a lot of people come to me and say, ‘I want to support her big time,’” she said.
Companies and their PACs were going to bat for Enzi before Cheney announced her run for election. Enzi’s second-quarter campaign finance report showed that PACs for Koch Industries, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Time Warner Cable, Pfizer and the National Retail Federation donated to his campaign. Enzi had $488,150 cash on hand when the reports were released.