Donors Hit with Candidates’ Year-end Dash for Cash

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Political donors are getting hit with year-end requests for cash as candidates gearing up for 2012 attempt to fill their coffers for primary and general election battles.

The numerous Montana candidates for Congress and statewide offices are gathering last-minute donations as they try to finish with impressive fundraising numbers to finish the year.

Statewide candidates publicly report their donations next Thursday, while congressional candidates do so Jan. 15 — and the results can help impress supporters and observers evaluating the campaigns. And the money raised will be crucial to fund some big-money contests in the state.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg are engaged in a tight Senate race expected to be the most expensive Montana has seen. Both were asking donors in the closing days of the quarter for more cash as each side looks to stockpile millions in the tense matchup.

Tester sent an email to supporters on Saturday saying they needed to raise another $35,000 before Jan. 1 to reach an unspecified goal, and sent another e-mail Thursday saying they had closed to within $13,000 of that goal. The campaign said donors are coming from all quarters.

“Many of them are pitching in to help because they know Jon’s up against well-funded, out-of-state special interests, who are already spending lots of money to help their friend Dennis Rehberg and his 35-year career in politics,” campaign manager Preston Elliott said in a statement.

Rehberg’s campaign also took a shot as fundraising drew to close for the year — pointing out again that Tester has been raking in donations from registered lobbyists. The Republican’s campaign also aimed to make it clear that Tester, the incumbent Democrat, could keep his fundraising advantage.

“Sen. Tester has received more campaign cash from lobbyists this cycle than anyone so it will be tough to outraise him,” said Rehebrg spokesman Chris Bond. “But we are confident we will raise what it takes to win.”

State candidates for other offices were also gathering needed funds with email requests to donors this week.

State legislator Franke Wilmer, one of several Democrats seeking that party’s nomination to replace Rehberg, was very specific in her request and told donors she needed $1,729.23 to reach a goal of raising $5,000 from online contributions.

“We’re only three days from our FEC reporting deadline,” Wilmer wrote to supporters. “I know you hear a lot about these deadlines, but this is one extremely important for our campaign.”

And Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Democrat running for governor who has so far led the field in fundraising, told donors a couple of weeks ago he needed another $15,000 by the end of the month. On Thursday, the campaign told supporters they had closed to within $3,450 of that goal.

The request to donate was also coming from the increasingly active third-party groups, such as the 21st Century Democrats and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee who used the pending deadline — along with the perceived threat posed by opponents — to seek donations from Montana donors. A Group called the 1776 Tea Party urged its supporters to send in money to stop the “global socialists,” and warned more was needed to keep the movement going.

“As you probably know, all too often the surge of protests subsides, the steam dissipates and the movement fizzles, the result is, the liberal socialists win,” potential donors were warned in a fundraising request. “This will happen unless patriot actions can draw the line and make an all-out effort to guard our values.”