In the last couple of weeks, Republican voters in Wyoming received at least two mailers from so-called “dark money” groups. Those are political groups that do not disclose their funders. Now, state representative and Elections Committee Chairman Dan Zwonitzer is condemning those types of ads.
The recent mailers were attack ads focusing on Mark Gordon, who is regarded as one of the front-runners in the Republican primary race for governor.
“[Attack ads] crept into our election cycle in 2016 in some localized races, but this is really the first time we’re seeing it at a statewide level on this gubernatorial campaign,” said Zwonitzer. “And it’s my fear that it’s only going to get worse in subsequent election cycles.”
Zwonitzer said the ads came from a group called “Protecting Our Constitution,” which is not a registered PAC in the state and has no available information about who funds it.
In the 2018 legislative session, Zwonitzer tried to pass a bill that would have required more transparency in who distributes election materials, but that bill was killed. He plans to introduce an updated version of the Campaign Finance Revisions bill in the 2019 session that would require special interest groups and individuals to disclose how they're funding election materials.
Zwonitzer said passing campaign finance legislation would not limit free speech.
“Free speech and political speech go hand in hand. And if there are people out who want to spend $50,000 or $100,000 of their own personal money trying to promote a candidate that’s fine. I just think there’s a public interest in knowing where that’s coming from,” said Zwonitzer.
As a representative, Zwonitzer has endorsed Mark Gordon for governor.