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Republican Gianforte expands huge fundraising edge in gov race

Puts $500K of own money into campaign
Posted at 2:05 PM, Mar 22, 2020

HELENA — Republican Greg Gianforte is continuing his prodigious fundraising in Montana’s 2020 gubernatorial race, blowing past $2 million for the campaign during the first two-and-a-half months this year – including a $500,000 loan he made to the campaign in February.

In his report filed Friday, Gianforte said he raised another $390,000 from donors during the first 75 days of 2020. That money, along with his $500,000 personal loan, pushed his total for the campaign to nearly $2.33 million – three-and-a-half times the money of his nearest GOP competitor, Attorney General Tim Fox.

Gianforte already had put $72,000 of his own money into the campaign.

Gianforte, the state’s U.S. representative, Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell are competing for the Republican nomination for governor, which is an open seat this year, since term limits prevent Gov. Steve Bullock from running for re-election.

Gianforte, a multimillionaire who co-founded a Bozeman software firm that grew into an international business, has easily outraised his competitors in campaign funds.

Through mid-March, Fox reported raising about $680,000, including $113,500 this year. Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon, has raised $270,500, including $41,500 this year – although almost half his money has come from his own pocket.

In a statement Sunday, the Fox campaign said running for governor "is not about donating more than $500,000 to yourself or attempting to buy an election," but rather about "character, strong leadership, selflessness, taking action and getting results."

Jake Eaton, campaign manager for Gianforte, said the "tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm and support" for Gianforte's campaign shows that people are "excited for Greg to bring his business leadership experience and his positive vision for Montana to the governor’s office.”

The two Democrats in the race, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Missoula businesswoman Whitney Williams, are pretty much even in the fundraising chase: Cooney has taken in $697,000, including $245,000 so far this year, and Williams has a total of $671,000, including $186,000 this year.

While Gianforte has dipped into his personal fortune to finance his campaign, he’s also displayed a muscular fundraising network, taking in $1.75 million from hundreds of donors across Montana and the nation.

He’s also spent $1.43 million so far on his campaign. This year, his spending included $334,000 on media buys.

But not all of his remaining money can be used on the primary election. About $520,000 left in his account can be spent only on the general election, while $368,000 remained on March 15 for spending on the primary.

Still, with just 11 weeks until the primary election, that amount is more than 10 times the $33,000 that Fox had left for the primary in mid-March. Olzsewski reported having $50,000 left to spend for the primary as of that date.

Between the Democrats, Cooney has the advantage when it comes to money for the primary election.

As of March 15, he reported having $204,000 available for primary spending, while Williams had just $66,000. She had another $190,000 in her account, but it can’t be spent unless she wins the primary election.

In Montana, donors can give up to a certain amount per election “cycle.” The primary and general elections are two separate cycles, so if a donor gives the maximum amount for both cycles, half the money can’t be spent until after the primary election.