Wyoming showdown: Enzi v. Cheney likely to set off a money scramble


Elizabeth Cheney

Pity those big-dollar GOP donors: They're going to be in a bind when it comes to the blockbuster of a Republican family feud shaping up in Wyoming, where three-term Sen. Mike Enzi has just drawn a challenge from Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The two contestants both have deep roots in Republican politics, as well as ties to the fundraising community. Enzi, 69, has served nearly 40 years as an elected official in his state, beginning as the mayor of Gillette. A member of the Senate committees on budget, on finance and homeland security, his Influence Explorer profile shows him to be a well-established fundraiser with some of Washington's most reliable givers — medical and pharmaceutical professionals, members of the financial industry and energy interests — among his donors. As of April, Enzi's campaign committee had just under $376,000 in the bank.

Because senators do not require themselves to file campaign finance reports electronically, it will be at least a week before Enzi's second quarter report becomes public, but Sunlight's Political Party Time suggests that's he's ramped up fundraising activities recently with events ranging from fly-fishing to a chili chowdown.

Cheney's father, meanwhile, represented Wyoming in the House for 10 years before resigning in 1989 to become then-President George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense.

Her two appearances on Political Party Time suggest the well-connected circles in which she moves: Cheney co-hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., with — among others — Ken Mehlman, a former Republican National Committee chair turned gay rights advocate, and with Ed Gillespie, another former RNC chair who went on to co-found outside fundraising combine Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads. Another fundraiser for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List had Cheney partnering with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, her party's 2012 presidential candidate; lobbyist Susan Hirschmann, who once served as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's chief of staff, and longtime GOP strategist and political fixer Ron Kaufman.  

Data downloaded from Influence Explorer shows relatively little giving by Cheney, and only two contributions to politicians in her home state: In 2010, she gave $1,000 to Matt Mead, Wyoming's Repubican governor, and $500 to Wyoming Treasurer Joe Meyer, a friend of her father's who passed away last year. Also in 2010, Cheney gave $2,000 to Marco Rubio, Florida's Republican senator and a rising politial star. She's also backed former President George W. Bush and George Allen, a former Repubican senator from Virginia, where Cheney lived before recently moving back to Jackson Hole, Wyo. — the venue for a fundraiser that Enzi will be holding for his political action committee next month.

Cheney's sister, Mary, and one of her father's former aides, Kara Ahern, ran a super PAC called Partnership for America's Future that was briefly active in the 2010 campaign. Michael Dubke, founder of Americans for Job Security, a partner at media placement firm Crossroads Media and a longtime Republican operative, was another officer of the super PAC, according to FEC filings. A related organization, the nonprofit Alliance for America's Future, is still active. The Alliance raised $2.2 million in 2011, the most recent year for which information is available. 

(Contributing: Bill Allison; Photo credit: Southern Republican Leadership Council)