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Fact Checker: How much is a Montana vote worth?

By Steve Fetveit, Anchor, sfetveit@keci.com
Published On: Jun 06 2014 09:33:56 PM MDT
Updated On: Jun 06 2014 11:12:19 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A post-primary election fact check on the cost of running a political campaign in Montana shows why politicians spend a lot of time chasing campaign donors.

We compared finance reports with election results and found spending that equaled up to $31 a vote for winning candidates.  For losers, the price can be shocking.

Democrat John Walsh spent more for every vote he gathered than the rest of the federal candidates.  His campaign dropped more than $1.5 million to get 48,348 primary votes -- that's $31.35 for every vote.

His general election challenger, Steve Daines, spent more money but also received more than twice as many votes.  A little over $1.8 million in campaign spending raked in 110,236 votes at a cost of $19.83 each.

Republican Ryan Zinke had four primary challengers.  Two of them were well-financed, causing Zinke to spend most of his campaign war chest. In fact, Zinke had to lend his campaign just over $47,000 to finish the primary race with just over $1 million of spending.  He won, but ended up paying $23.98 for every vote in his column.

Democrat John Lewis is a frugal campaigner, largely because his opponent didn't accept any donations, leaving Lewis with most of the money.  Lewis spent less than half of what his campaign raised, kept the rest for a general election bid, and brought in a primary per-vote cost of $5.52.

If winning is expensive, consider the alternative.  Republican Matt Rosendale turned in a third place finish for his effort to be Montana's next congressman.  His campaign reports show debts and loans owed of $1,066,665.