Montana

Tester Doubles Down on WOTUS Support, Claims He Voted for “Sportsmen”

Policy
photo: tester.senate.gov

In the face of growing skepticism from Montanans, U.S. Senator Jon Tester appeared to double down on his support for a highly controversial new EPA water regulation this week. As reported by Media Trackers Tester recently joined with Democrats to block a measure which would have permanently killed the EPA’s Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS).

Despite looming legal precedent and strong opposition from a wide array of interest groups, Tester appeared to spike the ball on his WOTUS vote Thursday, issuing a tweet from his official Twitter account highlighting “what Montanans are saying about (his) effort to support clean water for Montana anglers.” Within the tweet were quotes from a coterie of left-leaning organizations including the Montana Standard Editorial Board, Business for Montana’s Outdoors, and the Fly Fishing Trade Association—all touting Tester’s strong support for “anglers.”

The Senator’s Communications Director, former MTN News Director, Marnee Banks, also promoted Tester’s position on Twitter, stating that the Senator’s vote “stands with Montana’s anglers, small businesses, outdoorsmen & women to protect clean water.”

WOTUS implementation was halted by the U.S 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in October with the court citing a strong likelihood that the petitioners against WOTUS would have “success on the merits of their claims”—meaning the court found that it was more likely than not, based on legal precedent, that WOTUS would eventually be found unconstitutional.

WOTUS has also faced strong headwinds from the Montana business and agriculture community with groups like the Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Grain Growers Association, Montana Mining Association, Montana Petroleum Association, and the Montana Building Industry Association voicing their strong opposition to the bill.

Team Tester’s use of “anglers and outdoorsmen” to sell this unpopular rule to Montanans raises eyebrows because of the Senator’s long history of using “green decoy’s”—fake sportsmen groups funded with far-left environmentalist money—in order to pursue his political agenda. Bank’s predecessor as Tester’s Communications Director, Aaron Murphy, went to work shortly after leaving the Senator’s office for Hilltop Public Solutions, a controversial political consulting firm tied to environmentalist dark money. Throughout the years Hilltop’s staff has become a veritable who’s who of former Tester staffers.

As Media Trackers and other national watchdog organizations have extensively documented, green decoy groups spent over $1.2 million during Tester’s 2014 reelection campaign promoting third-party Libertarian candidate, Dan Cox, as the “true conservative” in the race in order to siphon off votes from Tester’s Republican opponent, former Montana U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. The tactic paid off and Tester won reelection within the vote margins taken by Cox.

Though Tester maintains that his support for WOTUS is rooted in his desire to help protect Montana watersheds for “sportsmen” and “anglers,” the Senator’s past political actions could suggest otherwise.

Montana is one of 13 states which has challenged the Waters of the United States rule in federal court.

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