Dennis Rehberg: Not a rancher after all

Tester: ‘Mansion ranchin’ ain’t ranchin’

BIG SKY, Mont. – Congressman Dennis Rehberg, a high-end real estate developer, brands himself as a “fifth generation Montana rancher” at nearly every opportunity, but Montana farmer Jon Tester today took a hot iron to Rehberg’s longtime claim.

Rehberg, Tester pointed out during a debate today in Big Sky, isn’t a rancher.

“Building houses, and mansion ranchin’ ain’t ranchin,” Tester said.

In fact, according to public records, Rehberg hasn’t bought, sold or registered any livestock for at least 12 years. [Department of Livestock, inspection and sale records, accessed 7/27/11]

Rehberg, it turns out, gave up cattle ranching and goat ranching because—according to his own campaign manager—Rehberg “couldn’t manage the herd and going back and forth between Montana and D.C.” [Esquire, 11/4/2011]

By contrast, Jon Tester still actively farms the same land homesteaded by his grandparents in 1912. Tester, with his wife Sharla, still plants and harvests his own crops every year, and sometimes works overnight to get his work done while maintaining an aggressive Senate schedule.

Below is a factsheet debunking Rehberg’s claim that he is a “5th Generation Rancher.”


Rehberg: “I’m Not A Cattle Guy, I’m A Grass Guy. I Raise or Grow Grass.”  In February 2011, told listeners on Voices Of Montana, “ Being a rancher myself, and a steward of the land, its paramount that the right processes and procedures, the right ranching opportunity is created, both the bison and also the reserve itself. I’m not a cattle guy, I’m a grass guy, I raise or grow grass, grass for the purposes of putting it through the cattle. I’m really into grasses and that’s how we’ve got to look at some of our resources as well.” [Voices of Montana, 02/07/11]


Rehberg Describes Himself as “Fifth-Generation Montana Cattle Rancher.” According to his Senate campaign website: “Denny Rehberg, is a fifth generation Montana cattle rancher and small business owner who is serving his sixth term as Montana’s Congressman.   Having spent a majority of his life working on the family ranch, Denny has firsthand experience with many of the problems facing agriculture producers and small business owners in Montana.” [Montanans for Rehberg]

Rehberg: “As a Fifth Generation Cattle Rancher, I Have Dealt Personally With Many of the Problems Facing Montana Farmers and Ranchers.” According to Rehberg’s Senate campaign website: “As a fifth generation cattle rancher I have dealt personally with many of the same problems facing Montana farmers and ranchers.  I have seen how profits have decreased while costs continually rise.  Montana needs to expand its role in the agricultural sector.  We need to look into new markets, means and products.  In order to keep Montana agriculture strong we must provide the tools to help our producers adapt.” [Montanans for Rehberg, Agriculture]

January 2012 – Rehberg: I Always Use Myself As An Example As A Rancher.  In January 2012, at the Montana Chamber of Commerce Business Days, Rehberg said, “I always use myself as an example, as a rancher when I needed a stock trailer I spent 15,000 dollars, if I couldn’t make 15,001 or 15,100 or 500 or a thousand then its an expense its not an asset.” [Montana Chamber of Commerce Business Days, 01/19/12]

April 2011 – Rehberg Spokesman: “Denny Is A 5th Generation Montana Rancher.” In April 2011, TPM reported that Rehberg’s spokesman said, “Denny is a 5th generation Montana rancher and knows better than anyone how difficult it is to make ends meet in agriculture,” said Jed Link. “While Beltway insiders may not understand the meaning of being land rich and cash poor, folks who make their living off the land sure do.” [TPM, 4/29/11]

April 2011 – Rehberg: “As Montana’s Only Congressman, A Father, a Rancher, And Above All, An American,” I Have A Responsibility To Be Honest And Bold. In April 2011, Rehberg’s office issued a press release that said: “As Montana’s only Congressman, a father, a rancher and above all, an American, I have a responsibility to be honest about the challenges we face and to take bold action to solve them. There is no doubt that we face tremendous challenges in our country. But this is still America, and we’ve been in tough places before. We must be willing to do the right things even if they’re not the easy things.” [Office of Rep. Denny Rehberg, 4/6/11]

