A Democratic political-action committee has made the first major independent media buy in Montana’s U.S. Senate race, spending almost $700,000 for an ad attacking Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
The ad financed by the Senate Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., began running Saturday in Montana TV markets, saying Daines “worries about corporate profits instead” of benefits for workers.
It highlights Daines’ recent votes for Republican amendments to coronavirus stimulus bills that would have limited or altered the funding for the bill’s aid to workers. The amendments failed and Daines ultimately voted for the bills.
The Daines campaign said the ad is filled with “outright lies and distortions” and called on Daines’ likely general election opponent, Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, to denounce it as a product of “dark money” that Bullock has campaigned against.
“The question to ask here is: Will Steve Bullock denounce and demand this type of Super PAC spending end, given his alleged distaste for this money, or will he allow it to run rampant, now that it’s benefiting his campaign?” said Daines campaign spokeswoman Julia Doyle.
“Dark money” generally means political spending whose donors are not publicly reported. The Senate Majority PAC reports its donors and spending to the Federal Election Commission.
The PAC has reported raising $96 million since the beginning of 2019, from individuals and other PACs, and had almost $57 million in its account as of March 31. However, the Daines campaign said the group has received money in the past from groups that don’t disclose their donors.
Also, another group, Protect Our Care, which is not registered with the FEC and doesn’t show up on an Internal Revenue Service listing of political groups, reportedly spent $250,000 in March on adds attacking Daines’ votes on health-care bills.
Bullock’s campaign didn’t denounce any of the support he’s getting from groups like Protect Our Care, or the Senate Majority “super PAC.”
It told MTN News that Bullock has a long record of pressing for disclosure of dark money, and if elected to the Senate would “continue what he started here in Montana and put an end to the corrupting influence of money in our politics.”
The Daines campaign noted that Bullock had criticized presidential candidate Joe Biden for encouraging super PAC support.
Senate Majority PAC announced the anti-Daines ad on its website.
“Not only did Steve Daines vote to limit unemployment benefits for Montanans impacted by Covid-19, but he had the audacity to try to take credit for the relief he voted against,” said Senate Majority PAC spokesman Matt Corridoni.
Daines also has benefited from outside spending in the campaign.
Three groups have reported spending $350,000 so far this year in support Daines, including $321,000 by Americans for Prosperity Action, paying for canvassing and digital ads.
The Daines campaign said the Senate Majority PAC ad is misleading and incorrect, on several fronts.
For example, the ad refers to Daines’ votes for Republican amendments that would have capped unemployment benefits at a worker’s pay level and removed a requirement that certain workers get paid sick leave during the pandemic.
The second amendment said the federal government would pay the cost of the sick leave provided voluntarily by businesses. The bill required the sick leave and businesses to pay for a portion of it.
Daines’ campaign said he supported the sick leave for workers affected by the coronavirus and spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits – which sometimes have resulted in payments over what workers had been getting paid while on the job.