This 30-second spot by the group Citizens for Strength and Security, criticizing Rep. Denny Rehberg, began airing statewide two weeks ago.
Ad content: A narrator talks about Rehberg’s so-called “perks” and votes related to pay raises, interspersed with shots of Rehberg talking in 1996 and more recently.
Script: Narrator: “The last time Congress took on the deficit, Dennis Rehberg made a promise to taxpayers.”
Rehberg: “I’ll never support nor take a pay raise. Those are my promises and pledges to you.”
Narrator: “But in Washington, Rehberg’s voted five times to increase his own pay, giving himself a big raise. All while making taxpayers foot the bill for his SUV. To cut the deficit, tell Congressman Rehberg to cut the waste like that first. We need a balanced approach. Not pay raises and perks.”
Analysis: The ad states that Rehberg has “voted ... to increase his own pay” when, in fact, pay raises for members of Congress, since 1990, have occurred automatically unless the House and Senate vote to block them. Rehberg has voted twice for bills that blocked the annual pay increases, and supported other efforts to do the same.
Rehberg did vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 for procedural motions that ended debate on budget bills, preventing potential amendments to stop the cost-of-living pay increase for the following year. Some consider these votes for a pay increase, but there’s no assurance the amendment would be offered. For those years, members of Congress — including Rehberg — received $15,200 in raises, to increase their annual salary to $165,200.
Rehberg voted in late 2006 to freeze congressional salaries for 2007 and in 2010 to freeze congressional salaries at $174,000 for 2011.
He also has co-sponsored bills to stop the automatic pay increases and introduced his own bill two weeks ago to block any pay raises for Congress until it balances the federal budget.
Rehberg’s statement in the ad about never supporting or taking a pay raise is from 1996, during his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Max Baucus.
Regarding SUV leases, Rehberg has routinely used part of his approved congressional office budget to lease vehicles in Montana, including an SUV, which he says staffers use as mobile offices to meet with constituents throughout Eastern Montana. The long-term leases have been approved by U.S. House administrative counsel and other House members also have leased vehicles for official business use.