Greg Gianforte

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Greg Gianforte
Greg Gianforte 115th congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's at-large district
Assumed office
June 21, 2017
Preceded byRyan Zinke
Personal details
BornGregory Richard Gianforte
(1961-04-17) April 17, 1961 (age 57)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Susan Gianforte (m. 1989)
ResidenceBozeman, Montana
EducationStevens Institute of
(BEng, MS)
Net worthIncreaseUS$315 million (2017)[1][2]
WebsiteHouse website

Gregory Richard Gianforte (born in San Diego, April 17, 1961) is a multimillionaire[3] "serial entrepreneur,"[4] engineer, author, and politician serving as Montana's sole, U.S. Representative for its statewide, at-large congressional district. Gianforte and his wife founded RightNow Technologies, a customer relationship management software company which went public in 2004, before being acquired by Oracle in 2011.[5] He was ranked in 2018 as the second wealthiest member of Congress.[6]

In 2016, Gianforte ran for Governor of Montana as the Republican candidate, losing to Democratic incumbent Governor Steve Bullock. In May, 2017, Gianforte defeated his Democratic opponent Rob Quist in a special election for Montana's at-large congressional seat to fill a vacancy created by a presidential cabinet secretary appointment. Montana voters sent Gianforte back to Washington in 2018 after he fended off a challenge from Kathleen Williams, the Democratic candidate.

Gianforte was convicted of assault in state court in June, 2017 stemming from his election eve attack on The Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs in May, 2017.[7] Though he avoided incarceration, he was fined and sentenced to community service and anger management therapy.[8][9][10] As a stipulation of his settlement with Jacobs, Gianforte donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which said it would use the funds to support the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.[11]

Early life, family, and entrepreneurship[edit]

Gregory Richard Gianforte was born on April 17th, 1961, in San Diego, California. He is the oldest son of Frank Richard Gianforte (1937-2015), who was born in Newark, New Jersey, and made a career as an aerospace engineer and, later, a landlord.[12][13][14][15] His mother, Dale (née: Douglass) Gianforte (1937-2008), was born in Pittstown, New Jersey, worked for General Dynamics in San Diego, and later, was a school math teacher.[16] Gianforte is of Italian, English, and Scottish ancestry.[17][18][19]. Gianforte has two younger brothers, Douglass, and Michael.[20] After the age of three, Gianforte was raised in the Valley Forge and King of Prussia suburbs northeast of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania including Wayne, an affluent unincorporated township community which extends into Montgomery County, Chester County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania.[21]

Gianforte graduated in 1979 from Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where he was elected Class President during his junior and senior years.[22] Gianforte played left offensive guard on the school football team.[23] [24][25] Gianforte graduated in 1983 from his father's alma mater, Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey, with B.E. in electrical engineering and an MSc in computer science.[26]

Family and Personal life[edit]

Giantforte was raised Presbyterian.[27] He now attends Grace Bible Church, a nondenominational church in Bozeman with his wife, Susan whom he married in 1988.[28][29][30][31] Gianforte and his wife have resided in Bozeman since moving from New Jersey in 1995. They have four children, Richard, David, Adam, and Rachel. Gianforte has enjoyed hunting on Montana’s public lands.[32] In a 2016 interview, he described entertaining investment bankers from Scotland and New York at his Montana home, in connection with his company’s public stock offering, where he served them a dinner of mountain lion teriyaki, antelope chops wrapped in bacon, and elk tenderloin.[33]. In the same interview, he also discussed issues of land use public policy, and natural resource management in the public interest.

Software entrepreneurship[edit]

Gianforte speaking in 2006

Gianforte began his career in 1983 at Bell Laboratories, working in product acquisition.[34][35] Frustrated by the bureaucratic corporate hierarchy at Bell Labs, Gianforte departed to co-found Brightwork Development Inc., a developer of server-based LAN management software for the banking industry, which was based in Tinton Falls, NJ.[36][37][38] He and his partners sold the company to McAfee Associates for $10 million in 1994.[39] He then moved to Bozeman, Montana.[25] Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies in 1997. The company went public in 2004 and was sold to Oracle Corporation for $1.5 billion in 2011.[40] Before the sale, RightNow Technologies employed about 500 people at its headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, and over 1000 people in total.[41]

Philanthropy and civic life[edit]

