JACKSON, Wyo. — At a  2019 Democratic Party fundraiser at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse, Sofia LaRocca and her now-husband Beau Maier were eager volunteers. LaRocca took a photo with the event’s keynote speaker, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. The fundraiser was one of many public appearances LaRocca and Maier made in support of the Wyoming Democratic Party.

But they were not Democrats, a report from the New York Times revealed last week. They were undercover spies engaged in an “undercover operation by conservatives to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle.”

Their mission, the Times reported, was to gather as much intel as they could on Democrats, progressives, and moderate republicans in the West — anyone that posed a threat to far-right conservatives and then-President Donald Trump’s re-election. Wyoming’s primary targets included Governor Mark Gordon, whom far-right conservatives considered “too moderate,” and progressive group Better Wyoming.

Maier and LaRocca bought their way into progressive circles with big campaign donations and promises of plans to “flip the state” blue, the Times reported. Democrats were skeptical of some of their stories, the Times found, but $10,000 donations (made to the Democratic National Committee) were hard to ignore. Maier and LaRocca also made smaller but still sizeable donations to local and regional progressive groups, like Better Wyoming. LaRocca even got a job working for a group of “wealthy liberal donors in Wyoming,” the Times reported.

The operation was largely funded by conservative megadonor and Gore-Tex heiress Susan Gore. Gore founded the Wyoming Liberty Group in 2008 and has been a “force in Wyoming politics since she moved to the state in the 1990s,” the Times reported.

“The use of spies is pretty far out there, but so are many of the Wyoming Liberty Group’s ideas,” Nate Martin, Better Wyoming’s executive director, said in a press release after the Times published its report. “Wyoming’s far-right promotes tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories like Medicaid expansion causes abortion and cannabis is ruining the daycare industry. It makes sense that they would use spies to try to attack their opposition or uncover some imagined liberal plot.”

The Times report did not detail what, specifically, the now-married couple found or how they might use it to campaign against Western democrats. Martin says Better Wyoming has “nothing to hide.”

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Buckrail @ Shannon

Shannon is a Wyoming-raised writer and reporter. She just completed a master's in journalism from Boston University. Jackson shaped her into an outdoorswoman, but a love for language and the human condition compels her to write. She believes there's no story too small to tell nor adventure too small to take.