HELENA — The real estate industry has raised more than $600,000 so far to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would amend the Montana Constitution to forbid state and local governments from ever imposing taxes on real estate transfers or sales.
The Coalition to Prevent Double Taxation has collected and spent more than any other group promoting or opposing Montana ballot measures this year, according to campaign finance reports filed this week with the state Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
The group, led by the Montana Association of Realtors, has raised more than $606,000, with virtually all of it coming from the National Association of Realtors, based in Chicago.
So far, the committee has paid $450,000 to a Tempe, Ariz., firm, Lincoln Strategy Group, to pay signature gatherers to qualify Constitutional Initiative 105 for the ballot.
No group has surfaced to oppose the effort.
Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management, formed to oppose an anti-trapping ballot issue, Initiative 160, has raised the next largest amount of money.
Through May 19, the group had raised more than $70,000 and spent about $59,000 to leave a balance of $11,000. It received $5,000 from the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance of Columbus, Ohio; $12,500 from the Ballot Issues Coalition of Washington, D.C.; and a $10,000 loan from the Montana Trappers Association.
Meanwhile, backers of I-160, Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands, have reported raising slightly more than $20,000 through May 19, spending nearly $8,400 to leave a balance of topping $11,500. The largest donation was $3,000 from Footloose Montana for Trap Free Land.
A group backing I-164, which would cap at 36 percent the amount of interest that “payday” lenders could charge, has raised nearly $54,000 so far and spent nearly $44,700. It reported a balance of more than $9,000 as of May 19.
It received nearly $54,000 from the Montana Community Foundation/Women’s Foundation and has spent more than $10,000 to hire signature gatherers.
Another case where opponents of a ballot measure have raised more money than initiative backers involves I-161, which would abolish outfitter-sponsored hunting licenses and replace outfitter-sponsored big-game licenses with nonresident licenses.
Supporters for Preserving Montana’s Outfitting Tradition have raised nearly $34,000 so far and spent more than $19,000 to leave more than $14,000 in the bank.
Meanwhile, the backers of the initiative, Sportsmen for I-161, had raised about $10,300 and spent about $10,500 for a debt of more than $250 as of May 5. The group hadn’t filed its latest report, covering its finances through May 19, by Friday afternoon.
Most of the group’s money came from the measure’s author, Kurt Kephart, a Billings contractor, and most of it has been spent to hire signature gatherers from the Billings area.
The Montana Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention has raised $30,000 as of May 19 on behalf of its efforts for I-163, which would redirect $6 million annually in beer, wine and liquor tax revenue from the state general fund to a special fund for drug and alcohol abuse programs.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath, one of the leaders of the effort, has loaned the campaign $5,000. Benefis Health Systems, the Great Falls hospital, put in $20,000, while the Montana Troopers Association, based in Drummond, added $5,000. The group has spent nearly $10,000 hiring personnel agencies in Helena and Bozeman to find people to gather signatures.