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PAC files complaint against Campbell County clerk

GILLETTE — The political action committee that was the subject of an official complaint by the Campbell County clerk has filed a complaint of its own, accusing the clerk of allegedly intimidating and silencing “dissenting political opinion.”

In September, County Clerk Susan Saunders filed a complaint with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office and the Federal Election Commission about the Coal Country Conservatives Political Action Committee because the group hadn’t filed reports about where it was getting its money or how it spent its money leading up to the primary election.

Earlier this month, the Coal Country Conservatives filed a complaint with the state against Saunders for her “biased and unethical statements and actions.”

The Coal Country Conservatives PAC distributed political materials, labeled as a voting guide for local conservatives. Many of the candidates on that list went on to win their respective races.

In her complaint, Saunders wrote that based on her experience, “the organization of these entities and their subsequent activities can, at best, be described as a scheme to thwart transparency in a way that is deceptive to the public and may be illegal.”

In a letter to the Wyoming Secretary of State, Laura Cox, wrote that Saunders did not contact her before filing the complaint.

“In spite of her decades of experience in the clerk’s office, she wrote a complaint that demonstrated both an ignorance of the law that governs federal and state electioneering and a desire to deprive certain local citizens and candidates of their legally protected right to free political expression,” Cox wrote.

She wrote that Saunders’, “lack of professional knowledge and poor handling of the complaint…led to unjustified negative press across the state.”

“The surprise attack had the effect of tarnishing the PAC’s reputation and diminishing the impact of its efforts on the election,” Cox wrote.

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office reviewed Saunders’ complaint and determined there was no violation of Wyoming Election Code.

Coal Country Conservatives filed articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State, and it also filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission.

Because the PAC filed with the FEC, that qualifies it as a federal PAC, and under Wyoming law, federal PACs are exempt from the state law that governs local PACs.

A list of the PAC’s donors is now on the Federal Election Commission’s website. The group raised $10,560 between April 1 and Oct. 19, including $9960 in itemized contributions.

This $9960 came in the form of 73 donations. Of those 73, 62 were anonymous, and 61 of them were in $50 amounts. There also was a $10 contribution on the list.

The remaining 11 donations were from nine different people and totaled $6600.

There also was $900 in unitemized contributions.

The group spent $8048, most of it with Simpson’s Printing. It also contributed $795 in an in-kind donation to Anybody’s Auto.