Rob Quist, right, answers a question morning during an Independent Record editorial board

Democrat Rob Quist, right, and Republican Greg Gianforte answer questions from the Independent Record editorial board April 28.

Thom Bridge, Independent Record

International software giant Oracle Corp. has debunked U.S. House candidate Rob Quist’s claim that 22 tax liens were filled against his Republican opponent and Bozeman-based RightNow Technologies from 2012 to 2015.

Quist and the Montana Democratic Party have for two months made the claim, now featured in Quist’s radio and television ads, that Republican House candidate “Greg Gianforte and his business had 22 tax liens.”

RightNow had sold to Oracle before the tax issue arose. Oracle told The Gazette that Gianforte was out of the picture when the “liens” related to employees withholding taxes in Indiana cropped up. The liens were actually warrants issued by Marion County, Indiana.

“Greg had left the company by then,” said Deborah Hellinger, of Oracle.

Quist, Gianforte and Libertarian Mark Wicks are competing to fill Montana's only U.S. House seat in a special election, which ends Thursday, May 25.

In the ad, Quist addresses his own tax and debt problems, looking into the camera and saying, “Greg Gianforte is attacking me on tax liens and debt when he knows I paid my debts and my taxes, every dime. Gianforte and his business had 22 tax liens, I have had three.”

Quist had three years for which he didn’t pay his property taxes, and was taken to court by the state and private plaintiffs for unpaid debts spread across 16 years. He did pay his property taxes for all three years in 2016, at which point the earliest unpaid tax bill was nine years old.

The candidate is still under court order to pay a $10,301.69 debt stemming from a Wells Fargo line of credit that Quist and his wife, Bonni, quit making payments on in 2010. The debt now belongs to Security Credit Services LLC, which has successfully sued the Quists for payment.

Quist has more than once said his debts have been paid including last week, during a meeting with the Gazette Editorial board and Gianforte. The Gazette corrected Quist, noting that court records showed the Wells Fargo debt remained unpaid.

Quist reframed his remarks, saying he meant his property taxes were paid in full, not his debts.

The Gazette asked the Quist campaign Wednesday to provide evidence the Wells Fargo debt had been paid. Court records show the judgment against the Quists hasn’t been satisfied.

Quist’s campaign replied by saying it would need a couple days to prove the debt was paid. It re-asserted that Gianforte was the target of the liens referenced in Quist’s campaign ad.

“Greg Gianforte’s favorite thing to do is pass blame off to someone else," said Tina Olechowski, Quist campaign spokeswoman. "Maybe that works in New Jersey, but in Montana we take responsibility for our actions."

Gianforte moved to Montana 24 years ago from New Jersey. He started RightNow Technologies in his Bozeman home. The company grew to employ several hundred people before it was sold to Oracle in January 2012.

The tax warrants cited by Quist and the Montana Democratic Party begin 10 months after Orcale’s purchase of RightNow became final. The warrants continue into 2015.

According to the Indiana Department of Revenue, the warrants are issued to companies that don’t report withholding information to the state. The state responds by estimating an amount owed and issuing a warrant for payment. Businesses can either respond by reporting what taxes were actually withheld, or by paying the amount requested in the warrant.

The Quist campaign first approached The Gazette with the tax warrant claim in March. A simple search of Oracle’s website confirmed the Oracle owned RightNow during the time the warrants were issued.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.