HELENA – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign increased its spending after President Donald Trump vowed in April to make the Montana Democrat pay politically for sinking his nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Tester’s campaign spent about $790,000 on television and internet advertising in the two weeks following Trump’s comments, according to recently released campaign finance reports. In the three weeks before Trump targeted Tester, it spent about $440,000 on ads.
Tester spokesman Chris Meagher said Tuesday that Trump’s comments had nothing to do with the spending and the campaign simply started buying two weeks’ worth of ads at a time instead of one.
“Our campaign is ramping up and we’re executing our strategy,” Meagher said.
The campaign finance reports covering a 1 ½-month period ending May 16 show that Tester’s campaign spent about $400,000 more than it did in the previous three months. It marked the first time in this election cycle that spending has outpaced fundraising for Tester.
The spending increase reduced the cash Tester has available from $6.8 million at the beginning of April to $6.3 million as of mid-May.
Tester is one of 10 Democratic senators running for re-election in states won by Trump in 2016.
Trump blamed Tester for allegations that his VA nominee, Ronny Jackson, handed out prescription medication and created a hostile work environment.
“I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana,” Trump said in April.
Trump’s comments led to at least two outside political committees launching attack ads against Tester the following week. Tester’s campaign then released two television ads highlighting his support of military veterans and his efforts to reform the VA.
He still has much more than any of the four Republican candidates who want to take him on in November’s general election.
Voters on June 5 will pick a Republican nominee for the Senate race from a field that includes Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale, retired judge Russ Fagg, businessman Troy Downing and state lawmaker Al Olszewski.
Rosendale has the most cash of the four at $392,239, according to his report.
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