Liz Cheney attracts Democratic donors because of the role of the January 6 committee
WASHINGTON — As one of the nation’s biggest Democratic donors, film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg helped make Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Hollywood darlings. But this year, he’s backing a surprise candidate: Representative Liz Cheney, the staunchly conservative Republican from Wyoming.
“We agree on little or nothing,” Katzenberg said in an interview. “But she did something that very, very few people in history have done, which is to put her country above party and politics to defend our Constitution.”
He was referring to Ms. Cheney’s leadership role on the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and her conviction of former President Donald J. Trump, whom she called of an “internal threat that we have never faced before”. .”
To help Ms. Cheney boost her chances in Wyoming’s upcoming Republican primary — she faces a Trump-backed opponent — Mr. Katzenberg and his wife have donated more than $43,000 to his campaign and the groups that support it. support.
Mr. Katzenberg said his contributions went beyond that sum, but declined to provide further details, saying only that he was referring to Ms. Cheney, the Jan. 6 committee’s vice-chairman, to “everyone who will listen to me, with any party affiliation.
Mr. Katzenberg is one of many Democrats and independents crossing ideological lines to support Ms. Cheney, who became an outcast in her own party for her split from Mr. Trump on January 6 and her criticism of Republican House leadership.
A supporter of Mr Trump for most of his term, Ms Cheney – who opposes abortion, backs conservative justices and wants to expand mining and energy drilling even in environmentally sensitive areas – voted with him 93 % time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Most Democratic donors are deeply at odds with Ms. Cheney on these and other issues. But the Democrats who support her say they were impressed by her courage in standing up to the former president – whom she voted to impeach after the January 6 attack – and in defending the peaceful transfer of the power.
“Cheney is the most important politician in America right now,” said Dmitri Mehlhorn, a political strategist who advises LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a major Democratic donor who Mehlhorn said had quietly started to support Mrs Cheney.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman, an independent with liberal views on social policy who has donated to Ms Cheney’s campaign in recent months, said in an email to potential donors that the MP was “perhaps the loudest voice in the Republican Party speaking out on the importance of upholding the Constitution.
Key revelations from the January 6 hearings
Ms Cheney is one of the few politicians to whom Jane Fraser, a registered Democrat who is the chief executive of Citigroup, has given directly this election cycle. A spokesperson for Ms. Fraser declined to comment. Citigroup was the first major bank to offer employees paid trips for abortion services this year.
Still, it will take more than money to salvage Ms. Cheney’s precarious position in Wyoming, and the influx of support from top Democratic donors does not necessarily help her politically in her state.
Poll suggests she came in summer dragging Harriet Hageman, her rival in the Republican primary, which will be held on August 16. Last month, Ms. Cheney’s campaign sent letters to registered Democrats with instructions on how to switch parties ahead of the primary – a move that would allow them to vote for her.
Ms Cheney had previously said she would not take such a step, and it is unclear how successful the gamble will be in a state where the number of registered Republicans dwarfs that of Democrats.
Ms. Cheney, who was ousted from her leadership position as the House’s No. 3 Republican last year, may be looking past that race. She refused to rule out a presidential campaign in 2024, during which she could use some of the funds she has already raised.
Even as Ms. Cheney faces an uphill battle in her race for Congress, the January 6 hearings gave her a political lifeline for the future — and, if she loses her primary, something to point to as an explanation for his defeat. A spokesperson for Ms Cheney declined to comment on her position in the race or her cross donors.
Ms. Cheney’s re-election campaign has raised more than $10 million through the end of March, far more than Ms. Hageman. Some of those donations came from veterans of Republican administrations like Michael Chertoff, who was homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush, and Theodore B. Olson, who was Mr. Bush’s solicitor general and also worked for the president. Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Chertoff and Mr. Olson co-hosted a fundraiser this year for Ms. Cheney with Bobbie Kilberg, who was a White House aide under Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and George HW Bush, in a Northern Virginia Hotel.
But Democratic dollars also flocked to Ms. Cheney. His criticism of fellow Republicans who accepted Mr. Trump’s election lies and his questioning of witnesses like former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson have further raised his national profile.
Mr. Klarman, who heads the Baupost Group, a Boston-based hedge fund, is hosting a virtual reception for Ms. Cheney on Tuesday, the same day the Jan. 6 committee will hold its next hearing.
“I strongly support Congresswoman Cheney’s candidacy for re-election, as we share a deep commitment to protecting American democracy and the rule of law,” Klarman wrote in an email invitation to the event. . He added, “I am determined to do everything I can to send a strong message by keeping it in Congress. We need to support Liz and send a rebuke to the more extreme factions of the Republican Party. »
In a statement, Mr. Klarman acknowledged his policy differences with Ms. Cheney, given her liberal views on abortion access, gun control and voting rights measures. “If we don’t save democracy, everything else will go to hell,” he said.
Mr. Mehlhorn, who advises Mr. Hoffman and other anti-Trump donors of all political stripes, shared a similar rationale for supporting Ms. Cheney.
“Liz Cheney is our enemy, so to speak, on all other issues,” he said. “But on this issue, she’s so aligned with us.”
“Our theory is that if that is the dividing line – that all politics is whether you are for the peaceful transfer of power or not – the governing coalition will be the coalition for the peaceful transfer of power,” Mr. Mehlhorn. “And if you want to, you go along with Liz Cheney, who personally makes this the biggest issue.”
Mr. Hoffman gave to Ms. Cheney’s campaign, according to campaign finance records. He also gave to groups that support her, Mehlhorn said, such as the Republican Accountability Project, which supports Republican members of Congress who have exposed Mr. Trump’s campaign lies and opposes those who endorsed them. .
“Liz Cheney is showing incredible integrity, representing America,” Hoffman said in a statement.
Smaller donors have also been attracted to Ms. Cheney.
Khanh Nguyen, a Silicon Valley engineer who has repeatedly given to California Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam B. Schiff, describes himself as a centrist with a handful of liberal-leaning views. But as an immigrant from Vietnam, where he recalled violence and strongman politics as the norm, he said he was appalled by the events of January 6.
“It was shocking to me that only 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 6,” Nguyen said. He donated to Ms Cheney, he said, because “I want to give her all the tools she needs to win”.
“She’s one of the very few voices that stands against Trump, stands up for democracy, and actually has a chance to sway the party – the Republican Party – in a better direction,” he said. .
Vint Cerf, a longtime Democrat and Google executive, said friends who disagreed with Ms Cheney on political issues berated him for donating money to her campaign. But donating $2,900 to his re-election bid was more than a sign of gratitude, he said.
“Watching what Liz Cheney did, who was brave in the face of enormous pressure from other members of her party, to stand up to them and say, ‘No, that’s wrong,’ I was impressed enough by that to say, ‘You know what? She deserves support for that,'” he recalled.
Kenneth P. Vogel contributed report.