HELENA – Another outside group is making significant ad buys in Montana’s U.S. Senate Republican primary – this time to support state Auditor Matt Rosendale and go after one of his opponents, former state District Judge Russell Fagg of Billings.
Club for Growth Action, whose affiliated political action committee has endorsed Rosendale in the four-way Republican U.S. Senate primary, reported spending $632,000 on production and air time for the ad attacking Fagg. It began running on TV and online last week.
That spending came on top of $530,000 that Club for Growth Action spent on TV and digital ads supporting Rosendale earlier this month.
Rosendale, Fagg, Big Sky businessman Troy Downing and state Sen. Al Olszewski are competing in the June 5 primary election for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester this fall.
The ad attacking Fagg says he “cut 45 years off the maximum sentence” for a man who admitted to beating his wife and assaulting her son in 2013, giving him five years in prison.
“Russ Fagg – he’s tough, on victims,” the ad’s narrator says.
Fagg this week denounced the ad as misleading, and in a news release from his campaign Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Fagg handed down the sentence recommended by prosecutors and a pre-sentence report.
“Club for Growth launched this desperate last-minute ad because they realized that Montanans are catching on to the fact that Rosendale is a weak candidate,” Fagg said in a statement Monday.
Rosendale’s campaign told MTN Tuesday that Fagg “aggressively sought the Club for Growth’s endorsement,” but that the group chose Rosendale because he’s the only “true conservative” in the race and the one who can defeat Tester this fall.
Club for Growth Action also has put up a website with additional criticisms of Fagg’s record as a judge, accusing him of being “more interested in helping criminals than giving justice to victims.”
The group’s pro-Rosendale ads, which began running earlier this month, call him a “Trump Republican” who rejected a pay increase last year and opposes “Obamacare.”
The ads from Club for Growth are the second round of big-money independent expenditures in the GOP Senate primary in Montana – all on behalf of Rosendale.
In March and April, two groups financed by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein spent $1.2 million on TV and radio ads promoting Rosendale.