A new third-party opponent to Sen. Jon Tester's re-election bid emerged in the last few weeks. America Is Not Stupid Inc., listed as a conservative 501(c)(4) making independent expenditures in 2012, reported $20,831.88 for television ads directly opposing Tester over the past two weeks. The group's primary complaint is with the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. But its rudimentary website also calls for smaller government, energy independence and tort reform.
Up until Friday, independent expenditures reported to the Federal Election Commission had strongly favored the Democrat over his Republican challenger, Rep. Denny Rehberg. But with another round of anti-Tester spending from the National Republican Senatorial Committee $191,404.07 on ad buys and media production, filed late last week—the amount of disclosed money opposing Tester has hit $1.2 million. Total independent expenditures in Montana's Senate race, as of Sept. 11, topped $5.3 million. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending by both campaigns combined reached $8.7 million early this month.
The prevailing question in 2012 remains who is behind all this political messaging, specifically messaging conducted outside of the campaigns. A deeper look at FEC filings for America Is Not Stupid reveals the financier of its ad blitz to be the Fenwick Group, a Florida-based insurance, healthcare and technology consulting firm headed by Bob Portrie and Jay Handline. The duo also runs Moran Insurance and Financial Solutions out of the same office space.
Montana is the only state the group has spent money in so far this year.
In 2010, the New York Times linked the Fenwick Group to a string of ads sponsored by the Coalition to Protect Seniors. The ads, which featured a talking baby with a raspy voiceover, chastised President Barack Obama for his health insurance overhaul.