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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Dems attack Montana GOP Senate candidate for potential ethics 'conflict,' ignore Tester's farm subsidies

Democrats attempted to take aim at Montana Republican Senate candidate Tim Sheehy for a potential conflict of interest claim, while ignoring incumbent Sen. Jon Tester — who helped pass a farm bill that benefited his own business.

Bloomberg reported Friday that Sheehy’s fire fighting aviation company, which holds many government contracts, could present a conflict of interest if he’s elected in 2024. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) amplified the report. 

A spokesperson for Sheehy told Fox News Digital he would step down from his CEO role if elected to the Senate next cycle. Meanwhile, Tester, who currently owns farmland worth up to $5 million according to his financial disclosures, voted for legislation in 2018 that would provide $400 billion in taxpayer subsidies and expanded support for organic farming, which is core to his own operation. He also has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm subsidies over the past three decades.

“It’s surprising to see Democrats attack Tim Sheehy over his firefighting business when Jon Tester has voted for farming subsidies that benefit himself and his family,” Maggie Abboud, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Fox News Digital.

Tester has been criticized for voting on major farm legislation every six years while directly benefiting from the policies and subsidies contained there. 


“As the only working dirt farmer in the U.S. Senate, Jon Tester knows firsthand the challenges Montana farmers and ranchers face, which is why he’s fighting for programs that make sure Montana farmers can continue to feed America,” Tester’s campaign told Fox when asked about the subsidies.

Democrat farmer Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed discomfort with the bill, specifically with the “loopholes” in the bill that allowed family members of farm owners to collect subsidies.

Sen. Jon Tester’s net worth increased by about $5 million during his time in the Senate. (Kent Nishimura)

After its passage, Grassley slammed the “loopholes” that allowed distant family to receive subsidies “without any new requirements that they actually have to work.” 

“To say I’m disappointed the bill makes more subsidies available to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers is a severe understatement. Especially when the impact of large farmers being allowed to manipulate the system is that young and beginning farmers face even larger hurdles,” Grassley said in 2018 after the bill passed. “Today, we have a Farm Bill that is intentionally written to help the largest farmers receive unlimited subsidies from the federal government. There is no other way to characterize what the conference committee has done.”

Tim Sheehy for Senate Campaign

Tim Sheehy is running to oust Sen. Tester in 2024. (Tim Sheehy for Senate Campaign)

Sheehy, who announced a run against Tester in June, co-founded Bridger Aerospace, an aviation company that has a fleet of aircraft that scoop water to fight wildfires and multiple contracts with the federal government. Bloomberg News reported last week that Sheehy would likely face ethics issues in Congress, but the Republican candidate plans to step down as CEO and board member to adhere to ethics rules.

“There are genuine conflicts of interest if he is receiving funds and government contracts,” Craig Holman of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen told Bloomberg. “Those are the types of issues that not only the executive branch, but Congress also deals with.”

Katie Martin, spokeswoman for Sheehy, told Fox News Digital that “when Tim Sheehy is elected to the U.S. Senate, he will fully comply with Senate ethics rules and standards of conduct.”

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