In an effort to retain control of Montana's only Congressional representative, Republicans are looking over a field of five candidates in the June primary election. Democrats have their hopes on John Lewis, a former staff member for retired U.S. Senator Max Baucus.
Among the Republicans, Ryan Zinke of Whitefish is easily the top money-getter.
At the end of April, federal election reports show Zinke with $906,513 in contributions. He's spent nearly half of it moving into the June primary.
So far, Zinke’s support comes from individual donors. Only 5 percent of the total came from political action committees.
The Open Secrets website analyzes campaigns and campaign finance. It points to lawyers, computers, automotive and real estate as the industries most often connected with Zinke.
Lender Processing Services is one of the large donors on Zinke’s list. LPS gained notoriety through its connection with the robo-signing scandal that came with foreclosures in the lending services industry.
Matt Rosendale is running second in the GOP money race. His books show $641,841 in contributions. The number is a bit deceiving. Most of the total ($503,046) is Rosendale’s personal money.
Billings Republican Corey Stapleton first went up against Zinke in the 2012 gubernatorial race. Both men lost.
This time, Stapleton’s running third in the money race. His campaign has raised $373,811. He’s been forced to spend most of his campaign war chest going into the Montana primary.
Elsie Amizen is a distant fourth. Her campaign is reporting $133,000 raised.
Drew Turiano is barely on the board with $6,840.
On the undivided Democratic ticket, John Lewis’ campaign has amassed $694,504 and without a challenger, he’s been able to keep most of it for battles yet to be fought. The most recent campaign finance reports show Lewis with $511,756 in the bank.
It’s tough to track individual donors to the Lewis campaign. Much of the money is coming in through Act Blue, a political action committee established in June of 2004. Act Blue has become a major fundraising tool for Democrats. The website bundles donations from individuals and sends them to selected candidates.
We were able to find a few notable donors. James Ford is a petroleum industry lobbyist. He currently works for ConocoPhillips. Ford handed Lewis a $1,000 donation.
You can add U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter to Lewis’ financial backers. Montana rancher and retired Chicago attorney Lee Freeman is on the list, too.
Lewis’ committee donations follow the predicable party line. Several unions are on the list and pharmaceutical giant Amgen is among the business donors.
While money flows where power goes, Montana voters are about to narrow the field of those who would have the power.
June 3 is Primary Election Day.