HAMILTON – U.S. Senate Libertarian candidate Dan Cox will tell you that it was never his intention to be a spoiler in one of the most closely watched races in the nation.

He disliked both of his opponents’ records equally.

But the nearly 30,000 votes Cox garnered in Tuesday’s general election were 10,000 more than the difference between Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester and his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg.

Montana Republican Party officials say those votes were the difference in the election and they are challenging some last-minute advertisements.

Cox’s candidacy was bolstered by a flurry of expensive television and print advertisements paid for by a hunters-and-anglers group sympathetic to Tester.

Cox, a Hamilton man who owns an Internet fishing equipment business, said the advertisements took him by surprise.

“I was totally unaware of any of that,” Cox said. “It did open my eyes to the fact that a lot of political advertisements were not authorized by any candidate. PACs, to some degree, are running the elections.”

“I liked the content of the ads,” Cox said. “I just had no idea of who funded the ads or who was behind it.”

Cox said Wednesday that he raised about $3,000 throughout the course of the race.

According to an Oct. 26 financial report, the Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund spent $498,400 on television advertisements, $39,500 on web advertising and $146,400 in mailing costs for political ads against Rehberg.

In the final weeks of the race, there were at least five full-color, glossy mailers sent to voters that promoted Cox over Rehberg.

One had a disclaimer saying the hunters-and-anglers group paid for the mailing, as is required by law. Four of the fliers had no disclaimers, but all have the same Las Vegas mailing permit.

The Montana Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last week, saying the Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund, the Montana Conservation Voters and the League of Conservation Voters engaged in a strategy to siphon votes away from Rehberg and failed to use a disclaimer on its mailings.

The treasurer of the hunters-and-anglers organization, Joe Splinter, did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Montana Republican Party chairman Will Deschamps said he was certain the advertisements made a difference in the late stages of the race.

“These Libertarian candidates run as spoilers,” Deschamps said. “They don’t care to win. They know they can’t win. ... Politics is a blood sport. You deal with what you get.”


From Cox’s point of the view, Tuesday’s election showed that people are growing tired of the two-party system that offer candidates who don’t abide by the U.S. Constitution.

The nearly 30,000 votes he garnered were more than three times the votes the last Libertarian Senate candidate had six years ago, he said. He’s been told the vote count is the highest since the 1930s for a third-party candidate for the state’s U.S. Senate seat.

“It looks to me like liberty is rising,” he said. “The Republicans can’t win without liberty voters. For some reason, they are working to throw the Constitution out of their own party and they think they can get away with it.”

“If Republicans want to get back to winning, they need to start running candidates who follow the Constitution,” Cox said.

The Libertarian platform supports issues that are attractive to both conservatives and liberals, he said.

“I think it’s hard to say that I was a spoiler for Republicans,” he said. “We receive a lot of support from people on the other side who don’t want to be in undeclared wars or like the idea of medical marijuana.”

“I think it’s hard to judge what percentage of my vote comes from whom,” Cox said.

David Merrick, chairman of the Ravalli County Libertarian Party, said Cox’s relative success in the election has helped spread the party’s message.

“We don’t look at entering a race to be spoiler,” Merrick said. “We look at it as an avenue to try to get our message out there. Elections are a good time to get that message out.”

It appears to be working.

“We’re already getting calls from people interested in the next election,” Merrick said. “We’ll take a little breather and then get ready to gear up. We’ll see who wants to put their neck under the guillotine this next time around.”

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

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(20) comments


I vote Libertarian because if you keep voting for Repubs and Dems, you get the same result over and over. Democrat or Republican, no difference. All they do is moan about each other and get nothing done.

live and let live

When Republicans realize that their disgraceful treatment of freedom minded people is what beats them, drives liberty lovers to third parties, disenfranchises the young, then they will win elections. This group, the current leadership of the Montana GOP and right up to the national level were despicable in their treatment of Ron Paul. They think they have to move their so- called big tent to the middle, when in fact, if they add up the Republican votes and the write in or Libertarian votes they are the majority. Will, Thelma and crew have their own arrogant selves to blame.

