HELENA — Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines has many Montana donors to his 2014 campaign for Montana’s U.S. Senate, but he also got a big boost late last year from a new group organized by a New York hedge fund manager.
Friends for an American Majority, a joint fundraising committee led by billionaire Paul Singer, of New York, collected nearly $193,000 for Daines’ campaign in December — and another $335,000 for Republican Senate candidates in Arkansas and Alaska.
The $192,600, logged on New Year’s Eve, the final day on Daines’ last finance report, is about 8 percent of the money Daines raised for all of 2013.
Politico, a news website, reported last week that Singer is leading a group of Republican donors who want to “expand its political footprint ahead of the midterm elections in an increasingly assertive effort to shape the direction of the Republican Party.”
Singer has been a supporter of gay rights and immigration reform, but candidates supported by Friends for an American Majority don’t necessarily support Singer’s views on all issues, Politico reported.
Daines, for example, has said he wants to “strengthen Montana’s borders” and does not support gay marriage.
Brock Lowrance, spokesman for the Daines campaign, said Friday there are “people around the country who would like to see a change in Washington,” and that’s why they’re supporting Daines. He also said Daines “continues to see a lot of support from Montanans.”
A Gazette State Bureau analysis of Daines’ fundraising showed that he has raised about $1 million, or 42 percent, of his campaign donations from individual Montanans.
Daines, the likely Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held now by Democrat John Walsh, easily leads in fundraising among candidates for the seat.
Through Dec. 31, he raised nearly $2.4 million from individuals, political-action committees and joint fundraising committees, and ended the year with $1.9 million in his account.
Walsh was a distant second in the fundraising game, taking in $583,000 the last three months of last year and ending the year with $435,500 in the bank.
The State Bureau analysis of Daines’ fundraising sources also showed:
• About $620,000, or 26 percent, came from out-of-state individual donors. The largest amounts of Daines’ out-of-state money came from donors in New York, Illinois, California, Texas and Connecticut.
• The remaining $730,000, or 32 percent of his total, came from political-action committees, or PACs, which represent various business and political interest groups.
• About $50,000 of Daines’ money from individuals came from employees of Elliott Management Corp., the New York firm that manages Singer’s hedge funds.
David Parker, a Montana State University political scientist, said it’s not unusual for a high-profile U.S. Senate race like Montana’s to attract money from wealthy out-of-state donors and PACs.
The race is a chance for Republicans to pick up a Democratic seat in their bid to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats in 2014, so Republican donors from across the country will be paying attention to it, he said.
Singer’s Friends for an American Majority committee was formed in December. Its statement of organization filed with the Federal Election Commission says its purpose is to raise money for Daines and Republican Senate candidates Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Dan Sullivan in Alaska.
Singer, a longtime player in Republican money circles, founded the hedge funds managed by Elliott Management Corp.
The joint fundraising committee and an affiliated group, American Opportunity Alliance, are holding an invitation-only retreat in Colorado this week. Daines will be there, Lowrance confirmed.
Daines greatly increased his fundraising among non-Montanans the last three months of last year. Only 20 percent of his contributions from individuals came from outside Montana in the first nine months of last year, but that share increased to 45 percent in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to Singer’s new fund.
Daines also benefits from another joint fundraising committee he formed more than two years ago, the Daines Montana Victory Committee.
The committee raises money for Daines’ campaign and the Montana Republican Party. Most of its donors are from Montana. Last year, it reported raising $115,000 for Daines’ campaign and $20,000 for the state party.
The only other Republican in Montana’s U.S. Senate race is state Rep. Champ Edmunds of Missoula.