Liz Cheney said that a bill sponsored by opponent U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi that would tax Internet sales hurts Wyomingites and brick-and-mortar businesses in the state.

Liz Cheney said that a bill sponsored by opponent U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi that would tax Internet sales hurts Wyomingites and brick-and-mortar businesses in the state.

During an interview with the Star-Tribune on Friday, Cheney -- a Wilson resident and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney -- spoke in depth about the differences between herself and Enzi, of Gillette. The two are vying for the Wyoming GOP primary election nod for Enzi's seat in the Senate.

The topics on which Cheney said she differed from Enzi include the Internet sales tax bill, the so-called war on coal, Common Core education standards and the Obamacare health care law.

Cheney also spoke about a difference in opinion she has with her famous father on the National Security Agency’s phone call metadata gathering program.

Internet sales tax

Cheney said she disagrees with a piece of legislation that Enzi is sponsoring: the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013. It would allow states to require Internet sellers with annual revenues of more than $1 million to collect and remit sales and use taxes. The bill has passed the Senate, was introduced in the House and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

“I think we should support the brick-and-mortar businesses by lowering their tax burden,” she said. “I think the government has more than enough money. They tax us more than enough already. And I don’t think Wyoming’s senator should be looking for ways out of the pockets of the people of Wyoming to send to places like California and New York.”

But Kristin Walker, Enzi’s campaign communication director, said that’s incorrect and “demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the bill, as well as state and local issues,” she said in an email.

“Any sales tax that is paid in Wyoming stays in Wyoming, just like when you shop locally,” she said. “Any sales tax paid by Wyoming residents would go to the state of Wyoming and to their communities to support schools, infrastructure and other local needs.”

Cheney said the law is poorly written because more than 9,600 local government taxing authorities would be able to audit any Internet company with more than $1 million annually in revenue. That could be messy, even for Wyoming brick-and-mortar businesses, since many sell goods and services online, she said.

Walker, Enzi’s campaign spokeswoman, said the law would require states to decide whether to collect the sales tax. If states chose to, they would have to provide free software to all businesses to assess the tax.

“The accusation regarding 9,600 new regulations is something D.C.-based interest groups peddle to try and scare small business owners,” she said.

She said the Wyoming Retail Association supports Enzi's efforts.

War on coal

Cheney said her opponent hasn’t done enough to fight and win the "war on coal," since he hasn’t gotten results from his actions. It's a particularly sensitive issue in Wyoming, which is the country’s No. 1 coal producer.

Enzi was mayor of Gillette, which calls itself the "Energy Capital of the Nation" and prides itself on nearby coal production.

“It’s not about talking,” she said. “It’s about getting results, getting something done and being able to show that you led the charge.”

Cheney said Wyoming needs a leader to fight stricter regulation of emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“We need someone who can mobilize people across the country, who can say, ‘Look, if you appreciate affordable electricity, you should join our side. Join Wyoming’s side in the war on coal. Help us push back against Barack Obama.’”

Enzi’s camp disagreed with Cheney’s assessment.

Walker, his campaign spokeswoman, said that last week Enzi received a lifetime achievement award from the Washington Coal Club for his efforts on behalf of Wyoming’s industry and workers.

“Since that time, he’s worked hard to cut through the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s] seemingly endless red tape and stop excessive regulations that hurt our energy producers,” Walker said. “He’s helped pass legislation that improve mine safety for energy workers. Sen. Enzi has also been instrumental in working with the Bureau of Land Management to ensure that they regularly schedule coal lease sales, which are absolutely critical for the future of coal in Wyoming.”

Common Core

Cheney opposes the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a set of guidelines established by the states for math and language arts. Common Core’s website describes it as trying to provide consistent guidelines of what students are expected to learn to be better positioned to compete in the global economy.

“As a mother, I am very worried about Common Core,” she said. “I’m especially worried about the data collection piece of it. It requires a huge amount of data to be collected.”

Cheney said she worries the data would be collected on students from kindergarten through graduation, and that the data could be disseminated to third parties.

But Walker, Enzi’s campaign spokeswoman, said the senator doesn’t think Common Core will work. Walker noted that Common Core standards remain voluntary and decisions are made at the state level.

“He wants to make sure education standards remain where they belong – with individual states,” she said. “And that’s why he’s co-sponsored legislation that would stop the Department of Education from having any control over state’s education standards.”


Cheney described two differences she had with her opponent regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

She said Enzi was a member of the Gang of Six, a group of six lawmakers on whom Obama relied when trying to pass the health care overhaul.

“He was one of the very few Republicans willing to negotiate over this massive entitlement program,” Cheney said. “What that did was gave the president this very partisan piece of legislation and he was able to say, ‘No, no, no, I have Republicans with me,’ because he was able to point to Mike and others.”

Cheney said it was the wrong moment to negotiate.

“I believe Republicans would have been much more effective if we would have stood together and opposed it from the beginning,” she said. “I think we might not be where we are today if we would have opposed it from the very beginning.”

The second difference Cheney believes separates herself from Enzi is her belief that Congress should return to the U.S. Treasury special federal subsidies Congress receives for healthcare coverage obtained through the exchanges. She thinks Enzi should take the lead.

“Proposing legislation that’s not going to pass in my view isn’t enough,” she said of a bill that Enzi is sponsoring to reverse some of Congress' federal subsidies.

Walker, Enzi’s campaign spokeswoman, said the senator does not support Obamacare.

“Sen. Enzi has been a relentless opponent of Obamacare from the start,” she said. “Period.”

Before Obamacare came up for debate, Enzi wrote a bill to reform health care without increasing the national debt, Walker said. As a result of that work, he was asked to be part of negotiations on the Obamacare legislation. The Republican ideas were ignored and Enzi voted against the bill.

Dick Cheney

While all children are products of their parents, Cheney said that she’s not a spitting political image of her father.

One area in which they disagree is the NSA's gathering of records on phone calls as a way to pinpoint national security threats.

“There are legitimate questions and concerns that have to be answered about what the NSA has been doing,” she said.

She said that her father was briefed about the program when he was in Washington.

“He can vouch for it for the time he was in office,” she said. “You know he’s not briefed into it anymore, buyt he’s probably less skeptical about it that I am.”