Posted: Nov 1, 2012 7:11 PM by Drew Trafton - MTN News
BILLINGS- If you were to define the 2012 election season in Montana by one word, you'd be hard pressed to do better than ‘money'.
"That's what's going to come out of this race as something that's teachable," said Montana State University-Billings political scientist Dr. Craig Wilson. "You know, how important money is, how it affects races, how it can change people's perceptions about what's going on, and I think it will be studied for a long time."
Wilson says the reason for the academic and general interest stems from the ‘perfect storm' which is Campaign 2012.
Montana voters must make decisions in presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and senate races-something which only happens once every 12 years.
Add unique intrigue from individual races such as Tester vs. Rehberg, where both men are currently representing Montana on a national stage and the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and various conflicts over spending in other campaigns (Bullock vs. Hill and Bucy vs. Fox) and you end up with a ripe climate for spending.
However, those complications are also causing a back log when it comes to getting campaign spending figures from Montana's Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices.
And to top it off, the office, which is located in an old house on the Capitol campus, was burglarized on Wednesday night.
"It seems like every day we get hit with a couple of more pretty important issues that have to be dealt with, but we're going to get through it," said Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry.
But as it turns out, finding an estimate on campaign spending could be found much closer to home.
The Montana Television Network's political sales manager, Tim Keating, has a pretty good idea of how much money is changing hands when it comes to the biggest spending on campaign TV ads.
"Well, for Montana it's number one," said Keating. "It's probably three times higher than any election we've ever had."
Which race is the biggest spender?
If you've been watching TV and paying attention to the razor thin polling results, it will come as no surprise.
"There's probably between $25 million and $30 million spent in the Senate race in all of television, both from the candidates and from the third party groups," said Keating.
However, Keating says the Senate race was expected to smash state records.
He's more surprised with another race which is too close to call.
"The governor's race, with third party groups supporting both candidates, has been a big surprise."
Keating estimates interested parties in that race have poured $15 million to $20 million in to television advertising.
The other statewide race, between Steve Daines and Kim Gillan for Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has also set records of its own.
Altogether, more than different 200 commercials have been aired on MTN.
All records which will likely stand-at least-until 2024.