By Dustin Hurst ǀ Watchdog.org
HELENA — In Montana’s U.S. Senate showdown between incumbent Democrat Jon Tester and GOP candidate U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a coalition of union and environmental groups has struck again — this time masquerading as a military veterans organization.
In an ad released Tuesday, VoteVets.org deployed Helena resident and Iraq War veteran Jim Kearns to slam the Republican challenger. Kearns claims Rehberg voted with fellow House Republicans to kill funding for prosthetics studies.
That might be powerful if it were true.
In fact, the May 31 procedural vote came about when Democrats tried to re-open a carefully crafted Department of Veterans Affairs budget. Rehberg and 229 Republican House members quashed the Democrats’ effort, but in a lopsided 407-12 vote that same day joined nearly all Democrats to approve final legislation.
The U.S. Senate has yet to address it.
The Hill reports the ad cost about $100,000 and is running in all state media markets.
Documents reviewed by Montana Watchdog show that VoteVets.org is funded by Patriot Majority, itself a front for the 2.1-million-member Service Employees International Union. SEIU’s $750,000 in contributions to VoteVets.org this election cycle make it one of the group’s top donors.
Other contributors included the environmental group Sierra Club (which gave the veterans front group $670,000) and the United Steelworkers, a 1.2 million-member union ($50,000).
Veterans could be a decisive voting bloc in November. U.S. Census Bureau data shows more than 100,000 Montanans, about 10 percent of the state’s population, are military veterans. The national average is about 7 percent.
At the first debate between Tester and Rehberg in Big Sky June 16, the two men put their pro-veteran credentials on display.
Rehberg told onlookers his chief pro-veteran achievement is creating a House subcommittee dedicated to improve quality of life for current and former military members and their families.
Tester offered more, touting his work to dramatically increase the per-mile reimbursement for veterans traveling long distances for care and his bill to reward businesses that hire returning veterans.