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November 2, 2023

A new personal finance disclosure for Tim Sheehy, the current Republican front-runner in the party’s effort to topple longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in 2024, shows a complex array of business holdings, properties, investments and other assets that generate millions of dollars each year for the Belgrade businessman. 

Sheehy, the CEO of Belgrade-based aerial firefighting company Bridger Aerospace, earns about $7 million a year in non-investment income, $5 million of which comes from his salary at Bridger. His total net worth, buoyed by between $16 million and $44 million in dividends from investments, is between $74 million and $200 million, which would make him one of Congress’ wealthiest members if he is elected. (A candidate or lawmaker’s investment income and the value of their assets are reported in ranges, hence the width of these estimates.) 

Sheehy, as has been previously reported, owns luxury properties in Big Sky and Polson, a home in Bozeman, rental units and a stake in the Little Belt Cattle Company, a ranching operation near Martinsdale he co-founded with a business partner after they purchased a series of adjoining parcels in 2020. 

His business investments range from the mildly amusing — between $1,000 and $15,000 in Roblox Corp., developer of the kid-oriented video game of the same name — to the potentially politically problematic, especially in the context of both major parties’ hawkishness toward China and Sheehy’s own mixed record on climate change. 

He has invested, for example, between $250,000 and $500,000 in the Pzena Emerging Markets Value Fund, a mutual fund that includes sizable investments in Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce and technology company. He also previously held a small amount of stock in Tencent, another large Chinese corporation. A recent Sheehy campaign ad begins with a grainy video of Chinese President Xi Jinping riding in a parade while Sheehy narrates, “China is building a fierce military.” (Anti-Chinasentiment is not unique to Republicans or to Sheehy. Tester, for instance, has been a leading proponent of restricting the ownership of land in the United States by China and other so-called foreign adversaries).

Sheehy also holds between $50,000 and $100,000 in Cloverly, a self-described “sustainability as a service” company with software that allows companies to measure and offset their carbon output. In July, critics dinged Sheehy after ABC News reported that Bridger Aerospace had removed language from its website touting itself as “fighting on the front lines of climate change.” Republicans both in Montana and nationally are crusading against environmental, social and governance (or ESG), an investment strategy that ostensibly prioritizes protecting the climate and other not-strictly-profit-based incentives. 

Sheehy does not yet have a serious primary challenger, though hardline Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale is reportedly considering, if not quietly pursuing, a bid. Rosendale has attempted to paint Sheehy as out of touch and too connected to the Washington, D.C. establishment, and has touted polling numbers that show him ahead of Sheehy in a hypothetical matchup. Sheehy is the favorite candidate of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is chaired by Montana’s other U.S. senator, Steve Daines. Former Montana Secretary of State and Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson, a Republican, has also announced that he’ll run for the seat.

Tester, a farmer who is vying for a fourth term in the Senate, where he chairs the influential defense subcommittee of the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, is no pauper, though his financial operation is decidedly simpler than Sheehy’s. In 2022, he reported less than $4,000 in annual non-investment income from his farm in Big Sandy and from the state’s public employee retirement system (Tester, a former Montana state legislator, is eligible for a state pension). His farmland is valued between $1 million and $5 million, and he owns between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of stock in American Electric Power, an investment-owned utility company. 

—Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Tester Operation Remains a Financial Juggernaut 

The campaign of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat vying to keep his seat for a fourth term, raised about $5 million between July and the end of September, according to quarterly campaign finance reports filed earlier this month. He ended the period with more than $13 million on hand. 

Tim Sheehy, a Republican businessman from Belgrade and Tester’s most serious opponent at the moment, raised $2.8 million in that quarter, the first period for which his campaign reported its finances. He ended the period with about $1.1 million. Part of Sheehy’s appeal to national Republican backers is his ability to finance his own campaign. A multimillionaire, he loaned his campaign $500,000 during the quarter.

The majority of Tester’s campaign money from individual contributions comes from donations smaller than $200, while the majority of Sheehy’s comes from donations over $2,000, according to an analysis from the Federal Election Commission. 

—Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Downing Makes it Official 

Troy Downing, Montana’s state auditor and commissioner of securities and insurance, has formally launched his campaign for Montana’s eastern U.S. House district. Downing is among the handful of Montana Republicans — including other state officials such as termed-out Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen — who previously said they would consider running for the seat if the incumbent, Republican Matt Rosendale, runs for U.S. Senate. 

Downing, evidently, was tired of waiting. In announcing his campaign Wednesday, he told the Billings Gazette’s Tom Lutey that he’s spent time with Rosendale in recent months and “everything that he’s saying and everything that he’s doing indicates that he’s going to jump into the Senate race.” He emphasized that his desire is not to challenge Rosendale in the primary election. 

Downing, originally from California, is more of a Bozemanite than, say, an Ekalakan. He owns a Bozeman distillery and is the CEO of a Big Sky-based self-storage and commercial real-estate company. But as a state official he resides in Helena, which, unlike Bozeman, is in the eastern House district he’s pursuing. Either way, members of Congress aren’t required to reside in the district they represent. 

—Arren Kimbel-Sannit

On Background

Troy Downing launches Eastern District congressional campaign: For more on Downing’s background, see his interview with the Gazette, in which he aligns himself with a variety of modern GOP causes. 

Federal Election Commission, Montana 2024 U.S. Senate race: The FEC allows people to compare the source and size of candidate donations in a given race. It’s a tool worth playing around with to see, for example, which candidate got the most money from out-of-state donors or from employees of a certain company. 

U.S. Senate Financial Disclosures: Personal finance disclosures for sitting U.S.  senators and some Senate candidates can be found in this federal database.