Anti-Tester attack ads: Not telling the the whole story

Posted at 1:58 PM, Aug 28, 2018

Outside groups intent on defeating Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester are flooding Montana’s TV airwaves with campaign ads, criticizing the two-term incumbent – and, as with most such ads, they don’t tell the whole story.

MTN News examined a trio of these ads airing in recent weeks, and the facts behind them:


Tester has voted against President Trump “more than 60 percent of the time”: One independent group tracking key votes says Tester has supported Trump’s position just 37 percent of the time.

However, Congressional Quarterly, which tracks all votes in Congress, said Tester voted with Trump on 52 percent of the votes where the president took a position in 2017 – one of the higher rankings among Senate Democrats.

Tester has voted against Trump’s position on many key items, including repeal of “Obamacare,” against the 2017 GOP tax-cut bill, for reinstating “net neutrality rules,” for a bipartisan immigration bill, and for a bill saying certain tariffs should require the approval of Congress.

Tester “supported amnesty and sanctuary cities”: Tester says he opposes sanctuary cities, but has voted several times against GOP bills aiming to punish these cities, which sometimes refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. He says the bills unduly penalize law enforcement in these cities by withholding grant money, making those cities less safe.

The “amnesty” charge stems from his 2013 vote for a comprehensive immigration bill, which beefed up border security and gave illegal aliens a path to citizenship that would have taken years – but also allowed them to stay in the country under provisional legal status. It ultimately failed.  

“Voted no on tax cuts, worth $2,200 for Montana families”: The figure is an estimate by the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee. The Montana Department of Revenue estimates the median per-household federal income-tax reduction from the 2017 bill at about $1,000 this year – meaning half of tax-paying households would see a lower reduction.

CLUB FOR GROWTH-MONTANA ad – “your word matters”:

Tester “accepted expensive international travel, including a trip to Cancun”: The Cancun trip was a vacation for Tester and his wife, Sharla, who were invited to Mexico by Tester’s fellow senator, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who paid the reported $7,400 cost of the trip.

Tester also went on a 2013 fact-finding trip to Israel, sponsored by a pro-Israel nonprofit group that often pays for such trips for members of Congress. Tester says he met with key Israeli officials and groups, as well as Palestinians.

Tester “took more than a million dollars in campaign cash from lobbyists”: In the past two years, Tester has received about $400,000 in campaign donations from people who identify themselves as lobbyists – the most of any senator, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That amount is about 3 percent of his total campaign funds, through June.

His campaign notes that he has received more than 23,3000 individual donations from Montanans, totaling nearly $4 million, or 10 times as much.

It also notes that Tester has voted and sponsored legislation to ban lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and prohibit lawmakers from becoming top lobbyists for five years after leaving office.

SENATE REFORM FUND ad – “Washington liberal”:

Tester “voted with Nancy Pelosi for EPA regulations that hurt Montana farmers”: Tester voted several times in 2015 and 2016 against GOP attempts to repeal the Obama administration’s “waters of the United States” rule that increased federal protections for waterways and wetlands. Many in agriculture opposed the rule.

Tester, a farmer, urged the EPA to move cautiously when implementing the rule, in regards to effects on farmers and ranchers.

Tester “voted to put illegal aliens over sick kids in Montana”: This claim refers to Tester’s votes this January against a short-term federal budget deal that led to a brief shutdown of the government. The measure contained funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) but did not protect young-adult immigrants brought here as children – a fix that some Democrats were demanding.

Tester said he’s been a longtime supporter of CHIP, but that he opposed the bill because he was tired of voting for short-term budget fixes and that it didn’t include funding for community health centers in Montana.