By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA – To the casual observer, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is running a solid re-election campaign. He’s casting himself as the humble Big Sandy farmer, while aggressively painting his opponent as an out-of-touch political insider.
Yet, a longer look at Tester’s attacks on Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, the senator’s November foe, reveals an uncomfortable pattern.
Many of the attacks lobbed from Tester’s side of the aisle could be heaved right back at the first-term incumbent – call them boomerang shots.
Some of the attacks and ads are simply misleading or omitting key information.
To examine Tester’s attacks and the counter stories, Watchdog.org suggests a few musical tracks to endure.
Tester track: Michael Jackson – Man in the mirror
Since his 2009 passing, the King of Pop has amassed more than $400 million in musical royalties. Keep that quiet though, because Tester might try to spend it all and more.
Less than two months ago, Tester’s campaign smacked Rebherg for voting several times to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. It was a Man in the Mirror moment for Tester, who, since he took office, supported increasing the nation’s credit card load several times.
In fact, through six years of service before Tester took office, Rehberg supported $3 trillion in debt limit hikes. Tester, on the other hand, backed adding $7.4 trillion to the nation’s debt ceiling.
Key lyrics: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.”
Tester track: Notorious B.I.G – Mo’ Money, Mo Problems
Like the great Michael Jackson, Biggie rests in a better place now, but his message lives on: The more money you have, the more problems you’ll see.
Tester’s made money a central rallying cry of his race. Conservative outside spending groups pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state seeking his defeat and the senator plays the victim card, bellyaching about secret corporate money.
Tester never mentions, however, the secret union money flowing to his aid through at least three outside spending groups – Patriot Majority, Montana Hunters and Anglers Action! and Citizens for Strength and Security.
For its share, Patriot Majority, a front for American labor unions, has pitched in more than $800,000 on Tester’s behalf.
Key lyrics: “I don’t know what they want from me, it’s like the more money we come across,
the more problems we see.”
Tester track: Carly Rae Jepsen – Call me maybe
This surprising runaway hit, dropped in summer 2012, appropriately describes how Montana’s libertarians feel about Tester’s Senate term – naively jolted.
See, Tester boldly promised in a 2006 debate to seek repeal of the invasive Patriot Act, a move in stark contrast with Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, who stood by the law.
Freedom-minded voters who trusted the senator and ushered him into office, but have exactly nothing to show for their innocent faithfulness.
While Tester blasts Rehberg for supporting the Patriot Act, the senator promised to seek the law’s repeal and it’s a pledge he’s yet to fulfill.
Key lyrics: “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me, maybe?”
Tester track: Hall and Oates – Private Eyes
This year, Tester’s again feverishly working to peel libertarian-minded voters from Rehberg. To do that, the senator casts Rehberg as Big Brother’s chief enabler, the man solely and wholly responsible for all surveillance drone activity in American skies.
Yet, it was Tester who aided a pro-drone nonprofit here in Montana when it wanted to bring an unmanned aerial vehicle testing zone to the state.
Tester, like Rehberg, also supported the most recent Federal Aviation Authorization bill in Congress, paving the way for thousands of drones to hit the skies in the next few years.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit defending rights in the Brave New World, estimates the law could help fly more than 30,000 over the U.S. by 2020.
Key lyrics: “Why you try to put up a front for me, I’m a spy but on your side you see, Slip on, into any disguise, I’ll still know you, look into my private eyes.”
Tester track: Eminem – Cleanin out my closet
Maybe this dark track is Eminem’s bout with his personal demons, but it gets something Tester might not understand: Honesty with self.
The senator’s first campaign ad touted Tester’s commitment to accountability, proper ethics and accountability. Yet, the senator couldn’t even provide full disclosure for those ads.
On a semi-regular basis through the past six years, Tester invited retired Montana judges to conduct ethics audits of his Senate office practices. The reports came back clean, as they should.
Tester failed to mention – on several occasions – two of the judges had clears ties to the Democratic Party. One was a former Democratic state legislator and the other’s wife donated to Tester’s 2006 campaign.
Key lyrics: “I got some skeletons in my closet and I don’t know if no one knows it, so before they throw me inside my coffin and close it, I’ma expose it.”
Tester track: Travie McCoy – Billionaire
Remember that super-secret corporate money that Tester fights so hard?
Turns out, some of the richest companies in the country fill Tester’s campaign pockets, even while he blasts business bucks in politics.
In fact, as OpenSecrets.org points out, Tester is the No. 2 recipient for commercial bank and credit union cash in the 2012 election cycle. Through the more recent reporting period, Tester raked in more than $1.9 million from PACs, 66 percent of that amount from business-related groups.
Key lyrics: “I wanna be a billionaire so freaking bad, buy all the stuff I never had. I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen.”
Contact Dustin Hurst via Dustin@Watchdog.org or on Twitter with the @DustinHurst handle.