It’s now that time of the month.
The March monthly report for the Montana Republican Party is just 18 pages long, while the report for the Democrats comes in at 65 pages long. Both reports were filed with the FEC on March 20 and cover the month of February.
Let’s dig in.
Montana Republican Party Finances
The GOP still had $132,000 cash on hand at the end of the period, as they started February with almost $150,000 in the bank.
The Party currently has $36,000 in debt.
For some reason, the Montana GOP decided not to list where the $3,000 in donations came from this month. That’s against the law.
When it comes to the money they spent, we know that:
- $5,250 was spent for political strategy consulting with Bozeman’s Ascension LLC
- $4,600 was spent for direct mail postage with Kansas’ Southwest Publishing
- $1,530 was spent on direct mail services with Florida’s Steve Brown Direct Marketing
- $750 was given to James Oleen of Maryland for Strategy Consulting
- $379 went for email marketing and website services from Virginia’s Campaign Solutions
- $304 was spent with Denver’s Wildland Direct for direct mail fundraising
In addition to that spending, we have spending that can be put under the “federal/nonfederal activity” section of the report.
Here is where we learn that the Montana GOP has spent $2,000 to rent out the Great Northern Hotel in Helena for their state election convention on June 13.
I know that none of the Party brass cares, but it seems to me you’re not going to create jobs in Montana when you spend most of your money out-of-state.
I’m always ashamed to see how much the GOP spends with out-of-state mailing and publishing companies, when we have plenty of Montana companies that can do the job, and probably better.
Maybe the Montana firms cost more, however.
And that’s the rub - to the Montana GOP, saving a few bucks really is more important than helping Montana businesses.
And pray tell, what does a man living in Maryland possibly know about Montana politics that you want to give him $750 for strategy ideas?
When you dig into the finances of the Montana GOP you quickly discover that the Party is bereft of the kind of financial leadership that helps the state.
The final glaring problem I see is that the Montana GOP did not disclose the salary for their employees this period.
I figure they do have employees as they paid an Idaho firm $666 to do payroll taxes. Last month the GOP report had three staffers listed.
On Monday I’ll call the FEC in D.C. to inquire why the Montana GOP failed to disclose both their fundraising sources for February, and what they pay in salary.
If the FEC is as clueless as to why this has happened as I am, then I’ll file an official complaint.
Here in Montana we simply cannot abide our political parties skirting the law so flagrantly.
Montana Democrat Finances
$40,000 of that $98,000 in income is for federal activities.
This doesn’t really matter to you, but it does make it harder for me to read the report. Congress set up the legal reporting requirements like this so that it’s easier for political parties to hide their activity from regular citizens.
The Dems still had almost $1480,000 cash on hand at the end of the period, as they started February with $110,000 in the bank.
The Party currently has no debt.
There are lots of individuals donating to the Montana Democratic Party, and it seems like most of them are living in Montana.
I am troubled that the Dems choose not to list the occupations for some of these people. For instance, I have a hard time believing that an unemployed person is donating $500, but we see multiple instances of this. Lyle Manley of Helena gave $1,060 despite not having a job.
This is shoddy reporting, as it’s the legal duty of those filing these reports to disclose employers, and if they don’t know, they need to inquire with the donor.
One that made me chuckle was the $500 donation from a Missoula student. $500 from...a student?!? C’mon.
I was interested to see that Barrett Kaiser of Hilltop Public Solutions gave $1,000 to the Dems, while Lauren Caldwell of MEA-MFT gave $250. A senior vice president with Strategies 360, Melissa Shannon, gave $1,000.
Dave Hunter gave $500 while Bozeman legislator James Hamilton gave $250. Mary Sexton must not be taking her job too seriously, as she only gave $50 this month. Dennis Washington gave $1,000.
None of those compare to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund and the $10,000 they gave the Party, however. Well, Debora Simon of Carmel, Indiana, gave $10,000 as well.
The DNC only kicked $2,900 the Montana Dems’ way.
Charter gave the Dems $156 for some reason, while North Dakota’s MDU gave them $218.
Now let’s get to the spending.
- $3,461 was given to Missoula’s Campaign Compliance for accounting fees
- $3,350 was spent with Montana City Grill to cater the Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner
- $3,000 was spent for fundraising consulting with D.C.’s Chraca Friedman Group
- $2,900 was given to the DNC for voter files, effectively negating the committee’s earlier donation
- $1,150 was given to D.C.’s New Blue Interactive for donor development
- $240 was spent on hotels in Bozeman
When you look at what the Montana Democrats spend money on you realize it’s not to help get candidates elected, it’s just to raise money so the current staff can keep getting their paychecks.
The Montana Democratic Party doesn’t spend a dime on candidates, even during election season.
Here’s the payroll picture:
- Monica Lindeen: $6,000
- Trent Bolger: $4,117
- Justin Ailport: $4,012
- Nick Lockridge: $3,914
- Samantha Offerdahl: $3,040
- Thai Nguyen: $2,371
- Ryan Chauner: $1,575
- Roy Lowenstein: $1,190
- Allison Dale-Riddle: $930
So it cost over $27,000 to keep those 9 people on staff last month.
But wait - it also cost nearly $39,000 in payroll taxes, as well as another $2,200 in healthcare costs.
So in effect, it costs the Montana Democratic Party $68,000 to keep those people on staff, or $7,500 per person.
Is it worth it?
I mean, the Democrats have very limited power in Montana because they don’t control the legislative branch, and come 2021, probably won't have a veto pen. Then they'll have no power whatsover.
The Montana Democratic Party saw five staff members leave in January or February. These include Austin Lyle, Megan Simpson, Cassidy Cook, Derek Ketner, and Nancy Keenan.
Not having those five people on staff saved the Dems over $10,000 in salary for the month and another $8,000 in payroll taxes.
Both Chauner and Offerdahl are new to the staff.
I’m also happy to report that the $3,350 spent for food at the Mansfield Dinner was the only instance this month of the Dems eating out.
Remember, last month they spent over $6,700 eating out.
Wow...it sure seems like the Dems are turning a corner on their spending!
Perhaps this points to a more level-headed type of leadership. Monica Lindeen is now in charge, not Nancy Keenan.
I’m interested in what this change means for the long-term future of the Party.
For instance, not once in the past few years did we ever seen Keenan get out and visit communities to see how local Dems feel. When she did, no photos were taken, such as the time she chastised the Missoula Democrats.
Lindeen is getting out there...but I wonder if it matters.
While she did have a larger-than-usual crowd in Bozeman yesterday, it just doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough to change the balance of power in the state.
Let’s take a moment to analyze Lindeen’s ‘rural’ tour.
Here’s where she’s been so far:
She started in Butte on March 2 and then on March 19 headed to Red Lodge. In the week or so since then she’s gone to Baker, Miles City, Glendive, Lewistown, Glasgow and now Bozeman.
I’m impressed by this. In a month, Lindeen has done more outreach work than Keenan did in three years.
We’ll see what impact this has in next year’s election.
Personally, I think it’s more of a gesture than anything; I don’t think this will increase turnout.
But she’s trying.
Oh, not as hard as Greg Gianforte was trying...but she’s trying.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a map of where Gianforte went on his regulation roundup tour back in February 2016:
Big difference, huh?
And Gianforte didn’t go to a town and then head home for a week - he stayed with a family in that town before hitting the road to do it again the next day, and the next...and the next.
While 70% of success might be just showing up, passion and commitment play a large part too.