Montana senator Jon Tester bills himself as a moderate Democrat willing to criticize his party's left-wing elements—like the progressive policies pushed by his latest financial backers, George and Alexander Soros.
The Soroses last month nearly maxed out campaign contributions to Tester, each giving $2,800, according to campaign finance disclosures, making the red-state Democrat the only candidate to whom both father and son have contributed this election cycle. Though the two pour millions of dollars every year into a variety of left-wing causes, their direct political support so far this cycle has been sparse. The elder Soros has given to only two candidates aside from Tester, Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.), both of whom are politically safe. His son Alexander Soros has given to only Tester and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.), who this cycle is targeting Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I., Ariz.), a former Democrat, from the left.
Tester's support from the Soros family highlights the political tightrope he will have to walk in his bid for reelection. Tester, considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the 2024 cycle, will need to raise money from major Democratic donors in what is likely to be one of the most expensive Senate races of 2024. But the senator, who recently said that he brings a "dirt-under-your-fingernails perspective to Washington," will have to avoid embracing left-wing policies unpopular in the Big Sky Country.
The elder Soros gives tens of millions of dollars a year to groups that support the movements to defund police, expand the Supreme Court, and restrict gun ownership. He has contributed $1.45 million to Color of Change, a civil rights organization that has called to defund police. He funds a variety of gun control groups and has stated, "I'm very much against guns."
Tester has spoken out against those policies, saying the average Montanan views the Democratic Party as "toxic" for ignoring rural voters.
"The defund the police stuff is garbage," said Tester, who also says he is a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment." Asked whether he supports packing the Supreme Court, Tester quipped, "Ix-nay on that bullshit-ay."
Tester's dilemma—balancing a centrist bent while wooing deep-pocketed Democratic donors—was on display last month following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Tester criticized a federal bailout of the bank and pledged to hold bank executives and regulators "accountable." But the same day, Tester attended a fundraiser in Palo Alto, Calif., organized by a lawyer for the firm that represents Silicon Valley Bank.
Another fundraiser host serves on the board of the National Resources Defense Council, an environmentalist group that repeatedly sued the Trump administration to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The host, National Resources Defense Council board member Nicole Lederer, has said the pipeline "is against the best interest of our country."
Tester publicly supported the pipeline, saying that it "would have yielded big benefits" for Montana.