First outside spending showing up in Dem U.S. House primary

Posted at 6:52 PM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:48:58-04

HELENA – A political group that wants to elect more scientists is making the first major outside-money buy in Montana’s crowded Democratic U.S. House primary, supporting former land-trust director Grant Kier.

The 314 Action Fund reported spending $52,000 in the past two weeks on direct mailers supporting Kier, one of five candidates competing for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte this fall.

The primary election is next Tuesday and absentee voting has been under way since mid-Mary. The 314 Action Fund started its direct-mail purchases on behalf of Kier on May 16.

The other candidates in the race are Billings attorney John Heenan, former state lawmaker Kathleen Williams of Bozeman, and Bozeman attorneys Jared Pettinato and John Meyer.

The winner of the June 5 Democratic primary election will take on Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte. A Libertarian and Green Party candidate also will be in the race this fall.

Officials with 314 Action Fund, based in Washington, D.C., did not return telephone messages from MTN News. The group operates independent of any campaign.

Kier, however, said he’s glad to have the group’s help and support. It also has donated $5,000 to Kier’s campaign.

“What few people probably know is there are only a couple of scientists in all of Congress,” he told MTN News Tuesday. “Those who believe in evidence-based decision-making … (want) to put more scientists in office.”

Kier has degrees in geology and is a former director of land trusts in Missoula and Hamilton. Land trusts often arrange conservation easements for landowners, which preclude development, and other agreements that increase public access to land.

The 314 Action Fund’s website says its goals are to elect more members of Congress with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, advocate for “evidence-based policy solutions” on issues like climate change, and “fight the Trump administration’s attacks on science.”

The group has raised almost $700,000 this year, mostly from smaller donors, and raised $288,000 last year.

The 314 in its title is a reference to Pi, approximately 3.14, which is a mathematical constant used in many formulas in physics and mathematics.