By Matt Volz Associated Press
HELENA (AP) – Technology entrepreneur and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Greg Gianforte reported income of $220.5 million and federal and state tax payments of nearly $35 million between 2005 and 2014, according to his tax returns.
The Bozeman businessman is exploring a run for governor in 2016, four years after selling RightNow Technologies, the software company he founded in 1997, to Oracle for $1.8 billion. He released 10 years of federal and state income tax returns in response to a request from The Associated Press.
Gianforte told the AP that he released his tax returns because he believes in transparency and because one of Montana’s biggest problems is low-paying jobs that force young people to seek work outside the state.
“What Montana needs is more transparency, and if nothing else, this shows that people can prosper from Montana,” he said.
However, the state Democratic Party says Gianforte’s wealth could very well become a factor in a gubernatorial bid.
“It’s going to be difficult for him to relate to Montanans when he’s flying around in a private jet,” Montana Democratic Party spokesman Jason Pitt said.
The tax returns show that Gianforte’s total income – wages, dividends, capital gains and interest – ranged from $1.5 million in 2008 to $110 million in 2012, the year he sold his company to Oracle.
RightNow went public in 2004. The next two years, Gianforte reported income of $13 million and $29 million.
Gianforte paid $26.3 million in federal taxes and $8.6 million in state taxes over the 10 years.
Gianforte also reported donating more than $56 million in cash and in-kind contributions to charities and the Gianforte Family Foundation over the last decade. Spokesman Aaron Flint said the actual amount donated over that period was $113.9 million, but Gianforte only reported the amount allowable for tax deductions.
Through his family’s foundation, Gianforte has donated millions of dollars to religious organizations in the U.S. and in Africa, conservative organizations such as the Montana Family Foundation, scholarships for low-income students, community groups, universities and the arts.
Gianforte is expected to be a top challenger to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock once he makes his run official. As a result, the state Democratic Party has taken to calling Gianforte a “New Jersey billionaire,” highlighting his wealth to voters in a relatively poor state.
Pitt pointed to a comment Gianforte made in a story published this month by the Daily Inter Lake that said he would have signed a bill vetoed by Bullock to lower individual and business income taxes.
“You have a billionaire advocating for tax cuts for himself and others in the upper class,” Pitt said.
Gianforte, a New Jersey native who moved to Bozeman in 1995, told the AP that the question for Montana voters is whether they want someone like him to create more jobs so their kids don’t have to leave the state.
“I think prosperity is a virtuous thing and we need more of it in Montana,” he said.
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