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Chuck Gray Says Complaints Against Rep. Cyrus Western Have “Merit,” Forwards To Wyoming AG

Four formal complaints made on a 2022 political mailer allegedly organized by state Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, have made their way to the desk of Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill.

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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter

Four formal complaints made on a 2022 political mailer allegedly organized by state Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, have made their way to the desk of Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Chuck Gray announced his office has forwarded the complaints to Hill’s office, determining they have “merit” and should be investigated. 

“I am deeply troubled and concerned by the use of these mailers as a means to thwart the Wyoming Election Code and violate Title 22,” Gray wrote in his decision letter. 

Title 22 is the section of Wyoming law pertaining to elections.

Joe Rubino, chief policy officer and general counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, said the announcement came in response to requests from “numerous (media) outlets” and “several media inquiries” about the complaints and how the office was handling them.

Once the Secretary of State’s office determines a complaint has merit, it is then sent to the Attorney General’s office to investigate and decide if prosecution is warranted.

State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, left, and Johnson County Commissioner Bill Novotny, right, and the “wanted” poster mailer.

The Mailer

The political action committee listed on the mailer never registered with the Secretary of State’s office or the Federal Election Commission but was active during the primary election cycle in Johnson and Sheridan counties, the report says. 

Wyoming law requires all PACs that participate in elections to register with either the state or federal election offices. A PAC also must list the source of its finances and political candidates must list their total spending, including any PACs they donate to.

The Sheridan County Attorney’s Office investigated the mailer this winter and says it found evidence tying Western and Johnson County Commissioner Bill Novotny to the project.

Allegations were made that paying for the mailer wasn’t reported by any campaign and was the work of an unregistered political action committee, conclusions Gray also agrees with.

But the Sheridan County Attorney’s office opted to not file charges, primarily citing lack of jurisdiction and that no one in the mailer was running for public office as considered by Wyoming law, so the advertisement cannot count as electioneering. 

The mailer was designed to look like an Old West wanted poster featuring the mugshots of four people described as “conservative imposters.” They are Sheridan County residents Jeff Wallack, Laurie Bratten, Kristen Jennings and Jimmy Dee Lees.

Only one of the four people targeted in the mailer, Wallack, was running in an election in 2022, to be a Sheridan County Republican Party precinct committeeman. Jennings, daughter of staunchly conservative state Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, is a Sheridan City Council member, but was not running for reelection.

Wallack and Bratten filed three of the four complaints against Western.

The four were “Wanted,” the mailer says, “for trying to tear our state apart” and instructs the reader to vote against them.

Reasons For ‘Merit’

Gray said “there is evidence to suggest” the mailer could count as “electioneering communication” because of its reference to a candidate for precinct committeeman.

He also made the claim that the combination of a request to “vote no” and the design and the Old West-themed font in the mailer guided the reader to vote against Western’s primary opponent.

This last claim wasn’t spelled out in the original complaint, which claimed that Western didn’t register with the PAC and the source of the mailer was concealed. Western’s primary opponent, Bryan Miller, also isn’t mentioned in the mailer.

Western told Cowboy State Daily last week that “there is more to the story, but at the advice of my legal counsel I can’t say much more to that.”

He declined to offer further comment in response to Gray’s letter.

Miller is chairman of the Sheridan County GOP. Miller and Gray are both aligned as members of the hardline conservative faction of the Wyoming Republican Party.

Miller recently supported a measure brought by the party earlier this month to censure Western because of the mailer. 

The censure also called for Western’s resignation. Western told Cowboy State Daily last week he doesn’t plan to resign.

 “The county GOP is after anyone who doesn’t take their marching orders,” Western said. “The voters always deserve the last word.”

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  1. Avatar photo

    Ross Holter

    March 29, 2023 at 9:22 am

    Typical corrupt republican

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    Dennis Fox

    March 29, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    What he did was un-ethical and violated Reagan’s 11th commandment about not speaking ill of fellow Republicans. Was it illegal? We’ll see. The important question now is, is it better to voluntarily resign, or be convicted and forced from office? And only one person can answer that question.

