HELENA — The latest campaign finance report for U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg shows he continues to receive a significant number of donations to his U.S. Senate campaign from people whose occupations were not disclosed.
Rehberg, a Republican, is challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, and has criticized the incumbent for accepting donations from lobbyists. However, an Associated Press investigation earlier this year found Rehberg received about $20,000 in donations last year from three dozen lobbyists who did not disclose their occupations when they made the contributions.
The Rehberg campaign said at the time that the missing information was the result of incomplete records submitted by the donors, not an orchestrated effort by the campaign. Rehberg said he would encourage donors to disclose their occupations, and reported to the Federal Election Commission that his campaign was seeking the information from those who did not provide it.
However, campaign finance reports released last week showed the Rehberg campaign left blank the occupation for about one of every seven of its roughly 750 individual donors. By comparison, only about 1 percent of Tester's 1,310 donors left the occupation blank.
Rehberg spokesman Chris Bond said the campaign is seeking the information, and the records will be updated on subsequent campaign filings with the FEC.
"We've seen a huge boost in new supporters, and as with any campaign, including Senator Tester's, not all of them provided their occupation," Bond said.
The Tester campaign accused Rehberg of "hiding" donor information from voters.
"This is yet another irresponsible failure of transparency on Congressman Rehberg's part," Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy said.
FEC rules only require campaigns put forth their "best effort" in collecting data for campaign reports and there are no sanctions once a campaign attempts to gather missing information.
The Montana Senate contest is one of the most closely watched of the campaign season, and one where Republicans are hopeful of picking up a seat. Money has poured in. The latest campaign finance reports show Tester raised nearly $2 million in the last three months, nearly twice what Rehberg did. Both campaigns are flush with cash, however, with Tester reporting about $3.6 million on hand and Rehberg having $2.7 million.
Rehberg is attacking Tester for supporting Obama administration policies and casting himself as more in tune with conservative beliefs favored by most Montanans. Tester, a farmer, is portraying Rehberg as a do-nothing career politician while touting his work on veteran affairs and other important issues for the state.
Neither candidate wants to be linked to Washington politics so accepting lobbyists' money is a touchy subject.
The Rehberg campaign has pointed out many donors leave the occupation blank for their personal reasons. One example on Rehberg's latest report was Leo Giacometto of Stevensville, who the campaign said is the father of a longtime associate of Rehberg's dating back to the 1980s. Bond said the senior Giacometto is retired, perhaps explaining why he left the occupation unspecified.
And on Tester's report, some donors clearly don't take the occupation disclosure very seriously. One reported "Ninja" as occupation, another "Renaissance Man."
Tester's online contribution form instructs those without a job to report "none." But an AP check of the 53 that reported "none," did find some with jobs. The Tester campaign said it is up to the donor to state their employment and once they report something — even "none" — the campaign is not required to verify the information.
Rehberg also had some donors report "none" for employment.