BOZEMAN, Mont. - We're just under three weeks from Election Day, and if it's possible, the fight for one of Montana's U.S. Senate seats is getting uglier.
Up until now, I've looked at third-party attack ads, but this week I combed through ads approved by the candidates themselves. The first strikes out at Republican challenger, Denny Rehberg; the second goes after Democratic incumbent, Senator Jon Tester.
"Then Jon Tester came along and wanted to bring back logging jobs," a Libby, Montana, resident says in the first ad. "He brought people together, worked with all sides, and got a compromise. That's the Montana way. His Forest, Jobs and Recreation act would have been a real boost for our economy."
It's true that Senator Jon Tester drafted a land bill that some, but not all, environmentalists and loggers support as a fair compromise. It would designate more than 650,000 acres as protected wilderness and require logging activity on 100,000 acres.
"Congressman Dennis Rehberg killed it," the ad continues. "He put politics ahead of jobs."
It's true that Congressman Denny Rehberg fought against the Forest, Jobs and Recreation Act. At the end of last year, Tester attached it to the 2012 Senate budget deal. But Rehberg openly worked to get it out of the House version, saying it doesn't go far enough to create Montana jobs.
Montanans for Rehberg are running an ad approved by the candidate, attacking Tester.
"Talk is cheap, but Jon Tester's actions are costly," it says. "'Now the Bull Mountain Mine I support,' [Tester said]. But Tester voted against Bull Mountain, and the jobs it created."
It's not true that Tester explicitly voted against Bull Mountain, but it is true that he voted against a 2001 state bill allowing a revoked mine permit to be transferred to a new operator. The Billings Gazette reported that year that the bill opened the door for the Bull Mountain mine to reopen.
"'And we have tremendous opportunity on the coal we sit on,' [Tester said]. But Tester voted for obama's regulations that are forcing a Billings company to mothball its coal-fired power plant threatening jobs."
It's true that earlier this year, two Republican senators moved to override mercury emission regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. Tester voted not to throw out the rules.
It's also true that last month, PPL Montana announced it will shut down operations at a Billings plant, citing the EPA standards.