Dems Look To Meddle in Montana's GOP Senate Primary

Chuck Schumer's Senate Majority PAC has long used astroturf groups to boost Dems in western state

Chuck Schumer (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
September 13, 2023

Democrats are using a new super PAC to meddle in the Montana GOP Senate primary and stop former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy from emerging as the nominee, campaign finance disclosures suggest.

The new group, Last Best Place PAC, registered with the Federal Election Commission last week and placed a six-figure ad buy attacking Sheehy's business career, describing it as unethical. The registration form and ad buy include two telltale signs that national Democrats are behind the effort. The PAC's registration form lists Amalgamated Bank—which has long worked with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.)—as its depository, and the group used a prominent left-wing media firm, Virginia-based Old Town Media, to purchase the advertisement.

The disclosures, first reported by Politico, suggest Schumer and other Democrats are again attempting to influence Republican Senate primaries and tilt them toward nominees they feel are easier to beat, a tactic that helped the party gain a seat in the upper chamber last year. While Sheehy has not yet attracted a prominent primary opponent, Republican Montana congressman Matt Rosendale has reportedly informed colleagues that he plans to enter the race. Rosendale lost to Democratic senator Jon Tester by nearly 4 points in 2018, and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Steve Daines, who serves as Montana's junior senator, has already endorsed Sheehy as he looks to avoid a contentious primary.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Mike Berg suggested Last Best Place PAC's emergence shows that Schumer wants Rosendale to "run and lose to Jon Tester again."

"This shady Schumer-Tester front group is meddling in the Montana Republican primary because they fear Tim Sheehy and know he is the strongest general election opponent," Berg said in a statement.

Schumer's Senate Majority PAC did not return a request for comment. Last Best Place PAC has thus far declined to reveal the source of its funding.

Schumer spent millions in 2022 to elevate certain candidates in GOP Senate primaries. In New Hampshire, for example, the Democrat's PAC spent more than $3 million to boost Republican Don Bolduc, who went on to secure the nomination and lose the general election to Democratic senator Maggie Hassan by nearly 10 points.

Schumer also has a history of using pop-up super PACs to run ads in Montana. In 2020, Schumer's Senate Majority PAC partnered with Montana Hunters and Anglers, a liberal super PAC disguised as a grassroots hunting group, to imply that Montana Democrat Steve Bullock had support from local sportsmen. But groups such as the Montana Shooting Sports Association blasted the effort, and Bullock went on to lose to Daines by 10 points.

Last Best Place PAC, which used a P.O. box in Montana to register with the FEC, will not have to report its donors until early 2024. The Montana GOP Senate primary will take place next June.