HELENA – Only one-third of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Daines’ $5 million in campaign funds has come from Montanans – yet that percentage is more than usual for a key Senate race, political observers say.
In competitive U.S. Senate races in small-population states, in-state donors often provide no more than one-fifth of the total, as big-money donors from across the country get involved to try to influence the political makeup of the Senate.
The Montana seat is seen as a potential pickup for Republicans in their quest to gain control of the U.S. Senate this year, and Daines has attracted donors from 47 states and $1.3 million from political action committees, most of which represent business sectors or conservative causes.
Yet Daines has been a clear favorite in the race for months, perhaps leading to lower-than-usual interest from out-of-state money, says David Parker, a political scientist at Montana State University.
“The more competitive the race, the more out-of-state contributions there are,” he says, adding that Daines is on the “low end” for his percentage of out-of-state money.
A Lee Newspapers State Bureau analysis shows that about $1.6 million of Daines’ $5 million in campaign receipts, through June 30, have come from individual Montanans, or 32 percent.
Out-of-state individuals contributed about $2.1 million, or 42 percent, and the bulk of the remainder, $1.3 million, came from political action committees, whose offices are almost always in another state.
Daines, 52, had been leading the contest in most polls when U.S. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., pulled out of the race two weeks ago in the wake of revelations that he plagiarized his master’s degree final paper at the U.S. Army War College in 2007.
State Rep. Amanda Curtis, a high school math teacher from Butte, was nominated by Democratic State Central Committee delegates last Saturday to take Walsh’s place on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Curtis held her first fundraiser Tuesday in Bozeman and begins the race with almost no money and scant name recognition.
Daines, meanwhile, entered the month of July with $1.7 million in his campaign account. He also already has spent $3.3 million campaigning in the past year or so, including at least $1.8 million on video production, media buys and Internet ads and at least $320,000 on direct mail and postage.
A closer look at Daines’ source of campaign funds reveals:
• Of the $3.1 million Daines received in “itemized” donations for individuals, about $1.3 million, or 42 percent, came from more than 2,200 Montanans. Itemized donations are those of $200 or more.
• Contributions from Montana-based PACs and Montanans who gave smaller, “non-itemized” contributions increased Daines’ in-state take to about $1.6 million, or 32 percent of his total receipts. The Daines campaign says he has had nearly 10,000 individual contributors overall.
• Daines’ largest out-of-state totals from individuals came from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut ($302,000, or 10 percent of the itemized donations), California ($214,000, or 7 percent) and Texas ($191,500, or 6.5 percent).
• The largest business and political donor “sectors” to Daines, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, have been the finance/real estate/insurance sector, energy and natural resources, and conservative ideological and single-issue groups. The center is a nonpartisan group that tracks and analyzes campaign donations.
Parker says in Montana’s hard-fought 2012 U.S. Senate battle between Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, each man raised only about 20 of their money from inside the state.
Daines also has benefited from several joint fundraising committees, to the tune of $645,000.
He’s taken in about $222,000 from his own joint fundraising committee, the Daines Montana Victory Committee, which raises money for his campaign and the state Republican Party.
Daines has received another $425,000 from four other joint committees, including Friends for an American Majority, a fund led by New York billionaire and hedge-fund manager Paul Singer. The group has raised $319,000 for Daines’ campaign, including more than $100,000 from employees of Elliott Management Corp., which manages Singer’s hedge fund.
Parker says a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision relaxing limits on campaign giving has allowed the political parties to set up joint fundraising committees that can raise money from across the country for multiple candidates.