In 2004, Gianforte and his wife founded the Gianforte Family Foundation, which has promoted his creationist beliefs in the public sphere, and has made tens of millions of in charitable contributions.[42][43][44] The foundation describes its primary mission as supporting "the work of faith-based organizations engaged in outreach work, strengthening families, and helping the needy; organizations in Montana that work to improve education, support entrepreneurship, and create jobs; and organizations that enhance the local community of Bozeman, Montana."[45] He, his wife, Susan, and his son, Richard are the foundation's three trustees.[45] The foundation had assets of $113 million in 2013.[44] The Gianforte Family Foundation has given nearly $900,000 to the Montana Family Foundation, in some years making up half of the total donations to the Montana Family Foundation. The Montana Family Foundation has promoted conservative and Christian values in the Montana legislature. Asked why he donated to the group, Gianforte said it was because the organization aligns with his views.[46]

Gianforte believes in Young Earth creationism[47] and has expressed support for the pseudoscientific view despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.[48] He has donated at least $290K in cash to the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, a Montana creationist museum which teaches visitors that evolution is false, the Earth is about 6,000-6,400 years old, that humans and dinosaurs coexisted during the same period of history. [49] The museum claims dinosaurs were aboard the Ark and that they likely died out 4,300 years ago during the flood described in the Book of Genesis, and which is regarded as wholly deceptive and fictional, with noted palaeontologist Jack Horner calling it "not a museum at all".[50][51][52][53] The Gianforte Family Foundation also donated a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton replica to the museum.[54]

Through his nonprofit, the Gianforte Family Charitable Trust, Gianforte has contributed substantial funding to several conservative organizations.[55][56] Some have lead legal efforts to dismantle federal campaign finance regulations.[57] Gianforte has donated to the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, which advocate for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, as well as the Montana Family Foundation, which is "the state's primary advocate against LGBT policies".[58]

Financial interests[edit]

Gianforte has had a variety of business interests and investments. In November 2013, he was appointed to the board of FICO, which profiles consumer credit risks for lenders.[59] The same month, Gianforte acquired 8,000 shares of FICO, which were then valued at more than $464,000.00[60] Gianforte is a partner in MGRR No. 1, a limited liability company that has received grain subsidies since 1995.[61] Gianforte was the founding Board Chair of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. He resigned as Board Chair in June 2017 when he was sworn into office as Congressman representing the State of Montana.[62]

In financial disclosure forms filed in 2017, Gianforte indicated that he owned $150,000 worth of shares in VanEck Vectors Russia ETF and $92,400 in the IShares MSCF Russia ETF, totalling just under $250,000 in two exchange-traded funds focused on investments in Russia.[63] The investments attracted attention because they included shares in Gazprom and Rosneft, which are subject to U.S. sanctions imposed after the Russian invasion of Crimea; however, because the per-person ownership stake in these companies is so small in such index funds, they are exempt from sanctions.[63] After the issue was raised in Gianforte's 2017 congressional campaign, Gianforte stated that his Russia holdings were a small portion of his overall investments and pledged to place all of his assets in a blind trust if elected.[63][64]

Through a holding corporation, Gianforte owns a 12 seat, single engine private jet which he has used as a strategic asset on the campaign trail.[65][66] Gianforte has made the aircraft available to others in his congressional caucus to travel back to congress for important votes.[67]

2016 Montana gubernatorial campaign[edit]

Gianforte/Robinson campaign sign outside the Hill County Republican Party headquarters in Havre

On January 20, 2016, Gianforte announced his candidacy for the Republican Party's nomination for governor of Montana in the 2016 election.[68] He had a political practices complaint filed alleging he started campaigning before registering.[69][70] The complaint was dismissed.[71]

In a campaign speech that year, Gianforte stated that he had been involved in discussions with Facebook about bringing a new call center to Montana, but that Facebook had declined because of that state's business equipment tax.[72] A Facebook spokesman disputed Gianforte's claims, saying that no discussions with Gianforte took place and that the tax was not the reason the company decided not to locate a call center in Montana. Gianforte stood by his statement saying that he had spoken with a Facebook executive the previous fall.[73]

During his gubernatorial campaign, Gianforte pledged not to accept special interest PAC money into his campaign coffers and ran television ads criticizing his opponent for doing so.[74]

