Democrats attempted to target Montana Republican Senate candidate Tim Sheehy for a potential conflict of interest claim, while ignoring incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, who has benefited from a farm bill that he helped pass. According to Bloomberg, Sheehy’s firefighting aviation company, which holds government contracts, could present a conflict of interest if he is elected in 2024. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) amplified the report. A spokesperson for Sheehy stated that he would step down from his CEO role if elected to the Senate in the next cycle. In contrast, Tester, who owns farmland worth up to $5 million, voted for legislation that provided taxpayer subsidies and expanded support for organic farming, which benefits his own operation. Tester has also received significant farm subsidies over the past three decades.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson, Maggie Abboud, criticized Democrats for attacking Sheehy’s firefighting business while ignoring Tester’s farming subsidies. Senate ethics rules prohibit senators and their staff from engaging in outside business or professional activities that conflict with their official duties. Tester did not respond to questions regarding whether his subsidies represent a conflict of interest. As the only Democrat holding a statewide seat in Montana, Tester is fighting to maintain his seat in a traditionally Republican state.

Tester’s farm, T-Bone Farms, received $458,064 in subsidies from 1995 to 2021, according to the Environmental Working Group. He has also received approximately $283,288 in federal subsidies listed under his own name, including conservation payments. Tester has faced criticism for voting on major farm legislation that directly benefits him and his farm.

Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, has pointed out that while farmers who receive subsidies may not violate congressional ethics rules, federal government agency officials would be breaking the law in a similar situation. The latest version of the Farm Bill, passed in 2018, extended federal farm and nutrition programs and crop subsidies.

According to 2021 Federal Election Commission (FEC) data, Tester’s net worth is between $1,768,009 and $6,695,000, largely consisting of the value of his farmland and associated assets. Sheehy, who is running against Tester in 2024, plans to step down as CEO and board member of his aviation company to comply with ethics rules. Sheehy believes that his private sector business experience can bring a unique perspective to Washington and prioritize fiscal conservatism.

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