|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Montana's at-large district
|Assumed office |
June 21, 2017
|Preceded by||Ryan Zinke|
Gregory Richard Gianforte
April 17, 1961
San Diego, California, U.S.
Susan Gianforte (m. 1988)
|Education||Stevens Institute of|
Technology (BEng, MS)
|Net worth||US$315 million (2017)|
Gregory Richard Gianforte (born April 17, 1961) is an American businessman, engineer, author, and politician serving as the Representative for Montana's at-large congressional district since 2017. 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. Gianforte is one of the few tech executives to be elected to political office in the United States. Since Representative Darrell Issa left office in 2019, Gianforte is currently the second wealthiest member of Congress. He is not running for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2020 and is instead a candidate in the 2020 Montana gubernatorial election.
In 2016, Gianforte ran for Governor of Montana as the Republican candidate, losing to incumbent Democratic 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 the presidential cabinet secretary appointment of Ryan Zinke. Gianforte prevailed in his 2018 bid for re-election after fending off a challenge from Democratic nominee Kathleen Williams.
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. He was fined and sentenced to community service and anger management therapy. 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.
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Gregory Richard Gianforte was born on April 17, 1961, in San Diego, California. He is the oldest son of Frank Richard Gianforte, born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1937 (deceased 2015), who had a career as an aerospace engineer and, later, a landlord. His mother, Dale Douglass was born in Pittstown, New Jersey, in 1937 (deceased 2008), and worked for General Dynamics in San Diego, and later, was a school math teacher. Gianforte is of Italian, English, and Scottish ancestry. Gianforte has two younger brothers, Douglass and Michael. 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 the Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties of Pennsylvania.
During his high school years in the 1970s, Gianforte started a software business. He attended Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where he was elected class president during his junior and senior years. Gianforte was also captain of his school football team, where he played left offensive guard. He graduated from high school in 1979.
Gianforte graduated in 1983 from his father's alma mater, Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey, with a B.E. in electrical engineering and a master's degree in computer science. Gianforte directed a computer lab with 12 programmers. He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta men's fraternity, and enjoyed playing squash.
While working at Bell Labs in New Jersey in the 1980s, Gianforte met his wife, Susan, who is the first-generation daughter of German immigrants, and was born and raised in Queens, New York City. They married in 1988. Gianforte and his wife have resided in Bozeman, Montana, since moving from New Jersey in 1995. They have four children. Giantforte was raised Presbyterian. He and his wife attend Grace Bible Church, a nondenominational church in Bozeman.
Gianforte has hunted on Montana's public lands and on October 28, 2000, he was fined $70 for illegally killing an elk. 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.
Gianforte began his career in 1983 at Bell Laboratories, working in product acquisition. 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, New Jersey. He and his partners sold the company to McAfee Associates for $10 million in 1994. Gianforte then began working for McAfee as head of North American sales. In 1995, he moved to Bozeman, Montana.
Gianforte, and his wife, Susan, a mechanical engineer by trade, co-founded RightNow Technologies in 1997. Part of Gianforte's strategy was to leverage the internet as a means to overcome geographic barriers to building a globalized business. By the time the company went public in 2004, it employed over 1,000 workers and executives both in Bozeman, and globally, with offices in the UK, Asia, and Australia. The company included future Senator Steve Daines among its executives. The company was acquired by Oracle Corporation for $1.5 billion in 2011. At the time, Gianforte's 20 percent stake in the company was worth about $290 million. Right Now Technologies had contracts with federal agencies, including handling all of the online search queries for the Social Security Administration and Medicare websites. In 2012, Gianforte sued the Montana Democratic Party for defamation, alleging the House campaign ads they aired critical of then House candidate Steve Daines were libelous. Gianforte alleged the party aired television ads that claimed that Right Now Technologies capitalized itself with public contracts, and then offshored jobs.
In 2005, along with a London-based co-author, Marcus Gibson, Gianforte published a business book: Bootstrapping Your Business, start and grow a successful company with almost no money. He has offered business lectures on entrepreneurship, and on building a global business.
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 dollars in charitable contributions. 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." Gianforte, his wife, Susan, and his son, Richard, are the foundation's three trustees. The foundation had assets of $113 million in 2013.
The Gianforte Family Foundation has given nearly $900,000 to the Montana Family Foundation, in some years making up half of that organization's total revenue. 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.
Through his nonprofit, the Gianforte Family Charitable Trust, Gianforte has contributed substantial funding to several conservative organizations. Some have led legal efforts to dismantle federal campaign finance regulations. 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". Gianforte served on the board of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an education reform organization founded by economist Milton Friedman which advocates for school vouchers.
