More than $9M donated in House race

CASPER — Boat loads of cash flowed into Wyoming’s House race during the past year.

In 2021, donors contributed about $9.1 million to seven candidates, two of whom left the race in late summer, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. That sum dramatically exceeds previous House campaigns in Wyoming.

What’s more, a Democratic candidate has not even announced a House bid yet.

For comparison, $3.1 million was donated across four House candidates over the entire course of the 2020 campaign season. Donations did not even breach $1 million in 2018.

The trend in Wyoming mirrors one nationally, as House candidates raise larger and larger sums of money. Rep. Liz Cheney is one of the leaders of that pack, collecting one of the highest amounts of money last year among all House members.

Cheney, who rose in national prominence and angered many Republicans with her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump, continues to set personal fundraising records.

In the final quarter of 2021, her campaign took in $2.04 million, the most in any quarter for a Cheney campaign. The Cheney camp raised about $1.86 million from individuals in the fourth quarter. About 17% of the money raised from individuals came in the form of donations under $200 (or from individuals who have not yet surpassed $200 in their total donations).

The congresswoman’s campaign received $111,500 from political action committees (PACs) during the most recent quarter.

On the year, Cheney’s campaign raised over $7 million. Of that, about $5.65 million came from individuals (as opposed to PACs). Only about a seventh of the campaign’s year-end total came in donations under $200. About $4.45 million came from larger donations.

In 2021, the congresswoman received just under $730,000 from PACs.

On the expense side of the ledger, almost 39% of the campaign’s spending came in the final quarter of last year.

Cheney is raising vastly more money this time around than during her last campaign, where she coasted to victory. In 2019 and 2020, Cheney raised $1.17 million from individuals.

Harriet Hageman, a Cheyenne- and Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who’s fought for water, land and property rights, entered the race in late summer with Trump’s endorsement.

From the start of the campaign to the end of the year, the Hageman campaign raked in about $745,400.

In the final quarter of 2021, Hageman raised roughly $443,000 and spent about $307,000.

Across the fourth quarter and the campaign as a whole, 96% of the money came from individual donors.

Meanwhile, about 32%, or $137,000, of the fourth quarter contributions from individuals came from small donors.

As the year ended, the Hageman campaign had $381,000 in the bank. That’s up from $245,000 at the end of September.

Cheney is not the only candidate who’s raising money outside Wyoming. Earlier this month, Hageman participated in a fundraiser at the Miami home of a tech billionaire and Trump-backer Peter Thiel.

At that event, $200,000 was reportedly raised for the Hageman campaign. That money, plus what was raised in 2021, puts the Hageman campaign with right around $1 million collected since the campaign began. That money was not factored into the end-of-year figures.

Hageman has built a campaign around being anti-Cheney and pro-Wyoming, repeatedly arguing that Cheney is not adequately fighting for Wyoming because she’s too focused on fighting back against Trump.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a Cheyenne lawmaker, was the first Republican challenger to enter the race against Cheney, announcing his run in early 2021. He raised about $638,000 over the course of the year.

Two-thirds of his total funds came from small donations, and all of the money raised came from individuals.

The Bouchard campaign has $60,300 in the bank, down from $86,800 at the end of September.

In the final quarter of the year, his campaign raised $25,500, but spent double that amount. Half of the funds raised came from small donations.

Bouchard has been undaunted by Hageman’s entrance in the race, which came with the coveted Trump endorsement. The lawmaker has sought to make Cheney’s and Hageman’s similarities a central campaign message.

On Tuesday, for example, he tweeted an old photo of Cheney, her father and Hageman together, with the caption, “Birds of a feather, flock toge

There are two other candidates who have been fundraising: retired army colonel Denton Knapp and Marissa Selvig, a Constitution Party candidate who originally ran as a Republican.

Crowded Republican primaries are common in Wyoming’s recent electoral history, and they tend to leave the winner with less than 50% of the vote, spurring arguments that that victor does not truly represent the people because they did not receive majority support.

Last year, there was a concerted effort by Wyoming’s far right to change the state’s primary election system. That effort was not new, but it gained extra traction due to the increased desire to unseat Cheney.

Proponents of revising the system note that during the 2018 gubernatorial election, Gov. Mark Gordon received less than 50% support in the primary, but won after several far-right candidates split the rest of the vote. Cheney’s critics are worried about a similar fate in this year’s Republican House primary.

Ultimately, the effort to change the state’s primaries failed in 2021. But a lawmaker could try to bring a bill during the legislative budget session set to begin Feb. 14. However, if it does survive, it’s unlikely to have an effect on the 2022 House race because there is not enough time to implement a new system.

Voters are set to go to the polls in August.