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307 Politics

307 Politics: Ollie North comes to Casper, revenue rides again and other news

Nick Reynolds 307-266-0634, nick.reynolds@trib.com ​ ​ ​Updated

This summer, the Central Wyoming Boys and Girls Club will be hosting Oliver North at its annual awards breakfast.

The decorated war hero, bestselling author and veteran’s advocate, according to a news release, will be coming to Casper to speak to a statewide audience on “America, The Exceptional,” joining a long list of high-profile keynote speakers to have graced the event over the years.

What the organization didn’t mention in their release, however, are the two things North is known best for: his current title as president of the National Rifle Association and his role at the center of one of the largest political scandals in American history.

Past choices for speakers at the Central Wyoming Boys and Girls Club’s annual breakfast have been relatively innocuous. Last year’s featured speaker was military aviation pioneer Carey Lohrenz, the U.S. Navy’s first female fighter pilot. Prior to that was Henry Winkler, who told attendees his struggles of growing up with dyslexia and overcoming that adversity to become a beloved television personality.

However, North is most known for accomplishments some would describe as somewhat less rosy than those of his predecessors, such as his prominent role in the Iran-Contra scandals of the 1980s, where the U.S government was found to have engaged in narcotics trafficking to fund the armament of Iranian terrorist organizations.

Though some considered him a “scapegoat” who was just following orders from higher officials, North was found guilty of crimes including the destruction of government documents to protect himself and known criminals, as well as lying to members of Congress. His sentence was later overturned on what has largely been deemed as a technicality.

None of this was mentioned in the release.

In his later years, North has developed a profile with a more partisan tinge than those of previous attendees at the breakfast. A popular commentator on conservative television, North currently serves as president of the National Rifle Association, a group that has opposed legislation targeting domestic violence, actively interfered in government research on gun violence in the United States and has had a continual role in electioneering communications against Democratic candidates across the country.

Whether this was a consideration or not in the decision-making process is unclear. CEO Ashley Bright, who made the selection, a receptionist said, could not be reached for comment by press time on Friday afternoon, despite several voicemails left with his office on Thursday and Friday.

In a voicemail left with the Star-Tribune early Thursday afternoon however, he said the organization was “really excited” for the event and that it would be a “big morning” for the club.

The Week Ahead

Monday: None

Tuesday: Former Sen. Al Simpson, Gov. Mike Sullivan, and U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson appear at an event at Casper College’s Krampert Theatre at 7 p.m. The event is free and will address the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branch. Governor Mark Gordon will also sign a proclamation for Medical Professionals Laboratory Week in Cheyenne.

Wednesday: In Cheyenne, First Lady Jennie Gordon will help pack meals as part of Friday Food Bag Foundation’s effort to help ensure kids who receive free or reduced lunch at schools in Laramie County School District can eat over the weekend. Mark Gordon will join her.

Thursday: Gordon will be the keynote speaker for the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet at The Hangar in Bar Nunn. The event starts at 6:15 p.m.

Friday: At 12:45 p.m. Gordon will sign the proclamation to declare May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Day of Awareness for the entire state of Wyoming. Following the ceremony, he will be in Laramie to attend the ceremony for his Phi Beta Kappa induction.

Weekend: The Wyoming Democratic Party will hold its officer elections at an event in Casper.

Have an event you’d like highlighted here? Email me with the date, time and place!

Wyoming Politics

The agendas for the first meetings of the 2019 interim session began to roll out last week.

The first meeting of the spring — taking place May 2 and 3 in Lander — looks to be the most intriguing. Arguably tasked with the worst job in the legislature, the Joint Committee on Revenue will begin its kick-off meeting with a discussion of all of their predecessors’ failed efforts to raise revenues for a state which, notably, is facing a multi-million dollar structural deficit headed into the 2020 budget session.

With numerous failures behind them — and an uncertain appetite around whether they deserve a second attempt at passage — the committee will likely be discussing the potential of several other revenue-raising pieces of legislation. These include the exploration of taxes on renewable energy sources, the creation of an additional property tax classification and a wide-ranging discussion on the state’s fiscal structure.

