Wyoming’s Secretary of State is demanding that a pro-gun group release a list of its donors after failing to comply with state campaign finance laws, escalating the fight between officials and lawmakers and the group Wyoming Gun Owners, run by the somewhat infamous (at least in 2A circles) Dorr brothers.
The battle between elected officials and the organization has been percolating for months, with several incumbent legislators accusing the group of running what amounts to a scam designed to enrich the Dorr family. According to a letter sent to WYGO by Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, the group’s advertisements targeting several lawmakers in this election cycle runs afoul of state law.
While the organization is not new to Wyoming politics – and while the group is clearly listed as paying for those advertisements in disclosures on those advertisements – it’s not currently registered with the state as either a lobbying organization or a political action committee, which is required.
“The Secretary of State’s Office has reviewed the advertisements paid for by WYGO and determined that they are clearly electioneering communications,” the letter reads. “As such, WYGO failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Wyo. Stat. § 22-25-106(h).”
Until recently, the group’s activities have gone unreported within state government, which cannot begin investigating electioneering activity allegations unless someone makes a formal complaint. While an initial complaint from earlier this month, first reported by the Riverton Ranger newspaper, went nowhere due to a lack of evidence to support the allegations, a second complaint with proper documentation was filed with the state a little over a week later, prompting the Secretary of State to take action.
Failure to comply with the Secretary of State’s demand could result in a $500 fine, which isn’t much of a penalty, but the case could also be referred to the state’s Attorney General, which could lead to a more in-depth investigation of the organization.
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, I don’t think the Dorrs are all that interested in using their state organizations (Wyoming Gun Owners is just one of several Dorr-affiliated Second Amendment groups) to work with lawmakers to achieve real legislative results. The groups seem to be designed to raise money from gun owners by vowing to oppose incumbent lawmakers, regardless of how strong their Second Amendment records are.
On the other hand, by going after the names of WYGO’s donors, Buchanan’s office has now given the Dorrs the opportunity to argue that they’re being targeted by “the establishment,” and they’ll likely use the demand letter as the basis for another fundraising appeal.
This may be the best option from the Secretary of State’s point of view, but I think it has the potential to backfire, elevating the Dorr brothers while allowing them to claim that the reason they’re coming under scrutiny is because of their effectiveness in rooting out the swamp. It would be a laughable claim to make in pro-gun Wyoming, but by targeting donors instead of the leadership, lawmakers and the SoS have provided an opportunity for the Dorrs to at least make the argument.
Honestly, it’s ultimately up to gun owners to check out the groups that they donate to and decide for themselves whether they’re worth the money. We should ask how those donations will be used, as well as looking at how effective is the organization in terms of legislation, litigation, voter outreach and education, firearms training, or whatever their mission statement is. If you’re suspicious that the money you send isn’t going to be used to protect and defend your right to keep and bear arms, look for another organization that’s worthy of your support.