Liz Cheney's top donors stand with her despite Republicans' push to oust her from House leadership

Key Points
  • Some donors say they will withhold contributions to anyone who opposes Cheney.
  • That signals a split in the wealthy Republican donor ranks between big-money financiers who continue to back former President Trump and those more aligned with Cheney's views.
Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) waits for US President Joe Biden to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | AFP | Getty Images

Liz Cheney's top financial supporters are standing by her despite a move by House Republicans to remove her as conference chair.

Cheney, who represents the state of Wyoming, is unlikely to lose any of her major contributors even if she is ousted as an official leader within the House Republican caucus, according to donors who spoke to CNBC.

Some even say they will withhold contributions to anyone who opposes Cheney. That signals a split in the wealthy Republican donor ranks between big-money financiers who continue to back former President Donald Trump and those more aligned with Cheney's views that Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square.

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.

Republicans are hoping to win back majorities in the House and Senate during the 2022 midterm elections. Cheney is up for reelection next year and numerous Republicans have announced primary campaigns against her.

Cheney's spokesman did not return a request for comment for this story.

Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York has received support from House GOP leaders such as Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., to replace Cheney as conference chair. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, said in a Fox News interview that he's heard from members that are "concerned about her [Cheney's] ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message."

Though Cheney voted more in line with Trump's positions than did Stefanik, according to data from FiveThirtyEight, the former also backed impeaching him after the deadly Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Cheney has consistently blamed Trump for inciting the riot that left at least five people dead.

Stefanik, on the other hand, challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election that showed Joe Biden defeating Trump. Trump himself endorsed Stefanik for the leadership role and blasted Cheney on Wednesday for her stance on the election.

CNBC reached out to many of Cheney's leading donors who contributed up to $2,800 to Team Cheney, a joint fundraising committee that brings in campaign cash for Cheney's political reelection campaign, her leadership political action committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Cheney's reelection campaign raised just over $1.5 million in the first quarter of this year, Federal Election Commission records show. Part of that success came on the backs of contributions from corporation PACs such as Pfizer, T-Mobile, Morgan Stanley and General Electric.

Some companies said after the Capitol riot that they would pause donations to lawmakers that challenged the results of the election.

Tony Fratto, founder of communications firm Hamilton Place Strategies and a former deputy press secretary under President George W. Bush, gave $2,800 to the committee in January. Fratto blasted the move by Republican leadership to remove Cheney and said he will not support anyone who oppose her.

"It's absurd. Every word Liz Cheney has said about the outcome of the 2020 election, the events of January 6th, and the damage done to Republicans for lying about both is spot on," Fratto said Tuesday. "I'll support Liz for as long as she's in office, whether in leadership or not. And I'll never support any member who opposed her." The congresswoman's father, Dick Cheney, was Bush's vice president.

A Wall Street executive who gave to the Cheney committee in the latter stages of the quarter, told CNBC that individual corporate donors are going to flee the Republican Party if GOP leaders move against the Wyoming lawmaker. This person declined to be named in order to avoid retribution for speaking out against Trump.

"She's one of the last hopes that the Republican Party hasn't lost its mind. If she's ostracized, a lot of people will go with her," this financier said. "Corporate givers and lobbyists have to be strategic, but there's a really important principle at stake with what happens to her."

Reginald Brown, a lawyer and a special assistant to Bush in the early 2000s, told CNBC that for many donors, Cheney represents a counterweight to some of the pro-Trump forces within the Republican Party.

"She's a buy and hold investment for those who care about the Republican long game. A GOP that doesn't have room for women leaders or people that think the attack on the Capitol was nuts is going nowhere fast," Brown said in an email to CNBC. "Most business execs prefer Liz to the bare-chested guy with horns in the Capitol and the folks that egged him on." Brown gave $2,800 to Cheney in February.

Devon Spurgeon, a partner at communications firm Sheridan Strategies, contributed $1,000 to Team Cheney in February. Spurgeon said that with these attacks from House Republican leaders, Cheney is on the path to acquiring new donors and igniting her base of supporters.

"Liz is an independent thinker, she doesn't take direction from anyone. Clearly, this is a problem for certain members of House Leadership," Spurgeon told CNBC in a LinkedIn message.

The addition of new donors has been an apparent theme of Cheney's since she voted to impeach Trump.

Lawrence Mandelker, a lawyer at Eiseman Levine, who told CNBC he is a Democrat and has worked with members of both parties, admitted that one of the reasons he gave to Cheney's reelection effort was because of her vote to impeach Trump.

"Even though I disagree with most of her substantive policy issues it was just important enough to say thank you in being a profile in courage," Mandelker said Wednesday in a phone interview. He gave $1,000 to Team Cheney in March, records show.

Mandelker said he will continue to back her 2022 bid for reelection and will not donate to Stefanik's campaign.

"I would never give her money because she drank the Kool-Aid," he said in describing Stefanik's appearance of ultimate loyalty to the former president.

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney will vote to impeach Trump
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney will vote to impeach Trump