As the weather has turned warmer, many of us are spending less time thinking about politics. That is healthy: we should be enjoying the few months of warmth while we can. There are few places in the …
As the weather has turned warmer, many of us are spending less time thinking about politics. That is healthy: we should be enjoying the few months of warmth while we can. There are few places in the world that can rival Wyoming in summer and it is good for us to spend some time focusing on the good around us rather than fretting about the latest political intrigue.
Nevertheless, Wyoming still has some political happenings that warrant our attention. Recently, The New York Times broke a story about alleged political spying in Wyoming, purportedly funded by Susan Gore — a frequent donor to right-wing candidates and causes in Wyoming. The story is interesting not only because it sounds like something you would read in a bad thriller novel, but also in how poorly executed and thought-out the scheme was.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the Times reported that Gore paid at least two people to pose as liberals and attempt to infiltrate the Wyoming Democratic Party and other left-leaning organizations and campaigns. The goal of this is unclear, although it appeared that the infiltrators also sought to find information on what they perceived as “moderate” Republicans.
What information they may have obtained and what they may have sought to use it for is also not known, but condemnation of the plot appears to be nearly universal. It is immoral, unethical, and frankly, not very likely to turn up anything useful. It was a high-risk, low-reward act that says a lot more about those who sought to pull it off than anything else. Unless a strong refutation of the facts comes to light, I would expect that those involved will be persona non grata in any Wyoming political sphere moving forward — and rightly so.
An additional wrinkle in the story is that the alleged infiltrators apparently also gave large donations to Democratic causes. If those donations were funneled through them by outside sources and were not actually from the infiltrators, that may be a violation of campaign finance laws that could be grounds for criminal charges. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of this in the future.
Despite the salacious nature of the political spy story, far more important to the state is a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision denying Wyoming’s request to sue the State of Washington. In this proposed lawsuit, the states of Wyoming and Montana sought to sue Washington regarding denial of authority to construct a dock for shipping. That may sound dry, but the real reason for the lawsuit is that the dock would have been used to ship Wyoming coal to foreign markets.
Wyoming claimed that the denial of the permit to build the dock was an unconstitutional restriction on interstate commerce; Washington claimed it was not a burden on interstate commerce and was instead a decision based on a genuine concern about the impact of the dock on the local environment. In any event, the Supreme Court decided — without setting out the reasons for its decision — not to hear the case. This means that the lawsuit is over and Wyoming must live with the results. Unfortunately, those results are that Wyoming coal cannot efficiently make its way to overseas markets.
This would have provided a potential method for Wyoming to counter the decline of coal markets in the US by allowing it to ship to developing countries where coal power is not in decline. With the comparatively “clean” nature of Wyoming coal, there would likely not have been any issues in finding buyers and doing so would have been a great boon to state tax revenues.
Regardless of the results, one thing does seem clear: The motivation by Washington in denying the dock construction was not solely due to local impacts. When asked about the decision, the spokesman for the governor of Washington said that they were glad to see “the end of a long chapter in the debate over coal export in Washington state.” Clearly, local impacts were not what was actually on the state of Washington’s mind.
Suffice it to say, even while we are distracted by the joys of summer, important things are still happening. We should keep an eye on what is going on in the world around us, but we must also remember that there is more to life than politics. Enjoy the summer, spend time with friends and family, and the politics will still be there whenever you want something new to think about.
(Khale J. Lenhart is a partner at the law firm Hirst Applegate in Cheyenne, where he has practiced since 2011. He is a former chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party.)