By Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity
A super PAC created to aid Liz Cheney, the daughter for former Vice President Dick Cheney, in her quest to become Wyoming’s next U.S. senator raised $38,500 last year, new documents show, and none of it came from donors in the Cowboy State.
Instead the cash came predominately from well-connected Cheney family allies in the Washington, D.C., area, including erstwhile lobbyists and a former secretary of defense.
Critics labeled Cheney a carpetbagger during her now-defunct campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Enzi. She countered by touting her status as a fourth-generation Wyomingite — despite the fact that she had been living in northern Virginia for years and only purchased a home in Wyoming in 2012.
Cowboy PAC — which was formed in mid-October and may accept unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals so long as it does not coordinate its spending with Cheney — reported collecting $10,000 donations from three men:
- Red Cavaney, the former president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute;
- Lewis Eisenberg, an executive at the investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; and
- Terrence O’Donnell, a partner at the law firm Williams & Connolly LLP.
Additionally, Frank Carlucci, who served as Defense Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, contributed $5,000. Wayne Valis, the founder and president of the D.C.-based lobbying and consulting firm Valis Associates, gave $2,500. And J. Robinson West, the founder and former chairman of the oil and gas industry consulting firm PFC Energy, donated $1,000.
Cavaney, Eisenberg and O’Donnell also directly contributed to Cheney’s Senate campaign, according to the most recently filed campaign finance records, which cover donations received through September.
Campaign contributions cannot exceed $2,600 per election, with primary and general election races counting as separate contests.
O’Donnell told the Center for Public Integrity that he was “very supportive” of Liz Cheney’s Senate bid, having known the Cheney family since the 1970s.
“I thought she would be an outstanding United States senator,” he said.
“The loss is Wyoming’s and the country’s,” he added, about her recent decision to withdraw from the race.
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Meanwhile, Cavaney hosted a fundraiser last month for Cowboy PAC at an upscale Italian restaurant in the D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown, according to the New York Times. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the other four super PAC donors or a representative of Cowboy PAC.
Kristin Walker, a spokesman for Enzi’s campaign, declined to comment.
Last July, Cheney announced her desire to challenge Enzi, who is seeking re-election to a fourth Senate term. In early January, Cheney ended her Senate campaign, citing “serious health issues” in her family.
About 25 percent of the $1.03 million Cheney’s campaign raised through the end of September came from residents of Wyoming, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
At the end of September, Enzi reported $1.2 million in the bank. In September, his supporters also launched a super PAC.
In 2013, it raised $59,000 from seven individuals, all of whom listed addresses in Wyoming or Colorado. The largest donors were Susan Samuelson, who is identified as a rancher at the Cheyenne-based Warren Ranch, and Neil McMurry, who is identified as a partner of Casper-based Nerd Gas LLC, an energy exploration company. Each gave $25,000.
After Cheney announced her plans to drop out of the race, the pro-Enzi group announced that it would be dissolved.
The Cook Political Report rates the Senate seat as safely in the Republican column.
This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.