The Republican candidate for governor has now spent more than $5 million of his own money to try to win the seat as Montana’s top executive. Greg Gianforte wrote his campaign two $1 million checks in the last month.
When campaign finance reports were released on Oct. 24 Democrats protested that a 'New Jersey millionaire' was trying to buy the election. Gianforte moved to Montana more than 20 years ago and built a successful software business in Bozeman.
But incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock continues to hammer on the message that Gianforte is a rich outsider.
“Thank all of you for being out here today,” he said on the Capitol steps today. “ I stand in front of the people's house, a place that for the last century money has not been able to buy. Money has not been able to buy the laws that govern our state. Money hasn’t been able to buy the offices that lead our state.”
This year’s race is on track to be the most expensive gubernatorial contest in Montana history.
“I don’t think Montanans can be bought,” says Republican gubernatorial candidate Gianforte. “The reality is, everybody gets to make their own decision and I said in the beginning that I would be committed to this race.”
Gianforte says his personally financed campaign allows him to not be influenced by special interests because he doesn’t accept money from political action committees, or PACs.
“I haven’t taken any special interest money,” he says. “The people that funded the lawsuit to shut down Colstrip are funding my opponent's campaign. And in fact, although he rails against dark money, the reality is, he is the hypocrite in this. All I’ve done is match the dark money he has raised.”
Democratic incumbent Steve Bullock has raised over $3 million this election cycle. In the last reporting period he raised more than $300,000. His biggest donations came from four union PACs from Washington, DC and a lawyer’s PAC in Montana. Each cut Bullock a check for more than $10,000.
Bullock says he has always fought to keep Montana elections free from outside influence.
“Folks that often contribute to PACs are people that can’t write a million dollar check themselves,” Gov. Bullock says. “Folks can look all through my campaign finance report, and it’s diverse groups and interests, and principally individuals. It's not one guy trying to buy an election, like what we are seeing out of my opponent.”
A poll released by Lee Newspapers earlier this month shows the race between Gianforte and Bullock is close, within the margin of error. A poll released Oct. 25 by Montana State University Billings shows Bullock has a 12 point lead.