Secretary of state hopeful seeks to tighten Wyoming rules on incorporation

May 29, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A business lawyer from Rock Springs running for Wyoming secretary of state recently made a campaign stop in Fremont County. The candidate, Clark Stith, is running as a Republican and is to face three other candidates in his party's primary.

Stith, 52, has a background in public office, having been on the Rock Springs City Council for more than a year and sitting on Western Wyoming Community College Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2010.

Working as an attorney for businesses gives him experience relevant to the elected office he is seeking, Stith said.

"I deal with laws related to corporations, the uniform commercial code, limited liability companies ... the same laws the secretary of state deals with," he said. "My day job is to deal with the laws the secretary of state administers."

Wyoming's rules on incorporation are so loose, people from other countries and states can set up a corporation in the state for "murky purposes," Stith said.

"I believe we can dramatically reduce the abuse of Wyoming corporate laws by having corporations disclose the identities of their beneficial owners," Stith said. "Legitimate businesses will have no objection to that, and the investors that want to hide will go away."

As an example, he cited a story from January when an error by Chinese Internet censors routed most of their country's Internet traffic through servers owned by a company registered at a house in Cheyenne. An investigation showed thousands of corporations listed that home's address as their headquarters.

Stith also is concerned about Colorado marijuana growers laundering money through Wyoming corporations.

One line on a form asking for a corporation's beneficial owners would solve the problem at "virtually no cost," Stith said.

He also hopes to reduce the size of the secretary of state's office and speed up services by setting a way to file incorporation papers

electronically. The current system works with paper, and the turnaround is about five days.

"If you had an electronic filing system from authorized users you could have same day incorporation so you could speed up the process and make it more efficient," Stith said.

If elected, he said one way he would affect Fremont County voters would be through the secretary of state's seat on the State Land Board, because Wyoming owns parcels of land scattered throughout Fremont County,.

"I would work against environmental extremism and work for no net increase in state lands," Stith said.

Stith has a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and philosophy from the University of Kansas.

He grew up in Kansas and moved to Rock Springs in 1997 from outside the state. He has two teenaged children.