IN TODAY’S POLITICAL world, the fundraising dinner is a constant. Candidates for public office are in ever-increasing need of funds to keep their campaigns running, and such dinners are one way of getting them. This was definitely not the case in the early 20th Century.
In 1911, Wyoming became one of a handful of states to pass a Corrupt Practices Act, aimed at curtailing political corruption, graft and bribery. As part of the act, campaign expenditures for those running for the U.S. Senate were limited to twenty percent of the current Senate salary. In 1912, this meant that Republican incumbent Senator Francis E. Warren and his Democratic challenger, John B. Kendrick, could legally spend $1,500 apiece.
When Kendrick ran for the Senate again in 1916, the Republican press reminded voters of this 1912 campaign, in which Kendrick spent $8,344 – many times the legal limit. According to Wyoming Supreme Court Judge Gibson Clark (a prominent Democrat), Kendrick didn’t break the law; the spending limits, Clark said, applied to nomination campaigns only, not election campaigns. Needless to say, Republican attorneys and judges disputed that interpretation of the law.
BY THE WAY ...
If the Corrupt Practices Act was still in effect today, Wyoming’s Senatorial candidates would be limited to expenditures of $34,800 - twenty percent of their $174,000 salary - on their campaigns prior to nomination.
Two more serious scandals threatened Kendrick’s career. During the 1912 run for office, opponents argued that his legal home was actually at the OW Ranch and, if elected, would be Montana’s “Third Senator.” Kendrick denied this claim, stating that he and his family had moved to Sheridan in 1908.
Then, in 1915, while Governor of Wyoming and president of the State Lands Board, Kendrick purchased 9,666 acres of state lands in northern Wyoming. He maintained he was unaware of laws that forbade any member of the board from buying lands put up for sale by said board.
Republicans attempted to make much of the “land grab,” but Kendrick’s popularity was too strong and he was elected to the Senate in 1916 despite this less-than-legal acquisition.
Four Wyoming Governors (AHC)
Newspaper Advertisement, 1916
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2016 - December 2016
State Historic Site