A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

5 May 2016

Flathead campaign finance notes and surprises

C-5 campaign finance reports through the end of April are now online at Political Practices. I examined the C-5s for legislative candidates in the Flathead.

First, a few high points:

  • Don Kaltschmidt loaned his campaign $10,000. That’s not a surprise, but it is noteworthy.
  • Keith Regier received more than a grand from energy PACs.
  • Greg and Susan Gianforte each gave Taylor Rose $170. That’s also noteworthy.
  • Derek Skees was out-raised and out-spent by Jean Barragan. That’s a bit of a surprise.
  • Chet Billi received money from a right wing economist in Georgia.

Now, some details, especially on the contested Republican primaries in Senate District 3 (Whitefish) and House District 11 (Lakeside), plus a couple of interesting details on the Republican candidates in House Districts 3 and 5.

Senate District 3 — Don K’s self-funding, Regier’s energy PAC dollars. Kaltschmidt out-raised and out-spent Keith Regier, roughly by a factor of two. He loaned his campaign $10,000, which may make a significant difference if spent wisely.


Among Kaltschmidt’s donors are former Whitefish legislators Bob Brown, Bob Larson, and Bob DePrateau.

Regier received $1,260 from political action committees, plus a $170 individual contribution from NW Energy lobbyist John Fitzpatrick.


Regier also received money from noted Whitefish conservatives Joe Coco and Rick Blake.

Regier paid $71 to Siteground Hosting (Alexandria, VA) for his website. Kaltschmidt spent more for his website, paying “Don Weakly Sesigns” (I think “Sesigns” is a typo, and should be Designs) $1,250. That’s toward the upper end for legislative campaign websites in Montana. He paid DWS another #1,250 for advertising.

A problem. Kaltschmidt's C-5 contains numerous instances of individuals donating in excess of the $170 limit per election (the primary and general elections), the result of a technical glitch that he confirmed he's working with Political Practices to correct.

House District 11 — surprising strength by Jean Barragan. She’s raised half again as much as Derek Skees, and spent twice as much. More spending by Skees will show up in his next reports.


Barragan received donations from former Republican legislators Bernie Olson and Bob Brown. Olson, thought by some Republicans to be too liberal, lost to Mark Blasdel in the 2006 GOP primary.

Skees received money from former legislators Verdell Jackson (his treasurer), Krayton Kerns, and Janna Taylor, and current Rep. Greg Hertz. He also received $170 from Don Kaltschmidt, $170 from filmmaker Gerald Molen, and $175 (that may be a typo) from the Park County Republican Central Committee.

Neither candidate reported expenditures that raised a red flag.

House District 3 — Taylor Rose receives donations from the Gianfortes. If Greg Gianforte wants to present himself as a mainstream Republican — I’m not sure he does — these contributions won’t help. Taylor Rose is colorful, and has excellent lawn signs, but he’s not mainstream. He does address foreign policy issues, something not always done at the state legislative level.

Rose received $170 from GOP Sen. Mark Blasdel (SD-4, Kalispell), and $100 from GOP Rep. Greg Hertz (HD-12, Polson).


House District 3 — Chet Billi receives money from leader of right wing foundation in Georgia. Billi reported raising $1,555, most, but not all, from local sources, and spending $1,535, leaving him with $20 in the bank. His expenditure include $460 for lawn signs, and $350 for door hangers.

His local donors include Don Kaltschmidt ($170), Joe and Linda Coco ($170 each), and Rick Blake ($170).

But he also received $100 from PSC Commissioner Roger Koopman of Bozeman, and $170 from Lawrence Reed, an economist with the Newman, GA, based Foundation for Economic Education:

FEE, the first free-market organization in the United States, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read to study and advance the freedom philosophy. FEE has published or hosted lectures by some of the finest minds of the modern age, including Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Vernon Smith, Israel Kirzner, Walter Williams, George Stigler, Frank Chodorov, John Chamberlain, F.A. “Baldy” Harper, and William F. Buckley, Jr., among many others.

Reed’s is a pretty amazing contribution for an 18-year-old high school student in Montana. It helps explain where Billi gets some of his ideas about freedom and economics, but not whether FEE’s philosophy is part of the economics curriculum at Whitefish High School.