HELENA – Spending on Montana’s 2018 U.S. Senate race smashed the record for a single Montana campaign, surpassing $63 million by the two main candidates and more than 40 outside political groups.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester won the race over Republican challenger Matt Rosendale and Libertarian Rick Breckenridge. Tester finished with 50.3 percent of the vote to Rosendale’s 46.8 percent. Breckenridge had the remaining 2.9 percent.
Tester’s campaign outspent Rosendale by an almost 4-to-1 margin. Tester reported raising $21 million for his campaign and spent $20.4 million, while Rosendale, the state auditor, raised just under $5.7 million and spent $5.4 million.
Both men filed their post-election campaign reports on Thursday.
Tester and Rosendale received nearly 80 percent of their money from thousands of individual donors, from Montana and across the country.
Outside groups, however, accounted for more spending than the two campaigns: almost $38 million, reported by 46 groups.
Twenty-four separate groups reported spending $22.3 million to oppose Tester or support Rosendale and 22 groups reported spending $15.4 million to oppose Rosendale or support Tester.
The big spenders against Tester and for Rosendale included the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($4.7 million), Senate Leadership Fund ($2.9 million), Restoration PAC ($2.7 million) and Club for Growth Action Fund ($2.5 million).
The top groups spending against Rosendale and for Tester were Majority Forward ($4.2 million), Senate Majority PAC ($2.8 million), End Citizens United ($2.2 million) and the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund ($1.95 million).
All told, the campaigns and outside groups spent about $125 for every vote cast in the race. The totals also don’t include the cost of four campaign visits to Montana by President Trump, on behalf of Rosendale.
The old record for spending in a Montana campaign was Tester’s 2012 contest against U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. In that race, the campaigns and outside groups spent about $50 million.