Management of public lands was a point of contention in Gianforte's 2016 campaign for governor.[75]. In 2009, Gianforte's LLC filed a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks about the boundaries of an easement for public access to the East Gallatin River adjacent to his property.[76] Gianforte's suit against the state became an issue in the 2016 campaign with Gianforte's critics characterizing it as a wealthy out-of-stater's effort to block public access to a popular stream.[75][76][77] Gianforte consistently denied the allegations and called the issue a misunderstanding, noting the suit was never served, though the lawsuit was settled outside of court.[75] Gianforte opposed same-sex marriage.[78]. He staked out a position in opposition to abortion.[78][79]

Steve Bullock, the incumbent Democratic governor, defeated Gianforte in the November general election, 50%–46%.[80]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


2017 special election campaign[edit]

On March 1, 2017, Republican U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana's at-large congressional district resigned his seat following his confirmation by the United States Senate as United States Secretary of the Interior. Governor Bullock set a special election to finish Zinke's term for May 25 that same day.[81] Gianforte had already announced his intention to seek the seat on January 25, prior to Zinke's confirmation and subsequent resignation.[82] At a March 6 convention, the Republican Party selected Gianforte as their nominee. He faced Democratic musician and former Montana Arts Council member Rob Quist, as well as Libertarian nominee Mark Wicks, in the general election.[83]

In a departure from previous pledges made during his gubernatorial campaign, Gianforte relaxed his past pledges to refuse all PAC money, and began to turn away only corporate PAC funding. His campaign began accepting contributions from political party and leadership PACs.[84]

Gianforte distanced himself from Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican primary and did not attend Trump's sole rally in Montana, citing a scheduling conflict.[85][86] However, he endorsed Trump in the 2016 general election and continued to express support for him during his 2017 special election campaign for Congress.[87][88][89] Gianforte's campaign was supported by Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr., who both stumped for Gianforte in the state.[90][91][92] Gianforte tacked close to Trump's political narratives, promoted his outsider status as a first time politico, his experience as a technology entrepreneur, and criticized sanctuary cities policies and "the liberal elite."[93]

Gianforte supported repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[94] He has declined to say whether he supports the American Health Care Act, the House Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.[95] That same day, Gianforte held a private conference call with Republican-leaning lobbyists in Washington D.C. where he offered a more supportive view of the American Health Care Act.[95][96] He said that it "sounds like we just passed a health care thing, which I'm thankful for, sounds like we're starting to repeal and replace."[95] Later that May, he said he would not "vote for a repeal and a replace unless I know it protects people with pre-existing conditions, lowers rates and preserves rural access".[97] The incident where Gianforte assaulted a reporter was in response to questions about how the AHCA would make health insurance too expensive for people with pre-existing conditions.[98]

Gianforte opposed the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, comparing marijuana to more addictive drugs.[99] He supported allowing the use of medical marijuana to "people in chronic pain, under the care of a doctor."[100] He continued to stake out a position in opposition to abortion except when the woman's life is in danger.[100] He favored removing federal funds from Planned Parenthood.[100] He stated that he supports government enforcement of nondiscrimination for workers, but not for customers.[101][58]. He opposed increasing in the minimum wage.[102] Gianforte supported Executive Order 13769, to ban immigration from seven Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim countries.[103] He opposed resettlement of refugees in Montana.[104] He opposed sanctuary cities policies.[93] Gianforte blamed the Obama administration for "the situation with Russia" favored a multilateral strategy to stand against Russian aggression.[63] He supported Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.[105]

Gianforte opposed efforts to transfer federal lands to the states."[106] Gianforte called for changes to the Endangered Species Act.[77] He was in favor of amending to the federal Equal Access to Justice Act to reduce environmental litigation, asserting that the act has been abused by "environmental extremists."[77] He acknowledged human-caused climate change but "did not have specific ideas on how to address climate change."[77] He believed that "the climate is always changing," and believed that closing coal-fired power plants would not help mitigate climate change.[107] He supported Trump's repeal of the Clean Power Plan introduced by the Obama administration.[108] He has called for investments in clean coal technology.[107] Gianforte has criticized the length of time the Department of Interior spends to evaluate applications to drill and frack for shale gas.[109]

Gianforte outlined his position on retirement by using the Biblical example of Noah. He said:

There's nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. And yet it's been an accepted concept in our culture today. Nowhere does it say, 'Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach ... The example I think of is Noah. How old was Noah when he built the ark? 600. He wasn't like, cashing Social Security checks, he wasn't hanging out, he was working. So, I think we have an obligation to work. The role we have in work may change over time, but the concept of retirement is not biblical.[110][111][112][113]

Election eve assault of journalist[edit]
Greg Gianforte's jail booking mugshot taken 93 days after his act of assault, on Friday, August 25, 2017 upon being booked and fingerprinted at the Gallatin County Montana Detention Center.

