The battle over retaining the majority in the Senate has ramped up recently and that has taken many Republicans by surprise. While the number of Democrats up for re-election in states that President Trump won is greater than the number of Republicans up for re-election, some races have suddenly tightened-up, causing concern for the GOP.
One race in play is that of Montana’s Senator Jon Tester. Tester, you may remember, landed firmly on President Trump’s bad side when he launched a vicious attack on Dr. Ronny Jackson as the president’s White House physician was nominated to be Surgeon General. Tester’s staff dug up dirt claiming that Dr. Jackson had a drinking problem and was irresponsibly prescribing medication in his capacity as a physician in the White House medical unit. The man worked in the administrations of three presidents, including President Trump, and none of these stories surfaced in either the George W. Bush or Barack Obama administrations. So, Trump set Tester in his sights. He has made two trips to Montana so far to rally for Tester’s Republican challenger, State Auditor Max Rosendale.
One charge from the Rosendale campaign is that of Tester’s acceptance of lobbyist money as campaign donations. Tester was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 by defeating longtime Republican Senator Conrad Burns, who Tester linked to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a “super-lobbyist”.
Tester, a third-generation farmer and former president of the Montana Senate, has a reputation as a populist. He frequently criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that allowed more money to flow into political campaigns. He was first elected in 2006 over former Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, whose defeat was attributed in part to a corruption scandal involving Burns’ ties to “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff.
I have been watching the Montana race because my sister lives there and keeps me updated about it. So, when the headline of the AP fact check caught my eye, I read the article. Sure enough, Senator Tester has been less than accurate in his claim that the Republican candidate is making up the charge that Tester is the largest recipient of lobbyist cash in the Senate. Oops. When previously asked about it, Tester’s response was, “That’s bull.” That is perhaps the response you would expect from a rancher.
It seems that Rosendale’s assertion is, indeed, correct. Tester has fallen into the very same swampy behavior that he accused Burns of and is now in the number one spot. The AP fact-checked the claim that arose after the National Republican Senatorial Committee ran an ad against Tester.
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: “Jon Tester was No. 1 in Cash from Lobbyists in 2018,” in an advertisement released September 6.
THE FACTS: The Republican group got it right — Tester was the top recipient in Congress of money from lobbyists for a time, according to campaign contribution data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Coincidence? When @JonTester’s up for re-election he’s receiving THE MOST CASH from lobbyists of ANY U.S. Senator or Congressman. He’s Gone Washington. #DrainTheSwamp #DefeatTester #mtsen #mtpol pic.twitter.com/0CJ9GAfPoN
— Matt Rosendale (@MattForMontana) August 24, 2018
Rosendale tweeted last month that Tester was receiving “the most cash” from lobbyists and had “gone Washington.”
When Rosendale posted his tweet on Aug. 24, representatives of the lobbying industry had contributed $394,478 to Tester’s campaign during the 2018 election cycle, according to the center’s website, opensecrets.org.
That made him tops among members of Congress receiving lobbying industry contributions, just ahead of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who had $381,033.
Also, for a bit more historical reference in Tester’s Senate career, he was also the top recipient in 2012 – outpacing then Speaker of the House John Boehner.
For the 2012 cycle, Tester was also the No. 1 recipient of lobbyists’ money, taking in $502,031, ahead of former House Speaker John Boehner, who was second with $423,750, according to the center.
Tester failed the fact check and Rosendale can rightfully make that claim. Now, however, the message will have to be updated a bit. Tester has now been overtaken by Senator Brown and is in second place.
Since Rosendale posted his tweet, the Center for Responsive Politics updated its numbers and Brown has overtaken Tester to move into first place with $430,226 from lobbyists. Tester is second with $401,478.
The claim was correct when it was tweeted out and now runs in political ads in Montana. The update doesn’t make Tester anymore palatable to voters concerned about draining the swamp of politicians beholden to big money lobbyists. The battle between the two Montana ranchers, both with flat-tops and lots of personal wealth, is more interesting by the day. It’s swampy.