Burns, Schweitzer file campaign finance reports
HELENA - Communications and electronics businesses are funding a large part of U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns' re-election bid, while labor unions are sinking cash into Democratic challenger Brian Schweitzer's war chest.
Burns, a former Yellowstone County commissioner who was first elected to the Senate in 1988, had raised $1.46 million for his campaign through Dec. 31. Schweitzer, a Whitefish farmer/rancher who also works on international irrigation projects, raised $427,700 in the same period.
The race's other candidates, Democrat John Driscoll of Butte, a former state House speaker and public service commissioner, and Reform Party candidate Sam Rankin, a Billings real estate broker, haven't filed federal campaign finance reports yet.
Driscoll has vowed not to take money from political action committees or out-of-state interests and has only $5,000 of his own money to contribute.
But that's not the case for Burns and Schweitzer, who are both receiving donations from large interests. Much of Burns' cash, 68 percent, is flowing in from out-of-state, which is common for incumbents, while Schweitzer's war chest is filled with almost 100 percent Montana money.
So far, most of Burns' cash, $418,252, is from communication and electronics businesses, including telephone utilities and the television, movie and music industry.
AT&T, through its political action committee and employees, tops the senator's contribution list with $30,500, followed by BellSouth Corp. with $26,300 in donations. Energy and natural resource groups have donated $184,708, while agribusiness is the third largest sector contributor with $173,397 in donations to the former ag broadcaster and auctioneer. Labor groups have contributed the least, $4,500, to the senator.
But these workers' unions top Schweitzer's donor list with total contributions of $68,750. United Transportation Union is the Democrat's largest contributor so far with $10,000, followed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers with $5,250. Schweitzer has also garnered $20,600 in support from lawyers and lobbyists and $17,000 from ideological or single-issue groups such as those focused on abortion rights or gun control.
As for donations from PACs, Schweitzer has received the largest checks from transportation unions with $20,500 and pro-Democrat political organizations such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee totaling $16,700. Manufacturing and building trades unions also are large PAC donors with $16,500 and $15,500 contributions, respectively.
Burns, meanwhile, has taken in the most PAC cash from communications companies with $50,025. General political organizations have donated $49,960 while electric, gas and sanitary services have given $32,850. GOP political leadership groups have given $28,647.
Almost 36 percent of Burns' overall collections have come from PACs, compared with Schweitzer, who has received 25 percent of his cash from such committees.