A group controlled by Democrats is running ads in the Montana Senate race telling voters to vote for the Libertarian candidate, Dan Cox, in what appears to be an attempt to split the vote between him and the Republican candidate — and help propel Democratic Sen. Jon Tester to re-election.
According to Open Secrets, Montana Hunters and Anglers has spent $1,089,694 this cycle attacking Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, who is challenging incumbent Tester for his Senate seat.
The latest ad attacks Rehberg and goes on to tell viewers, “Vote Cox: the real conservative.”
But the leadership of Montana Hunters and Anglers, according to its website, is not made up of the conservatives or libertarians that one would expect from a group running that type of message. Rather, it is made up of Democratic donors, one Democratic state senator, and several donors to Tester.
Cox, the libertarian candidate, would likely take votes from the GOP and is seen as a possible spoiler in the race, pulling enough votes away from Rehberg to hand Tester a narrow victory in the tight race.
The group’s president is Land Tawney, a member of Montana Sportsmen for Obama who also serves on Tester’s Montana Sportsmen’s Advisory Panel. On July 28, 2011, he made a $500 donation to Tester.
Kendall Van Dyk, the group’s secretary, is currently a Democratic state senator in Montana. He is also a member of Montana Sportsmen for Obama, and on April 13, 2011, according to Federal Election Committee filings, he gave $200 to the Montana Democratic Party, though he has not donated money to Democrats in 2012.
Barrett Kaiser, who is listed as the treasurer of the group, is the former chief of staff to Sen. Max Baucus, Montana’s senior senator and a Democrat. He made three separate donations to Montanans for Tester in 2011, totaling $2,350. He made two separate donations to the Montana Democratic Party in 2012, totaling $1,500. He has made several donations to both Tester and Baucus’ campaigns over the past several years.
George Cooper, the director of Montana Hunters and Anglers, is senior vice president at Forbes-Tate, a consulting firm. He made two donations to Tester in 2012, totaling $1,250. In May, he donated $1,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2012 alone, he has also donated to Democratic Sen. Kristin Gillibrand; Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson; New Mexico Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich, who is running for Senate; former Maine Gov. Angus King in Maine – an independent candidate who is expected to caucus with Democrats; and Christie Vilsack, wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is running as a Democrat to unseat Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
“This really shows how far Washington Democrats will go to try to keep Harry Reid in power as majority leader,” said Erik Iverson, campaign manager for Rehberg. “You now have liberal groups advertising on behalf of a libertarian candidate in Montana. They know they’ve run out of people willing to vote for Jon Tester, and now they’re trying to actively support a spoiler in this race.”
“This shows what Harry Reid can do when he wants to save one of his loyal foot soldiers, and that’s what Jon Tester is, he’s been a loyal foots oldier in the Obama-Reid army in Washington, D.C.,” Iverson added.
“It’s insulting to conservatives in Montana that these out-of-touch East Coast liberals think that they can come in here and try to fool voters in Montana — try to fool conservatives — into re-electing a liberal Reid-Pelosi-Obama-style Democrat.”
The Tester campaign and the Cox campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Requests for comment from Cooper, Van Dyk, Kaiser and Tawney were also not immediately returned.