On May 24, 2017, the day before the U.S. House special election, Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for The Guardian newspaper who was covering the election, reported to the Gallatin County, Montana Sheriff's Office that Gianforte assaulted him at Gianforte's Bozeman campaign office after Jacobs asked him a question concerning health care policy.[114][115][116][117][118] Jacobs said that Gianforte "bodyslammed" him to the floor and broke the reporter's glasses.[115][116][117] In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Gianforte made misleading statements to a Gallatin County Sheriff's Office Sergeant who reported to Gianforte's campaign office to investigate Jacobs' assault complaint.[119] On the evening of the incident, Gianforte further remarked to the investigating Sheriff's Sergeant: "the liberal media is trying to make a story."[120][121]

The Gianforte campaign was initially unapologetic, falsely blaming the reporter in a press release in the hours after the assault,[122][123] and disputed the allegations, saying that Jacobs grabbed Gianforte's wrist, causing them both to fall to the ground.[124] However, an audio recording of the incident appeared to support Jacobs's statement,[125][115] and other reporters who were present at the scene corroborated Jacobs' version of events.[126]

An eyewitness to the attack, Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, testified that "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground," then "began punching the man" and "yelling something to the effect of 'I'm sick and tired of this!'" Acuna remarked: "at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies."[127] Jacobs was hospitalized following the attack.[125] Another journalist who was an eyewitness to the assault, Alixis Levinson, tweeted that she "heard a giant crash and saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor."[128]

Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault by the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office, and was ordered to appear in court regarding his actions.[129][130] 93 days after his assault, on Friday August 25, 2017, Gianforte was briefly booked into jail, fingerprinted, and had his official jail "mugshot" photograph taken, but only after being compelled to do so by court order following a quiet struggle by his legal team to avoid that process.[131][132][133] On Wednesday October 10th, 2017, Giantforte's jail mugshot was released publicly by a Gallatin County Court order.[134]

Three of Montana's largest newspapers, including the Billings Gazette, the largest in the state, the Missoulian and the Independent Record, all rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte in the wake of the incident.[135][136][137][138] Speaker Paul Ryan and other members of Congress urged Gianforte to apologize.[139]

Gianforte won the special election on May 25. During his acceptance speech that evening, he apologized to Jacobs and the Fox News crew for his assault.[140] On June 7 Gianforte made a written apology to Jacobs and donated US$50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which accepted the funds because it was part of the settlement and said it would put them towards the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.[11] In return, Jacobs agreed to not pursue a civil claim against Gianforte.[141]

On June 12, 2017, when Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault of Jacobs in Gallatin County District Court, Gianforte said Jacobs "did not initiate any physical contact with me." He also wrote a letter to Jacobs saying the reporter did not start the physical altercation.[122] Gianforte was originally sentenced to four days in jail, to be completed in part through a work program. However, he was ineligible for the work program due to the assault conviction. The judge then switched the sentence to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management therapy, 180-day deferred sentence, and a $300 fine along with an $85 court fee.[9][10][142]

During the court hearing Jacobs said that he hoped to interview Gianforte in the future, as he was trying to do at the time of the assault. Gianforte said in court to Jacobs "I am sorry, and if and when you are ready, I look forward to sitting down with you in D.C." However, Gianforte later reneged on his courtroom offer to sit down with Jacobs for an interview.[143][144]

