Happy belated Thanksgiving, and welcome to the second 307 Politics newsletter! This one is being filed early, so check trib.com/307politics in case any news broke over the holiday break. Please encourage friends to sign-up for the newsletter at trib.com/emails.
URANIUM ONE AND BARRASSO -- “I just wanted to make sure that none of our uranium got sent to Russia,” Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso told the Star-Tribune in 2010 about a series of letters he sent to federal regulators regarding the sale of Uranium One Inc. to a state-owned Russian company.
Amid the federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election, right-wing media has begun fostering a conspiracy related to Hillary Clinton’s role in the Uranium One transaction. The premise is that Clinton sold some huge share of American uranium reserves to the Russians. That theory has been pretty widely debunked by outlets including Fox News, though Barrasso has been concerned about the deal since well before it was fodder for Breitbart. Barrasso asked the Justice Department last month for any information that DOJ sent to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which approved the purchase of Uranium One.
-- ‘DISHEARTENED AND DISTURBED: "I am extremely disheartened and disturbed by recent reports indicating that CFIUS approved the Russia-Uranium One deal despite the fact that the Department of Justice, a member of CFIUS, possessed evidence of corruption by Russian nuclear energy officials in the United States," Barrasso said, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
-- WHAT TO BELIEVE? Like many of the real and alleged scandals swirling around the Clintons, the Uranium One deal sits somewhere between news and rumor. But with Barrasso chasing documents related to the deal this is something to keep an eye on.
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LAWMAKERS REJECT FEE INCREASE -- Secretary of State Ed Murray was celebrating after the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voted not to increase the state’s business filing fee from $50 to $75 last week.
“It’s the wrong time and not necessary,” Murray told me. "The elasticity with the price increases is so sensitive that a fee increase actually leads to a decrease in the revenue due to decisions to not refile."
Murray has long opposed raising filing fees or making it harder to incorporate business in Wyoming despite concern that the state might be serving as a tax haven, a notion the secretary disputes.
-- WE’LL KNOW BY JANUARY: Murray, a prospective candidate for governor, said he’s hoping to make a decision on whether to run by the end of the year. That’s sooner than State Treasurer Mark Gordon is expected to decide. Gordon has said before that he expects to announce his decision after the Legislature finishes its session in March. Murray and Gordon, both Republicans, are the frontrunners to replace Gov. Matt Mead.
-- ANOTHER NAME: Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman is considering joining the race and has create an exploratory committee, according to the Tribune Eagle’s Joel Funk. Hageman, a member of the rules committee at the Republican National Convention last year, said she has not decided whether to run.
“I think it’s false to say that some of the decisions over last few years were fiscally conservative. I would call them fiscally stupid,” Democratic candidate for governor Mary Throne told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
-- While the top potential GOP candidates sit on their hands, Throne has been quietly campaigning on a message of economic diversification and support for local government. It's an uphill battle for any statewide Democratic candidate in Wyoming but Throne does has the ability to lay any dissatisfaction voters have with Wyoming government at the feet of Republicans, who dominate the Legislature and control all statewide offices.
BEAR ATTACK! -- Four people have been attacked by bears in Wyoming in this year. “You have an increased density of bears, humans in the picture because of hunting season… that’s potentially one of the reasons this year was high conflict,” Wyoming Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik told the Star-Tribune.
REFORM PASSES HURDLE -- “Maybe that whole issue of criminal justice reform can be tackled in increments,” Rep. Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater, said at a Joint Judiciary Committee meeting last week. WyoFile's Andrew Graham reports that the committee advanced a bill that would allow people on probation or parole to remain free even if they commit minor criminal offenses. The bill would create a system of incentives as well of sanctions for those on parole.
MAKE NAFTA GREAT AGAIN? -- ENZI URGES CAUTION: Wyoming’s U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi was one of the three Republican senators to urge U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to avoid inserting an expiration or sunset clause into any renegotiated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"We commend the Trump administration's enthusiasm to ensure that past trade agreements continue to promote U.S. interests. However, it should be clear that any need for a 'sunset' provision in the trade agreements is unnecessary," Enzi wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and John Thune of South Dakota. NAFTA negotiations have been ongoing in Mexico City.
ERIK PRINCE WATCH -- Last week I asked what was behind Foster Friess’ contradictory statements on launching a challenge to Barrasso in next year’s GOP Senate primary. But many political watchers consider Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who doesn’t live in Wyoming, to be the more serious contender.
-- BROTHERLY LOVE: Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Education Secretary and Education Week reached out to both the department and DeVos herself to ask whether she’d be able to campaign or support her brother’s campaign. The department declined to comment, but her personal spokesman Greg McNeilly had some choice words for the EdWeek reporters.
“Betsy does not respond to outlandish hypotheticals churned by ne'er-do-wells of fake news; if the question is does she love her brother, 'yes' is the answer," McNeilly said.
Readers may remember that DeVos visited Wyoming earlier this fall.
-- INTERESTING COMPANY: In a reminder that Prince’s founding of the controversial (notorious?) private security contractor Blackwater may crop back up if he chooses to run for senate, the company has ended up playing a bit part in the weird disappearance and reemergence of Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri earlier this month. Hariri traveled to Saudi Arabia to announce his resignation and rumors quickly began swirling that he had been detained in the kingdom.
Hariri has since left Saudi Arabia, but while he was there Lebanon’s President Michael Aoun claimed Hariri was being detained and was under guard by security contractors from Blackwater, which no longer exists by that name.
"Vice President Mike Pence is putting his imprint on the 2018 midterm elections, doling out contributions to three dozen Republican candidates — many of whom have been steadfast allies of the White House... Among those getting checks is ... Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso," Alex Isenstadt of Politico reports.
SEE NO CLIMATE CHANGE... -- “Wyoming Lawmakers Don't Care About The Climate Report,” reports Wyoming Public Media’s Washington correspondent Matt Laslo. Despite the White House approving a federal climate report that cited humans as the primary cause of climate change, Barrasso, Enzi and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney are unswayed. Cheney said previous climate change gave Wyoming its coal deposits.
-- “There’s no question that the climate is changing. Our state of Wyoming, clearly we wouldn’t have the resources we have, we wouldn’t have coal for example, if the climate hadn’t changed significantly. That’s the source of all fossil fuels,” she said.
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