Montana’s junior senator, Democrat Jon Tester, made a proposal Wednesday to his challenger in the 2012 election, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg: “I am asking Congressman Rehberg to join me in taking an unprecedented stand. I am asking him to join me in rejecting all third-party radio and TV ads during the remainder of this campaign. ”
Tester made the proposal during a telephone press conference.
Tester sent a letter to Rehberg and a copy of an agreement, already signed by the senator, pledging to not allow, and to try to stop, third-party advertisements in Montana through Election Day.
“This is certainly an interesting proposal by Senator Tester, ” Erik Iverson, Rehberg’s campaign manager, said in a statement emailed to the Havre Daily News. “We are going to give it a close look, and we will respond in due course. ”
The deadline for the response already is closing in. In the letter to Rehberg, Tester said, “If you don’t agree to this agreement by Friday at 5:00 p. m. (Mountain Standard Time), I will assume you are not willing to participate. I look forward to hearing from you soon. ”
The national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said this morning that it would abide by the agreement if Rehberg signs it.
“Jon Tester and Congressman Rehberg have both acknowledged the influence of third-party TV and radio ads in the Montana Senate race, ” DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said in a release. “Senator Tester has put forward a fair and reasonable proposal to eliminate these ads. If Congressman Rehberg agrees to this proposal or a similar pact, then the DSCC will abide by the agreement. ”
The request for an agreement comes after mounting numbers of third-party ads attacking each candidate and both candidates saying they oppose lack of transparency in campaign advertising. It also comes as each campaign increasingly attacks the opposing candidate as accepting questionable donations.
In a recent interview, Rehberg called for “100-percent transparency” in political campaign expenditure disclosures.
Tester has signed on as a cosponsor to a constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to overturn the U. S. Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision, which allows corporations to spend virtually unlimited amounts of money in campaigns without having to disclose the source of the money.
The political action committee of Citizens United endorsed Rehberg in the Senate race in September.
Rehberg’s campaign, meanwhile, has pointed out that Tester, to date, has accepted more donations from lobbyists than any other candidate in the 2012 election.
Tester said it is time for the candidates to speak for themselves, rather than letting third-party groups mount attacks. He cited the 1912 law approved by Montana voters preventing third-party groups from influencing elections, a law recently upheld by the Montana Supreme Court and likely to advance to the U. S. Supreme Court, forcing it to revisit its “Citizens United” decision.
“We’ve seen close to a million bucks spent against me and probably a million against (Rehberg) …, ” Tester said. “The fact is, these are coming from third-party folks that (we) don’t know where the money comes from. There’s no accountability there whatsoever. There’s no sunshine, no transparency, and I think it helps us both live up to the Montana values that the Montana voters... voted on in 1912. ”
When asked if his proposal could be seen as a desperation move because, though Tester has some $2 million more in campaign funds than Rehberg, the Republican super PACs have raised much more than their Democratic counterparts, Tester said no.
He said where the super PACs will spend the money is unknown, ranging from presidential campaigns to local legislative races. He also said that, with 10 months to go before the election, he and Rehberg are quite close in the amount of money raised.
“The bottom line is, for me, regardless of who has money here or money there, what we have seen is third-party folks coming in trying to drag us through the mud. Both of us, to be honest with you, ” Tester said. “I think it’s much better to utilize our own campaigns to talk about what this is about.
“It’s just cleaner, ” Tester added. “It’s much more transparent, absolutely, unequivicably. Like I said before, elections should be about people. They shouldn’t be about corporations that, quite honestly can give out unlimited amounts of money with no accountability whatsoever, no transparency whatsover. ”