Hungry House

Judging by the speed of House Democrats’ fundraising, it seems the Montanans contributing to candidates are hungry for change

By Mike Jopek

Three-quarters of the money that people donated to the upcoming Montana House primary election came from someone living in our state.

That’s according to the combined second half of the 2017 federal election reports, which Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte and Democrats John Heenan, Grant Kier, Kathleen Williams, Linda Moss and Jared Pettinato recently filed.

The other quarter of itemized individual donations came from people living in states like California, Florida, Washington, Texas, New York and Colorado.

When a person donates $200 plus, it is federally itemized and public. Anything below is reported and anonymous. Small political donors keep campaigns going.

Over a hundred Montanans donated the maximum $2,700 allowable by law to a House primary candidate. Less than 200 Montanans donated between $1,000 and $2,700.

The median House contribution a Montanan made in the primary to one of the six candidates for the second half of last year was $500.

Nearly 800 itemized Montanans contributed to the House primary races in the second half of 2017. Together these Montanans collectively donated less than $1 million to their Republican and the five Democratic candidates, so far. 

Two-thirds of the Montana-based itemized individual House funders gave to Democrats. For the second half of 2017, there were two Montana donors funding House Democratic candidates to every Montana donor giving to Gianforte.

Most of these Montana-based political contributions are coming from people living in Missoula and Billings, a quarter from each city. Heenan and Gianforte had plenty of money from Billings, while Kier was more Missoula centric.

People in Bozeman gave 15 percent, while Helena, Kalispell, Great Falls, Livingston and Whitefish each donated 3 percent of the Montana-based combined House campaign contributions the last half of last year.

With a June election, voting starts in May. The primary election is close at hand. It’s likely Gianforte wins the GOP primary, advancing toward November.

Democrat Heenan had the largest amount of Montana donors. Kier wasn’t far behind and raised more money from Montanans. Heenan enjoyed slightly more cash on hand last month, counting personal loans to his campaign.

Williams, Moss, and Pettinato started their campaigns in the fall of last year. Williams had an impressive rate of political contributions for the last two months of 2017.

Judging by the speed of House Democrats’ fundraising, it seems the Montanans contributing to candidates are hungry for change. But Democrats will have to remain united post primary and contribute much more to defeat incumbent Gianforte.

Fresh off a special election win last year, Gianforte was slow convincing his previously large donor base to give more to his reelection campaign in the second half of the year. Count on Gianforte raising plenty of campaign money this year.

The incumbent recently reconsidered his prior campaign pledge and now accepts campaign money from non-individuals this political season. Some of these non-individuals may be Montana-based, many won’t be.

Gianforte previously infused $6 million of his own pocket change into a gubernatorial campaign against Gov. Steve Bullock a couple years back.

Many Democrats aim to win representation of elected seat and help steer the nation to a better place.

Yet, change won’t just happen. Someone and their friends have to make it happen.

Earlier this month at a Missoula forum, more than 800 people reportedly turned out to hear the five Democratic candidates. That’s big-time and it’s no wonder. Democrats enjoy a great slate of articulate House candidates.

Some statewide candidates ignore the Flathead. Apparently feeling we don’t hold enough votes or locals willing to donate to political campaigns. They’re way wrong. It’s a career-ending mistake for a statewide politician to ignore Flathead voters.

Come on up to the Flathead, House candidates. We’re hungry to hear what you have to say. Our votes count just as well as those from Billings and Missoula.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.