U.S. Sen. John Barrasso’s campaign committee has raised almost $3 million in 2017, according to the committee’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission. Of that money, only $66,225 — around 2.2 percent — appears to come from the state he represents.
In the first three quarters of 2017, Barrasso’s campaign committee, called Friends of John Barrasso, raised around $1.6 million from individual contributions, and a little more than $1.17 million from Political Action Committees.
WyoFile found just $58,725 from Wyoming individuals, and $7,500 from Wyoming-based PACs in this year’s fundraising. On March 13, the Making Business Excel PAC gave $5,000 to Friends of John Barrasso. The PAC is based in Cheyenne, according to the FEC. The PAC is affiliated with U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, who is not up for reelection in 2018. More recently on Sep. 6, the Cowboy PAC, of Wilson, gave Barrasso’s campaign $2,500.
The campaign has done little “active fundraising in-state” at this point in the campaign cycle, Barrasso’s chief of staff Dan Kunsman wrote in an emailed response to questions from WyoFile. They intend to raise more money from Wyoming. “We expect to add significantly in 2018 to the more than 1,000 individual Wyoming donors since the last election,” he wrote.
Barrasso is preparing for a potentially challenging, and expensive, election season, with at least two well-funded challengers publicly considering campaigns. Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Jackson Hole millionaire Foster Friess in mid-October both discussed potential challenges to the incumbent senator.
Barrasso’s campaign has $5 million in cash, according to the FEC. His latest financial report, however, is only for campaign contributions through Sept. 30 — before Prince and Friess made their considerations public.
Therefore the $2.9 million Barrasso has raised this year would not reflect contributions stimulated by the potential challengers’ announcements, including from donors hoping to help the Senator fend off anti-establishment challengers. Barrasso has always prepared “strongly” for the possibility of a primary challenger, Kunsman wrote.
Barrasso is the fourth-highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, and is considered a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
The Republican party has split nationally, in a widely publicized feud among long-time party figures considered part of the Washington D.C. political establishment, and others who believe new politicians are needed to advance an ideological agenda that is further to the right. If such a fight spills into Wyoming’s 2018 Senate race, the campaign is likely to be more expensive than past ones, political observers say.
In addition to the money spent directly by candidates’ committees, there’s also the potential for spending by outside groups.
Sen. Barrasso’s staff did not provide a list of fundraising events held by the campaign committee as requested by WyoFile.
However, several series of donations in the latest FEC filing imply a fundraising event, or at the very least a targeted effort to raise contributions from certain groups of people.
For example, on one day in September a group of high-ranking employees from the energy company Chevron made a series of individual contributions. On Sept. 29 the campaign committee raised $21,400 from seven individuals who listed the Chevron Corporation as their employer. They listed titles such as executive vice president, vice president and executive as their occupation. All seven of the Chevron donors listed towns in the San Francisco Bay Area as their homes.
The single day’s haul from California residents was more than twice what the campaign raised from Wyoming individuals during that fundraising quarter — which lasted from July 1 to Sept. 30.
John Watson, at the time Chevron’s CEO, gave $5,400. He has since been replaced by Michael Wirth, according to report from CNBC. Wirth also donated to Sen. Barrasso’s campaign on Sept. 29, giving $2,700.
In a separate example, the committee raised $20,450 from 55 different urologists in Virginia on Sept. 30, according to the filings. The vast majority of that amount came from individual contributions of $350. Only two urologists gave more than that amount. On Sept. 30, Barrasso was in Laramie attending a University of Wyoming football game, according to his Twitter account.
“The campaign is proud of the many supporters Senator Barrasso has from around the country who share our Wyoming priorities to create good jobs, lower taxes, protect American freedom and eliminate federal regulatory overreach,” Kunsman wrote.
Sen. Barrasso is a frequent recipient of both doctors’ and the healthcare industry’s largesse. The senator worked as a doctor in Casper before entering politics, and is often featured on television as a healthcare policy expert.
The same is also true of the energy industry, which has benefitted Barrasso both through Political Action Committees and donations from individual employees.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions over the life of a politician’s career on its website opensecrets.org, Barrasso’s top contributors are employees of the Chevron Corporation, both through PACs and donations from individual employees. The next biggest contributor are PACs connected to and employees of Berkshire Hathaway, owned and managed by famous financier Warren Buffett. Beneath that come three healthcare-related corporations: insurance giant Blue Cross/Blue Shield, pharmaceutical corporation Amgen and Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy.
Barrasso’s connection to Amgen has been questioned in the past, after the New York Times reported in January 2013 that the corporation stood to reap a massive financial windfall from a last-minute addition to a fiscal bill that year. The corporation had given heavily to U.S. senators leading up to that decision.
Other prominent Barrasso donors have been employees of the Sinclair Companies, the oil corporation that has two refineries in Wyoming. Individual Sinclair employees have given $37,500 to the Senator’s campaigns over the life of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Kathleen Holding, a Dayton, Wyoming resident who lists herself as a Sinclair Companies executive, gave $5,400 to Barrasso this last quarter. Her gift was more than half of the Senator’s individual contributions from his home state that quarter.
Regardless of where the money comes from, “our campaign will spend its resources in Wyoming for Wyoming,” Kunsman wrote.