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Cash in MT’s Senate race already topping $50M – where’s it coming from?

Almost $40M from outside groups on tap
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Posted at 3:11 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 17:11:48-04

HELENA — With just under three months until Election Day, more than $50 million already is being spent, or lined up to be spent, in Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate race between GOP Sen. Steve Daines and his Democratic challenger, Gov. Steve Bullock.

Some of that money is coming from Montanans, but an MTN review of the sources shows that the contest is truly a national race, with tens of millions of dollars from outside groups and donors all across the country.

Democrats see the race as a chance to pick up a Republican seat, and possibly gain majority control of the U.S. Senate, while Republicans are determined to hold it and retain their current majority.

Outside groups already have spent at least $11 million on the contest, both for and against each candidate – and the candidates themselves had $15 million remaining in their bank accounts at the beginning of July and continue to raise money.

Waiting in the wings is another $20 million to $26 million of broadcast airtime that’s been reserved or committed by three national groups – one Republican and two Democratic.

And since it’s only August, those totals are likely to keep going up.

Between the two candidates, Daines is getting more money from Montanans – although he’s still probably receiving three-fourths of his campaign cash from outside the state, including $3 million from political-action committees, or PACs, most of which represent business interests.

Montanans have donated at least $1.83 million to Daines’ campaign, or 14 percent of his $13 million total through July. He’s also received about $3 million from smaller donors, whose addresses aren’t listed, and some of that money is certainly from Montana.

Bullock has received at least $880,000 from Montanans, or 8 percent of his $11 million total in the past five months. Yet he, too, has taken in $3 million from “non-itemized” smaller donors, some of whom also are from Montana.

Bullock is not taking corporate PAC money and has about $368,000 from various labor, Democratic Party and ideological PACs.

However, he’s getting plenty of money out-of-state donors. At least 38 percent of his total -- $4.14 million – has come from donors in California, New York, Massachusetts and the Washington, D.C. area. From California donors alone, he’s received at least $1.86 million.

Outside spending, or planned outside spending, on the race so far has been dominated by seven groups:

Senate Leadership Fund: This Super PAC aligned with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced this week that it plans to spend $6 million in Montana starting this month, on behalf of Daines. It had already announced that it had reserved $10 million of airtime in Montana, starting in September.

Senate Majority PAC: This Democratic PAC has said it’s budgeted $8 million to spend on Bullock’s behalf, and, through last month, had already spent $2.3 million on ads attacking Daines.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: This group says it has reserved about $5 million of airtime starting in September, to help Bullock.

National Republic Senatorial Committee: This GOP group has already spent nearly $3.5 million, mostly on broadcast ads attacking Bullock.

Majority Forward: A Democratic “dark money” group allied with the Senate Majority PAC says it has spent or plans to spend $3 million on ads criticizing Daines.

The Lincoln Project: This Republican anti-Trump group, which is backing Democratic challengers to Republican U.S. senators across the nation, has spent about $1.4 million, mostly on ads promoting Bullock.

Americans for Prosperity Action: This free-market group has spent $935,000 to help Daines, on digital advertising and canvassing efforts.