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Dennis Rehberg

Denny Rehberg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's At-large district
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Rick Hill
Succeeded by Steve Daines
26th Lieutenant Governor of Montana
In office
January 20, 1991 – January 15, 1997
Governor Stan Stephens
Marc Racicot
Preceded by Allen Kolstad
Succeeded by Judy Martz
Personal details
Born (1955-10-05) October 5, 1955 (age 58)
Billings, Montana, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Montana State University, Bozeman
Washington State University, Pullman

Dennis Ray "Denny" Rehberg[1] (born October 5, 1955) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party. He served as the Lieutenant Governor of Montana from 1991 to 1997 and as the U.S. Representative for Montana's at-large congressional district from 2001 to 2013. Rehberg was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in 1996 and 2012, losing to Max Baucus 50% to 45% and to Jon Tester 49% to 45%, respectively.[2] He subsequently became a co-chairman at Mercury, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm.[3]

Early life, education, and ranching career

Rehberg was born in Billings, Montana, the son of Patricia Rae (née Cooley) and Jack Dennis Rehberg. His ancestry includes German, Irish, and Scottish.[4] He attended Billings West High School and Montana State University before transferring to Washington State University where he earned his BA in public administration.[5]

From 1996 to 2001, Rehberg managed the Rehberg Ranch near Billings. He oversaw a herd of 500 cattle and 600 cashmere goats.[6] After being elected to congress, Rehberg gave up ranching, citing the difficulty of managing a herd whilst travelling between Montana and Washington D.C.[7][8]

Early political career


In 1977 he began working as an intern in the Montana State Senate, and two years later he joined the Washington, D.C. staff of Montana U.S. Congressman Ron Marlenee as a legislative assistant. In 1982, Rehberg returned to farming, until running for the State House in 1984.

Montana legislature

Rehberg was elected then to the Montana State House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991, where he served three terms. In the legislature, he considered himself to be a fiscal conservative, and he advocated balancing the state budget without any tax increases. He was the only freshman member to serve on the House Appropriations Committee.

Lieutenant Governor

In July 1991, Rehberg was appointed Lieutenant Governor by Governor Stan Stephens. He was subsequently elected to a full term in 1992.

As Lieutenant Governor, Rehberg sought to bring government back to the local level by traveling to all 56 counties every year. He chaired the Drought Advisory Committee and the Task Force credited with reforming Worker’s Compensation, the Montana Rural Development Council, and several health care initiatives. He was succeeded as Lieutenant Governor by fellow Republican Judy Martz.

1996 U.S. Senate election

He ran for a seat in the United States Senate against incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Max Baucus, but lost, 50%-45%.[9]

U.S. House of Representatives



Incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Rick Hill of Montana's At-large congressional district decided to retire after two terms in 2000. Rehberg decided to run and won the Republican primary with 74% of the vote.[10] In the general election, he defeated Democratic State School Superintendent Nancy Keenan 52%-46%.[11]


He won re-election to a second term with 65%, against Steven Dickman Kelly.[12]


He won re-election against Tracy Velazquez to a third term with 64%.[13]


He won re-election to a fourth term against Democratic State Representative Monica Lindeen 59%-39%.[14]


He won re-election to a fifth term against Democratic State Representative John Driscoll 64%-32%.[15]


He won re-election to a sixth term against Democrat Dennis McDonald 60%-33%.[16]


He lost the election for U.S. Senate, against Senator Jon Tester (D), removing Rehberg from holding a political office.


National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505)

In 2012 Rehberg co-sponsored which would waive environmental laws that would otherwise prevent the Department of Homeland Security from constructing roads, fences, and forward operating bases in national parks and wilderness areas within 100 miles of the international border. Homeland Security would not have to inform affected parties before pursuing these activities.[17] The bill's dissenters claim that it "employs a manufactured conflict with border security to weaken [environmental laws]." The Department of Homeland Security called the bill "unnecessary and bad policy" since DHS already has a memorandum of understanding allowing them to enter these lands without prior approval.[18]

Economic record

On April 15, 2011, Rehberg was one of four Republican members of Congress to vote against The Path to Prosperity.[19]

Pell Grants

After having scrutinized the Pell Grant program as one that was 'expanding' too quickly, congressman Rehberg set his sights on the free school lunch program as a program where there was potential of taxpayers being ripped off, although the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau expressed the real concern that not enough families that qualify request the assistance.[20]

Iraq War

Rehberg voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.[21][22]

Rehberg served on the Military Quality of Life and Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. In 2007, he voted against the Mandatory Troop Rest Periods between Deployments to Iraq bill (creates a mandatory rest period between deployments to Iraq for members of the Armed Forces, passed) and against the Redeployment from Iraq Act (reduces the presence of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq by April 1, 2008, passed).[23]

Environmental record

Rehberg describes himself as “a lifelong steward of the land”. He voted against the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 and against the Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) Act of 2001.[24] He is currently one of the foremost critics on keeping the Gray Wolf on the endangered species list.[25] On environmental issues, Rehberg has also been given low ratings by interest groups. Environment America gave him an 8% rating in 2008, and 27% rating in 2009. Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund gave him a 13% rating. In his position statement on Economic Development, he said “Our [Montana’s] coal and natural gas reserves stretch for hundreds of years into the future, and we can turn them into much needed energy.” Dennis Rehberg states opposition to the Shays-Meehan bill from 1998, of which he says it “stripped freedom of speech rights from Montana citizens.” Aside from the bill, he makes a point to say he supports full and open disclosure laws for campaign finance reform.

