Bullock Cashes in on Corporate Donations

Montana Dem has taken $1.2 million from corporate-backed PACs

Senate candidate Steve Bullock (D., Mont.) / Facebook
October 24, 2020

Montana Democratic governor Steve Bullock, whose Senate campaign regularly lambastes the political influence of "corporate special interests," has taken nearly $1.2 million in contributions from corporate executives and corporate-backed PACs.

Bullock's latest campaign finance disclosures show he has received more than $920,000 from corporate executives over the course of his campaign against Sen. Steve Daines (R.).

Top Bullock donors include Google vice president Vinton Cerf, Lockheed Martin vice president Thomas Grumbly, and ConocoPhillips board member Maury Devine, who combined have given him more than $7,500.

The trio has spent nearly $880,000 backing Democrats since 2004, Federal Election Commission records show.

Bullock has also accepted nearly $275,000 from Democratic leadership PACs funded by corporate cash, including a combined $20,000 from PACs associated with Sens. Martin Heinrich (D., N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii), and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.). The three PACs have taken nearly $930,000 in corporate special interest money in the 2020 cycle alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The contributions could undermine Bullock's attacks on Daines, which have centered around the "corrupting influence of money in our system." During a September debate, for example, the Democrat said his campaign was funded by "individuals," not "corporate special interests like Sen. Daines."

Despite the hundreds of thousands he has received from PACs bankrolled by corporations, Bullock regularly claims he "isn't taking a single penny from corporate PACs."

"Montana deserves a Senator who can't be bought by corporations," Bullock said in September. "We deserve an independent voice in Washington who isn't influenced by their big corporate donors."

On at least one occasion, however, Bullock directly sought campaign contributions from corporate-backed PACs. In April, he attended a Moderate Democrats PAC fundraiser during official work hours. The PAC, which went on to contribute $5,000 to Bullock's campaign, has taken more than $930,000 from corporate entities, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Top donors include AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Lockheed Martin, Capital One, and Exxon Mobil.

Posturing as a campaign finance purist helped fuel Bullock's successful 2012 gubernatorial run, in which he also argued that corporate money has no place in politics.

In office, however, Bullock chaired the Democratic Governors Association, which relies on unlimited contributions from corporations to help elect liberals. The group raised more than $25 million during Bullock's tenure as chair, thanks to such major corporate backers as Walmart, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Pfizer, and AT&T.

Bullock also touted receiving "40,000 donations from Montanans" in an October tweet. But the Democrat has accepted roughly $4.5 million from California residents—more than double the $2.2 million he's taken from in-state donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bullock is far from the only Democratic Senate hopeful sidestepping his pledge to refuse corporate money by accepting donations from corporate-backed PACs. Arizona's Mark Kelly, Georgia's Jon Ossoff, and Iowa's Theresa Greenfield have all taken thousands from committees fueled by corporate PAC money while claiming to reject such donations.

The Bullock campaign did not return a request for comment.