Sen. Mike Enzi and Liz Cheney are taking separate paths to raise money in their Senate Republican primary race.
Enzi is using political action committees. Cheney is using a network of donors with deep pockets.
In a race where the candidates are touting who has the most ties to Wyoming, both are flush with cash from outside the state.
Cheney has currently raised more money than her opponent, and the majority of her contributors are from out of state, according to Federal Election Commission donor reports. She received money from nearly 2,000 individuals, but only 260 were from Wyoming. Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, raised $1.027 million in her first three months as a candidate. Twenty-five percent of her contributions were from the Cowboy State.
Enzi has received more money from a different type of donor. Of the 900 donations he received, 600 were from Wyoming. But the majority of the money came from PACs. Of the 300 out-of-state contributions,
230 came from PACs. Thirteen percent of the $847,646 came from Wyoming donors.
PAC money has always been Enzi’s primary source of campaign funding, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington think tank that keeps tabs on federal elections.
PACs from Ford, General Motors, Wal-Mart, Google, Goldman Sachs and Arch Coal all donated to Enzi. The Gula Graham Group and Capitol Hill Partners, two consulting firms that are establishments in Washington donor circles, also contributed to Enzi.
“There’s a trick to getting PAC money,” Enzi said. “You have to have done things that show you are interested in their issue. A PAC isn’t a company. It’s people within the company that donate. I’ve been pleased with the percentage that is glad to have me back there.”
Data from the Center for Responsive Politics show that 84 percent of Enzi’s campaign money has come from PACs since 2009.
“He’s a natural target for PACs,” Krumholz said. “He’s the sitting member. PACs are interested in betting on a winner because most of the time incumbents win. They also want to give to an incumbent because lawmakers in office can vote on their legislation right now.”
Cheney has refused funding from any PAC so far in the race. PAC money donated to her campaign was returned to the donor, according to FEC reports.
“The focus of the campaign has not been raising money,” said Bill Thomson, a Cheney campaign co-chairman and Cheyenne lawyer. “We haven’t been beating bushes in D.C. and contacting industries to raise money. We’ve been putting together a state organization and going around the state talking to people. We’re not always asking for money at events around the state. The senator might have a greater focus on raising money and raising it fast.”
Thomson, a former Enzi donor, said he received a three-page letter from Enzi asking him to donate $2,600 — the maximum amount an individual can give to a campaign. Enzi expressed in the letter that it was going to be a tough campaign, Thomson said.
“I guess they didn’t know I work for Liz,” he said.
Cheney has yet to do a mass-mailing to potential donors in the state.
The brunt of Cheney’s Wyoming money came from donors in Jackson and Wilson — the area of the state where Cheney moved in May 2012. Many of the Wyoming contributors were either retired or bankers.
Outside donors with longstanding ties to the Cheney family and national elections shelled out money in hopes of seeing Cheney oust Enzi.
Florida donor Mel Sembler, a fundraiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns, donated to the Cheney camp along with oil magnates and Bush donors T. Boone Pickens and Laurence Simmons. Two family members of Foster Friess, the well-known conservative donor and Jackson resident, also donated to Cheney.
Familiar faces from American politics also showed up on Cheney’s FEC report. Bush administration Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld donated along with Bush-appointed Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Dick and Lynn Cheney also contributed. Mary Cheney, Liz’s sister, did not.
Cheney’s move to decline PAC money early in the game seems like a political maneuver, Krumholz said.
“Maybe she’s trying to say you can’t buy me and I won’t be beholden to the special interest,” she said. “But seeing some of the richest and most interesting names in politics on the donor list might conflict with that.”
Enzi’s had six Wyoming legislators contribute along with former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and former U.S. Rep. William Brewster, D-Okla.
The owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, John Kemmerer III, donated to both candidates.
Pundits aren’t surprised at where the money is coming from and are looking to see who will be on top when the next report is due in January. The Cheney namesake is a magnet for money, while Enzi’s three terms in office have made him a well-known figure on the beltway, said Bill Novotny, a political strategist based in Wyoming.
“You would expect to see Liz’s donation page look like a who’s who of Republican donors. Her family has been in D.C. since 1978,” he said. “You would also expect that Enzi would have support from the PACs. He has been in Washington for 18 years and has a network of former aides on K Street.”
Residency status is one of the biggest talking points so far in the race and may factor into campaign contributions down the road for both candidates.
Big-name donors and PACs are nice, Novotny said. “But I’ll take the guy who writes 50-dollar checks and knocks on doors in his precinct every week,” he said.
Neither Enzi nor Cheney was born in the state. Enzi touts more than 35 years in Wyoming as a businessman, mayor, state legislator and congressman. Cheney spent parts of grade school and middle school in the state but left when her father was elected to Congress. She moved back to the state full time in 2012. Her mother’s side of the family has deep ties to the state, giving Cheney the credo to call herself a fourth-generation Wyomingite on the campaign trail.
The political makeup of the race is easy to pinpoint no matter what angle the two are trying to take, Krumholz said.
“It’s two insiders presumably competing to be the hometown favorite,” she said.