Great day yesterday fishing the South Fork of the Snake River w/my dad! Caught this beautiful Brown Trout. pic.twitter.com/YAt0kbEu
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) July 31, 2012
The Liz Cheney fishing license tangleBy Gregory Nickerson — August 13, 2013
The revelation that Liz Cheney bought a Wyoming resident fishing license before she met residency requirements captured national media attention last week, less than a month after announcing she would run against three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Enzi.
For a candidate already facing criticism for being a Wyoming outsider, the fishing license residency question spotlights the short amount of time Cheney has lived in Wyoming.
“It’s a serious misstep,” Teton County resident and political consultant Liz Brimmer told the New York Times. “…being a resident sportsman is, by law, an earned privilege. Wyoming people will take this very seriously.”
That observation has been repeated numerous times on social media this week:
To ppl unfamiliar with Wyoming politics: an improperly obtained fishing license can be a problem.
— Andrew Kniss (@WyoWeeds) August 7, 2013
Having grown up in WY, this sort of thing is a big deal: “Liz Cheney listed as 10-year Wyomingite, gets resident fishing license early”
— Josh Dorner (@JoshDorner) August 7, 2013
Despite such observations, the degree of political fallout remains a matter of speculation, especially with the 2014 primary still a year away.
The fishing license story broke last Monday, August, 6th, when Ben Neary of the Cheyenne Associated Press bureau and Kyle Roerink of the Casper Star-Tribune published stories within minutes of each other.
The incident in question occurred in August 2012, when Cheney purchased a license from Westbank Anglers in Wilson, which is in the same part of Jackson Hole as the home she purchased in May of that year. (She had already been fishing on the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho in July, according to images she posted on twitter.)
Following usual procedure, the license clerk asked Cheney if she was a resident, and she responded in the affirmative, apparently without knowing that resident fishing and hunting licenses are only available to those who have lived in Wyoming for at least one year.
“I told them I was a resident,” Cheney said in an Associated Press interview last week. “I wasn’t aware that you had to be a resident for a year in order to have a resident license. I was a resident as of May.”
Some residents didn’t buy that explanation. “You have to know that you have to live here one year to get a resident license,” said state representative Stan Blake (D-Green River). As a 54-year Wyoming resident, he sees the residency regulation as common knowledge.
The license Liz Cheney bought indicated not only that she was a resident, but also that she was a resident for the last 10 years.
Cheney did not claim responsibility for that factual error. “The clerk must have made a mistake,” she told the Casper Star-Tribune. “I never claimed to be a 10-year resident.”
Rep. Blake took issue with this statement too. He believes that clerks who sell licenses “all day long” know what they are doing and are unlikely to make mistakes. “What really galled me was to blame the local clerk,” he said. “I found it disturbing to blame the local clerk instead of saying, ‘I was wrong.’”
Other politicians criticized Cheney but stopped short of saying the candidate had lied deliberately. Teton County Commissioner Melissa Turley posted this message last week:
— Melissa Turley (@MelissaTurley) August 7, 2013
The Cheney family has been active in the Jackson Hole fly-fishing community for decades. Liz Cheney’s father Dick Cheney spent many vacations fishing in the Snake River while serving as Vice President of the United States.
Liz Cheney shares his passion for fly-fishing, as shown by her volunteer work with in Rivers of Recovery, a fly-fishing program that rehabilitates veterans of war.
The Wyoming Game and Fish is currently investigating the incident to see if Cheney made a false claim in buying her license, a misdemeanor crime that is punishable with a $220 fine.
The statute in question is Wyoming Statute 23-3-403. If local Game & Fish wardens issue a ticket, Cheney will have the option to pay the $220 bond, or appear in court to contest the charge. At that point the judge will have the discretion to levy fines, or wipe the misdemeanor from Cheney’s record if it is warranted.
Either way, the incident has splashed mud onto Cheney’s image.
“It’s not a great way to go fishing for votes,” Blake said.
Fishing license update— 4:40 pm August 13, 2013
WyoFile contacted Baker Salsbury of Westbank Anglers in an attempt to reach Richard Hutson, the agent Cheney said made a mistake in issuing her license. Salsbury declined to comment on this story and did not have a way to contact Hutson.
In addition, WyoFile initiated a public records request with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to obtain Liz Cheney’s 2012 fishing license records. The department provided an electronic record showing the information the clerk entered when Cheney applied for her conservation stamp and fishing license.
Conservation stamps cost $12.50 and are required for all non-resident and residents who purchase hunting or fishing licenses in each calendar year. An annual fishing license for Wyoming residents costs $24, while a yearly non-resident fishing license costs $92.
The electronic record documents Cheney’s purchase of a conservation stamp and a resident fishing license that lists her years resident as 10. WyoFile chose to redact personal information like the address, Sportsman’s ID number and license number. The rest of the information appears as it was entered by the license clerk, and certified by Cheney’s signature on the license.
The fishing license record was first published online by the Quinton Report on August 6th.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.For more on the Enzi-Cheney race, read these WyoFile stories by Wyoming political reporter Gregory Nickerson: — Wyoming, Meet Liz Cheney — Liz Cheney and Philip Perry: A prominent couple in Washington D.C. — Liz Cheney’s staff draws on family roots and Wyoming expertise See also these WyoFile columns by opinion writer and veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake: — Liz Cheney can win in Wyoming, but she has hurdles in her way — And in this corner: Liz Cheney, her dad and a mountain of cash — Playing the age card won’t help Liz Cheney