Chuck Feney
Chuck Feney

The Yellowstone County ballots are finally counted, and we see that Cox got 4373 votes while Denny got 346 FEWER votes than Senator Tester in rock-ribbed Republican Yellowstone county... HIS HOME TOWN!

If we extrapolate the Yellowstone county Romney percentages to Denny's race, we see that Denny should have bested Tester by at least 17,000 votes there, minimizing the Cox factor.

Here is why Denny lost the election!

Denny mOOns The Voters!

I’m trying hard to figure out what Denny did ...
Why he sued the voters and trashed his Senate bid?
Is this some kind of sick joke,
Or is Denny going broke,
Or did he drink bad booze and finally flip his lid?

It’s a given that Denny’s not the most astute
Because he asks your vote, then lists you in a suit,
But maybe Denny’s really tired
With secret urges is to be fired
Because Congress is a House of Ill Repute!

Denny never bought or rented D.C. real estate
He’s D.C. homeless on his office heating grate
He showers in the Congressional gym,
And his Legislative record is grim,
So he "took a dive” to go home to his mate!

There he can subdivide in a Montana state of bliss...
He'll Crash boats, and shoot at elk and never miss!
He can be a rancher hobbyist
Or perhaps a boating safety lobbyist,
So he dropped his drawers... and told the voters where to kiss!
Charles Ulysses Feney


I don't know Dan Cox and I did not vote for him, however, I am grateful that he ran as a third party candidate. Both the democrat and republican parties control our government. They are not doing a good job, but rather causing great pain. When Ralph Nader ran, he too was accused of being a "spoiler." In both Dan's and Ralph's case I am sure they believed they were being patriotic and looking for change from the long running control of the dems and reps. We should encourage people to get involved in the process and work to break the stranglehold of the two major disfunctional parties. I am one who believes we are better off without Rehberg in the Senate and worse off with Daines in the House. I also think Tester would have won without Cox in the race.

Dick Summers

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

A sorry state of affairs for us all. Don't worry rightwings, 4 years from now, it's you who will probably be elated while the Dems/left listen in disbelief to the news. So goes our system where both parties stink but are virtually guaranteed to win half the time.


How could you not notice political ads run in your favor from an outside group if you were truly engaged in the election. I'm all fit a third party or even better a no party affiliation. The "I didn't know" garbage is pure politician. It's no better than Tester or Rehberg telling you what you want to hear for a vote.


This really wasn’t a news item, it sounds to me like more of a cry in your beer story as told by the losers, after fumbling the ball on the five yard line.

At this point voters don’t need to be told why they voted the way they did, or what effect their votes may have had. THAT’S WHY THEY VOTED.


I agree with most of the comments. But Dan wasn't the pawn. All those who held their nose and voted for Rehberg were.


Dan Cox is telling us we need candidates who abide by the Constitution? The Republicans are mad because someone bought ads for him in this day of super PACS and the Citizens United ruling?? Are you serious GOP??? You really are going to get upset and show your hypocrite stripe again??? Do you not understand that many of us voted against your candidate because you felt it was ok to buy elections....?? Then get mad when the opposition decides to use the same tactic? That is not OK??? But it is ok for you to do it? Meanwhile Cox was used as a pawn which is about right for a party who would be the first one screaming for government help if we had a major earthquake or Yellowstone eruption etc etc...I think Montana Democrats finally got smart and used a little of the medicine that was being spooned to them. Now it is such a crime and so bad...whine whine...shut up please!!!

Rob C

A party who would be the first one screaming?

Here's a litte education from a libertarian. I don't want the government to be responsible for me or my family. That is MY duty. I am responsible for myself and my family. I will not scream at anyone at anytime for my failure to be prepared for anything. If you have any questions I'd be more than happy to give you real answers, or you can continue to make up your own which by the way, are very, very wrong. You have no idea what a libertarian stands for.