Gianforte believes in Young Earth creationism, and has expressed support for this pseudoscientific view despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. He has donated at least $290,000 to the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, a Montana creationist museum which teaches visitors that the theory of evolution is false, that the Earth is about 6,000–6,400 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs coexisted during the same period of history. The museum claims dinosaurs were aboard Noah's Ark, and that they likely went extinct 4,300 years ago during the great flood described in the Book of Genesis. Palaeontologist Jack Horner called the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum "not a museum at all". The Gianforte Family Foundation also donated a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton replica to the museum.
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. The same month, Gianforte acquired 8,000 shares of FICO, which were then valued at more than $464,000.00. Gianforte is a partner in MGRR No. 1, a limited liability company that has received grain subsidies since 1995. 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 Congress.
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. 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. 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.
Through a holding corporation, Gianforte owns a 12-seat private jet which he has used as a strategic asset on the campaign trail. He made the aircraft available to others in his congressional caucus to travel back east to Washington for important votes.
On January 20, 2016, Gianforte announced his candidacy for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor of Montana in the 2016 election. A citizen of Butte filed a political practices complaint against Gianforte alleging that he began campaigning before registering; the complaint was dismissed.
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. A Facebook spokesman disputed Gianforte's claims, saying that no discussions with Gianforte had taken 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.
During his gubernatorial campaign, Gianforte pledged not to accept special interest PAC money and ran television ads criticizing his opponent for doing so. He came under scrutiny when an audio tape surfaced revealing his past advocacy to replace state income tax and state business tax revenue with a state sales tax.
Management of public lands was a point of contention in Gianforte's 2016 campaign for governor. 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. 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. 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. Gianforte opposes same-sex marriage. He opposes abortion.
On March 1, 2017, Republican 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. A special election was scheduled to fill the remainder of Zinke's term. Gianforte had already announced his intention to seek the seat on January 25, prior to Zinke's confirmation and subsequent resignation. 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.
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.
Gianforte distanced himself from Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary and did not attend Trump's sole rally in Montana, citing a scheduling conflict. However, he endorsed Trump in the 2016 general election and continued to express support for him during his 2017 special election campaign for Congress. Gianforte's campaign was supported by Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr., who both stumped for Gianforte in the state. Gianforte tacked close to Trump's political narratives, promoting his outsider status as a first time political candidate, touting his experience as a technology entrepreneur, and criticizing policies leading to sanctuary cities and "the liberal elite."
Gianforte supported repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). He declined to say whether he supports the American Health Care Act, the House Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. On Thursday May 4th, 2017, 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. 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." 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". 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.
He supported allowing the use of medical marijuana to "people in chronic pain, under the care of a doctor." He opposes abortion except in cases where a woman's life is in danger. He favors removing federal funding from Planned Parenthood. He stated that he supports government enforcement of nondiscrimination for workers, but not for customers. He opposed increasing in the minimum wage. Gianforte supported Executive Order 13769, to ban immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. He opposed resettlement of refugees in Montana. He opposed sanctuary cities policies. Gianforte blamed the Obama administration for "the situation with Russia" and favored a multilateral strategy to stand against Russian aggression. He supported President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Gianforte opposed efforts to transfer federal lands to the states. Gianforte called for changes to the Endangered Species Act. He was in favor of amending the federal Equal Access to Justice Act to reduce environmental litigation, saying that the act has been abused by "environmental extremists." He acknowledged human-caused climate change but "did not have specific ideas on how to address climate change." He has said that "the climate is always changing," and believes that closing coal-fired power plants would not help mitigate climate change. He supported President Trump's repeal of the Clean Power Plan introduced by the Obama administration. He has called for investments in clean coal technology. Gianforte has criticized the length of time the Department of Interior spends to evaluate applications to drill and frack for shale gas.
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.
On May 24, 2017, the day before the 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 had assaulted him at Gianforte's Bozeman campaign office after Jacobs asked him a question concerning health care policy. Jacobs said that Gianforte "bodyslammed" him to the floor and broke his glasses.
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. On the evening of the incident, Gianforte further remarked to the investigating Sheriff's Sergeant: "the liberal media is trying to make a story."
The Gianforte campaign was initially unapologetic, falsely blaming the reporter in a press release in the hours after the assault. The campaign disputed the allegations, saying that Jacobs grabbed Gianforte's wrist and caused them both to fall to the ground. However, an audio recording of the incident appeared to support Jacobs's statement, and other reporters who were present at the scene corroborated Jacobs' version of events.
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." Jacobs was hospitalized following the attack. Another journalist who was an eyewitness to the assault, Alexis Levinson, tweeted that she "heard a giant crash and saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor."
Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault by the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office, and was ordered to appear in court regarding his actions. 93 days after his assault, on 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. On October 10, 2017, Giantforte's jail mugshot was released publicly by a Gallatin County court order.
In rescinding its endorsement of Gianforte, Helena's Independent Record editorial board noted that prior to the attack, Gianforte had encouraged his supporters to boycott certain newspapers, singled out a reporter in a room to point out that he was outnumbered, and joked about the notion of choking a news writer. Two other well-circulated Montana newspapers, the Billings Gazette, and the largest in the state, the Missoulian, followed suit in revoking their prior endorsements of Gianforte. Speaker Paul Ryan and other members of Congress urged Gianforte to apologize.
