Tax returns: Republican Gianforte made $184M over 10 years

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte reported income of $184 million and paid $30.5 million in state and federal taxes over a 10-year period ending in 2018, according to tax returns released by his campaign Wednesday.

Gianforte, a former technology entrepreneur and one of the richest members of Congress, faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in the November election to succeed Gov. Steve Bullock.

Wednesday's tax return release, combined with returns that Gianforte previously released during a failed bid for governor four years ago, indicate his income totaled more than $243 million since 2005.

Democrats have tried to turn Gianforte’s huge wealth into a liability, alleging he wants to buy the election. Similar charges were levied by Attorney General Tim Fox during the Republican primary that Gianforte won by a 26-percentage point margin.

Campaign spokesman Travis Hall said Gianforte and running mate Kristen Juras released the summary pages of their tax returns to set an example of openness and accountability.

“While these disclosures are not required by law, Greg and Kristen are being proactively transparent with Montanans,” Hall said in a statement.

The campaign released the details from their state and federal returns from 2009-2018 for Gianforte and 2010-2019 for Juras, a Great Falls attorney. She reported income of almost $1.5 million in that period.

Gianforte made most of his income off capital gains, and most of that came in two years, 2011 and 2012, when Oracle was acquiring Gianforte’s Bozeman-based company, RightNow Technologies, for $1.8 billion.

Gianforte spent more than $5 million of his own money in the 2016 race. He has reported loaning just over $1.5 million to his 2020 campaign and also has raised more than $2 million from donors through June 15.

Cooney has reported raising just over $1 million in the race.

Cooney and running mate Casey Schreiner plan to release their returns on July 15, Tax Day, said campaign spokesperson Ronja Abel.

Abel alleged that the timing of Gianforte's release __ days before the July 4 holiday weekend __ appeared designed to minimize public scrutiny.

“It's clear Greg Gianforte is trying to bury another reminder that he's a multimillionaire from New Jersey who doesn't meet with voters because he believes he can buy the election with his personal wealth,” she said.

Cooney, whose career includes three terms as secretary of state and elections to the Montana House and Senate, has not previously released his returns, Abel said.

Gianforte spokesman Travis Hall said it was “revealing" that Cooney now has plans to release them.

"It took Greg Gianforte being transparent, volunteering 10 years of his tax returns, to force Mike Cooney’s hand, and it shows how badly career politicians like Mike Cooney have broken Helena,” Hall said.

Gianforte was raised in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and attended school in New Jersey. He moved to Montana in 1995 and founded RightNow Technologies two years later.

Bullock is prevented from seeking a third term in Helena due to term limits. He's seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, who worked under Gianforte at RightNow Technologies before entering politics.