HELENA — Spending on Montana’s U.S. Senate race broke records for a state campaign more than a month ago – and now has surpassed a stunning $160 million, by both the candidates and nearly 60 outside groups.
Through mid-October, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock reported raising just shy of $43 million in just seven months, well out-pacing the $27 million raised by the man he’s trying to unseat, Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines.
Bullock’s haul doubles the record set two years ago by Sen. Jon Tester for his re-election campaign.
Bullock had spent almost $39 million on his campaign through Oct. 14 and Daines had spent $25.6 million.
And outside political groups, which are independent of the two candidates, have combined to spend at least $97 million through the end of October, saturating the airwaves with TV and radio ads. They’ve also spent millions on digital ads, door-to-door canvassing, mailers, text messages and other campaign activity.
The two candidates have raised millions of dollars from fellow Montanans, but the bulk of their money has come from outside the state. The Montana race is one of a half-dozen races where Democrats see a chance to pick off a Republican seat in their quest to win majority control of the U.S. Senate, so the contest has drawn donors from every state in the union.
MTN News’ analysis of the donations shows that Bullock has raised at least $7 million from Californians, $3 million from New Yorkers and $2.7 million from the Washington, D.C., corridor that includes Maryland and Virginia.
He also can claim nearly $2 million from Montanans – although it’s impossible to know precisely how much Bullock may have raised from inside or outside the state.
The Federal Election Commission does not require candidates to report the addresses of donors who give less than $200 – “unitemized individuals” – and Bullock received more than $15 million from this unidentified pot.
Daines has reported almost $3 million in donations from Montanans, $1.5 million from Californians, $1.15 million from Texans and $757,000 from New Yorkers. He had close to $9 million from “unitemized” donors.
Daines also has received nearly $4 million from political-action committees, or PACs, primarily representing business interests. Bullock reported raising $640,000 from PACs, many of which represent organized labor.
MTN News also examined the outside groups reporting spending on the Bullock-Daines contest and identified at least 56 separate groups.
The biggest spenders are:
Senate Leadership Fund: A Republican group, it has spent nearly $20 million, primarily on ads and other activities attacking Bullock.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: It has reported spending $19.1 million, mostly on ads going after Daines.
Senate Majority PAC: Another Democratic group, it has spent $16.6 million either attacking Daines or supporting Bullock.
National Republican Senatorial Committee: It has spent nearly $13 million attacking Bullock.
LCV Action Fund: This group, associated with the League of Conservation Voters, has spent $5.4 million either attacking Daines or supporting Bullock.
Americans for Prosperity Action: This free-market group that has backed Daines has spent $3.6 million, either supporting Daines or contrasting the two candidates.