HELENA – A new TV ad from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester makes strong charges against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale, accusing him of “money laundering” and “stuffing his own pocket” with campaign cash.
But an examination of the ad by MTN News shows that Rosendale has reported all of the transactions publicly and is not accused of violating any campaign-finance law or rule.
Rosendale’s campaign has denounced the ad, saying it falsely insinuates he did something wrong, when he followed all campaign-finance rules.
Here’s a closer look at the ads’ claims and the facts behind them:
Rosendale has “been busy running a money-laundering scheme (and) dodging campaign finance laws.”: The charge refers to actions Rosendale took this spring when he asked donors to his U.S. Senate campaign to help him retire outstanding debt from his unsuccessful 2014 U.S. House campaign. The debt is an outstanding personal loan he made to the campaign.
In April and May, nine donors contributed a total of $23,200 to Rosendale, earmarked for “debt retirement.” Most of them had already given the maximum allowable amount of $5,400 to his Senate campaign, but since they were earmarking donations for debt retirement, they could give another $2,600.
Rosendale used this money to help pay himself back $32,800 of the outstanding debt on May 14. The very next day, he re-loaned the same amount back to his Senate campaign.
All of the transactions were reported on Rosendale’s filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Rosendale raised “over $16,000 from insurance executives on a junket to Florida, then cut himself a check when he got home to Montana.”: Last year, Rosendale, who is Montana’s insurance commissioner, was invited to a Florida conference of the National Council on Compensation Insurance. He made a presentation at the conference and, while in Florida, held a fundraiser.
The fundraiser was before he became a U.S. Senate candidate, and the money raised – about $20,000 – was used to pay off the debt from his 2014 U.S. House race. Again, that debt was a personal loan he made to the campaign, so money to pay it off goes to Rosendale.
Eleven people from Florida who own or operate companies that sell short-term health insurance policies gave Rosendale $16,600 at the May 2017 fundraiser.
The Tester campaign points out that Rosendale has been a big booster of short-term plans, which were limited under the Affordable Care Act, and are being allowed by the Trump administration to expand.
Tester has called such policies “junk insurance,” because they often don’t cover things like pre-existing conditions, or have otherwise limited benefits.
Rosendale, an opponent of the ACA, has said consumers often don’t need the comprehensive coverage required by the law, and that short-term plans give consumers more low-cost options.
Tester, a supporter of the ACA, also has been a recipient of campaign funds from insurance interests.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign money, says donors with ties to the insurance industry have given Tester’s campaign at least $193,000 since January 2017.
-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News