The fight to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as House Republican Conference Chair is providing a fascinating case study into the continuing split within the party over Donald Trump.
Cheney is a right wing conservative climate denier who is (or was) beloved by major Republican donors. As well as that, she is the daughter of the former Republican Vice-President Dick Cheney. Her Republican credentials are, in other words, pretty solid.
Despite this, Cheney appears set to lose her leadership position this week because of a perceived lack of loyalty to Trump. Not a lack of loyalty to the Trump political agenda (she has that, see below), but for daring to speak out against Trump following the riot at the Capitol on January 6th. She is set to be replaced - it seems - by somebody who is less in line with the the Trump political agenda, but more vocal in their support for protecting and boosting Trump the man.
This is where I think it gets really interesting.
Despite her public split from the Trump camp, Cheney appears to remain very popular with some major Republican donors. But, there might be political risks for some of these donors to be publicly aligned with Cheney. When Documented found out about one fundraising event happening this week, it was removed from the group’s website less than an hour after we started asking questions.
The National Mining Association fundraiser
According to a fundraising invitation obtained by Documented, MinePAC/CoalPAC - the political action committees run by the National Mining Association (NMA) - are set to host a fundraiser for Cheney on Thursday this week, right as she faces a high profile eviction from her Republican leadership position.
According to Open Secrets, one donor to CoalPAC is the billionaire and major Trump campaign donor Joe Craft, who runs Alliance Coal. Craft’s wife Kelly Craft was appointed United States ambassador to the United Nations by Trump.
A spokesperson for the NMA refused to answer a question from Documented about the significance of the timing for this event. “Just like any other organization seeking to build understanding around public policies that are important to our industry, we contribute to a wide range of elected officials. We do not, however, comment publicly on any of those activities,” wrote the spokesperson.
Less than an hour after we contacted the NMA, the invitation was taken down from the trade association’s website. The spokesperson failed to respond to a follow-up question about why it was taken down.
Trump made big promises about saving the coal industry, which then continued to collapse during his four years in office - coal jobs reduced by 24% during his term in office. Still, it’s a complicated relationship and the coal industry might not want a public falling out.
Cheney is of course from Wyoming, coal country, and she has long been a big friend of the coal industry.
In late January, the Wyoming coal association put out a strong statement supporting her": “Representative Liz Cheney has been a consistent and committed advocate for the fossil fuel industry in Wyoming. Time and again, she has stood with the Wyoming Mining Association in support of our industry's interests and legislative priorities.”
Cheney and Trump aligned politically
Cheney was considered a rising star in the Republican party, and except for her criticism of Donald Trump, she still would be, likely continuing to drive a hard right regressive agenda through Congress for many years to come.
By contrast, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the widely rumored pick to replace Cheney as Conference Chair, is a vocal Trump supporter. Stefanik spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention, calling Trump the "only candidate who is capable of protecting the American Dream."
Trump has called Stefanik a “new Republican Star.”
But on policy, Stefanik is actually somewhat less in line with the Trump agenda than Cheney. According to the Five Thirty Eight tracker, she voted with the Trump agenda 77.7%.
Cheney has signed the infamous Grover Norquist Taxpayer Protection Pledge, opposing all new taxes. It wasn’t too long ago that this was a prerequisite for Republicans with ambitions for higher office. Stefanik has not signed it, and Norquist’s group has publicly criticized her (Americans for Tax Reform: “Elise Stefanik Leaves the Door Open to Higher Taxes”)
The League of Conservation Voters scores members of Congress on their pro-environment voting record. Liz Cheney has a lifetime score of 2%. Stefanik is at 38%. That is why the National Mining Association is so keep on Cheney. On policy, she could hardly be a better supporter for the coal industry.
Major donors still like Cheney, but why?
According to a story by CNBC, some major Republican donors are publicly standing by Cheney, and threatening to withhold funds from the party if they oust her from leadership. CNBC:
Eric Levine, who is an owner of the law firm Eiseman Levine and a Republican fundraiser, told CNBC on Wednesday in an email that Cheney’s business supporters plan to continue to back her. Those donors, he said, are concerned about Trump’s influence over the Republican Party and how those forces will impact future elections. Levine gave over $2,800 to a Cheney joint fundraising committee in the first quarter, records show.
“With but a few exceptions, that group appears to be uniformly supportive of Cheney and very concerned about Trumpism,” Levine said. “Republicans can only win if we can make substantial inroads in the suburbs and with women. Donald Trump is a proven loser in those precincts,” he added. Eric Levine
It should not be lost this week why major donors like Cheney. She is a right wing politician who has consistently advances the interests of wealthy Americans, and works to block legislation that would help working families and the environment. As John Nichols wrote recently for The Nation: “…Cheney is no friend of Democrats, no friend of fairness and decency in American politics, and no friend of the truth. She’s a rigidly right-wing Republican who got on the wrong side of a power struggle with her fellow rigidly right-wing Republicans.”