Jonathan Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) — Wednesday, March 20, 2024, marked the first state campaign finance deadline after the close of Montana’s candidate filing period.

People running for state and local offices submitted financial reports to the Commissioner of Political Practices, outlining their contributions and expenditures between Jan. 1 and March 15. The reports show fundraising in the race for governor is off to a quick start.

Incumbent Gov. Greg Gianforte and Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras launched their reelection campaign in January. Since then, the Republicans reported raising $1,248,590. Gianforte’s campaign spent $89,666, leaving him with $1,158,924 in cash on hand.

While Gianforte contributed several million dollars of his own money to his 2020 gubernatorial run, his campaign is touting that, so far, almost of all of this money has come from donors. Gianforte’s report shows his only personal contributions have been to cover around $40,000 in campaign expenses.

“With Governor Gianforte’s pro-family, pro-jobs, pro-business policies and his strong record of protecting our Montana way of life, Montanans are overwhelmingly supporting Governor Gianforte’s reelection, providing him with record support in only 60 days,” campaign manager Jake Eaton said in a statement last week.

Democratic challenger Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive and author from Kalispell reported raising $417,536 since Jan. 1. His campaign said in a statement that he had brought in just under $900,000 since announcing his candidacy last September. They spent $280,774 over the latest period and had $327,447 in the bank as of March 15.

In a statement, Busse and running mate Raph Graybill's campaign highlighted their contributions from more than 3,000 grassroots donors and said their individual contributions were stronger than other non-incumbents over the same period in previous gubernatorial elections.

“Ryan and Raph will never be able to self-fund a campaign like unpopular billionaire Greg Gianforte does,” said campaign manager Aaron Murphy. “But we've got something Gianforte's millions will never buy: a movement that includes Republicans, Independents and Democrats. That's because Greg Gianforte imposed a record property tax hike on homeowners in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy.”

State Rep. Tanner Smith, R-Lakeside, running against Gianforte in the Republican primary, reported raising $60,565 over the first 75 days of the year. $59,000 of that came from personal loans he made to his own campaign. All together, he’s put almost $130,000 of his own money into the race. Smith’s campaign spent $44,432 in the last period and had $18,882 in cash on hand.

Jim Hunt, a Helena attorney who filed for the Democratic primary in the final days, reported spending only $1,248 of his own money to pay the state filing fee. Kaiser Leib, of Helena, who is running as a Libertarian, reported the same.