Gianforte Outraises Busse in First 2024 Campaign Finance Report

The incumbent Republican governor hauled in over $1 million — without cutting himself a check.

By Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press
Gov. Greg Gianforte appears at the Old Courthouse in Kalispell for bill signing event on June 9, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

First-quarter 2024 campaign finance filings from Gov. Greg Gianforte show a nearly $853,000 haul in primary election donations and another $395,600 earmarked for the general election — notably, without direct donations from the multimillionaire incumbent’s own pocket.

The report, spanning Jan. 1 to March 15, is the first of Gianforte’s reelection campaign. It tops the roughly $417,500 raised by challenger Ryan Busse, the Democratic Party’s frontrunner, in the same time period, and also exceeds the approximately $897,000 raised by Busse since the September inception of his campaign.

Gianforte’s personal resources did help boost his fundraising lead. The campaign recorded a $35,786 “in-kind” donation for travel on Gianforte’s private plane between Feb. 6 and March 14 from Montana to Norfolk, Virginia; Washington D.C. to Bozeman; and flights between Helena, Kalispell, Bozeman, Missoula and Hamilton. 

Still, Gianforte’s campaign emphasized the role that donor support from Montanans played in his opening filing period.

“Ninety-two percent of contributions to the governor’s reelection came from Montanans, with Montanans from each of the state’s 56 counties donating,” a campaign press release said. “The campaign’s fundraising haul of more than $1.1 million is fueled fully by donors, with the governor not contributing or loaning funds to his reelection.” 

Campaign manager Jake Eaton clarified Thursday that the press release’s reference to Gianforte not contributing or loaning personal funds to his campaign applies to the filing period, and does not constitute a pledge to keep the governor’s wealth out of the campaign in the months ahead.

Despite raising less than half of Gianforte’s haul in the first quarter of the year, the Busse campaign framed its contributions as record-breaking compared to non-incumbent candidates in past election cycles. 

Busse’s campaign, the Democrat’s press release said, “accepted contributions from 3,021 grassroots donors, from every corner of Montana, for an average contribution of $95.98 per donor. The 2024 haul breaks a record for grassroots contributions among any non-incumbent challenger running for Montana governor during the same period in previous election years.”

Filing periods now transition to monthly, rather than quarterly. The next reporting deadline is April 20.

This story originally appeared in the Montana Free Press, which can be found online at montanafreepress.org.