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      Ray Olson

      March 29, 2023 at 5:07 pm

      So,the Freedom (for straight white guys and their handmaids) Caucus is exempt from the 11th commandment? (as was Reagan for that matter whenever anyone questioned his ridicules trickle down theory he went after them like a rabid miniature Schnauzer).

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    mark steingass

    March 29, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    This whole situation is a good example of “Trumpism”…Wyoming deep red state politicians following the example(s) of their GOP demagogue Donald Trump…another classic example of “Trumpian” style of politics.

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    mark steingass

    March 29, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    at most Mr. Western might face a fine, censure and a few puckered lips

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    Dennis Fox

    March 29, 2023 at 4:01 pm

    Actually he only “ran as” a Republican to get elected. The vast majority of Wyoming is Conservative. He’s not and we don’t see him as either conservative or even Republican. Whatever happens to him legally is secondary. He attacked real Republicans based on an immutable characteristic, their place of birth. That’s called “nativists bigotry” and is ethically and morally indefensible. It’s no different than saying “Vote No” because they are female or black/white. It’s the exact same unethical discrimination. And is not acceptable in Wyoming or anywhere in America. We must call out bigotry and banish is from campaigns and all polite society.

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      mark steingass

      March 30, 2023 at 11:17 am

      ….you just reinforced my feelings about today’s politics….I clearly remember Donald Trump’s term “Chinese Virus”…whenever Trump is speaking and uses the word “China” he certainly tries to clearly intensify that word….unethical discrimination at the top of the GOP but just a couple of examples among numerous other instances that are all over the internet

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    Dennis Fox

    March 30, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    This case has nothing to do with the tired, old, leftist mantra, “Orange Man Bad.” This is a case of a sitting representative who apparently attacked people based on where they were Born! The mailer accused other republican office-holders of “tearing our state apart” because they where born in another American state. That’s a despicable case of “Nativists Bigotry” and is inexcusable in the Equality State. He would have been censured if the attack was on their gender or race. Same with the attack on place of birth. They are all immutable facts that we have no control over and we should banish anyone who attacks people based on race, gender, ethnicity or state-of-origin. It’s very clear!

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      mark steingass

      March 30, 2023 at 1:52 pm

      …lol…then most of what you have written is not held in high regard locally by many…talk is abundant belittling out of state “Californians” and other’s that have moved to Sheridan from out of state…ever hear the term “Californication” this term is bandied about frequently in Sheridan….sinners all…as for Mr Western the voters not you will decide what is inexcusable…

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      mark steingass

      March 30, 2023 at 3:36 pm

      New York Grand Jury say “Orange Man Bad”…lol

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        Dennis Fox

        March 30, 2023 at 10:49 pm

        The result: President Trump, the greatest president since Ronald Reagan, is re-elected for a third time, in a landslide!

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          mark steingass

          March 31, 2023 at 11:36 am

          what?…trump is the greatest president since Ronald Reagan?…there is no comparison…just a rubbish statement on your part…as for Ronald Reagan I doubt he would say he got along good with Xi, Putin and Kim Jong-un like trump said on FOX (Hannity) interview yesterday…With the exception of Gorbachev Reagan regarded Communism as an immoral and destructive ideology and believed that the Soviet Union was bent on world domination…..while Mitt Romney once stated several years ago… “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”…Mike Pence feels the same way about Russia and the Ukraine. Mitch McConnell says “Russia has to lose in the Ukraine”…The GOP has a lot of division to hash out regarding geopolitical goals that will be set by the majority of your own republican political party in the near future…Trump says he will end the war in the Ukraine “in one day”…the war in the Ukraine is splitting your party and trump is facing a 30 count indictment and three more major potential investigations looming. Ronald Reagan never had such courtroom drama

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            Dennis Fox

            April 1, 2023 at 12:30 pm

            What’s happening to our country is not a partisan, left/right issue. It’s not democrats against republicans, it’s really “We the People” against the deep-state. And fighting amongst ourselves is exactly what our would-be, globalist rulers want. If we’re focused on distractions and bickering at “the other” they can do their evil. Let’s rise above party politics and identify the root cause of all our problems: an unconstitutional, out-of-control deep-state/shadow gov’t.