2012 and 2011 Congressional Websites: Rehberg “Is A Small Business Owner” Who “Has Managed More Than 600 Head Of Cattle” And “600 Cashmere Goats.” According to Rehberg’s 2012 and 2011 Congressional websites: “As Montana’s sole Representative to the U.S. House, Denny Rehberg is serving his sixth term in Congress.  As a small business owner, Denny brings both the work ethic of a fifth-generation family rancher who has managed more than 600 head of cattle and, later 600 cashmere goats and the core Montana values of integrity and personal accountability to the job with him every day.” [Congressman Denny Rehberg, Accessed 2/13/12; Internet Wayback  Machine; 7/13/11]

Rehberg: “As A Rancher, I Understand The Challenges Facing Montana’s Producers And I’m Proud To Fight For Their Interests In Congress.” According to an October 2009 statement released by his office touting federal funding secured in the FY 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Rehberg said, “As a rancher, I understand the challenges facing Montana’s producers and I’m proud to fight for their interests in Congress.” [Office of Rep. Denny Rehberg, 10/07/09]

House Campaign Websites: Rehberg “Oversees A Herd Of 500 Cattle And 600 Cashmere Goats.” According to Rehberg’s 2006, 2004, and 2002 House campaign websites: “Since 1996, Denny has been managing the Rehberg Ranch near Billings. He oversees a herd of 500 cattle and 600 cashmere goats.” [Internet Wayback Machine, Rehberg for Congress, 10/25/0611/26/04; Library of Congress Website Archives, Rehberg for Congress, 11/1/02]

2002-2010 Congressional Websites: Rehberg “Is A Fifth-Generation Montana Rancher” Who Managed Rehberg Ranch “Prior To His Election To Congress.” According to Rehberg’s 2002-2010 Congressional websites: “U.S. Congressman Denny Rehberg, in his fifth term representing the state of Montana, is a fifth generation Montana rancher, with more than a quarter century of ranching and public service experience.” It went on to say: “A life long steward of the land, Denny managed the Rehberg Ranch near Billings prior to his election to Congress, where he oversaw a herd of 500 cattle and 600 cashmere goats.” [Internet Wayback Machine, Congressman Denny Rehberg, 6/8/106/25/095/30/087/1/076/22/066/24/05; Library of Congress Website Archives, Congressman Denny Rehberg, 12/25/0412/24/0312/12/02]

2001 Congressional Website: “Rehberg Has Been Managing” Rehberg Ranch, Where He “Oversees A Herd Of 500 Cattle And 600 Cashmere Goats.” According to Rehberg’s 2001 Congressional website: “Since 1996, Denny has been managing the Rehberg Ranch near Billings. He oversees a herd of 500 cattle and 600 cashmere goats.” [Internet Wayback Machine, Congressman Denny Rehberg, 10/23/01]

Rehberg Detailed Modern Livestock Operation “Like His.” In February 2012, CQ reported: “Rehberg, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said the Labor Department’s proposals represented ‘the difference in philosophy between urban and rural. This is one of those situations where, I think, the Labor Department is overstepping its boundary, its knowledge base. Frankly, I think you’re sitting around watching reruns of “Blazing Saddles.”’ Rehberg said a modern livestock operation like his has equipment safe enough for a 5-year-old to operate. Farmers and ranchers want a safe environment for children, but they also want reasonable rules, he said.” [CQ, 2/2/12]

Rehberg: I’ve “Taken All The Glamour” Out Of My Ranching Operations. In February 2012, the Huffington Post reported: “Rehberg, a six-term congressman who’s running to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), said he’s a fifth-generation Montana rancher whose great grandfather, born in 1873, started breaking horses at age 11. Rehberg said he has ‘taken all the glamour’ out of his ranching operation. ‘I don’t rope and I don’t tie and I don’t brand with a hot iron,’ he went on.” [Huffington Post, 2/2/12]

Rehberg: “It’s Impossible” To Get Hurt On My Modern Ranching Equipment; Employed A 10-Year-Old On His Ranch. In February 2012, the Huffington Post reported: “‘I don’t rope and I don’t tie and I don’t brand with a hot iron,’ he went on, adding that he uses modern equipment that he said is virtually incapable of hurting children. ‘You can’t get hurt,’ Rehberg fumed. ‘It’s impossible. You could have a five-year-old out there running it.’ Rehberg added that he’s previously employed a 10-year-old neighbor to herd cashmere goats with what he described as a Kawasaki youth motorcycle.” [Huffington Post, 2/2/12]



