Sen. Steve Daines predicted in early May that Republican Greg Gianforte would win the special election for Montana's lone House seat by 8 to 10 points. Gianforte won by 6.
This wasn't pure guesswork. In addition to representing Montana for the past five years, first as a congressman and now as a senator, Daines is quite familiar with fellow Republican Gianforte. They worked together for 12 years at a customer relationship management (CRM) software company called RightNow Technologies, which Oracle acquired in 2012 for $1.5 billion.
Before that, the former tech executives partnered on a construction project to build RightNow's headquarters in Bozeman.
Montana's economy is heavy in mining, transportation and agricultural products like beef, barley and hay. But in terms of the state's representation in Washington, the technology industry — and one company in particular — now has outsized influence.
On Thursday, Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist, a singing cowboy, in a special election to replace Ryan Zinke, who President Donald Trump tapped as his secretary of Interior. The contest hit national headlines Wednesday night when an audio recording circulated of Gianforte at a campaign event bodyslamming a reporter from The Guardian who asked him a question about the health-care bill.
At his victory party the following night, Gianforte apologized to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and said, "I'm not proud of what happened."
Gianforte, who narrowly lost a bid to become Montana's governor last year, and Daines account for two-thirds of the state's representatives in Congress. The other is Democratic Sen. Jon Tester , who comes from a farming background.
Gianforte earned a fortune from the sale of RightNow. He founded the company in 1997, and he and his wife owned close to a quarter of the business at the time of the acquisition. Daines was RightNow's vice president of the Asia-Pacific region.
According to RightNow's 2010 annual report, the last before the acquisition, Gianforte and Daines owned a combined 75 percent of Genesis Partners, a real estate company that was the "landlord from whom we lease our principal offices in Bozeman."
RightNow competed with Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) until they joined forces. Oracle has continued to support Daines in his political career, becoming one of his principal donors.
Between employees and political action committees, Oracle contributed $40,365 to Daines in his two elections, more than he received from all but five companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His biggest donor was investment firm Elliott Management. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), another former employer, was third, followed by Koch Industries.
Oracle employees contributed $3,200 to Gianforte's campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission. Gianforte, who has lived in Montana since 1995, is also the founder of the Bozeman Technology Incubator, which provides mentoring to the emerging tech and manufacturing businesses.
The press offices for Daines and Gianforte didn't respond to requests for comment.
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