LGBT issues

Rehberg opposes same-sex marriage, and supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one women.[26] He voted against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, a bill that amends the Federal definition of a hate crime to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill passed, 237 to 180.[27] In the Dec. 26, 1994, issue of Newsweek, p. 83,then Lt. Governor Rehberg was quoted as saying "The problem with AIDS is: you got it, you die. So why are we spending money on the issue?," when discussing cuts to the state's hospital budget. [28]

Committee assignments

Current Congress
110th Congress (2007-2008)
  • House Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on House Committee on House Committee on Financial Services and General Government
    • Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
109th Congress (2005-2006)
  • House Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies -
    • Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Export Financing and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Rural Caucus
  • Co-Chair, Small Brewers Caucus
  • Co-Chair, Congressional Baby Caucus
  • Co-Chair, Northern Border Caucus
  • Former Chair, Drought Advisory Committee
  • Firefighter Caucus
  • Forest Caucus
  • House Vice Chair, Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Congressional Caucus
  • Liberty Caucus
  • Northwest Energy Caucus
  • Republican Study Committee
  • Tea Party Caucus
  • Sportsmen's Caucus
  • Western Caucus
  • International Conservation Caucus [29]

2012 U.S. Senate election

On February 6, 2011, Rehberg announced that he would challenge Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2012.[30] The outcome of the race was expected to have a significant impact on which party controls the United States Senate during the 113th Congress.[31]

According to Salon, it was a "race that pundits are saying could be a tough challenge for Tester."[32] Political Scientist Larry Sabato predicted a narrow Rehberg victory, pointing out that Rehberg had led in 10 of 13 recent polls.[33] However, Tester eventually defeated Rehberg, 48.7% – 44.8%.[34]

Personal life

Rehberg married his high school sweetheart, Jan, a water attorney who represents farmers and ranchers. They have been married for over 25 years and have three children, A.J., Katie, and Elsie.


With a net worth of between $6.5 and $54 million, Rehberg was the fourteenth-richest U.S. Representative in the House at the time.[35] However, on May 1, 2011, he told an audience member at a town hall meeting that he was "struggling like everyone else."[36]

Boating accident

On the night of Thursday, August 27, 2009, while in the area for a series of town hall forums on healthcare, Rehberg was a passenger in a boating accident near Bigfork, MT on Flathead Lake. Montana State Senate Majority Whip Greg Barkus was driving the boat.[32][37]

Rehberg, Barkus and his wife Kathy, and two Rehberg aides, Dustin Frost and Kristin Smith, were hospitalized in Kalispell following the accident, which took place sometime between 10pm and midnight. Frost, Rehbeg's then 27 year-old state director in Montana, suffered a brain injury. Frost was in a coma for more than a week.[37] Rehberg sustained a broken ankle and rib fractures.[38]

Law enforcement agents investigated the cause of the accident, including "how fast the boat was going, who was driving, and 'whether alcohol and drugs were involved.'" [37] Barkus "was found to have a blood alcohol content of .16 two hours after the accident. Despite the fact that, according to a witness quoted in the criminal complaint, Barkus had been drinking scotch and wine at a lakeside restaurant that night, Rehberg later said he 'was surprised to learn the results of Greg's blood alcohol test'."[32] Rehberg released his BAC, measured several hours after the crash, at an alleged .05 percent.[39]

Barkus, ultimately pleaded no contest to a felony criminal endangerment charge. He was given a four-year deferred sentence, probation, paid $4,000 in restitution and a $25,000 fine.[40]

Lawsuit against the City of Billings

In July 2010, Rehberg's corporation that has developed a subdivision on his former ranch land sued the City of Billings for calling back firefighters from protecting trees and some scrub brush. The firefighters had to return later to put out the fire after the damage was done.[41] While the suit was filed in July, Rehberg and his wife did not push forward with litigation, given the political pressures of the 2010 Congressional campaign.[42]

The city of Billings spent nearly $21,000 defending itself against the lawsuit before it was dropped by Rehberg.[43]


  • Member, Billings Chamber of Commerce
  • Member, Billings Downtown Rotary Club
  • Former Chair, Montana Rural Development Council
  • Member, Montana Stockgrowers Association
  • State Chair, Muscular Dystrophy Association
  • National Guard and Reserve Components Congressional Members Organization.

Electoral history

Montana's at-large congressional district: Results 2000–2010[44]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democratic Votes Pct Libertarian Votes Pct
2000 Denny Rehberg 211,418 51.5% