By Andrew Graham, WyoFile.com
Hit the Snake River this summer for a chance to catch rainbow trout, brown trout and maybe even some facetime with Wyoming’s senior senator — but bring your checkbook.
The ‘A Day In the Tetons’ event will benefit the Making Business Excel PAC and provide what could be considerable access to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, for a considerable price.
A $5,000 donation from corporation or political action committee — $2,500 from a private individual — entitles the donor to a full day fishing on the Snake and a “family dinner” in Teton Village. Non-anglers can instead pair the family dinner with a white water trip for $3,000 or $1,500.
The prices and what they buy are listed on an invitation obtained by WyoFile. The event is scheduled for Aug. 4, a Sunday.
Neither Enzi’s office nor Amy Bradley Ford, whose D.C.-based fundraising firm is listed on the invitation, returned requests for comment for this story.
It’s unclear whether or how Enzi will attend both the white water rafting trip and the fishing expedition. It’s also unclear whether anglers will wade, or fish from a drift boat where the senator or his staff would be a captive audience between casts.
Previous invitations for the event, which has been held most years since at least 2009, suggest the fishing will likely be of the fly casting variety, and the dinner “western.”
In an era of dark money and unprecedented political spending, Enzi’s pay-for-access event is a decidedly old-school fundraising tactic, suggested former U.S. senator from Wyoming and campaign finance reform advocate Al Simpson.
Fundraisers rely on such events and did when he was in Washington, Simpson said. “A visit with Al was a certain figure… dinner was a certain figure,” he told WyoFile.
Enzi is rumored to be considering retirement next year and if so won’t need a campaign war chest. But campaign finance records for the Making Business Excel PAC show it’s often supported other Republican senators.
Having a PAC from which one can disperse campaign funds to friends in Congress is a longtime tool of the D.C. power game, Simpson said.
“It’s very common,” Simpson said. “There isn’t anything uncommon about it.”
“You raise a lot of bucks and you have the ability if one of your colleagues is in a tough race you say here’s five grand from this PAC. There isn’t much to say except Mike [Enzi] is a heavy hitter in the U.S. Senate.”
Long associated with Enzi, the political action committee Making Business Excel is registered in Cody. The PAC raised $567,650 and distributed $400,000 in the 2018 election cycle.
The largest donations came from corporations, ranging from Amazon and the prominent defense contractor Northrop Grumman to numerous companies in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
According to Open Secrets, an organization that compiles and sorts Federal Election Commission data, the pharmaceutical and health product industry plied Making Business Excel with $107,750 from 2017-’18. PACs connected to the accounting industry tossed in $57,500. The Defense Aerospace industry gave $19,000. The oil and gas industry provided $22,500 — $9,000 of that came from individuals connected to the industry, the rest from industry PACs.
Spending from the PAC came in roughly $10,000 increments given to campaign committees for a number of incumbent and aspiring Republican U.S. Senate candidates. Sen. John Barrasso’s committee received $10,000 from the Wyoming-based PAC, while Enzi, who was not up for reelection, did not receive money that cycle.
One of the top recipients in 2018 was Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi senator who faced a tough special election runoff battle last November.
Hyde-Smith received $15,000 in 2018 from Making Business Excel, with the most recent payment coming in December. Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is predicted to face a tough re election fight in 2020, received $10,000 from the group in November. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), also received $10,000 that month.
The group also kicked $120,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2018 election cycle, according to Open Secrets. That lucrative PAC is dedicated to electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate and is currently chaired by Sen. Todd Young of Indiana.
Enzi has been Wyoming’s senator since 1997. He or the Making Business Excel PAC has been holding a ‘Day in the Tetons’ event since at least 2009, according to the Sunlight Foundation’s website politicalpartytime.org, which has been compiling invitations to politicians’ fundraising events since 2008.
The website has invitations for fly-fishing and dinner days hosted by Enzi in the Tetons for the years 2009, 2011-’14 and 2017.
The 2017 invitation is the first one that lists Bradley and her consulting firm the Bradley Patrick Group as the event hosts. Previous invitations directed RSVPs to Enzi’s former daughter-in-law and former fundraiser Danielle Enzi. A 2014 invitation lists both Danielle Enzi and Bradley as contacts.
Bradley worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee before starting her own political fundraising business, according to her LinkedIn page and a biography on the Cox Petersen Group website. She lists Enzi, Barrasso and Wyoming’s former U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas as three of six Republican Senate clients.
WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.