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Rehberg raises $900K in 3 months, trails Tester in U.S. Senate money

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HELENA - U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., raised $900,000 in the past three months for his heavyweight matchup with Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in 2012 - but he still trails the money race with Tester by a few hundred thousand.

Rehberg has collected nearly $2 million for the U.S. Senate campaign so far this year, including a $688,000 transfer from his U.S. House campaign fund in February, when he officially entered the Senate race.

As of two weeks ago, he had $1.5 million sitting in his campaign war chest to challenge Tester, one of the most-watched U.S. Senate contests in the nation.

Recent polls have shown the race to be close, and political observers say the outcome of the Montana contest may help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate after the 2012 election.

Tester, a first-term Democrat running for re-election, has been no slouch in the fundraising department himself, nearly doubling Rehberg this year in actual donations.

The Big Sandy farmer, who filed his latest campaign finance report Tuesday, reported raising $1.25 million the past three months, pushing his annual total to $2.4 million. Tester had $2.34 million in his campaign fund as of June 30.

Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority in the U.S. Senate, and Democrats see holding onto Tester's seat as vital for maintaining their majority.

Erik Iverson, Rehberg's campaign manager, said Friday that Tester has been relying heavily on Wall Street banking executives and "Hollywood elites" for his campaign funds, while Rehberg has been garnering much of his money from individual Montanans.

A detailed breakdown of where each candidate has been getting his campaign donations wasn't immediately available.

"Denny's made-in-Montana campaign continues to surge all across Big Sky Country," Iverson said. "We'll probably never out-fundraise Wall Street Jon and his big bank money, but we don't need to, because Montanans know Denny is right on the issues and always puts Montana first."

Earlier this week, Tester campaign manager Preston Elliott said Rehberg is being supported by "big oil and Wall Street," pointing to ads attacking Tester that were financed by a group with ties to Republican Party activists.

Of the $909,000 in net funds raised by Rehberg the last three months, nearly 80 percent came from individuals, while the remainder came from political-action groups, who usually represent business or various political interests.

Rehberg's campaign also has spent about $460,000 this year on various expenses.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or at mike.dennison@lee.net.

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