Tim Sheehy

Tim Sheehy

Tim Sheehy, a Republican millionaire business executive running to be one of Montana’s U.S. senators in 2024, has repeatedly complained that Democratic Sen. Jon Tester takes too much in campaign donations from registered lobbyists. But Sheehy’s first campaign finance disclosure filing reveals that his campaign has already received tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists. Sheehy is one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the seat.

“On his way to becoming the number one recipient of lobbyist cash, Jon Tester has talked a lot about standing up to the pay-to-play culture in Washington but hasn’t done a thing to stop it,” Sheehy said in a September 25 press release. “Career politicians like Jon Tester have abandoned the American people — serving the lobbyists, special interests, and themselves instead of hard working Americans. Jon Tester is all talk, no leadership — Montanans deserve better.”

Sheehy’s claim, which he has also repeatedly tweeted, appears to be based on data from five years ago, when, at one point in the 2018 campaign cycle, Tester was the national leader in lobbyist contributions. He did not rank in the top 25, according to Open Secrets, during the 2020 or 2022 campaign cycles.

As national Republican leaders pushed to recruit Sheehy to run, he met in June with a group of about 20 federal lobbyists at the Washington, D.C., offices of tobacco giant Altria to discuss the race, according to a Politico Playbook report.

Three days after Sheehy joined the race, he accepted a $3,300 donation — the largest legally permissible amount — from registered lobbyist Todd Walker, Altria‘s senior vice president for government affairs and public policy.

A Sheehy campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation inquiry about his contributors.

Walker is not the only lobbyist funding Sheehy’s campaign. An American Independent Foundation review of his October quarterly disclosure to the Federal Election Commision reveals that he accepted at least $41,660 from registered lobbyists and another $1,000 from the corporate PAC for the CGCN Group, a top Washington lobbying firm.

Among his lobbyist donors are Brian Henneberry, who represents fossil fuel behemoth Koch Industries; Chevron lobbyist James R. Thompson; and Phil Hardy, whose clients include Sheehy’s own company, Bridger Aerospace Group.

As Sheehy collects donations from lobbyists and decries their influence, Insiderreported in August that he plans to give some of the proceeds of his soon-to-be-published memoir to the United Aerial Firefighters Association, an industry group he co-founded. The group has spent at least $25,000 on federal lobbying already in 2023.

Though the National Republican Senatorial Committee is backing Sheehy, polling shows he is trailing Republican Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale, who is reportedly planning to join the race, in a possible primary matchup. Sheehy also trails Tester in a hypothetical general election.

Reprinted with permission from American Journal News.

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CNN Didn't Disclose Trumpy Pundit's Lobbying For Norfolk Southern Rail

David Urban

CNN’s State of the Union host Dana Bash held a Sunday roundtable discussion about the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment featuring CNN political commentator David Urban, who said that “there's plenty of blame to go around on this” and pivoted to criticizing the Biden administration. CNN never disclosed or asked Urban about his work for the culpable railroad, Norfolk Southern, which paid him and his then-lobbying firm over a million dollars.

Urban was until 2020 the president of the lobbying firm American Continental Group, where he lobbied for Norfolk Southern on “transportation issues related to railways” starting in 2009, according to federal disclosure forms. He and his firm collected at least $1,140,000, according to a calculation of federal data by ProPublica.

The Republican commentator is now the managing director for BGR Group, a leading lobbying firm that presents countless conflicts of interest for his on-air work. In its most recent lobbying quarter, BGR has continued to lobby on transportation issues. Its website also states: “Our clients in the aviation, automotive, rail, shipping and mass transit industries rely on BGR to educate political leaders about how vital these industries are to domestic and international commerce.”

Urban also played a key role in the election of former President Donald Trump, who weakened safety regulations in the rail industry.

He appeared on the February 26 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, where he participated in a panel discussion about East Palestine. CNN identified him on screen as a CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign adviser.

During the segment, Bash said that the Trump administration rolled back regulations, to which Urban replied: “There's plenty of blame to go around on this, on these kind -- when these kinds of things happen. But what's important is what we do moving forward, right, to take care of the people in these towns and communities.” He then went on to criticize the Biden administration for allegedly “sloughing off” the crisis.

CNN and Bash didn’t disclose Urban’s work for Norfolk Southern and BGR’s connections to the railroad industry. And Bash didn’t challenge him on whether any of the “blame” should go to Norfolk Southern or about his own work for the company. Norfolk Southern, specifically, lobbied against safety regulations.

CNN has continued to employ Urban despite a dizzying array of ethical problems. For example:

  • Urban urged a military strike against Iran without any disclosure that he worked for defense contractors.
  • Urban praised then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper without the network disclosing that he personally lobbied the Defense Department on behalf of defense contractors.
  • Urban repeatedly attacked environmental protections without disclosing he lobbied for fossil fuel-related clients including Norfolk Southern, which transports coal.
  • Urban repeatedly pushed for the passage of a trade agreement on-air after he was hired to lobby for it. The network didn’t disclose the conflict of interest.
  • Urban touted a lobbying client’s opposition to a tax bill without any disclosure that they paid him.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.