Missoulian: AP Investigation: Rehberg underreports lobbyist donations

For months, Montana Republican congressman Denny Rehberg has been criticizing U.S. Sen. Jon Tester for being the leading recipient of campaign cash from lobbyists. But it turns out Rehberg has been taking donations from some lobbyists without disclosing their place of employment.

As recently as last week, the Rehberg campaign hammered Tester for his lobbyist donations, with Rehberg campaign manager Erik Iverson saying that cash was a major reason why the Rehberg campaign was trailing in fundraising.

But an Associated Press analysis of campaign finance disclosure reports through October turned up nearly three dozen lobbyists, who donated a total of about $20,000 to Rehberg’s campaign, with their employment left blank on disclosure forms.

The occupation was found with a search of a database of lobbyists at the Center for Responsive Politics and a Federal Elections Commission database of other campaign finance disclosures.

Candidates are required to list the name, address and occupation of each individual contributor on disclosure forms submitted to the FEC. But the AP analysis found the Rehberg campaign did not list the occupation on 189 contributions for the first nine months of 2011. That’s 13 percent of the 1,400 donations received by the campaign over that time frame.

Tester had far fewer donors with a blank occupation, about 1 percent of his 4,675 individual contributions over the same period. None of those unlisted individuals was found to be a registered federal lobbyist. He did have some registered lobbyists who described their occupation more generally, such as “government relations.”

Many of those left blank on Rehberg’s disclosure reports are individuals who come from well-known Washington D.C. lobbying firms, including a policy adviser to former vice president Dick Cheney who now lobbies for Shell Oil. But the Rehberg campaign reported to federal election officials that it did not know the occupations of the donors, simply reporting that it was still working on finding the information.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rehberg ranked 10th among the 435 members of the House with $74,450 in donations from lobbyists so far in the 2012 election cycle.

The center said unreported occupations can trick its analysis and result in an artificially low tally.
The Tester campaign, alleging the information was purposely left off the disclosure forms by Rehberg’s campaign, pointed out that Rehberg has also called for more accountability in campaign donations.

“This is exactly why Montanans can’t trust Dennis Rehberg. He just called for ‘100 percent transparency’ in campaign fundraising, then he hid the money he takes from Washington lobbyists,” said spokesman Aaron Murphy.

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