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Who Pays for Wyoming
Legislative Campaigns?

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Legislative Campaign Costs
       The cost of running for the Wyoming Legislature can vary wildly, and the candidate who spends the most money is not necessarily assured of winning.
       Characteristics of the candidate and the legislative district both play important roles in deciding a contest.

       In the 2002 election, candidates for both the Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming Senate set records for campaign spending.
       The record-setter in the House of Representatives spent $28,900 to win a contested primary and a contested general election, outspending both opponents by large margins and winning the seat by 55 votes.
       Another House candidate spent $27,377 in a contested general election, only to lose by 673 votes to an opponent who spent less than a third as much.
       In the Wyoming Senate, the record-setter spent $24,228 and lost by nearly 1000 votes to a candidate who spent about $1100 less.
       Overall, 2002 spending in contested races for the Wyoming House of Representatives ranged from $1807 to $28,900, with winning candidates spending an average of $6028.
       Unopposed House candidates spent from $25 to $4024 on their races, averaging $792.
       In Wyoming State Senate districts (each Senate district is comprised of two House districts), 2002 spending on contested races ranged from $2158 to $24,228, with winning candidates averaging $8686 in expenditures.
       Unopposed Senate candidates spent from $25 to $6259, averaging $1090.

Where Does the Money Come From?
       During the 2002 election cycle, legislative candidates collectively received nearly $700,000. About 40% of this total came from political action committees (please see box on page 2).
       Candidates and their immediate families contributed about 23%. Under Wyoming law, candidates and their immediate families may contribute unlimited amounts to their own campaigns.
       Individual donors contributed the remaining 36% of the funds given to legislative candidates.
       Wyoming law limits individual contributions to $1000 per candidate per election (the primary and general elections are considered separate elections), with an overall limit of $25,000 per election cycle.
       Contributions at the $1000 level are relatively rare in legislative races; usually they come from the candidate or family members.
       Two families consistently top the list of individuals giving to legislative races: The True family of Casper, whose collective contributions (individually and through their family PAC) totaled over $50,000 from 1992 through 2002; and R.E. and Carol Holding of Cody and Salt Lake, whose contributions totaled over $30,000 for the same period.

Wyoming's Reporting is Top Tier
       Beginning with the 2004 election, campaign contribution information will be available to voters before the election.
       Candidates and PACs will report the contributions they have received by seven days before the election (with data accurate to 14 days before the election).
       Wyoming has had excellent campaign finance reporting laws, which produce the data compiled in this report and in the ESPC's major publication, The Wyoming LAP* Book (*Legislative Accountability Project). The flaw was that the data was available only after the election.
       The change to pre-election reporting, which the ESPC strongly advocated for several years, will make Wyoming's campaign finance reporting top tier.

From Top Tier to the Bottom?

Looking Toward the 2004 Budget Session
       Unfortunately, the Legislature's Joint Interim Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee currently is considering proposals to change Wyoming's campaign contribution laws with bills in the 2004 Budget Session.
       Individual Contribution Limits. The first committee proposal is to raise the individual contribution limit from $1000 to $2000 per candidate per election.

       Fifteen states have an individual contribution limit the same or lower than Wyoming's for gubernatorial or other statewide races, and 28 have the same or lower limits for legislative or other non-statewide races.
       Thus Wyoming's individual contribution limit already is on the high side, considering that the cost of Wyoming races is among the lowest in the country.
       Higher individual contribution limits encourage candidates to seek bigger contributions from fewer people, as opposed to lower contribution limits which encourage candidates to seek smaller contributions from more people.
       There clearly is not upward pressure on individual limits. Contributions at the $1000 level to legislative candidates are relatively rare. While $1000 contributions are more common in the governor's race, only a handful of contributors will be affected, as shown by the following statistics.
       In the hotly contested 2002 gubernatorial race, just over 50 people (including five out-of-staters) made the maximum contribution of $1000 per candidate per election. Approximately 440 more contributors gave $1000 in either the primary or the general election. This group of about five hundred $1000 contributors is small even by Wyoming standards.
       So who benefits from raising the individual contribution limit? The even smaller group of contributors who are able and willing to double their contributions at $2000 per candidate per election; their influence will increase at the expense of everyone else's.
       Direct Contributions. The second interim committee proposal is to allow "domestic business entities" and "labor organizations" to contribute funds or election assistance directly to candidates or political parties.
       Currently, all corporate, union and other organizational donations must be contributed through a PAC, with the accompanying reporting requirements (see page 2).
       However, the proposal pending before the committee does not contain changes in reporting to match the changes in allowable contributions.
       This omission would allow corporations and unions to contribute any funds they have available to campaigns or political parties -- without reporting.
       The lack of reporting is clearly a big problem, but even bigger is the problem of the money itself. Are there any voters out there -- not to mention those too alienated to vote -- who think the system needs more money, especially from private interests?
       Direct organizational contributions to political parties were eliminated in the recent federal campaign finance reforms. Among other things, these contributions fuel negative advertising.
       Wyoming should keep its open system and continue to prohibit direct contributions.




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