Political campaigns

The New York Times uncovers a Wyoming-based effort to sabotage political campaigns

Wapiti resident Erik Prince is one of many associated with a Wyoming-based effort to infiltrate political campaigns and obtain “dirt” to sabotage candidates.

The New York Times published an article chronicling a spy effort based in Wapiti, Wyoming. Authors Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman interviewed dozens of people, including several Wyoming politicians, to piece together the story.

According to the article, “Agents have infiltrated progressive groups across the West in an attempt to manipulate politics and reshape the national electoral map. They also targeted moderate Republicans — anyone seen as a threat to hardline conservatives.

There are several key figures in the effort:

  • Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca – the duo responsible for gaining the trust of political candidates and gaining access to their offices and campaigns. Both attended fundraisers and political meetings; LaRocca has even been hired by political organizations.
  • Ricard Seddon – A former British spy with a Cody address and ties to Wapiti resident Erik Prince
  • Susan Gore – A wealthy Wyoming heiress and conservative donor who funded the innuendo effort

Maier and LaRocca were the main “undercover conservative agents”. Together, the duo used money and the facade of progressive advocacy to push their way into political circles, eager to gain trust and information.

According to the NYT article:

“Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca were part of a conservative sting operation to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of moderate Democratic and Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle, according to interviews and reports. documents.

Using large campaign donations and cover stories, agents aimed to collect filth that could sabotage the reputations of people and organizations deemed threats to a far-right agenda advanced by President Donald J. Trump.

Wyoming was a key part of the effort. The New York Times describes it as “a base for insinuating himself into the political fabric of this state and at least two others, Colorado and Arizona.”

Erik Prince, the Wapiti resident and security contractor, is directly involved in the effort. The NYT article says Prince recruited Seddon early in the Trump administration. Seddon was accused of “hiring former spies to train conservative activists in the basics of espionage and sending them on missions of political sabotage”.

Locally, Prince is best known as the person behind the “Don’t California Our Cody” billboard near Yellowstone Regional Airport.

Many of those involved in the effort met while “training” at Prince’s ranch in Wapiti. They were involved with Project Veritas, the activist group that uses secret tapes of undercover operations to discredit mainstream media and progressive groups.

Seddon, Maier and LaRocaa left Project Veritas for the new Wyoming-based company to engage more actively in “a classic spy operation”. Gore would have covered the expenses incurred during this venture.

The targets were Democrats of all persuasions and moderate Republicans. According to the article, the effort had two main goals:

  1. Infiltrate local and national Democrat groups and circles for “long term intelligence gathering”.
  2. Collect “dirt” on moderate Republicans to use against them by President Trump and his allies.

According to the NYT article, Governor Mark Gordon and current Wyoming House Speaker Eric Barlow were the targets of this venture.

To achieve their goals, Maier and LaRocca made significant donations to Democratic campaigns. This gave them access to important events and great fundraisers.

LaRocca joined the Wyoming Young Democrats in 2019, saying she could flip Wyoming for Democrats. She even tried to become the vice-president of the group.

Shortly thereafter, LaRocca was hired by the Wyoming Investor Network, a group of wealthy Wyoming donors who historically donate to Democratic candidates and moderate Republicans. In his position, LaRocca had access to the complete list of candidates supported by the group.

The implication is that these were the first steps towards a greater endgame – seeping into local groups, and the campaigns were the stepping stones to doing the same on the national stage.

Overall, their effort doesn’t seem very well executed. Despite their gifts and eagerness, there were many suspicions about Maier and LaRocca from the start. But those suspicions didn’t stop them from having terrific access.

From 2019 to the 2020 election, Maier and LaRocca were both regular presences at political events. Then, shortly before the election, they “disappeared” and cut off all communication with former colleagues.

The scope and effectiveness of this effort are unknown, but it is unlike any other effort in the country’s history.

According to the New York Times:

“What the effort accomplished – and how much information Mr. Seddon’s agents gathered – is unclear. Sometimes their tactics were clumsy and amateurish. But the operation’s use of espionage to manipulate the politics of several states over the years goes well beyond the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.

You can read the full New York Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/25/us/politics/spies-conservatives-left-political-enemies.html?smid=url-share

Courtesy of The New York Times