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Jackson Republican fundraiser prompts protest

JACKSON — At 73, Jorge Colon had never been to a protest.

That changed Thursday, when he and a crowd of more than 20 other people gathered at the corner of Spring Gulch Road and Highway 22 to protest an evening fundraiser for some of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

People waved signs that said, “Vote Liz,” “Trump is the Big Liar” and “Stop Funding Hate.”

Most of the people who drove past and reacted — usually by honking a horn — gave passersby a thumbs-up. Some flipped protestors the bird. Colon said he received two middle fingers.

“This merits a protest,” he said. “All the people that are sponsoring this, they should be ashamed of themselves, because this valley is not about QAnon.”

Benefiting the House Freedom Fund, the fundraiser’s guest list included some of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent allies: U.S. House Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

All are either members or have been members of the House Freedom Caucus, which the Pew Research Center has said includes the “most conservative of all Republicans.”

The fundraiser was hosted by Peter and Stephanie Lamelas, Dan and Carleen Brophy, and Jay and Karen Kemmerer, owners of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Ticket prices started at $2,000.

The Jackson Hole Daily’s request for a press pass was not answered.

The newspaper contacted Jay Kemmerer, through his family foundation’s main line, but did not receive a response by press time.

Protestors were not pleased with the Kemmerer couple’s support of the event, though some said they believed that Connie Kemmerer, another resort co-owner, didn’t have the same politics.

Still, the family’s support of the fundraiser was enough to turn some people off.

“I’m a recreational skier and I won’t be skiing at the resort ever again,” Annie Myrvang, 30, said. “This was the icing on the cake.”

In response to a request for an interview with Mary Kate Buckley, president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the hill’s director of brand communications and content, Eric Seymour, said his employer “has no insight or comment regarding Jay Kemmerer’s personal investments decisions.”

Leaders of the local Republican and Democratic parties said they had nothing to do with either the fundraiser or the protest.

Teton County GOP Chair Mary Martin said the local party did not organize the fundraiser and that she had only sent an email about it to area Republicans in July.

Maggie Hunt, chairwoman of the Teton County Democrats, said her party did not organize the protest. She said she wouldn’t be attending to make that clear.

“Word has gotten out through a variety of ways,” Hunt said. “It’s grassroots.”

Greene was criticized by Republicans and Democrats on the campaign trail after Politico reported on a slew of old videos in which she, among other things, called the 2018 midterm elections “an Islamic invasion of our government.” In that election, two Muslim women won seats in the U.S. House for the first time.

Greene went on to win Georgia’s 14th District in 2020 with nearly 75% of the vote. She has since challenged President Biden’s Electoral College victory and fought against congressional mask mandates. Eleven Republicans and 219 Democrats voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments for her past support of QAnon and other conspiracy theories.

That vote happened around the time of House Republicans’ first attempt to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, from her leadership position in the House Republican Caucus for criticizing Trump. National outlets such as The New York Times described the move as “a proxy battle for the soul of the party.”

Cheney’s spokesperson did not return a request for comment about the fundraiser before press time Thursday.

Spokespeople for Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said Barrasso was not attending the Thursday event and Lummis “was not invited.”

Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, and Meadows are founding members of the Freedom Caucus and vocal defenders of former President Donald Trump.

The American Conservative Union Foundation, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — better known as CPAC — gives Jordan a 100% lifetime rating. The foundation gives Meadows a rating of 95.9%. It has not yet rated Greene.

Jordan is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and led Republicans’ opposition to Trump’s first impeachment.

He voted to contest the Electoral College vote in the 2020 election, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred Jordan from serving on a panel investigating the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol.

Republicans have called Pelosi’s move “an egregious abuse of power” and most have boycotted the committee.

Thursday’s protestors were mixed about whether Greene herself or the combination of the politicians at the top of the fundraising ticket had brought them out. But every picketer who spoke with the Jackson Hole Daily said they were tired of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Nikki Kaufman said the protest wasn’t a “Democrat versus Republican thing.”

“It’s not like they are having a principled small-government Republican to speak,” she said. “We are protesting the fact that [Greene] actively supports and promotes conspiracy theories and lies that have detrimental effects on real human beings.”