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    Dennis Fox

    March 30, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    Californians are not attacked based on their place of birth, it’s the liberal ideas, that some have, that is derided. And that’s exactly my point. The mailer attacked their place of birth, not their ideas or party affiliation. He couldn’t openly attack their party, because he’s “supposedly” a Republican. The subtext was the attack on their conservative values. But, again, he couldn’t do that because he wants to be included in the conservative group. But he’s not conservative. That’s the motivation for his attack, he wasn’t listed as a vetted conservative on another mailer and he was pissed. He lashed out in the liberal way; he slung mud and attempted to smear others. But the voters will decide, if the courts don’t do so, sooner. He narrowly won by just 137 votes, which means next time, if just 70 more people see the truth…..

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      mark steingass

      April 3, 2023 at 4:42 pm

      deep state all right…the deep dark state of Donald Trump…your demagogue…trump rigged the first election in 2016 with 150K hush money payment through his own attorney to Stormy Daniels (we all know what she does for a living) and also another catch and kill story (150K payoff) through the national enquirer regarding the affair with Karen McDougal and also hid his taxes from full disclosure to American voters stating he was “undergoing an IRS audit when he wasn’t”…trump did not want to disclose his taxes to the American public because he knew he is a “tax cheat”…then in 2020 trump tried to “steal the election” through Mike Pence and an insurrection…you call trump the greatest president since Ronald Reagan…you need a reality check Mr Fox…

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    Dennis Fox

    April 3, 2023 at 10:30 pm

    Time will tell. But the TDS left’s position is clear.
    They cannot defeat President Trump in a legit election, so they’ll try every extra-legal, dirty trick they can think of to avoid the coming landslide. The current “resident” is dangerous. War and depression are just one miscalculation or slip-up away.

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      mark steingass

      April 4, 2023 at 11:56 am

      coming landslide?…lol…Biden beat trump once already and there aren’t that many votes out there among the cornfields, abandoned manufacturing areas or agricultural states either….meanwhile many new left leaning “pro choice” voters will have voting privileges’ that did not have the opportunity in the 2020 election…go figure…your demagogue donald trump is asking for donations again…he needs more money to pay for his “legal teams”…lol…

  9. Avatar photo

    Dennis Fox

    April 5, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    The lefts destruction of our foundational American institutions continues. This bogus “law suit” is just another attempt to destroy America. Other world leaders have arrested their rivals. Hitler, Stalin and Mao are now joined by brandon, the “sock-puppet” in residence. May Jan 2025 come soon enough to save America.

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    mark steingass

    April 6, 2023 at 9:44 am

    Trump was flanked by 4 of his own attorneys in court and will be judged by a jury just like any man…reportedly Trump has already received more than 10 million dollars in donations from various individuals so he will be well represented in court…send him your donation…do your part to save the world…”Jan 2025″ is already one day closer…the GOP is already divided without any clear leadership while the Democrats are clearly united. Hakeem Jeffries could beat Trump in a presidential election if such an election were held today.

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    Dennis Fox

    April 6, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    I guess the nice thing about living in a fantasy world, is that reality never shows up to disrupt illusions. The dumbs have the weakest “bench” in modern history and the people clearly see that we have a mentally challenged “resident”. The risk of war and depression haven’t been this grave since the 1930’s. We can only hope to make it to the 2025 restoration of America.

  12. Avatar photo

    Dennis Fox

    April 12, 2023 at 11:07 am

    Over 20 comments about this case and not one good word for the defendant. Interesting. Is the lack of support an indicator of future election results?

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