Liz Cheney drops Senate bid. Which donors may get refunds?

Liz Cheney's campaign for a US Senate seat may have stalled even before she withdrew from the race. But her fundraising certainly had not. Her campaign netted $1 million in the third quarter of 2013.

Ruffin Prevost/Reuters/Files
Liz Cheney speaks with voters during a Republican and Tea Party gathering in Emblem, Wyoming in this photo from August 2013. Cheney, the oldest daughter of former US Vice President Dick Cheney, announced that she is ending her bid for US Senate.

Liz Cheney is not running for a US Senate seat in Wyoming anymore. She announced Monday that she is ending her bid to unseat the Cowboy State’s incumbent Republican senator, Mike Enzi, because of unspecified “serious health issues” in her immediate family.

Ms. Cheney’s staff did not know her campaign was ending until the last minute, apparently. Her family’s health certainly comes first, but many pundits noted that Cheney is also conveniently abandoning an effort that had made little headway.

She was branded a carpetbagger from the start, as she has lived most of her adult life in northern Virginia. She made rookie mistakes, such as sniping at local journalists in a thinly populated state where local papers still have a big impact. She got caught up in a highly publicized spat over her opposition to gay marriage with her (gay and married) sister, Mary.

Most of all, she never really summarized for Wyoming voters why she thought she could do a better job than the popular, genial Senator Enzi.

“It had become clear over the last few months that her challenge to Enzi was at a dead stop due to a single issue: She simply couldn’t explain why she was running,” writes Washington Post political expert Chris Cillizza on his “Fix” blog.

But here’s our question: What will her donors think? We ask that because she did raise a lot of money. Her 2013 third-quarter report on file with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows she netted $1 million in campaign cash during that period.

Fourth-quarter reports aren’t public yet. Cheney campaign officials say their fundraising remained strong through the end of the year.

“Liz Cheney may have left a lot of money on the table when she dropped her 2014 bid for a US Senate seat in Wyoming,” writes Russ Choma of the campaign watchdog group Center for Responsive Philanthropy.

Cheney raised more money in large contributions than did Enzi, according to CRP. Eighty-nine percent of her third-quarter money came from people making donations larger than $200. And much of that came from outside the state of Wyoming – 72 percent, to be precise.

Unsurprisingly for the daughter of a former vice president, Cheney’s donor list was high-profile. A perusal of the third-quarter FEC listing shows dad Dick Cheney and mom Lynne Cheney each maxed out on their daughter's campaign, giving her $2,600 apiece for her primary campaign against Enzi, and $2,600 for a general election campaign that now will not occur.

Other donors who gave the maximum allowed include former President George W. Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Joyce Rumsfeld, Mr. Rumsfeld's wife. Also donating were Michael Mukasey, who served Mr. Bush as attorney general; Donald Evans, secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush; and Mary Matalin, who served as a consultant to both Bush presidents. General rich person/Republican backers T. Boone Pickens, August Busch III, and Richard DeVos gave Cheney money, as well.

Never fear – Cheney intends to give her campaign cash back to donors, according to Politico’s Alexander Burns.

No statute requires her to do that, however. Her general election contributions are still there, so there should be little problem with refunding that money. But Cheney was already up and running with TV ads in Wyoming. Plus, getting a campaign going is expensive. That means many of her donations for the primary may already have been spent – expenditures in the third quarter of 2013 were $232,000, for instance.

One final note: Liz’s sister, Mary Cheney, is not listed as a donor; nor is Mary Cheney’s wife, Heather Poe.

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