On October 18, 2018, during a rally in Missoula, Montana, US President Donald Trump praised Gianforte for assaulting Jacobs.[145][146][147] While verbally recognizing Gianforte's capacity to effect a body slam, Trump made gestures with his arms and hands to pantomime a fighting maneuver.[148] According to analysts, the incident marks the first time the President has "openly and directly praised a violent act against a journalist on American soil".[149] The UK Prime Minister Theresa May, commenting about the incident, stated that "any violence or intimidation against a journalist is completely unacceptable".[150] PEN America Center, a nonprofit writer organization defending freedom of expression, condemned Trump's explicit praise for Gianforte's assault.[151] During an event in Scottsdale, Arizona the following day, President Donald Trump dismissed this criticism, saying he does not regret praising Gianforte.[152] Since the October, 2018 political rally when Trump recognized Gianforte's commission of assault, Gianforte has been criticized by one of his constituents for not refuting nor denouncing Trump's recognition and praise of his attack on Jacobs.[153]

Gianforte's assault on the journalist has gained political notoriety; during an October 2018 campaign event with then Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, U.S. Representative Jody Hice implored the small crowd gathered to oppose the resurgence of Democratic candidates in the 2018 mid term elections. Hice declared that: "it's time for this so called blue wave to be body slammed!" [154]

In the months since the assault, through his attorney, Jacobs has accused Gianforte of white-washing his factual guilt of the assault, twice sending cease and desist letters warning Gianforte not to lie about his culpability in the assault.[155] Gianforte met with the Missoulian newspaper editorial board in October 2018, and, when asked about the assault, he maintained that his original false statement to sheriff's deputies in the immediate aftermath of the incident was his best recollection of events; a statement that Gianforte later contradicted under oath in court with an admission of guilt connected to his guilty plea.[156][157]

2018 general election campaign[edit]

Gianforte's incumbency was opposed in 2018 by Montana’s nominated Democratic Party candidate Kathleen Williams, a state legislator and natural resources expert from Bozeman, as well as by Libertarian Party candidate Elinor Swanson, a lawyer from Billings.[158] Giantforte's Democratic opponent, Kathleen Williams has criticized Gianforte for introducing a bill to remove federal protections from several wilderness study areas in Montana without holding any public meetings on the issue.[159]

Polling data in the weeks leading up to election showed Gianforte and Williams were in a close contest within the margins of error, though Gianforte prevailed in his bid for re-election.[160][161] Exit polling data indicated that Gianforte had his strongest support at the polls from men older than 44, and from those with incomes above $50,000 per year.[162]


115th Congress[edit]

Gianforte was sworn into the U.S. House on June 21, 2017.[163] At his inauguration ceremony, Gianforte announced his support for congressional term limits, barring members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, and holding back congressional pay if no budget is passed – it is unusual for members of Congress to announce such support for legislation in their inauguration.[164] Montana Democrats mailed Gianforte an orange prison jumpsuit on the day of his inauguration.[165][166]

Gianforte has touted refundable tax credits for low income parents as an achievement of his party caucus in the 115th Congress.[167]. He stressed the importance of open and free trade agreements for Montana farms.[168]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]


Gianforte received an honorary doctorate from Stevens Institute of Technology and gave the commencement speech in 2012.[170]

In 2007, Gianforte was awarded an honorary doctorate from Montana State University's College of Engineering.[171][13]

In 2007, Gianforte was inducted into the CRM Hall of Fame.[172] Gianforte received the 2003 Stevens Institute of Technology's Stevens Honor Award.[173]

Gianforte was named Pacific Northwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2003.[174]

Electoral History[edit]

Montana gubernatorial election, 2016[175]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Steve Bullock (Incumbent) 255,933 50.25 +1.35%
Republican Greg Gianforte 236,115 46.36 -0.98%
Libertarian Ted Dunlap 17,312 3.39 -0.37%
Plurality 19,818 3.89 +2.33%
Turnout 516,901 74.44
Total votes 509,360 100%
Democratic hold Swing
Montana's at-large congressional district special election, 2017[176]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Greg Gianforte 189,473 50.19% -6.00
Democratic Rob Quist 166,483 44.11% +3.46
Libertarian Mark L. Wicks 21,509 5.70% +2.44
Majority 22,990 6.10% -7.54%
Turnout 377,465 54.22% -20.22%
Republican hold Swing
Montana's at-large congressional district general election, 2018[177]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Greg Gianforte %
Democratic Kathleen Williams %
Libertarian Elinor Swanson %
Majority % %
Turnout % %
Republican hold Swing


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External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Rick Hill
Republican nominee for Governor of Montana
Most recent
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ryan Zinke
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's at-large congressional district

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ron Estes
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Jimmy Gomez