CHEYENNE, Wyo. — U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis received more than $31,000 in campaign contributions from financial executives managing Wyoming investments in a program she championed as state treasurer, federal campaign records show.
Lummis persuaded state officials in 2003 to invest with Denver-based Cheyenne Capital Fund, which now manages about $225 million in Wyoming investments.
Her filings with the Federal Election Commission show people associated with Cheyenne Capital or firms in which the fund invested state money donated $31,400 to her two campaigns. Lummis raised over $1.1 million in the two congressional races.
Lummis, a Republican and Wyoming's lone U.S. representative, was elected to Congress in 2008 and re-elected last year.
Wyoming Treasurer Joe Meyer recently released information about Cheyenne Capital's investments in response to a records request from The Associated Press.
Cheyenne Capital founder John Fitzgerald and his wife, Maureen, contributed $15,300 to Lummis' campaigns. Phil Parrott, vice president and attorney for Cheyenne Capital, donated $2,000 to her 2008 campaign.
Asked if Lummis sought the donations, spokeswoman Haley Douglass said: "Rep. Lummis has invited many people she has met over the years to her campaign fundraisers. Their decisions to contribute are their own."
"Whether it's her take on investment capital or her advocacy for American energy independence, people from Wyoming and people outside of Wyoming contribute to Rep. Lummis' campaign because their values align with her philosophy and voting record," Douglass said.
Fitzgerald, who lives in Colorado, said his donations had nothing to do with Lummis' advocacy of Cheyenne Capital.
He said he met Lummis in the late 1980s when he represented private equity funds that purchased some Wyoming banks. Lummis' husband, Cheyenne lawyer Alvin Wiederspahn, was on the board of one of the banks, he said.
"Maureen and I and many other people felt in 2008 that Cynthia would make a great congressman," Fitzgerald said. "And in 2010, we needed her back in Congress. And we know her and have high confidence in her."
Other donors include:
— Paul Balser and Paula Balser, of the New York firm Ironwood Partners, who donated $5,600 in 2008. Paul Balser donated another $1,600 in last year's race. Cheyenne Capital invested $5 million in an Ironwood fund in 2004.
"Cheyenne Capital invested in my fund in 2004," Balser said. "I first started supporting Cynthia in 2008, and I contributed to her as a congressperson at the federal level. She was long gone out of the state (government)."
— Lee Carson, a manager with the Carlyle Group in California, donated $2,300 in 2008. State records show Cheyenne Capital Fund invested $27.5 million in two Carlyle funds in 2005 and 2007. A Carlyle Group spokeswoman declined to comment.
— James Gordon, founder of Edgewater Funds in Chicago, donated $2,300 in 2008. Cheyenne Capital Fund invested $9 million with an Edgewater fund in 2005. Gordon's office said he declined to comment.
— J. Martin, founder of Denver-based Platte River Ventures, donated $2,300 in 2008. Cheyenne Capital Fund invested $25.5 million in two Platte River Ventures funds in 2006 and 2008. Attempts to reach Martin for comment were unsuccessful.
Lummis pushed hard in 2003 to support the investment in Cheyenne Capital. She argued it would yield better returns while supporting economic development.
Dave Freudenthal, then governor and the lone Democrat among the five statewide elected officials that make up the board overseeing the state's investments, cast the only "no" vote. Freudenthal said at the time he was concerned the fund would simply invest in other existing funds.
Freudenthal, now out of office, declined to comment Tuesday.
Bob Grady, managing director with Cheyenne Capital in Jackson, said recently the fund has produced an annual rate of return of more than 20 percent — 13 percent after subtracting fees and expenses.
Fitzgerald said that rate of return ranks among the top 10 percent among similar funds.
The state paid Cheyenne Capital Fund a $2.9 million management fee last year.
Wyoming has more than $14 billion in savings, not counting state retirement funds, and is one of the few states in good financial shape. Most of its income comes from taxes on energy production.