Rehbergs Don’t Have Livestock on Their Ranch Land. As reported by Lee State Bureau, “Tester and his family operate his farm, and he often spends time working at the Big Sandy operation during Senate breaks. The Rehbergs say they don’t have livestock on their 2,500 acres of ranch land northwest of Billings right now, and that it’s used for summer grazing.” [Lee State Bureau, 2/12/2012]

Rehberg a “Rancher Who Doesn’t Really Ranch Anymore,” Gave Up Cattle and Cashmere Goat Herd. As reported by Esquire, “And the wimp-by-insinuation game can, of course, go both ways. Rehberg, it turns out, is a rancher who doesn’t really ranch anymore, having given up first on cattle and then on cashmere goats because, Iverson admitted, ‘he couldn’t manage the herd and going back and forth between Montana and D.C.’” [Esquire11/4/2011]

Rehberg Has Been Out of the Day-to-Day Business of Ranching Since Winning Election to Congress. According to a 2010 profile of Rehberg printed in the Billings Gazette, “Since winning election to Congress, Rehberg has been out of the day-to-day business of ranching.” [Billings Gazette,4/24/2011]

Rehberg Family Ranch Managed by Other People. As reported by the Billings Gazette, “That’s why this year Rehberg is looking to buy some cows to put on the family place, which is managed by other people. He and his wife have also subdivided part of the ranch into high-end subdivision near Billings.” [Billings Gazette4/25/2010]

2002 Article Called Rehberg A “Former Rancher.” In September 2002, Roll Call reported: “When Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) won election to Congress in 2000, the former rancher was not the only person associated with his campaign who celebrated the victory.” [Roll Call, 9/9/02]

2011 Article Called Rehberg “A Former Cattle Rancher.” In June 2011, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported: “At issue is an amendment by Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., requiring requiring the FDA to base its decisions on ‘hard science.’ The congressman, a former cattle rancher, said he was concerned about the FDA’s regulation of animal drugs, and he won approval of the amendment in the Appropriations Committee.” [Louisville Courier-Journal, 6/12/11]



Rehberg: “I Am, In Fact, The Only Goat Herder In Congress.” In October 2007, the Great Falls Tribune reported: “Montana has a team in Washington that understands production agriculture, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., told the crowd. He is the fifth generation on his family’s ranch and recently introduced a new type of livestock goats. ‘I am, in fact, the only goat herder in Congress,’ he said.” [Great Falls Tribune, 10/27/07]

Rehberg Admitted He Only Visited Goat Ranch Few Days A Year. “Rehberg admits he can only make it to this ranch two or three days out of the year, but the man of the people says when he’s not in Washington DC, he’s a man of his goats.” [KTVQ Story, 6/4/2007]

Rehberg Loaned Goats to Other Ranchers After Elected to Congress, Gave Up Goats Altogether in 2009. As reported by the Billings Gazette, “After he was elected Congress, Rehberg loaned the goats to other Montana ranchers on a kind of animal share-cropping arrangement common in agriculture. But those ranchers needed to divest the herd, and Rehberg for the last year or so has been goatless. ‘What’s sad is I had built up the genetics of good, quality cashmere,’ he said.” [Billings Gazette4/25/2010]

2010: Rehberg “Used To Be” A Goat Herder. In May 2010, the Montana Standard reported: “Despite his impressive political resume, Rehberg may be best known for two personal things: He sleeps on his office couch in Washington, D.C., and does not maintain a residence in the nation’s capitol. And he was a goat herder. Well, he used to be. After inheriting the family ranch from his parents, Rehberg ran all kind of animals on it, eventually settling on cashmere goats, he said, because they eat weeds and you can sell both their hair and their meet. Plus, Montana is a great place to raise goats.” [Montana Standard, 5/26/10]

2010: After His Election, Rehberg “Loaned The Goats To Other Montana Ranchers,” But Now “Has Been Goatless” For The Last “Year Or So.” In May 2010, the Montana Standard reported: “After he was elected Congress, Rehberg loaned the goats to other Montana ranchers on a kind of animal share-cropping arrangement common in agriculture. But those ranchers needed to divest the herd and Rehberg for the last year or so, Rehberg has been goatless” [Montana Standard, 5/26/10]