HELENA — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester released campaign fundraising reports Thursday showing that the Democrat continues to stockpile cash in his closely watched re-election battle against U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, again topping the Republican challenger.
In reports covering the fundraising quarter that ended Sept. 30, Tester maintained an edge in the critical race to pile up campaign cash. The Democrat reported $1.2 million in new donations, while Rehberg pulled in less than $700,000.
Tester said in an interview that he was going to need more money than ever because he expected that campaign finance law changes allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts will lead to an unprecedented amount of third-party money. Democrats expect that money to primarily come in the form of attack advertisements.
Tester estimated that in his 2006 win over Republican Conrad Burns, both sides and their allies spent about $26 million combined. Tester predicted the amount for the re-election fight was "going to be sizably bigger" in the wake of new rules leading to much bigger, and sometimes anonymous, third-party campaign groups.
"We have to get our message out. We worked hard at raising some money here," Tester said. "It is where are at. It is the field we are on."
The fight for Montana's Senate seat was expected to be among the bigger ones in the nation as both parties vie for control of the U.S. Senate.
In the latest campaign finance reports, Tester reported about $3 million in cash on hand. It is the third quarter in a row that he raised more than $1 million.
Rehberg's campaign said it will report holding about $1.8 million in the bank.
Rehberg campaign manager Erik Iverson aimed to discredit Tester's larger total by pointing out that he was the recipient of more campaign cash from lobbyists than any other member of Congress, according to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The group found Tester has about $200,000 in such donations to lead all of Congress, while Rehberg lagged far behind in such donations, with about $60,000 from lobbyists.
"The difference could not be more clear," Iverson said in a statement. "While corporate lobbyists will always be No. 1 for Sen. Tester, Montanans will always be No. 1 for Denny."
Tester said that he will voluntarily submit his report in an electronic format to the Federal Election Commission, making it easier for people to view. Senate candidates are not required to file electronically, although Tester has proposed legislation changing that.
The Rehberg campaign said it would also file electronically and pointed out that the congressman has been accustomed to filing electronically in his elections to the House, where such filing is required.