Editor’s note: Throughout the political season, the Missoulian will examine the truth of political advertisements in regular “Ad Watch” columns.
This 30-second spot by the group Citizens for Strength and Security, criticizing Rep. Denny Rehberg, began airing statewide two weeks ago.
Ad content: A narrator talks about Rehberg’s votes on pay raises and “perks,” interspersed with shots of Rehberg talking in 1996 and more recently.
Narrator: “The last time Congress took on the deficit, Dennis Rehberg made a promise to taxpayers.”
Rehberg: “I’ll never support nor take a pay raise. Those are my promises and pledges to you.”
Narrator: “But in Washington, Rehberg’s voted five times to increase his own pay, giving himself a big raise. All while making taxpayers foot the bill for his SUV. To cut the deficit, tell Congressman Rehberg to cut the waste like that first. We need a balanced approach. Not pay raises and perks.”
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Analysis: The ad states that Rehberg has “voted for pay raises,” when in fact pay raises for members of Congress, since 1990, have occurred automatically unless the House and Senate vote to block them.
Rehberg did vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 for procedural motions that blocked a vote on budget-bill amendments that would have stopped the cost-of-living pay increase for that year. The motions passed with bipartisan majorities. For those years, members of Congress – including Rehberg – received $18,500 in raises, to increase their annual salary to $168,500.
Rehberg did vote in 2010 to freeze congressional salaries at $174,000 for 2011.
Rehberg’s statement about never supporting or taking a pay raise is from 1996, during his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Max Baucus.
Rehberg has routinely used part of his approved congressional office budget to lease vehicles in Montana, including an SUV, which he says staffers use as mobile offices to meet with constituents throughout eastern Montana. The long-term leases have been approved by U.S. House counsel. Other House members also have leased vehicles for official business use.