The Montana Democratic Party fired a post-primary shot across the bow of Rep. Denny Rehberg's senate campaign yesterday, filing an ethics complaint against the congressman with the U.S. House ethics office. The complaint (pdf below) is tied to a mass email Rehberg distributed June 4, the day before Montana's primary election, urging recipients to register to vote, vote absentee or vote at the polls. In his complaint, party chairman Ted Dick accused Rehberg of violating "clear rules that restrict a Member of the House of Representatives from using official resources to promote a Member's election."
Shortly after Dick filed the complaint, the Great Falls Tribune quoted Steve Dutton, communications director for the House Franking Commission, saying that such use of photos is allowable.
Rehberg's camp quickly went on the defensive, issuing a press release accusing the Montana Democratic Party of "desperately" trying to change the subject. One of the key strategies for Rehberg in the 2012 senate race has been to tie Democratic Sen. Jon Tester as closely as possible to President Barack Obama. This release was no exception. Rehberg's campaign decried the ethics complaint at "phony," claimed Tester had been caught "lying to Montanans in a taxpayer-funded direct mail piece," and once again accused the incumbent senator of voting with Obama "95 percent of the time."
It's been a dicey week for Rehberg. He managed to score just over 75 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Republican primary. However, the fact that challenger Dennis Teske, a farmer from Terry and a political unknown, not only secured 24 percent of the Republican vote statewide but also carried Prairie County (as in won) has folks in the state talking critically of Rehberg's support base. For more on the back-and-forth between Rehberg and Tester, check out this week's etc.