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Leading Dem U.S. House candidates show differences in fundraising sources

Posted at 10:08 PM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:48:58-04

HELENA – In Montana’s crowded U.S. House Democratic primary, former land-trust director Grant Kier of Missoula and Billings attorney John Heenan are raising the most money – but their fundraising profiles are much different.

Through mid-May, Kier had raised the most money from donors, at almost $760,000, with nearly two-thirds of that amount from Montanans.

But he also has donors from 38 other states and a range of professional backgrounds, including people in finance, real estate, conservation and agriculture – no doubt fueled by his work setting up conservation easements and other land arrangements through land trusts in western Montana.

Heenan has raised $592,000 from donors and put another $225,000 of his own money into the campaign.

While a huge chunk of that money has come from fellow attorneys – at least $267,000 – Heenan told MTN News his campaign has focused more on small donors and every-day Montanans, as he travels to meet with voters in all corners of the state.

“Instead of holing up and calling wealthy donors, we get out and talk to regular people,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “What’s really encouraging to me is that all of these people have invested in our campaign.”

He said he has more than 6,000 individual donors, most of them from Montana.

Kier told MTN News Tuesday that he’s also tried to fashion a grassroots campaign, with many of his donors having never given to a candidate until now.

“I think people are really excited about someone coming into politics through a non-traditional track, being a scientist,” he said. Kier has a degree in geology.

He also took a dig at Heenan, saying he’s “really proud not to be self-funding,” and that a grassroots campaign is about asking other people to get involved. Kier has put $2,700 of his own money into his campaign.

The Kier campaign said he has about 3,000 total donors.

Kier, Heenan, former state lawmaker Kathleen Williams of Bozeman and Bozeman lawyers John Meyer and Jared Pettinato are competing for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte this fall.

With a week to go until Election Day, it appears the race is coming down to Kier, Heenan and Williams, who are the fundraising leaders and running the most extensive campaigns.

Williams had raised $284,000 as of mid-May, and her campaign said Tuesday her fundraising has actually picked up in the past two months.

Pettinato raised only $4,300 in the past six weeks and had $70,000 for the campaign, including $10,000 from his own pocket. Meyer apparently hasn’t hit the $5,000 threshold that required a candidate to file a report with the Federal Election Commission.

Here’s a closer look at the details of where the money is coming from, for the top three campaigns:

  • Williams has the largest percentage of her money coming from Montana – as much as 85 percent. Nearly three-fourths of Heenan’s money from donations has likely come from Montanans, while Kier has received nearly two-thirds of his money from Montana donors.
  • A big portion of Kier’s money – at least $239,000 – has come from Missoula. Heenan has a broader geographical reach in his Montana donor base, with at least five-figure totals from six of Montana’s seven biggest cities, although his top source is his hometown of Billings, where he’s raised at least $128,000. Williams has raised about one-fourth of her money from the Bozeman area, or at least $63,000.
  • While Heenan has raised a lot of money from fellow attorneys, he’s also raised $10,000 from physicians and other health professionals. He favors a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health system.
  • Kier has raised about $28,000 from attorneys, but has also raised substantial funds from professors and other academics (at least $48,000), people in finance and real estate (at least $51,000) and health professionals and insurance executives (at least $30,000).