By Dustin Hurst ǀ Watchdog.org
HELENA — In an odd twist, the Montana Republican Party is telling the story — in a positive light — of one of its top officials bucking GOP policies.
The Montana GOP released an ad Thursday discussing how U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, the Treasure State’s only Republican official elected statewide, has bucked the party several times in his six terms in the U.S. House.
Rehberg is in a tight election battle for a U.S. Senate seat with Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
The ad notes Rehberg’s opposition to key GOP initiatives, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the 2008 bank bailout pushed by Republican President George W. Bush and a controversial budget plan crafted by Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, which would have drastically altered Medicare.
“But Denny Rehberg is different. An independent thinker, Rehberg refuses to toe the party line,” the ad says.
The ad fails to mention, however, that Rehberg voted with Republicans 92 percent of the time in this Congress. Rehberg’s November opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, votes with his party 91 percent of the time.
Politico’s Maggie Haberman noticed the ad and cried foul.
“It’s technically true that he didn’t always vote Republican, and this type of ad is not uncommon for pols hoping to appeal to non-partisans. But the record is not quite split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans in terms of votes, either,” she wrote Friday.
Roll Call says the GOP spent $196,000 to air the spot, money that could have come from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has pledged up to $3.5 million on Rehberg’s behalf.
The Montana GOP ad is the second new commercial released this week.
The Montana Democratic Party, also powered with national money from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, dropped a new spot on Tuesday accusing Rehberg of favoring big bankers over everyday Montanans.
“After 12 years in Washington, D.C., Dennis Rehberg’s forgotten where he comes from,” the ad says. ”Rehberg voted for billions in tax breaks to big bankers on Wall Street. Rehberg even voted to let Wall Street CEOs get millions in bonuses funded by taxpayer bailouts.”
Rehberg and Tester are both recipients of Wall Street cash and have quibbled several times over who’s more beholden to big banks and their interests.
The Hill says the Democratic-backed ad cost about $400,000 and was at least partially paid for by DSCC.
Both candidates are competing for the U.S. Senate seat in the fall.