Liz Cheney’s big fishing license scandal

Fib on a fishing license application, lose a Senate race? Maybe

Topics: Liz Cheney, Fishing, Dick Cheney, Wyoming, 2014 elections,

Liz Cheney's big fishing license scandalLiz Cheney (Credit: AP/Matt Young)

Fishing is a big deal in Wyoming, and it’s a big deal in the Cheney family, so it’s a big deal that Liz Cheney, who must overcome accusations of carpetbagging if she hopes to win a Senate seat from the state, apparently fibbed about the length of her residency in order to obtain a fishing license.

Cheney purchased her home in Jackson Hole just last year, after spending years living outside Washington, D.C., in Northern Virginia, where she also graduated from high school. After that, she went to college in Colorado and law school in Illinois, and observers agree that her Senate campaign’s biggest challenge is convincing voters that she even has a right to be running in the state. “Hey, Liz Cheney: If you want to run for U.S. Senate, try it from Virginia or some other state,” the Gillette News Record editorialized in July.

So it certainly won’t help that, as Kyle Roerink of Casper Star-Tribune reports today, Cheney improperly received a fishing license in Wyoming before she was eligible, and was registered as a 10-year resident. Cheney denies that she listed herself as a decade-long resident — “the clerk must have made a mistake” — but she doesn’t deny violating a state law that allows residents to apply for a fishing license only once they’ve lived in Wyoming for a full year. Violating the law is a misdemeanor punishable by a $220 fine.

“It’s a serious misstep,” Liz Brimmer, a Republican strategist in Wyoming, told the New York Times. “Allegedly poaching in a state where being a resident sportsman is, by law, an earned privilege. Wyoming people will take this very seriously.”

Wyomingites do not trifle with fishing. According to census data, nearly 40 percent of Wyoming residents are anglers, who spend a cumulative 5.3 million days a year fishing. Fishing expenditures are worth almost $465 million to the state’s economy, with much of that coming from tourists. Tourism is Wyoming’s second largest industry, contributing nearly $1.9 billion annually and providing over 28,000 jobs, and fishing is one of the top draws. The state’s tourism website uses words like “ultimate fishing and fly fishing destination” and fishing “mecca.”

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And when not hunting, Dick Cheney is such an avid fisherman that his Secret Service codename was “Angler.” He’s fundraised for the American Museum of Fly Fishing and was invited in 2009 to be a honored speaker there. He even skipped the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last summer to go fly fishing (or at least used that as a convenient excuse to be absent). When a White House photographer posted a whole slideshow of Cheney fly-fishing on the executive’s official website, the Internet rumor mill thought they saw a naked woman reflected in his sunglasses (it was actually just his hand).

Fishing was already becoming an issue in Cheney’s campaign, after she shot down rumors that her father and Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, whom she hopes to unseat, are longtime fishing buddies. “I think they may have fished together once,” Cheney told Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.

Now she has her fishy tale to overcome.

Alex Seitz-Wald
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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