Los Angeles Times

Cheney gets assist from California­ns – even Democrats

Targeting Trump costs her at home, but she raises big sums from this very blue state.

- By Seema Mehta and Jasper Goodman

California­ns have contribute­d more to Republican Rep. Liz Cheney than donors from any other state, including her Wyoming home, as the outspoken Trump critic faces an increasing­ly perilous reelection bid.

Many California donors, including Hollywood and Silicon Valley moguls, vehemently disagree with most of Cheney’s policy positions, but applaud her fight against former President Trump’s false claim that he won the 2020 election and his actions since then.

Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrecti­on and her prominent role as vice chair in televised House committee hearings on the attack have boosted her status nationally, even as they have hurt her in Wyoming, where she trails her GOP primary opponent by double digits in polls.

In heavily Democratic California, that has translated into donations totaling about $1.2 million.

Lifelong Democrat Mardy Wasserman, who has sent the campaign $25 each month since January, recalled leaving a voicemail at Cheney’s congressio­nal office after the impeachmen­t vote. “The message was that I don’t agree with her on anything” but “respected her integrity above all.”

The clinical psychologi­st from La Cañada Flintridge supports a few other outof-state candidates, but Cheney is the sole Republican. “She’s sacrificin­g her own political career for the benefit of honesty and justice in this country,” said Wasserman, 72.

More than 1,100 California­ns contribute­d nearly a tenth of the $13 million Cheney raised through June 30 for her reelection campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. In that period, she received donations from just over 200 Wyoming residents, totaling more than $260,000.

The figures in this story are based on itemized

donations from individual­s who have given at least $200 to a House candidate, the threshold that requires campaigns to disclose detailed donor data to the FEC. The figures do not include contributi­ons to candidates from political action or joint fundraisin­g committees.

California, because of its enormous population and mother lode of wealthy donors, is traditiona­lly a top source of donations for presidenti­al hopefuls as well as House and Senate candidates of both parties in races across the country.

But Cheney, 56, has raised far more from the state than in previous election cycles. In 2020, she raised $161,608 in itemized donations from California­ns, and in 2018, only $5,900. In 2016 — her first congressio­nal campaign — she raised $100,875 from donors here.

Cheney’s Trump-backed Republican rival, attorney Harriet Hageman, has raised far less in advance of Wyoming’s Aug. 16 primary. Of Hageman’s $3.7 million in donations, nearly $155,000 came from California­ns.

Hageman brought in over $1.2 million from Wyoming residents, more than four times Cheney’s haul from her home state, according to FEC data.

The concept of California liberals writing checks to a Cheney amuses some political observers, given the deep antipathy toward the congresswo­man’s father, Dick Cheney, when he served as vice president under George W. Bush.

“People are not only rolling over in their graves — they’re actually tossing and turning in their graves right now,” said Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School. But, she added, those critics of Dick Cheney are “also probably giving a thumbs-up” over the younger Cheney’s principles.

The donations irk some Democrats, who say the money won’t make a difference in Cheney’s race and would be better spent helping Democrats in tight contests as the party struggles to hold control of Congress. They also contend that the donations could give Cheney a bipartisan patina if she runs for higher office.

“Wyoming is cheap; she’s not in an expensive media market. Voters know her well. She already has skyhigh name ID. Nothing in this race is going to be impacted by more or less money,” said a prominent Democratic fundraiser who requested anonymity to avoid harming relationsh­ips with donors.

“I don’t know what they think they’re accomplish­ing,” the fundraiser added. “A lot of people are scared for the future of our country, and they believe correctly that we need the partnershi­p of certain Republican­s in order to protect it, and she would be an ally in that work. But that’s not the only work I care about.”

Cheney’s donors include many bold-face Hollywood names, including studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, “Friends” producer Kevin Bright and movie director Gary Ross of “Seabiscuit” and “The Hunger Games.”

Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks Animation and one of the entertainm­ent industry’s top Democratic fundraiser­s, said he decided to support Cheney because he admires her principled stance on the peaceful transfer of power.

“We disagree on most everything,” Katzenberg said of Cheney in a phone interview. But, he added, “she has been heroic and selfless in her performanc­e and her loyalty to America and our Constituti­on. I stand in awe of her.”

He and his wife have each contribute­d $5,800 to Cheney’s campaign committee, the maximum allowed by law. They have also donated a substantia­l amount to an independen­t committee supporting her reelection effort.

Prominent Silicon Valley donors have also backed Cheney, including angel investor Ron Conway, Napster co-founder Sean Parker, Peloton Chief Executive Barry McCarthy and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, according to FEC data.

“The issue is less about money and more about showing support,” said Dmitri Mehlhorn, Hoffman’s political advisor. “It’s about signaling to everybody including Democrats that really the only thing that matters is whether you’re on the side of a peaceful transfer of power.”

The donors also include a number of former Republican­s who left the party after Trump was elected, such as Gina Gualtiere. The Rancho Palos Verdes resident, 55, knew little about Cheney before she tuned into the Jan. 6 hearings.

“I just respect her for being a Republican and probably taking a lot of guff from the other Republican­s for doing what she’s doing,” said Gualtiere, who donated $250. “She’s just trying to do the right thing.”

Some of the left-leaning donors, including Katzenberg, have previously given to Republican­s, but not typically to politician­s as conservati­ve as Cheney.

Cheney’s lifetime congressio­nal voting record aligns 77% of the time with the American Conservati­ve Union. She voted in agreement with Trump 93% of the time they were both in office, and opposed his first impeachmen­t.

She also defended waterboard­ing terrorism suspects, and didn’t denounce the false conspiracy theories that questioned President Obama’s birthplace.

Despite her support of most GOP orthodoxy, Cheney has occasional­ly strayed from her party’s most conservati­ve views. The same day she praised the Supreme Court ruling that ended the constituti­onal right to abortion, she voted for a bipartisan gun safety bill.

During her unsuccessf­ul 2014 Senate bid, Cheney opposed same-sex marriage, which caused a rift in her family because her sister is married to a woman. Last year, she expressed regret for that position, and recently voted for legislatio­n to codify the right to samesex marriage in federal law.

The greatest break with her party — the one likely to cost Cheney her House seat — is her outspoken criticism of Trump. Her impassione­d statements and vote to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrecti­on eventually led to her censure by the Republican National Committee and her removal from her House GOP leadership position and the Wyoming Republican Party.

Cheney trailed her primary rival Hageman by 22 percentage points in a Casper Star-Tribune poll published July 15.

“She’s in deep manure,” said Stuart Spencer, an advisor to President Reagan and longtime friend of the Cheney family who first met Cheney when she was in kindergart­en.

Spencer and his wife, who live in Palm Desert, hosted a fundraiser in January that netted Cheney’s campaign over $100,000.

“She’s very unselfish,” he said of her work on the Jan. 6 committee.

The precarious­ness of Cheney’s House seat is an unexpected turn for a woman once considered Republican royalty.

Cheney’s campaign declined requests for comment, but the congresswo­man has said her conscience is clear.

Speaking recently on CNN, she said: “If I have to choose between maintainin­g a seat in the House of Representa­tives or protecting the constituti­onal republic and ensuring the American people know the truth about Donald Trump, I’m going to choose the Constituti­on and the truth every single day.”

 ?? Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times ?? REP. LIZ CHENEY’S California donors include studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, who rarely agrees with the Wyoming Republican, but calls her “heroic and selfless in ... her loyalty to America and our Constituti­on.”
Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times REP. LIZ CHENEY’S California donors include studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, who rarely agrees with the Wyoming Republican, but calls her “heroic and selfless in ... her loyalty to America and our Constituti­on.”

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