We’ll be attending that meeting, so look for several reports on that in the coming weeks.

Lawsuit alleges conflict of interest by Jackson mayor in denial of liquor license: A lawsuit filed against the town of Jackson claims that elected officials acted illegally in rejecting applications to renew and transfer a liquor license. (via the Jackson Hole News & Guide)

A wage gap is growing between Wyoming’s public and private workers, report finds: Employees in Wyoming’s public sector have experienced the largest rate of wage and benefits growth over the private sector in the entire nation, according to a new paper from a Washington, D.C., think tank. (via Trib.com)

Uinta County school board approves concealed carry policy, again: Slightly more than one year after passing policy CKA to allow approved staff to carry concealed firearms on school district property, the Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees voted again to adopt the concealed carry rule at the April 9 regular board meeting. (via the Uinta County Herald)

Gordon says bureaucracy stands in way of economic development: Complex bureaucracy could be one of the big hurdles facing Native American entrepreneurship in Wyoming, Gordon said during a recent conference on economic development at the University of Wyoming. (via CowboyStateDaily.com)

Around Wyoming

Group says Teton superintendent’s reassignment illegal: A federal government watchdog group is challenging the legality of David Vela’s reassignment to the National Park Service’s acting deputy director of operations role in Washington (via the Jackson Hole News & Guide)

Riverton group moves closer to building new hospital as SageWest announces new CEO for embattled facilities: A group of Riverton residents are moving closer to building a new hospital in Fremont County, in a direct challenge to the local health care system there. (via Trib.com)

Gillette downtown development group may see city money dry up in 4 years: Gillette Main Street may need to start thinking about how it can be completely self-sustaining in a few years, as the Gillette City Council moves toward a plan to reduce the organization’s funding starting next year. (via the Gillette News-Record)

Casper-based evangelical group says Laos deported 3 American missionaries: Three Americans volunteering with a Casper-based Christian evangelical organization are expected to return to the United States after being detained and deported from Laos for distributing Gospel tracts and other Christian material. (via Trib.com)

Albany County Commissioners hear public outcry about officer-involved shooting: The Albany County Commissioners heard public comments Tuesday regarding an officer-involved shooting that occurred Nov. 4. To accommodate the volume of people who showed up to speak on the issue, the Commissioners moved their meeting to a larger room. (via Wyoming Public Media)

Eye On Washington

Congress is entering the second week of its two-week recess today. That should be ample time for members of both chambers to read the Mueller Report in its entirety, which said that while President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign did not directly collude with Russia, it did exhibit conduct that Congress may find worthy of further investigation.

Reached for comment last week, Wyoming’s delegation largely responded thusly: “It’s time to move on.”

Sen. John Barrasso wrote an op-ed in the Jackson Hole News & Guide last week on the WILD Act, which “will promote technological innovation to protect threatened wildlife and control invasive species.” According to his op-ed, the law also supports innovators who are creating new methods for battling invasive species, which will be accomplished in part by establishing competitions with cash prizes for wildlife innovation.

Sen. Mike Enzi took it easy on week one of Senate’s recess this past week, with nothing significant to report.

Rep. Liz Cheney was in Ohio this past week fundraising for Bowling Green Rep. Bob Latta at his annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner. She also had the opportunity to give a speech there, warning the audience against the perils of socialism.

“John F. Kennedy understood that freedom was under threat, and he understood that our founding was a miracle and that freedom was the very heart of that miracle,” she said, repeating a common refrain from her numerous media appearances in recent months. “He also said, ‘We all know the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.’ And if you think about what the Democrats are thinking today, they have a choice to make. They can either be the party of JFK, or the party of Bernie Sanders and AOC, but they cannot be both.”

Meanwhile, Cheney’s own quarterly fundraising numbers were filed with the Federal Elections Commission this week, showing the congresswoman was off to her fastest fundraising start since her first congressional bid in 2016.

Have any tips or suggestions to make this newsletter better? Let me know! Call me at 307-266-0634, email me at nick.reynolds@trib.com or follow me on Twitter, @IAmNickReynolds.



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