Firefighters mad at Rep. Denny Rehberg over lawsuit

New ads, including this one from Majority PAC, make sure voters remember that Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., now a candidate for U.S. Senate , sued Billings and its fire department for fire damage to his property in 2010.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg cost taxpayers in his constituency more than $20,000 when he and his wife sued the city of Billings, Mont., and its fire department in 2010 for damage caused to their property during a fire. Two new ads from Democratic outside spending groups are making sure voters don’t forget.

Rehberg, a Republican who is challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, ultimately dropped the suit, but he was nonetheless hit over the Columbus Day weekend with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s “Only Out for Himself” and Majority PAC’s “Always There.”

Rehberg and his wife sued the City of Billings and the Billings Fire Department for equipment and property damage during a 2008 fire on Rehberg Ranch Estates. Two days after the fire was contained, it flared up again. The Rehbergs alleged breach of duty and negligence on the part of the fire department, according to the Associated Press.

Majority PAC spent $339,000 on the ad and mailers. It is unknown how much the DSCC spent.

The lawsuit became fodder for his 2010 re-election campaign against Democrat Dennis McDonald, who told the Billings Gazette the lawsuit was “embarrassing for the congressman, who is suing the taxpayers.”

Rehberg dropped the lawsuit in November 2011, but it cost Billings taxpayers almost $21,000 according to documents released by the city, Billings’ KTVQ-TV reported. Rehberg announced his intent to run for U.S. Senate three months later.

The Senate race in Montana has attracted $11.1 million in outside spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and the race is considered a tossup. The Democratic-held seat could be a possible pickup for the GOP, which expects to win the state in the presidential election.

The state is heavily unionized, so while Montanans may prefer Republican presidents, they have a Democratic streak when it comes to down-ticket races, Real Clear Politics says.

The race has attracted money from many of the big-name outside spenders, including the League of Conservation Voters, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, and both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $2.2 million and the DSCC has spent $2 million, according to CRP, making them the top spenders in the race. Conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS is second with $1.5 million and the League of Conservation Voters follows with $1.3 million.

Rehberg and Tester faced each other Monday in the only debate of their race, with Rehberg attempting to link Tester with President Barack Obama and Tester attempting to link Rehberg to lobbyists.

VoteVets.org Action Fund, a nonprofit, also went after Rehberg over the weekend, spending $250,000 on canvassing and door hangers.

Rehberg holds a slight lead in the polls.

In other outside spending news:

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new wave of ads in U.S. House races: “Real” opposing Democrat and retired general Bill Enyart in Illinois’ 12th District cost $428,000; “Here” opposing Democrat and former health care executive Cheri Bustos in Illinois’ 17th District cost $622,000; “Can’t Afford” opposing Democratic Rep. Bill Foster in Illinois’ 11th District cost $540,000; “Can’t Gamble” opposing Democratic Rep. John Tierney in Massachussetts’ 6th District cost $400,000; “Opens Doors” supporting Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in Utah’s 4th District cost $202,000. 
  • Majority PAC spent a $994,000 on ads in the Nevada, North Dakota, Montana and Arizona races over the weekend.
  • Majority PAC and Patriot Majority USA co-released “Cynthia,” which opposes Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. Majority PAC’s share of the ad as $324,000.
  • The American Hospital Association spent $1.4 million on ads supporting Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Lois Capps, R-Calif.
  • Pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future reported spending $1.2 million on ads opposing Obama.
  • The NRA Political Victory Fund, the political action committee of the National Rifle Association, reported spending $1.8 million on ads opposing Obama.
  • Conservative super PAC Club for Growth Action reported spending a total $1 million on U.S. Senate races in Arizona and Indiana.
  • VoteVets.org Action Fund released “Pledge,” which opposes Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican running for U.S. Senate in the state. The ad cost $300,000.
  • American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit, released “A New Path” supporting Romney. It also reported spending $950,000 on three spots released last week.
  • Out of Step” from SEIU COPE, the political action committee of the Service Employees International Union, opposes Republican Rep. Chris Gibson in New York’s 19th District. The SEIU’s super PAC also reported spending $2.3 million on U.S. Senate and House races in Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia.
  • The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters Inc. came out with “Defeat the Flat Earth Five,” a Web video criticizing Republican Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle of New York, Dan Benishek of Michigan, Francisco Canseco of Texas, Dan Lungren of California and Joe Walsh of Illinois for an “anti-science view” regarding global warming.
  • FreedomWorks for America, a conservative super PAC, released “Vote Smith,” supporting Tom Smith, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, who, until 2011, was a Democrat.

Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

About the author

Rachael Marcus is a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan independent investigative news outlet, which contributes campaign finance coverage to Marketplace. For more of their reporting on money and politics go to publicintegrity.org.

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