HELENA — A Montana hunters-and-anglers political group is launching another TV ad blasting Rep. Denny Rehberg for his support of a border-lands bill – the latest in the continuing blitz of special-interest spending on Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate contest between Rehberg and Sen. Jon Tester.
The ad, which begins airing Tuesday in Billings, Missoula and Great Falls markets, is sponsored by Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund, a political action committee formed last year.
Land Tawney, president of the PAC and a Missoula conservation activist, said the group is spending $350,000 on the TV ad campaign, a substantial buy in Montana.
“This (bill supported by Rehberg) is one more painting of the picture of Denny Rehberg as anti-hunting,” Tawney said Monday. “There is a long list of things that he has been engaged in for quite a while that’s anti-hunting and anti-fishing.”
A spokesman for Rehberg’s campaign dismissed the ad Monday, saying it’s misleading and is supported by the League of Conservation Voters, a group actively working to kill the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring jobs to Montanans.
“Montana sportsmen know Denny Rehberg is on their side,” said Chris Bond. “They’re not going to fall for dishonest attacks by Sen. Tester’s radical environmentalist allies at the LCV.”
The hunters-and-anglers PAC said the League of Conservation Voters provided financial support for the ad. While the League of Conservation Voters has opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, Tester has spoken in support of its construction through Eastern Montana.
The hunters-and-anglers buy is the latest TV ad from special-interest political groups trying to influence the Rehberg-Tester Senate race, which could tip the balance of party control in the U.S. Senate this election.
Such groups have spent nearly $6 million so far trying to influence voters, with a majority of that money spent on Rehberg’s behalf.
Within the past month, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity — two groups opposing Tester and other Democratic U.S. Senate candidates across the country — spent about $600,000 on TV ads in Montana, saying Tester is a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama.
“Congressman Dennis Rehberg’s secretive, out-of-state special interests are spending millions making up facts with no accountability to Montana — all because Congressman Rehberg supports tax loopholes for the multimillionaires behind them,” Tester’s spokesman, Aaron Murphy, said Monday.
The hunters-and-anglers ad criticizes Rehberg for his support of HR1505, a bill giving the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs wide access to federal public lands, such as forests and national parks, within 100 miles of U.S. international borders.
The bill, folded into a larger measure that passed the House on June 20, says the border agencies can build roads, fences and “forward operating bases,” install surveillance cameras and use patrol vehicles on federal lands, without having to comply with a long list of environmental and safety laws.
Supporters say Homeland Security needs the access to enforce immigration and border-security laws.
Rehberg, who voted for the larger bill on June 20, made sure it contained language that says Homeland Security can’t restrict legal uses of federal lands, such as hunting, grazing and mining, Bond said.
Tawney said that language is like “lipstick on a pig” and was inserted only after widespread outcry about the bill late last year.
“They can still shut down roads, they can still construct facilities and conduct surveillance,” he said. “At the end of the day, when they’re shutting down roads, they’re shutting down access for all sorts of people.”
The hunter-and-anglers’ ad is the second one attacking Rehberg over HR1505. A related group, Montana Hunters and Anglers Action, ran ads late last year blasting Rehberg’s support of the bill.