Fact Checker: Ads attack Rehberg and Tester on lobbyist ties


BOZEMAN, Mont. - NBC Montana is fact checking political ads in the days leading up to the general election. This week I looked at ads targeting the Senate campaigns of Jon Tester and Denny Rehberg, focusing on their ties to lobbyists.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee paid for an ad attacking Rehberg that says: "'I think lobbying is an honorable profession.'"

That's a secretly taped audio recording of Rehberg speaking to the American League of Lobbyists last year. I contacted a Rehberg spokesman to verify the tape. He told me the incident "smacks of desperate, dirty politics," but he did not deny that the recording is real.

"Big oil and gas have given over $600,000 to Dennis Rehberg," the ad continues.

It's true that Dennis Rehberg has received $646,260 from the oil and gas industry since 2000. That's according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- a prominent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks political spending.

"Rehberg's voted to give them billions in special tax breaks," the ad says.

It's true Rehberg voted in favor of energy legislation that provided billions of dollars in tax subsidies to energy companies. I verified this by checking House records through the Library of Congress' online archives.

The Crossroads GPS super PAC paid for an ad attacking Tester that says: "Tester has taken more money from lobbyists than any other Senator running this year."

This is true, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of the current Senate candidates, Jon Tester tops the list when it comes to contributions from registered lobbyists this election cycle.

Other senators, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have higher career totals, but the claim only addresses senators running for reelection this cycle.

"He's a top recipient of campaign cash from big banks and credit card companies," the ad continues.

This is also true. According to Federal Election Commission data, as compiled by the CFR, Tester ranks second out of all current Senate candidates when it comes to contributions from commercial banks in the 2012 cycle. He is number five when it comes to donations from credit companies.

"And Tester votes with Barack Obama 95 percent of the time," the ad says.

That figure comes from the non-partisan, politically prominent Congressional Quarterly. CQ has been monitoring House and Senate votes for decades, analyzing members' support for the president by tracking issues on which he's taken a clear stance.

According to another independent analysis, the Washington Post's U.S. Congress Votes Database,

Tester has voted with the Democratic Party 91 percent of the time.