For Cox to state he was surprised. and not certain who financed the ads is ridiculous or he his truly a pawn. Last Sunday morning on one of the national tv shows they commented on the senate race in Montana. One of the commentators stated a recent intervention by a hunting and fishing group was making a difference in the race. He went on to say the money behind the group has no real involvement in Montana or hunting or fishing issues. He also named the person with the money behind the group. The person is a well known left of center political financer. All this says is money talks! There are so many sheep on both sides of issues that who ever get's their attention get's their vote. If Cox was truly concerned about the constitution he would have to admit progressive supreme court judges like the two Tester voted for are bad news. Rheberg/Republicans would have never nominated those two judges. Cox has every right to run, but for him to think Libertarian Party has grown is a joke. It' the money! Raise a million next time and see how much more you will grow. In the meantime hope and pray OBama and Tester don't appoint any more judges.


GOOD job, Dan!! Thanks!!


I don't usually care for Libertarians because most of them are just political kooks like our infamous John Stokes up here in the Flathead. We did get rid of him, thankfully, but if this story is true, Dan Cox did us all a huge favor by helping us get rid of Denny Rehberg. Good luck in your future endeavors, Dan.


Cox didn't do us/you a favor! He states he knew nothing about the money that was spent to defeat Tester on his behalf. Thank some big out of state money. Montana was sold !

Aqua Blue

I voted for COX because I felt that both Tester and Rehberg are terrible choices. Rehberg has been labeled as a drunk and Tester panhandles on "K" street. Montana deserves higher quality representation. I watched many negative ads for both and felt like at the end of the day no matter which one was elected Montanans were the losers. My feeling was that if COX was breathing he would have been a better senator then the donkey that was re-elected....

As aside, Rehberg if you see this....... When you debate someone on TV try not to twitch and spasm like a drug addict while you are hoping to convince the public to vote for you.

The irony here is I am a republican!

Chuck Feney
Chuck Feney

No mention in this article of the single debate that Dan Cox was allowed to speak at in Kalispell on 10/14/2012. Cox comported himself very favorably, in fact, the highlight of the debate was when he was allowed to ask Denny the question:

"What should be the penalty for a Congressman who violates his Oath Of Office?"

If you watch the clip, you'll see Denny blinking and squirming as his cowboy boot fills up and puddles over!

US Senate debate Kalispell MT

Dan Cox was the perfect vote outlet for all the Ron Paul followers who were disrespected and dismissed by the Montana Republican honchos, not to mention Denny's laughable attempt to catch the Ron Paul bandwagon after sponsoring the gestapo H.R. 1505.
You didn't fool any of us, Denny.

Enjoy the next four years, Republicans

Denny's Last And Only Haiku

Senator Jon Wins
Ex-Congressman Rehberg Whines
Dan Cox Undermines


Deschamps was too busy kicking the Ron Paul folks out of the Republican party. Those votes could have helped Rehberg, but Rehberg is a moderate, and most Ron Paul folks wouldn't vote for a moderate just because the Republican establishment says so. Over 100,000 people failed to vote. Did the Republicans try and get those folks out to vote. Democrats always seem to do a better job at getting folks to the polls, even the dead ones. In the race for president, if your nominee can't defeat a socialist, then were in trouble.


Just a thought about "Democrats always seem to do a better job at getting folks to the polls, even the dead ones". If the dead ones were waiting in line to vote, and Joey Jayne talked to them, would Mitch Young still be seeking the death penalty for Ms. Jaynes? I've always heard that the only thing you can't do to dead people is eat them and so far Young hasn't alleged that Joey Jaynes was trying to do that....


LIBERTARIAN said: "...if your nominee can't defeat a socialist...".

Gosh, LIBERTARIAN, I didn't know any socialists were running for President since the days of Rev. Norman Thomas (1882-1968).

Who were they?


Obama is a socialist isn't he? And there are socialist parties in the US that run presidential candidates, although that number is pretty small.

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