Last Best Place PAC has already spent nearly $5.8 million running ads against GOP Senate hopeful Tim Sheehy.
Like many super PACs, the origins of Last Best Place, a group that’s spent millions targeting a top candidate in Montana’s GOP Senate primary, were a puzzle to be solved.
But it turns out the answer isn’t so surprising.
Senate Majority PAC, a group closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), confirmed to HuffPost it’s the mysterious political entity behind the group funding a multi-million dollar TV ad blitz against Tim Sheehy, a wealthy businessman seeking the GOP nomination to face endangered Senate Democrat Jon Tester in Montana.
Last Best Place PAC — a nod to the slogan Montanans use to describe their sparsely populated state — has already spent nearly $5.8 million on its ad campaign since September. The group has attempted to paint Sheehy as a wealthy interloper with “shady” ties to China and the Cayman Islands.
Though it was clear that Democrats were behind Last Best Place, the group driving its political strategy hadn’t been unmasked until now.
Last Best Place hasn’t yet disclosed its fundraising sources, but it must file its first report with the Federal Election Commission at the end of the month. A spokesperson for Senate Majority PAC said the filing will show that it’s the sole entity funding Last Best Place.
Republicans see this as Democrats meddling in their primary, a controversial strategy Democrats used in 2022 to promote right-wing candidates they viewed as easier general-election opponents. It worked: Democrats were able to defeat candidates with views on abortion and the 2020 election that were out of step with moderate electorates.
That seems to be what’s happening in Montana — but not in quite the same way.
National Republicans consider Sheehy the strongest match for Tester, and he’s running with the backing of the Mitch McConnell-aligned National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). But Sheehy faces a likely challenge from Matt Rosendale, a far-right House member who narrowly lost the 2018 election to Tester. Rosendale told podcaster Steve Bannon on Thursday that he intends to seek a rematch but claims that NRSC Chairman Sen. Steve Daines, a fellow Montanan, has tried to keep him from running.
Rosendale compared it to what Republican Kari Lake alleges happened to her in Arizona, where she claims the now-former state GOP chairman attempted to bribe her to stay out of the Senate race. Rosendale claimed, without evidence, that Daines has “billionaires” prepared to spend “a lot of money” to keep him out of the primary.
“Instead of sending someone basically to my office to offer me monetary consideration to get out of the race, the first thing they tried to do, Steve Daines himself tried to convince me that I need to tone it down,” Rosendale told Bannon.
In a statement to HuffPost, NRSC communications director Mike Berg said: “It is unfortunate that Congressman Rosendale is casting blame on others for his fundraising challenges and trouble keeping staff.”
Democrats seem to want to smooth the ground for Rosendale, a staunch abortion opponent who tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election and who helped oust former GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from leadership in 2023.
The Montana Democratic Party paid for Facebook ads appearing to boost Rosendale, though the party denied that was its aim. The party bought ads in December under the name Treasure State Truths, including one linking to an op-ed praising Rosendale as 100% anti-abortion and another highlighting remarks from Sheehy falsely stating that Montana has more bears than people.
All this underscores the messiness at play in Montana that will only intensify ahead of the June primary and November general election. Both sides are expected to pour millions more into what will likely be one of the nation’s most expensive Senate contests alongside Ohio, where Democrat Sherrod Brown is seeking reelection in a state that Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2020. Trump did even better in Montana, winning by 16 points.
Republicans only need to expand their Senate map by two seats to flip control of the 51-49 Senate. And the party is already poised to capture West Virginia, where conservative Democrat Joe Manchin isn’t running for reelection, virtually ensuring his seat will go to a Republican.
Last Best Place’s first ad appeared in September, attacking Sheehy for accepting a PPP loan, part of a government assistance program available for businesses during the pandemic. Subsequent ads hammered Sheehy on the loan, as well as financial ties to China and the Cayman Islands. Sheehy’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Tim Sheehy doesn’t get to use his shady money to create his own reality,” said Senate Majority PAC President J.B. Poersch in a statement to HuffPost. “The truth is Sheehy is Mitch McConnell’s prized recruit who plans to spend his millions to mask just how out of touch he is from hardworking Montanans.”
Last Best Place’s treasurer, former GOP state Sen. Dave Lewis, also attacked Sheehy in a statement to HuffPost. Lewis, who was in the Montana legislature from 2001 to 2015 and voted twice for Trump, now identifies as a libertarian.
“Montanans deserve a senator who understands Montana — someone who understands our beliefs and our values. But that’s not Tim Sheehy … He may be Mitch McConnell’s idea of a perfect candidate, but he certainly isn’t ours,” Lewis said.
Last Best Place is only responsible for a portion of the political advertising that’s been saturating the airwaves in Montana. Sheehy’s campaign and allied super PACs have been on TV with spots linking Tester to President Joe Biden, who is deeply unpopular in Montana. The NRSC also placed an ad buy this week, boosting Sheehy.
Earlier this month, More Jobs, Less Government, a pro-Sheehy super PAC, took out a radio ad blasting Last Best Place as a tool of Democratic donors, the Washington Examiner reported.
“Have you seen an ad from Last Best Place PAC? The one’s calling America-first conservative Tim Sheehy ‘shady Sheehy,’” the ad’s narrator says. “But the group airing the ad? Well, they’re the ones who are shady. That’s because Last Best Place PAC is tied to big-money Democrat donors. Why? Because Democrats are trying to interfere in the Republican primary to hurt pro-Trump Tim Sheehy and help liberal Jon Tester.”
Read more from the original publication HERE.