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Rehberg enters Senate race

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., announces his candidacy for U.S. Senate in February 2011.

HELENA - In the last three months of 2011, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg hauled in $656,000 in campaign cash for his Senate race against Democrat Jon Tester - but his totals for the quarter and overall campaign account were just slightly more than half of Tester's.

Rehberg said Tuesday his campaign account had a balance of nearly $2.1 million on Dec. 31, as he prepared to enter the final 11 months of the campaign in one of the nation's top U.S. Senate races.

Tester, running for re-election to a second term, reported last week that his campaign account had $3.83 million as he began the final year of the campaign - and that he had raised a total of $1.18 million during the last three months of 2011.

In a statement Tuesday, Rehberg's campaign manager, Erik Iverson, said the campaign expects that Tester will raise more money than Rehberg, but that "it's clear that this grassroots campaign will have the resources we need to win."

He also said Tester is getting substantial contributions from lobbyists and "radical environmentalists."

Tester campaign manager Preston Elliott fired back Tuesday, saying Tester has had "growing support from thousands of Montanans of all stripes," while Rehberg is relying on "secret corporate money and ‘super PACs' " to back his campaign.

Elliott said PACs have already spent $1 million in Montana on Rehberg's behalf, attacking Tester, "with no transparency or accountability."

Actually, partisan PACs - an acronym for political action committees - have been spending on both sides of the race, buying TV ads attacking either candidate.

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Tester's campaign also said Tuesday it would be voluntarily submitting an electronic version of its fourth-quarter report to the Federal Election Commission so it can be posted on-line more quickly.

By late Tuesday, Rehberg's campaign had not released the detailed fundraising summary sheet that it submits to the FEC, outlining its activity for the 2011 fourth quarter.

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Instead, the campaign put out a news release saying it raised $656,000 for the period and ended with nearly $2.1 million in its campaign account. The final amount is a net increase of about $300,000 for the quarter, indicating the campaign spent more than $350,000 of the money it raised during that period.

Overall, Rehberg has raised about $2.6 million in funds since he started his Senate campaign against Tester last February - including the transfer of $688,000 from his U.S. House campaign account early last year.

Tester has raised just over $6 million in campaign funds since he took office in 2007, including $4.7 million last year.

Tester's fourth-quarter report showed that he raised $1.18 million during that period, including $708,000 from individuals, almost $240,000 from political-action committees and $228,000 from joint fundraisers with other candidates.

Similar detail on Rehberg's fundraising wasn't available Tuesday, since the campaign did not provide its summary sheet.

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