Californians donate big to Republican Trump foe Liz Cheney

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

Many California donors, including Hollywood and Silicon Valley moguls, vehemently oppose most of Cheney’s policies but applaud her fight against former President Trump’s false claim that he won the 2020 election.

Cheney’s voting to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and her prominent role as Vice Chair at the televised House hearings on the attack have elevated her status nationally, even as they have hurt her in Wyoming, where she trails her main GOP opponent by double digits. In heavily democratic California, this has resulted in donations totaling approximately $1.2 million.

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

La Cañada clinical psychologist Flintridge supports a handful of other foreign candidates, but Cheney is the only Republican. “She sacrifices her own political career for the sake 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 for her re-election campaign through June 30, according to Federal Election Commission records. She has received donations from just over 200 Wyoming residents totaling more than $260,000.

The statistics in this story are based on individual donations from individuals who have donated at least $200 to a House candidate, the threshold that requires campaigns to share detailed data about their donors with the FEC. Figures do not include contributions to candidates from political campaigns or joint fundraising committees.

Due to its massive population and home to wealthy donors, California has traditionally been a top source of funds for presidential, House and Senate candidates from both parties at races across the country.

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

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

According to FEC data, Hageman raised more than $1.2 million from Wyoming residents, more than four times Cheney’s haul from her home state.

The concept of California liberals writing Cheney checks amuses some political observers given the deep dislike for Congressman’s father Dick Cheney when he was vice president under George W. Bush.

“People aren’t just tossing and turning in their graves, they’re tossing and turning in their graves right now,” said Jessica Levinson, professor of suffrage at Loyola Law School. But, she added, those critics of Dick Cheney “probably also give a thumbs-up” to 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 the Democrats in tight contests while the party struggles to maintain control of Congress. They also argue that the donations could give Cheney a bipartisan patina as she runs for higher office.

“Wyoming is cheap; She’s not in an expensive media market. The voters know her well. She already has a sky-high ID card. Nothing in this race will be affected by more or less money,” said a prominent Democratic fundraiser, who asked not to be identified so as not to damage relationships with donors.

“I don’t know what they think they are achieving,” the fundraiser added. “Many people fear for the future of our country, and they rightly believe that we need the partnership of certain Republicans to protect it and she would be an ally in this work.” But that’s not the only work I care about.”

Cheney’s donors include many prominent Hollywood names, including studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, Friends producer Kevin Bright, and Seabiscuit and Hunger Games film director Gary Ross.

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

“We disagree on almost everything,” Katzenberg said in a phone interview. But, he added, “She was heroic and selfless in her accomplishments and her loyalty to America and our Constitution. I am in awe of her.”

He and his wife each donated $5,800 to Cheney’s campaign committee, the maximum allowed by law. They have also donated a significant amount to an independent committee supporting their re-election efforts.

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

“It’s less about money and more about showing support,” said Dmitri Mehlhorn, Hoffman’s political adviser. “It’s about sending a signal to everyone, including the Democrats, that what really matters is whether you’re on the side of a peaceful transfer of power.”

Donors also include some former Republicans who left the party after Trump’s election, such as Gina Gualtiere. The Rancho Palos Verdes resident, 55, knew little about Cheney before joining the Jan. 6 hearings.

“I just respect her for being a Republican and probably doing a lot of crap from the other Republicans for 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 formerly donated to Republicans, but typically not to politicians as conservative as Cheney.

Cheney’s lifetime voting record in Congress agrees with the American Conservative Union 77% of the time, and she agreed with Trump 93% of the time they’ve both been in office, rejecting his first impeachment.

She defended waterboarding and did not condemn the bogus conspiracy theories that questioned President Obama’s birthplace. Despite her support of most GOP orthodoxies, Cheney has occasionally deviated from her party’s most conservative views. On the same day that she lauded the Supreme Court ruling that ended constitutional abortion rights, she voted in favor of a bipartisan gun safety bill.

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

The biggest rift with her party — which will likely cost Cheney her seat in the House of Representatives — is her outspoken criticism of Trump. Her passionate comments and vote to indict him for inciting the January 6 riot eventually led to her reprimand by the Republican National Committee and removal from her leadership position in the GOP of the House of Representatives and the Wyoming Republican Party.

Cheney is 22 percentage points behind her main rival Hageman in a Casper Star-Tribune poll released July 15.

“She’s in deep shit,” said Stuart Spencer, an adviser to President Reagan and a longtime friend of the Cheney family. He first met Cheney when she was in kindergarten. Spencer and his wife, who live in Palm Desert, hosted a fundraiser in January that raised more than $100,000 for Cheney’s campaign.

“She is very selfless,” he said of her work on the January 6 committee.

The precariousness of Cheney’s home is an unexpected twist for a woman once considered Republican royalty. Her campaign declined to comment, but the congresswoman said her conscience was clear.

“If I have to choose between retaining a seat in the House of Representatives or protecting the constitutional republic and ensuring the American people know the truth about Donald Trump, I will choose the Constitution and the truth every day,” Cheney said recently on CNN. Californians donate big to Republican Trump foe Liz Cheney

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