Tester Asks Rehberg to Seek Ban on Third-party Ads

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – One of the hottest U.S. Senate races in the nation has sparked a bitter series of attack ads from supporters of both candidates, prompting incumbent Democrat Jon Tester to seek a truce Wednesday from his Republican challenger.

Sen. Tester asked Rep. Denny Rehberg to join him in seeking a ban on third-party advertisements in Montana, an offer the congressman’s campaign said it would consider.

Tester proposed an agreement that tells allies to stop the attacks. He said the plan will work because it calls for penalties against the campaign whose allies continue to advertise in the state.

Tester said more than $1 million has been spent so far on attack ads in Montana.

Attacks have come from so-called super PACs such as Crossroads GPS, which has paid for ads assailing Tester, and an outdoors group backed by Democrats that hit Rehberg.

Many more are expected in a tight race that is drawing national attention as both parties vie for control of the U.S. Senate.

Nationally, Republicans have so far held a big advantage with the new super PACs — but the Rehberg campaign did not immediately reject Tester’s idea.

“This is certainly an interesting proposal by Senator Tester,” Rehberg campaign manager Erik Iverson said in a release. “We are going to give it a close look and we will respond in due course.”

Tester said he thinks the outside groups are wrongly swaying the race with false ads that lack accountability. He said the campaigns themselves should be doing the advertising.

“This agreement allows him and I to get back in control,” Tester said.

Tester sent Rehberg a letter Wednesday shortly before releasing it to reporters.

“Let’s reject efforts by outside groups to undermine Montana’s tradition of elections decided by people — not corporations,” Tester said in the letter. “Let’s let only you and me — and our campaigns — do the work of illuminating the issues and the differences that separate us.”

Tester said he already signed the deal he sent Rehberg, and said he expected the congressman to decide by Friday.

The senator disagreed with the notion that a ban on third-party ads would help him more than it would Rehberg, since Democrats like U.S. Sen. Max Baucus have so far been very effective at helping the Tester campaign raise a lot of money.

“I think that the Republicans have their horses in their stable too that raise money for them,” Tester said.

Tester said both sides are raising enough money themselves to fill the airwaves with ads they own.