HELENA – With less than a week until election day, campaign spending by outside groups on Montana’s U.S. Senate race has topped $33 million, easily breaking the old record for a Montana campaign.
This year, 40 separate groups have reported spending money on behalf of either U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who’s running for his third term, or Republican challenger Matt Rosendale.
Groups opposing Tester or supporting Rosendale are leading the way, reporting nearly $21 million in spending through Tuesday, on everything from TV and other broadcast ads, digital ads, mailers and telephone calls.
That amount doesn’t include the cost of a half-dozen visits to the state by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, to campaign on behalf of Rosendale, who is Montana’s state auditor and insurance commissioner.
Eighteen groups supporting Tester or opposing Rosendale have reported spending nearly $13 million on the hard-fought contest, which polls show will be close on Election Day.
While conservative groups supporting Rosendale have the spending edge, Montana State University political scientist and MTN analyst David Parker said Tester may still have the edge, because of his substantial candidate campaign fund.
Tester has raised about $19 million for his campaign, and Rosendale nearly $5 million.
Candidates are able to pay lower rates for broadcast ads, so their money goes farther on TV. Outside groups must pay top dollar for TV ad time.
Tester’s 2012 re-election race set the old campaign spending record for a Montana race at $50 million by all groups, including the candidates’ campaigns. It appears that this year’s Senate contest in Montana will hit $60 million.
Groups spending to support Rosendale and oppose Tester include:
National Republican Senatorial Committee: The main party group that supports GOP candidates running for the U.S. Senate has spent $4.7 million, mostly on ads attacking Tester.
Club for Growth Action: This free-market, conservative group has spent $3.7 million on ads and mailers. That amount also includes $1.23 million the group spent during the GOP primary this spring to attack one of Rosendale’s opponents, Russ Fagg.
Restoration PAC and Americas PAC: These two groups funded primarily by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein have spent $3.7 million attacking Tester and supporting Rosendale both during and after the GOP primary election.
Senate Leadership Fund: This Republican group dedicated to preserving the GOP’s majority in the U.S. Senate has spent $3 million in Montana this year.
America First Action: The Super PAC aligned with President Trump has spent nearly $2 million on ads going after Tester.
Senate Reform Fund: A group apparently formed solely to campaign against Tester and financed by Texas oilman Tim Dunn has spent $1.14 million.
ESA Fund: A Super PAC that says it favors candidates who want to reduce government spending has spent about $1 million on ads supporting Rosendale.
Americans for Prosperity Action: This PAC with ties to the free-enterprise group founded by the Koch Brothers has spent about $531,000 on digital ads, mailers and canvassing to oppose Tester.
Groups spending to support Tester or oppose Rosendale include:
Majority Forward: A group affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, which is the main PAC tied to U.S. Senate Democratic leadership, has spent $3.4 million on ads attacking Rosendale. Senate Majority PAC has spent an additional $2.5 million on ads both supporting Tester and attacking Rosendale.
End Citizens United: A group dedicated to overturning the 2010 court decision that allowed unlimited corporate spending on campaigns has spent $2.2 million on ads going after Rosendale.
LCV Victory Fund: This arm of the national environmental group, League of Conservation Voters, which supports Tester, has spent nearly $2 million on ads attacking Rosendale.
New American Jobs Fund: This group allied with the League of Conservation Voters and the United Steelworkers union has spent $1.1 million, primarily on field canvassing and mailers supporting Tester.
Story by Mike Dennison, MTN News