As of Sept. 30, LCV had donated $410,000 of the nearly $417,000 in the Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund’s PAC, which is responsible for the TV ad. LCV is backing Tester, in part, for his vote against a measure that would have blocked implementation of Obama administration air emissions rules.
That, along with LCV spending nearly $1.4 million supporting Tester this election cycle, led the Rehberg campaign to accuse the group of funding the ad.
“It speaks volumes that Sen. Tester’s supporters have given up trying to convince more Montanans to vote for him, and now they’re supporting the Libertarian candidate to play the spoiler,” Rehberg campaign spokesman Chris Bond told The Hill.
But the Hunters and Anglers PAC had $10,639 cash on hand at the time of the Sept. 30 Federal Election Commission filing, meaning it drew more donations to fund the new $500,000 ad.
While LCV might have requested that Hunters and Anglers use its donation for certain purposes, federal law does not require the PAC to adhere to such commitments, Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, told The Hill on Monday.
Ryan said a smaller group like Hunters and Anglers would likely honor a “handshake agreement” from big political players like LCV, though it is not obligated to. Still, he said LCV’s contribution likely freed the group to spend on messaging that it could not have financed otherwise.
“In that respect, none of these agreements really matter all that much,” he said.
The Rehberg campaign questioned the PAC’s motives, as the PAC’s treasurer is a member of a political consulting firm with ties to Tester and Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (D-Mont.).
When contacted about the ad, Joe Splinter, treasurer for the Hunters and Anglers PAC and an associate with Washington, D.C.-based Hilltop Public Solutions, declined to comment.
One of the PAC’s donors, Barrett Kaiser, is a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions. He was previously Baucus’s chief of staff and helped run Tester’s successful 2006 Senate campaign.
The ad that began running last week criticizes Rehberg for voting for a bill that would extend the Department of Homeland Security’s reach to federal lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border. LCV and Hunters and Anglers, along with Montana Conservation Voters, had combined for a similar ad in July.
The race is in a virtual tie, with The Hill rating it a “toss-up.” RealClearPolitics, a website that aggregates polling data, shows Rehberg with a 0.3-percentage-point lead.
Bond said a strategy of swinging voters from Rehberg to the Libertarian candidate indicates Tester’s supporters have “run out of reasons” to reelect the Democrat.
Alexandra Fetissoff, spokeswoman for the Tester campaign, said Rehberg’s support for the Homeland Security bill gives Montana voters cause for keeping the GOP candidate out of the Senate.
"From his longtime support for the Patriot Act and a national ID card, and now his federal police-state bill, Montanans have plenty of reasons to vote against Dennis Rehberg,” she said in a statement Monday. “Most Montanans oppose this bill, including Jon TesterJon TesterPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate GOP loses top Senate contenders MORE, Dan Cox and [Montana GOP House candidate] Steve Daines, so the real question is why does Dennis Rehberg insist that trampling our freedoms is good for Montana?"