POLITICS

Liz Cheney, Mike Enzi Running For Wyoming Senate With Little Support From Wyoming

11/04/2013 11:53 am ET | Updated Nov 04, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Two different fundraising strategies are emerging in the increasingly bitter Republican primary battle for a Wyoming U.S. Senate seat between three-term incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi and his challenger Liz Cheney, but both are relying heavily on support from outside of the state.

Washington insiders, including corporate political action committees, Senate colleagues and lobbyists, populate Enzi's fundraising reports. Meanwhile, Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is counting on a contradictory mix of establishment Republican donors linked to the administration of President George W. Bush and her father, and tea party donors seeking to upend that very establishment.

"What an interesting choice for voters back in Wyoming to make," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance. "While they may want to represent Wyoming, the funding base for neither of them is representative of Wyoming."

Enzi's office did not return a request for comment and the Cheney campaign has not provided a response to questions about fundraising.

But Enzi has never relied on a large donor base in the past and, considering his long-term involvement in state politics, may not need to make the kind of connections that person-to-person fundraising allows. He has held elected office since his 1976 election as mayor of Gillette. Cheney, raised primarily in McLean, Va., is still looking to prove that she is a true Wyomingite and not a carpetbagger from the East Coast.

Through September, Enzi pulled in $1.6 million, with $1.2 million coming from PACs and just $343,877 coming from 352 individual donors giving at least $200 each, according to Federal Election Commission records. Thirty-two of Enzi's colleagues in the Senate, including tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), contributed $280,053 from their leadership PACs to help him win reelection. He has also raised $60,942 from 64 registered lobbyists.

Cheney, on the other hand, has declined to accept PAC money and raised a little more than $1 million through September, with $914,018 coming from 396 individual donors giving more than $200 each, according to FEC records. Overall, donors with connections to the Bush administration or with long links to the Cheney family provided at least $273,850 to the Cheney campaign.

These donors include major Bush administration figures such as Dick Cheney himself, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney chief of staff David Addington and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans. Major Bush bundlers giving to the Cheney bid include Richard DeVos, former Ambassador Sam Fox, Lewis Eisenberg, August Busch III, T. Boone Pickens and Wayne Berman.

These institutional Republican donors appear to be bound more tightly to the Bush-Cheney world than to the Republican Party itself. Many of these donors are exactly the types who would be expected to fund efforts to counter insurgent conservative outside groups such as the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund in upcoming primary elections. In fact, some of these donors gave money to former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar's 2012 campaign as he ultimately failed to fight off a tea party primary challenge in Indiana.

On the other hand, Cheney is funded by the same donors who took down incumbents like Lugar and are looking to force the Republican Party in an even more conservative direction. Both Polly Friess and Stephen Friess -- the wife and son of Foster Friess, the Wyoming investor and Rick Santorum super-PAC funder -- made maximum $5,200 contributions to the Cheney campaign, according to FEC records. She has also received contributions from Wyoming tea party funder Susan Gore and Texas tea party figure Tim Dunn. Five donors to the Club for Growth -- Richard Agee, Stanley and Gay Gaines, Lee Beaman and Carleen Brophy -- have also given to the Cheney camp.

While neither candidate is primarily funded by Wyomingites, the Cheney campaign's efforts to raise money from individuals rather than PACs has led to a more than two-to-one in-state campaign money advantage. According to FEC records, Cheney's campaign has raised $227,200 from Wyomingites, while Enzi has pulled in just $105,375.

Cheney's attempt to build a big money pool while only raising money from actual humans is not common in Wyoming. The state, with a lower population than the non-democratically represented Washington, D.C., does not have a huge donor base, fueling long-term trends towards PAC-funded campaigns.

Krumholz said that PAC fundraising in Wyoming is, "more normal for the state than it is for politicians to raise money from power brokers in Washington and the celebrities of the conservative policy sector that will populate Liz Cheney's donor roster."

Reliance on PAC contributions may be normal for Wyoming politicians, but Enzi has relied on them more than most. For his career, Enzi has received 69 percent of all his contributions from PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Fellow Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso has received 45 percent from PACs for his career, and former Wyoming Republican Sen. Craig Thomas, who passed away in 2007, received 46 percent from PACs for his career.

The little polling conducted so far in the state has not been favorable to Cheney. A July poll found Enzi leading Cheney 54 percent to 26 percent.

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