Walsh giving $180,000 in campaign funds to Democratic party; can't give it to Curtis

2014-08-18T14:15:00Z 2014-08-19T06:15:04Z Walsh giving $180,000 in campaign funds to Democratic party; can't give it to CurtisBy MIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
August 18, 2014 2:15 pm  • 

HELENA — Sen. John Walsh, who withdrew Aug. 7 as a candidate for his U.S. Senate seat, is distributing nearly $180,000 of his leftover campaign funds to other Democratic candidates and state party groups.

But federal rules allowed Walsh to give only $2,000 directly to Amanda Curtis, who was chosen by Democratic Party delegates Saturday to be Walsh’s replacement as the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Montana.

Curtis, a state representative and high school math teacher from Butte, said Monday she’s had an “outpouring of support” since becoming the Senate candidate, and plans to use that enthusiasm to build a “grass-roots movement” to defeat Republican Steve Daines, the favorite in the race.

Bryan Watt, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, also said Monday that Curtis hopes to name a campaign manager soon and start building a staff, including fundraisers.

Curtis was in Billings Monday to attend a rally for a city ordinance banning discrimination against gays — an ordinance defeated by the Billings City Council last week — and planned to attend events in Crow Agency.

She said she also had a fundraising event planned in Bozeman this week, as well as other events in Eastern Montana.

Walsh had $713,000 in his campaign account as of June 30, but since then had spent a considerable amount on TV ads — before pulling out of the campaign Aug. 7, said his former campaign manager, Aaron Murphy.

Murphy said Walsh also is maintaining a reserve fund to pay remaining bills for the campaign, and will give a full accounting when he files his final campaign report this fall.

Still, Walsh has given $125,000 to the state Democratic Party and another $25,000 to the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is helping Montana legislative candidates this year.

The party can use the money as part of its “coordinated campaign” for all Democratic candidates on the Montana ballot this fall, Watt said.

Murphy said Walsh also plans to use his leftover campaign funds to give the maximum contribution of $170 to each of 147 Democratic legislative candidates this year, as well as the $2,000 to Curtis and another $2,000 to Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis.

Walsh withdrew in the wake of revelations that he plagiarized a master’s degree paper at the U.S. Army War College in 2007. He remains a U.S. senator until the end of the year.

Walsh may distribute other campaign funds later on, once he takes care of the campaign’s bills, Murphy said. He stopped his online fundraising when he dropped out of the race Aug. 7 and has returned any donations he received after his withdrawal, Murphy added.

“It is a priority for him to help other Democrats, and he’s doing so,” Murphy said.

Curtis said she plans to take unpaid leave from her teaching position through the election. The Butte School Board will decide on her leave this week, she said.

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