Jon Tester, the Largest Recipient of Lobbyist Cash in America, Dings Opponent for Taking Lobbyist Cash

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
June 5, 2024

Senator Jon Tester took more money from lobbyists than any senator last year. Now, the Montana Democrat claims his Republican opponent is captive to private interests.

Tester’s new $640,000 television ad campaign claims Tim Sheehy, who secured the Republican Senate nomination Tuesday, is "shady," because he’s "taken hundreds of thousands in lobbyist cash."

Lobbyists have donated more than $458,000 to Tester from 2023-2024, besting his Democratic colleague Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), who raised $356,169. No Senate Republican incumbent comes close to Tester, who received more money from lobbyists than former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).

Tester faces one of the Senate's toughest reelection fights in November, in a state former president Donald Trump won by more than 16 points. In his fight to cling to his seat, Tester has attempted to brand himself as an independent dedicated to good governance.

That image often conflicts with reality. Tester votes with President Joe Biden 91 percent of the time, even as he avoids calling himself a Democrat in campaign ads.

He is also a long opponent of dark money but happily accepts help from the dark money groups that spend millions on his behalf. A super PAC connected to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) spent nearly $6 million to boost Sheehy’s primary challenger, who was seen as the weaker of the two candidates.

Tester recently introduced a proposal to bolster his moderate credentials: a balanced budget constitutional amendment. In his 17 years in the Senate, Tester voted against similar measures at least eight times as the federal debt ballooned by 400 percent.

In April, the Tester campaign launched a $14.5 million ad campaign featuring footage of the southern border wall. Tester voted against border wall funding in 2017, calling Trump’s proposal "ineffective and wasteful."