In Republican-Controlled Wyoming, A Gun Rights Group is Now being Forced to Reveal its Donors
The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office is cracking down on a pro-Second Amendment organization by forcing it to reveal its donors. This move was spurred by a campaign that Wyoming Gun Owners launched last summer in which it attacked a number of incumbent elected officials in races across the state.
In a letter that the office published on October 14, 2020 Wyoming Gun Owners allegedly did follow the state’s campaign finance law.
The organization pulled off a number victories by unseating incumbent lawmakers last summer and has released advertisement targeting various candidates in the elections on November 3, which includes Riverton Republican Ember Oakley and Democrat Britney Wallesch.
The pro-Second Amendment organization has been around Wyoming politics for some time and publicly disclosed that it is paying for advertisements. However, its lack of registry with the state as either a lobbying organization or a political action committee runs afoul of state guidelines.
“The Secretary of State’s Office has reviewed the advertisements paid for by WYGO and determined that they are clearly electioneering communications,” the letter stated. “As such, WYGO failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Wyo. Stat. § 22-25-106(h).”
It wasn’t until a few months ago that the group’s activities have not been reported within the state government. The Wyoming government cannot initiate the investigation on electioneering activity allegations unless someone files a formal complaint.
An initial complaint was first reported by the Riverton Ranger newspaper earlier this month. It did not gather any further steam because it was lacking in evidence to support the allegations. Subsequently, a second complaint with proper documentation was filed with the state not too long after, which prompted the Secretary of State to take action.
Wyoming Gun Owners now has until November 4 to disclose the names of its donors or be slapped with a $500 fine.
If the group refuses to follow the state’s order, the case will then be kicked to the Wyoming Attorney General, according to secretary of state spokesperson Monique Meese.
“Then we take their advice about what to do going forward,” she stated.
State Senator Anthony Bouchard founded Wyoming Gun Owners almost a decade ago. Nowadays, it is run by various members of the Dorr Family, who operate a network of pro-gun organizations pushing for pro-Second Amendment policies.
Aaron Dorr, Wyoming Gun Owners’ executive director, has had public disputes with elected officials such as Senate Vice President Ogden Driskill, who has repeatedly criticized the organization’s tactics during the 2020 election cycle.
The pro-gun organization bolstered its reputation by killing a firearm reporting bill in 2019 sponsored by former Campbell County Sheriff and current State Representative Bill Pownall. Wyoming Gun Owners ran ads supporting Bill Fortner, Pownall’s opponent. Throughout these ad blasts, Pownall was depicted as anti-gun. Fortner ended up winning in a landslide.
Such a case shows how even Republican governments will go out of their way to prop up incumbents and infringe on the privacy rights of organizations that wish to restore freedoms such as the Second Amendment. Just because politicians have an “R”s beside their name does not guarantee that they will protect individuals’ rights.