Primary Wrap: Rosendale’s Special Interest Dark Money, False Rancher Claims Follow Him to the General Election


Helena – After pulling off an unimpressive win in the GOP primary, wealthy East Coast developer Matt Rosendale—who is “not viewed as a robust challenger” and is not what the Montana GOP considers its “best shot”—will have to contend with attacks lobbed at him by his fellow Republicans for misleading Montanans that “have been leaving some marks.”

Despite the more than $3 million from out-of-state special interests groups that poured into Montana in the primary alone just to drag “flawed challenger” Rosendale across the finish line, 66 percent of GOP primary voters voted against him.

Lacking legitimate in-state support, Maryland Matt has to rely on the out-of-state dark money special interest groups propping up his campaign…what did he promise them in exchange for their backing?

Associated Press: “Outside groups including two bankrolled by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein have spent $1.8 million pumping Rosendale’s candidacy. That’s almost twice as much as he’s raised himself.”

Associated Press: “Rosendale, a real estate developer and a former state lawmaker, wasn’t the first choice of Republicans…But Rosendale will have the backing of the deep-pocketed donors that have spent more than $3 million to support his primary campaign. Outside groups already have spent more than $5 million total on the GOP primary and on attack ads against Tester, putting the race on track to be one of the most expensive in Montana history.”

Real Clear Politics: “The Club for Growth PAC, which endorsed Rosendale last July, pumped more than $2 million into the race to help boost Rosendale…”

Associated Press: “…a pro-Rosendale group has spent $1.2 million attacking two other candidates, retired judge Russ Fagg and Downing.”

MTN News: “All told, more than $2.7 million has been spent by outside groups on Montana’s GOP Senate primary – an extraordinary amount for an intraparty primary in Montana…In March and April, two groups financed by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein also spent $1.2 million on TV and radio ads promoting Rosendale.”

Helena Independent Record: Rosendale “has the support of Richard Uihlein of Illinois and his conservative super political action committees, the Restoration PAC and the Americas PAC, which have kicked in more than $1.2 million to back him.”

The Guardian: “Matt Rosendale narrowly won a crowded race against retired judge Russ Fagg. With 56% of precincts reporting, Rosendale was ahead only by a margin of 34% to 29% despite receiving an influx of support from major outside groups including the Club for Growth.”

Talking Points Memo: “Rosendale’s tight win comes in spite of a major edge in outside support in the race. He and Fagg both spent less than $1 million on the race, according to the latest candidate disclosures, but the big-spending conservative group Club for Growth dropped almost $2 million to help boost Rosendale.”

The Hill: “State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who was recruited by the GOP after several top-tier contenders passed on the race, is still seen as the front-runner, with national outside groups putting up more than $1.8 million to help him across the finish line in the June 5 primary.”

Vox: “…Fagg has been painting Rosendale’s attacks funded by outside groups as yet another way for East Coasters to try to influence the primary in the state.”

Vox: “…conservative outside groups are spending millions to boost Rosendale, but it has the potential to backfire in a state where local ties are paramount.”

Talking Points Memo: Rosendale “has had a lot of help in the race from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, which has been running ads for him and against Fagg.”

Meanwhile, Maryland Matt is still misleading Montanans by claiming to be a rancher even though he has never owned cattle and never ranched his own land…

Missoula Current: “Fagg, in turn, questioned Rosendale’s credentials and suggested the victor’s claims that he is a Montana rancher ‘all hat and no cattle’ since he leases out the ranch and raises no livestock.”

Roll Call: “…a report from Talking Points Memo last week that said Rosendale, despite identifying himself foremost as a rancher, has never owned any cattle. That came after revelations that his signature appeared on two forms that had boxes checked indicating he was a Maryland resident in 2015.”

E&E News: “Fagg labels Rosendale a ‘political opportunist’ who is new to the state, and mocks him as a self-proclaimed rancher who has ‘never owned a cow.’”

Talking Points Memo: Rosendale “has made ranching a central part of his image…He regularly peppers his campaign pitch with folksy references to his work on the ranch as a way to prove his authentic connections to the state and inoculate himself against attacks that the Maryland native is a carpetbagger. But public records and his own past statements indicate the longtime real estate developer never actually ranched his land himself, instead renting it out for others to farm and run their cattle on. And the higher the office he’s run for, the more he’s talked up his supposed ranching experience.”

MTN News: “Fagg’s campaign is running an ad that raps Rosendale…who calls himself a rancher, doesn’t own any cattle.”

Vox: “…Fagg is hitting Rosendale as an out-of-touch outsider from the East Coast. Recently, an outside group called Principles First started airing an ad of ‘Maryland Catch Matt Rosendale’ being engulfed by ocean water. Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party is dinging him for saying he’s a cattle rancher, even though public records indicate he has rented his land to other ranchers.”

Esquire: “Rosendale is a wealthy parachute candidate who claims to be a rancher.”

The Hill: “But Rosendale has also been the biggest target for attacks from his primary opponents, who have accused him of being a carpetbagger…”

The Hill: “…Fagg, has used Rosendale’s contributions from out-of-state donors and the fact that Rosendale isn’t a native Montanan to paint him as an outsider to the state.”

MTN News: “The ad refers to Rosendale as ‘Maryland Matt’…and says he signed legal documents ‘affirming he’s a Maryland citizen.’”

Talking Points Memo: “‘Matt Rosendale may describe himself as a rancher, but I haven’t met many ranchers who were wealthy east coast real-estate developers until they were 40 years old,’ Fagg said in a statement to TPM when asked about Rosendale’s ranching credentials.”

Talking Points Memo: “…especially in his latest campaign, [Rosendale has] leaned hard into his rancher persona — while at times avoiding mention of his years as an elected official or discussing his decades in real estate.”

Talking Points Memo: “In 2010 and 2012, Rosendale listed himself as ‘real estate developer’ on his official candidate disclosure forms. In 2016, he listed ‘ranching and real estate development.’”

MTPR: “Matt Rosendale takes plenty of heat for what he is not – a Montana native.”

Roll Call: “An outside group called Principles First PAC is airing a TV ad calling Rosendale ‘Maryland Matt’…”

MTN News: “Downing’s campaign called the ad ‘baseless accusations’ from a group that is supporting ‘Maryland Matt Rosendale’ and trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat.”

New York Times: “Mr. Rosendale, he is likely to remind voters, is a real estate developer from Maryland.”

Vox: “But Rosendale lacks something important that can’t be bought: He isn’t originally from Montana. He moved to the Big Sky State from Maryland about 16 years ago, bringing a noticeable Maryland accent with him — as Slate’s Jim Newell pointed out.”

Vox: “In 2015, Rosendale signed a property form to sell 25 acres of land he owned in Maryland. Under penalty of perjury, he indicated he was a resident of Maryland at the time, even though he was living in Montana.”

National Journal: “‘I don’t think people appreciate people moving in from the East Coast to begin their political career,’ said Russell Fagg…”

Slate: “Rosendale has one glaring flaw, though: He’s not originally from Montana—and he’s got the Maryland accent to prove it.”

New York Times: “Much of the campaign has centered on the candidates’ Montana roots, or lack of them: Mr. Rosendale is a Maryland native with an accent to match…”

Washington Post: “…some GOP operatives fear the Maryland-born Rosendale could be vulnerable to charges that he is not Montanan enough.”

Politico: “Fagg attempted to paint the state auditor as a carpetbagger — Rosendale moved to Montana in 2002 and still speaks with an accent from his native Maryland.”

Helena Independent Record: “Fagg…repeatedly dinged Rosendale and Downing for not being from Montana originally.”


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