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What’s the source of early money in Montana’s 2020 U.S. House, Senate races?

Posted: 5:59 PM, Jul 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-19 00:49:30-04

HELENA — In Montana’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Steve Daines has a huge head start on campaign money — including $1.5 million from political action committees or more than a third of his donations.

And in the battle for Montana’s open U.S. House seat, Democrat Kathleen Williams is the early fundraising leader, garnering $431,000 almost entirely from individuals so far this year.

The U.S. Senate and House races, along with the contest for an open governor’s seat, are the marquee 2020 election events in Montana, with multiple candidates and significant fundraising underway a year before the primary election.

MTN News analyzed the source and nature of the early money in the Senate and House races. Here’s what we found:

U.S. SENATE

Daines, who’s running for re-election to a second term in 2020, apparently won’t have a high-profile opponent next year — but he’s still been busy collecting campaign cash.

In the first six months of this year, Daines raised $2.6 million, pushing his total campaign fundraising to $4 million since he took office in 2015.

About 37 percent of that money is from political-action committees, or PACs, almost all of which represent business interests.

But he’s also raised about $2.4 million from individuals since 2015, including at least $600,000 from Montanans, or 15 percent of his total.

Daines likely has received additional donations from Montanans, among the $295,000 “unitemized” donors, who are people that give less than $200. Federal law doesn’t require campaigns to identify these donors in detail.

Residents of California, Texas, New York and the Washington, D.C., area combined to give Daines $700,000, or 17.5 percent of his total.

The only Democratic U.S. Senate candidate to report any fundraising so far — Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins — took in about $92,000 in the seven weeks ending June 30. His funds included $28,000 from Montanans and $40,500 from unitemized individuals. The remainder came from residents of nine other states and Washington, D.C.

Daines ended the second quarter with $3.5 million in his campaign account — compared to just $52,500 for Collins, or 1.5 percent of Daines’ bankroll.

The only other Democrat in the race, John Mues of Loma, declared his candidacy last week and doesn’t file his first fundraising report until October.

MTN News has learned that other Democrats are still considering whether to enter the Senate race.

U.S. HOUSE

Williams, who ran for this seat in 2018 and lost to incumbent Republican Greg Gianforte by five percentage points, launched her campaign in mid-April, after a brief exploratory effort.

Since her campaign began, the former state representative from Bozeman has raised $395,000 from individuals. She also has transferred $20,800 raised from individuals by her exploratory campaign and a $15,000 refund from a media “overbuy” from her last campaign.

Williams hasn’t accepted any money from PACs.

At least $208,000 of her money has come from Montanans, or 53 percent of her total. The campaign also took in $135,500 from unitemized donors, which included some money from Montana.

Like most Democrats, Williams is using the Internet campaign fundraising aggregator Act Blue to raise money from small donors in Montana and across the country. According to her report, at least $191,000 of her donations came via Act Blue.

Another Democrat in the race, state Rep. Tom Winter of Missoula, raised $133,600 since he entered the race in early April.

Winter had a $5,000 donation from the PAC representing anesthesiologists, but the remainder of his funds came from individuals, including at least $18,000 from Montanans.

At least 31 percent of his money — $42,000 — came from residents of Kansas or Missouri. Winter is from Kansas City and moved to Missoula about 10 years ago.

The third Democrat in the race, rancher Matt Rains of Simms, announced last week and doesn’t have to file his first report until October.

The four Republicans running for this seat all entered the contest within the past month — but that hasn’t prevented some of the from getting a jump in the fundraising game.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who lost the 2018 U.S. Senate race to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, reported raising $195,000 from donors in the final two weeks of June, when he announced his candidacy.

About $55,000 of his funds came from Montanans, or nearly 30 percent. The remainder came from residents of 22 other states, including $32,000 from Florida and $25,000 from California.

Rosendale also booked a $68,000 refund from a media overbuy from his 2018 Senate campaign and had $6,500 from PACs.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton raised $108,000 during the same time period, and nearly 85 percent of his money came from the pockets of Montanans.

The other Republicans in this race are Helena farmer-rancher Joe Dooling and Corvallis Superintendent of Schools Tim Johnson.

Dooling became a candidate four days before the finance-report filing deadline, and had less than $5,000 in donations, so he didn’t have to file a report. Johnson entered the race last week, so his first report isn’t due until October.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News