The latest Montana Democratic Party finance report is 172 pages long and can be found on the FEC website.
This particular report is called the ‘year-end 2017’ report and it covers the period of December 1-31. It was filed on January 31 of 2018.
Right away we see that MT Dems had $209,000 cash on hand as December began.
They raised $266,000 for the month, spent $76,000 and had $399,000 as the year closed out.
So where exactly did all that money come from?
When we break it down further we see that the $266,000 that came in for the month came from these sources:
- $28,000 from individuals
- $83,000 from PACs
- $132,000 transferred from other Party committees
- $294 in refunds
- $1,700 in dividends/interest
- $21,000 transferred from Levin Funds
This might seem like a rosy picture, but it’s not.
If the Montana Democratic Party had to rely just on individuals, and not on PACs or transfers, they’d have only raised $28,000 for the month.
When we look at the geographic regions those donations are coming from – both individual and PAC – we see this:
- 23 Missoula
- 20 Helena
- 16 D.C.
- 15 Billings
- 11 Bozeman
- 10 California
- 5 Boston
- 3 New York
- 3 Great Falls
- 3 Kalispell
- 3 Virginia
- 2 Corvallis
- 2 Oregon
- 2 Texas
- 2 Choteau
- 2 Ohio
- 2 Colorado
- 2 Chicago
- 1 Indiana
- 1 Havre
- 1 Homestead
- 1 Boulder
- 1 Florida
- 1 Superior
- 1 Columbia Falls
- 1 Connecticut
- 1 New Mexico
- 1 Forsyth
- 1 Nebraska
- 1 Michigan
- 1 Wisconsin
- 1 Fort Peck
- 1 Cardwell
- 1 Pennsylvania
- 1 Polson
- 1 Hamilton
- 1 Shelby
So a total of 145 individuals or PACs are where MT Dems got their $266,000 for the month.
By far, the lion’s share of that money comes from the PACs, most of which are based out of D.C.
For instance, most of the individuals I saw were giving about $50 on average. PACs were giving an average of $5,000.
Something else I noticed is how much the Party relies on elected officials, or those running for office – or who have run before – for their individual donations.
In Missoula, for instance, at least half of the 23 individual donations were from current or former officeholders.
We’ve discussed how Montana Democrats launder money on this site before.
Now, let’s delve into spending…which is a lot easier.
You see, the fundraising portion of the report takes up 140 pages, but the spending portion is just 32 pages.
Remember, the MT Dems spent $76,000 in December.
Here’s how that breaks down:
- $3,513 was given to Missoula’s Campaign Compliance for accounting
- $2,940 to the DNC for voter access files
- $2,000 to itself to offset an “excessive portion of BNSF contribution”
- $785 to California’s Gordon & Schwenkmeyer for consulting
- $453 was spent staying at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas
- $425 was spent taking a Delta flight to Atlanta
- $400 was given to D.C.’s Sandler Reiff Young & Lamb for legal fees
- $108 was spent at Helena’s Blackfoot River Brewing Company
- $9 was spent eating at Missoula’s Greek Pastry Shop
- $8 was spent eating at Taco John’s in Great Falls
All that stuff comes to $10,500.
I have to say, the MT Dems are doing a lot better at not eating out. You might remember that last month, they spent $3,400 dining out. This month it was $125.
The only reason I can think that they got those sky-high numbers down is because of the reporting done on this site.
Now, the payroll.
The Montana Democratic Party keeps 10 people on staff and pays them like so:
- Nancy Keenan: $5,922
- Chris Meagher: $4,732
- Trent Bolger: $4,453
- Allison Dale-Riddle: $3,540
- Olivia Slack: $3,452
- Roy Lowenstein: $3,214
- Justin Ailport: $3,078
- Nick Lockridge: $2,986
- James Young: $2,243
- Thomas Culver: $1,937
Those 10 people are paid $35,560 a month.
In addition, $3,675 is paid for their healthcare.
Now, the payroll.
I’m assuming that the MT Dems are choosing the small business payroll option with Virginia’s Paychex.
They’re getting a terrible deal.
Payroll taxes should be about 20-25%, yet we see that the Montana Democrats are paying out 130%.
I mean, let’s say I’m making $1,500 for my gross paycheck earnings. My employer would pay $360 in taxes.
That comes to 24%.
You see, you never pay more in payroll taxes than what you’re paying your employees, but that’s exactly what the Montana Democratic Party is doing.
I tried to call up Trent Bolger, who’s paid $4,400 a month to oversee MT Dem finances, but he’s too afraid to talk to me about this.
I don’t blame him – it smacks of corruption.
Now, let’s put this altogether in graph format:
I hope you can see the discrepancy.
You see, the Dems listed $76,000 spent in December…yet when we add up the numbers, we find that these items here are $92,000, and that’s not even all the spending (I rarely add up things like postage, printing, and such).
How do we explain this?
It’s the difference between Schedule B Expenditures and Schedule H Expenditures.
Well…what the hell’s that? Good question – it seems that B is based on the money given to the state Party, while H represents expenditures that can be listed as federal.
I don’t understand how it all works. Perhaps you need to be paid $4,400 a month like Trent Bolger to know that, or maybe hire an agency like Paychex.
Most of all, however, I think we see the real problem – the MT Democratic Party is top-heavy.
If it’s costing you over $80,000 a month just to keep ten people on staff, then I think something is wrong.
If the Dems were winning the legislature and statewide offices, sure…you might be able to justify this.
But they’re not, and show no signs that they’ll start.
That’s why they won’t talk about their finances, whether with me or someone like MTN reporter Mike Dennison.
They simply don’t want you to know the truth, for if you did…you might not give them any money.
And by God, if that happened then how would those ten staffers keep living the high life?
Montana Democratic Party members do not want to talk about this stuff, and they don’t want regular voters to learn about it.
They’re afraid of accountability, and when you look at their FEC reports, you can see why.
What’s especially sad is that nothing will change. County committees are happy with the way the Party is being run, and they don’t feel there’s any need for change. We saw that clearly at last year’s nominating convention.
At some point, though – when the continual losses keep adding up, despite Dem assurances that they’ll sweep ’18 and perhaps even get a chamber of Congress or the MT legislature back – people will start asking questions.
The financial truth will come out.
Will there be a reckoning?
In the coming months and years? No.
But as the Dems that put this system in place begin to age out – and as the out-of-state staffers they hired head off to greener pastures – there’s a good chance something will change.
And there’s also a good chance that those taking over will have been taught the ropes by the older folks, and that means we’ll keep on with this corrupt system.
After all, if you’re one of the lucky ten that makes their living off of individual and PAC donations, why would you want anything to change?
Just keep it quiet, keep it from the public, and keep on playing the game.
Montana Democrats are the best at this.