PAC money builds John Walsh's Senate bid


MISSOULA, Mont. - Tuesday, John Walsh takes the oath of office as Montana's Interim U.S. Senator. Governor Steve Bullock nominated his Lt. Governor to fill the seat left vacant by former Senator Max Baucus. It's a "plum" appointment for Walsh. He's already a candidate seeking voter approval for the Senate in this fall's General Election. The opportunity to take the office before the election comes with some added muscle in the race to gather dollars necessary to run a campaign. Montana's Senate race is a money magnet. The race is pivotal in a battle to control the Senate, and while there are other hats in the ring, Walsh is seen as the top Democrat running against a well-funded opponent in Republican Congressman Steve Daines. We fact checked campaign finance reports for a financial snapshot of the Senate race at this point along the campaign trail. The most recent report shows Daines with more than $1.3 million and Walsh with a little over $583,000. Insiders expect the gap to shrink. We used the Federal Election Commission's search engine and another a political watchdog web site, Open Secrets, to look inside each candidate's fundraising reports. John Walsh's donors are notable Democrats. Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina turned in a $2,600 dollar donation. Ann Castagnetti's sister managed John Kerry's presidential campaign. Castagnetti added $1,000 to the Walsh campaign.

There are others -- donors from out-of-state lobby and legal firms. But by and large, most individual donations come from Montana. The former Lt. Governor's real financial clout is coming from political action committees like Treasure State PAC and Searchlight Leadership Fund. Both came through with $10,000. ActBlue is a web site that bundles individual contributions and funnels the money to specific candidates. That group came through with a whopping $97,000 contribution. As a sitting Representatative, Steve Daines came to the Senate race with a sizable bank account. Congressmen are in a never-ending "hand to mouth" fund-raising effort with campaigns that start nearly as soon as the last election comes to a close.

Tomorrow, we'll dig inside the Daines fund-raising efforts.