CASPER — An unprecedented amount of out-of-state money is pouring into Rep. Liz Cheney’s reelection effort, as she campaigns in one of the nation’s highest-profile congressional races.
The third quarter was the second-biggest fundraising period ever for Cheney, who is facing a tough reelection fight after her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
She raised just over $1.7 million during that period, which runs from July to September. These hefty donations came on the heels of Cheney’s all-time fundraising record, $1.9 million, which occurred one cycle earlier.
So far, only 6 percent of Cheney’s itemized individual donations have come from donors who listed Wyoming addresses, compared to almost 27 percent in her 2019- 2020 race, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Those donations highlight how much attention — in Wyoming and nationally — her race is receiving. To date, she received far more money during this campaign than the previous one, when she coasted to reelection.
“House campaigns are getting more and more expensive,” said Sarah Bryner, director of research and strategy at OpenSecrets, a nonprofit organization that tracks data on campaign finance and lobbying. “We’re starting to reach fundraising heights we’ve never seen before.”
Cheney has so far raised nearly $177,000 from Wyomingites, compared to $134,850 at the same point last year.
So it’s not that the money she’s raised instate that has fallen off. Instead, this time around, Cheney is also getting boatloads of cash from donors outside of the Equality State.
In her 2020 race, most of her dollars came from individual Wyoming donors. This time around, several other states are contributing more money to Cheney’s campaign than Wyoming including Virginia, California, Florida and New York.
Some big donors from out of state were brought into the fold through a joint fundraising committee (JFC) formed in mid-August, Great Task PAC.
Forming JFCs is not atypical for a race of this stature. Donors who contributed via Great Task were predominantly from some of the wealthiest places in the U.S. There were multiple donors from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the Hamptons (an uber-wealthy collection of beach towns in Long Island, New York, where city dwellers have second homes), as well as some of the wealthiest towns in California such as Beverley Hills and Atherton.
Joint fundraising committees are “created for major donors to contribute to a slate without having to write separate checks,” Bryner said. “For someone with a lot of cash, that makes it easier.”
These contributors are often reached through “well-established” political donor lists, which is why the zip codes that make up the donor base through Great Task are so rich.
For the most part, those who donated through Great Task are retirees.
“There’s a very well-established political donor marketplace, so you just hit that up,” Bryner said.
The Cheney campaign has now collected over $5 million this year and ended the third fundraising quarter with nearly $3.7 million to spend. The $5 million is already millions more than Cheney raised over the entire 2019-2020 campaign cycle.
Cheney’s unitemized donations account for about 22.5% of her donations from individuals, which excludes political action committees or PACs.
The proportion of money that comes from individual unitemized donors is a good pulse on the grassroots support for the candidate, as they must be under $200.
The Cheney campaign said it had not yet calculated the proportion of unitemized donors who listed Wyoming addresses.
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard was the first Republican to announce he would challenge Cheney, and he has remained in the race even after Trump endorsed another candidate, lawyer Harriet Hageman, to unseat Wyoming’s congresswoman.
Although Bouchard has raised far less than Cheney, almost 70 percent of his total money raised came from unitemized donations. He also has yet to take any PAC money.
The percentage of PAC money that Cheney has been relying on has been steadily declining over the past three quarters. In the first quarter, PAC dollars accounted for 23 percent of that quarter’s contributions. By the second quarter, that percentage had fallen to 15 percent, before plummeting to 5 percent in the third quarter.
So far, roughly 14 percent of all funds Cheney has raised come from PACs. At this time last election, PAC funds accounted for 46 percent of Cheney’s total donations.
Since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Cheney has steadfastly criticized Trump for lying about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and the role he played in encouraging the insurrection, making her one of Trump’s main opponents over the last few months. She voted to impeach the former president and has not wavered in her beliefs, even as she was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party and ousted from House GOP leadership.
Since then, a number of county level Republican Parties have voted to “unrecognize” Cheney as a Republican (a move that is symbolic and doesn’t actually strip her of any title or power).
Cheney’s continued criticism of Trump has prompted a bruising reelection challenge, with several GOP candidates announcing runs for her seat. During the third quarter, the long-awaited Trump endorsement came when he chose Hageman, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate.
Prior to this race, Cheney had not faced a tough election challenge since 2016, the year she defeated two state lawmakers in the House GOP primary.
Because Hageman, Cheney’s main challenger, was only in the race for three weeks when the filing deadline came, it’s difficult to compare her fundraising to Cheney’s. Candidates will next be required to turn in campaign finance information at the end of the year. That should bring a clearer picture on how Trump’s endorsement is affecting the race.