In his acceptance speech the night of his May 25 victory, Gianforte apologized to Jacobs and the Fox News crew for his assault. On June 7, Gianforte made a written apology to Jacobs and donated $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. In return, Jacobs agreed to not pursue a civil claim against Gianforte.
On June 12, 2017, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault of Jacobs in Gallatin County District Court, Gianforte said that Jacobs "did not initiate any physical contact with me." He also wrote a letter to Jacobs saying that the reporter did not start the physical altercation. 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.
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." As of October 2017, Gianforte had not sat down with Jacobs for an interview, and the issue was not pursued further.
Since the assault, Jacobs has, through his attorney, accused Gianforte of whitewashing his guilt, twice sending cease and desist letters to Gianforte regarding the latter's accounts of his culpability in the assault. 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.
On October 18, 2018, during a rally in Missoula, Montana, President Donald Trump congratulated Gianforte for his assault on Jacobs. While verbally praising Gianforte's prowess in carrying out a body slam, Trump made gestures with his hands and arms to pantomime a fighting maneuver. According to analysts, this marked the first time Trump had "openly and directly praised a violent act against a journalist on American soil".
PEN America, a nonprofit organization that defends freedom of expression, condemned Trump's explicit praise for Gianforte's assault. When she was asked about Trump's remarks, UK Prime Minister Theresa May stated that "any violence or intimidation against a journalist is completely unacceptable". But, during a campaign event in Scottsdale, Arizona, the following day, Trump dismissed the criticism, saying he did not regret praising Gianforte.
Gianforte's assault on the journalist achieved political notoriety. During an October 2018 campaign event with then Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Republican Representative Jody Hice implored the small crowd that had gathered to oppose the resurgence of Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. Hice declared, "It's time for this so called blue wave to be body slammed!" 
Gianforte's candidacy was opposed in 2018 by Democratic Party nominee Kathleen Williams, a state legislator and natural resources expert from Bozeman, as well as by Libertarian Party candidate Elinor Swanson, a lawyer from Billings.
Gianforte opposed Williams' policy proposal to allow those 55 and older to buy into Medicare, remarking that "medicare for all is medicare for none", and cautioned that Medicare would be at risk of spending cuts if Democrats won a majority in the House.  Williams 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.
Polling data in the weeks leading up to the election showed Gianforte and Williams in a close contest within the margin of error. Gianforte prevailed in his bid for re-election with a 5% margin of victory. 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.
Gianforte was sworn into the House of Representatives on June 21, 2017. 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. Montana Democrats mailed Gianforte an orange prison jumpsuit on the day of his inauguration.
The first bill Gianforte introduced, on June 21, 2017, was H.R. 2977, the Balanced Budget Accountability Act, which, as Gianforte summarized it, would withhold pay from members of Congress unless a balanced budget is passed. As of June 2017, the bill had not been voted on in any of the three committees to which it was referred.
Gianforte has touted refundable tax credits for low income parents as an achievement of his party caucus in the 115th Congress. He has stressed the importance of open and free trade agreements for Montana farms.
Gianforte chaired the Interior Subcommittee of the Oversight Committee through the end of the 115th Congress in 2018. Gianforte has introduced legislation to nullify Wilderness Study Area (WSA) designations from more than 800,000 acres of land in Montana under the stewardship of both the federal Bureau of Land Management as well as the U.S. Forest Service
With the turnover of the caucus majority in the 2018 midterm elections, Gianforte lost his chairmanship of the Interior Subcommittee of the Oversight Committee to Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands.  Gianforte offered a telephone conference call listening session in January, 2019, generating criticism of the opacity of that process, and whether it was staged with unchallenging questions from select participants who expressed support for Gianforte, and who were identified only by first name.
Gianforte is contending with Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski for the nomination of the Montana Republican Party for the 2020 Montana gubernatorial election. Gianforte drew parallels between his experience building a large technology company in Bozeman, and Donald Trump's business background, and shared anecdotes of visits to the White House meant to illustrate their ties.
Gianforte received an honorary doctorate from Stevens Institute of Technology and gave the commencement speech in 2012. In 2007, Gianforte was awarded an honorary doctorate from Montana State University's College of Engineering. In 2007, Gianforte was inducted into the CRM Hall of Fame. Gianforte received the 2003 Stevens Institute of Technology's Stevens Honor Award. Gianforte was named Pacific Northwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2003.
|Democratic||Steve Bullock (incumbent)||255,933||50.25%||+1.35%|
|Libertarian||Mark L. Wicks||21,682||5.66%||+2.40%|
|Independent||Doug Campbell (write-in)||81||0.02%||+0.02%|
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Governor of Montana
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's at-large congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority