With his boss’ closely watched 2012 re-election in the bag, a top aide to Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has taken a job with a political consulting firm with ties to several dark money groups, as The Washington Free Beacon reports:
Hilltop Public Solutions, which has refused to answer questions about its ties to a number of liberal political groups, will hire Aaron Murphy, a long-time Tester staffer and his 2012 campaign’s communications director, according to an emailed statement from Hilltop partner Barrett Kaiser.
The move deepens the consultancy’s ties to the sitting Montana senator. Hilltop actively engaged in Tester’s reelection fight through a handful of AstroTurf groups. Kaiser himself filed Federal Election Commission paperwork for Montana Hunters and Anglers Action!, the activist arm of a group credited with tipping the race in Tester’s favor by backing a spoiler Libertarian candidate.
This is a strong pickup for Hilltop who will no doubt be gearing up to defend Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) in 2014. Murphy is very skilled at his job, and previously served as Executive Producer at KTVQ-TV in Billings, so he has several ties with the Montana media.
Hilltop, of course, is a firm which has been questioned by the Montana media in the recent past. When Lee Newspaper’s reporter Mike Dennison attempted to interview the firm regarding a secretive half million dollar donation from the pharmaceutical drug industry, both Hilltop consultants Jessie Bradley and Barrett Kaiser (longtime Montana politico and aide to Senator Max Baucus) did not reply.
The move may also trigger criticism from Republican activists over potential collaboration between the Senator’s campaign and third party groups. This, as the conservative group American Traditions Partnership (ATP) is also under fire, as liberal activists charge potential collaboration by ATP with candidates.
On Friday, Tester’s campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Majority PAC all went up with new television ads attacking Rehberg for suing the Billings fire department over a fire at his ranch. And for good measure, the DSCC followed up Monday with a second ad hammering on the same topic.
Meanwhile, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) has been under fire for weeks for all the corporate goodies in the fiscal cliff deal. Most recently, The New York Times has been hammering him for a special deal given to Rx giant Amgen.
In fact, former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) is calling out Senator Baucus by name, alleging corruption.
As Jon Walker writes for the liberal blog, Firedoglake:
It is highly unusual for a former senator to target a fellow member of their party in such direct manner. Especially when that senator is up for re-election soon and potentially could face a very tough primary and/or general election.
This language should definitely hit a nerve with the Baucus camp because he significantly damaged his favorable numbers thanks to his role in drafting the Affordable Care Act.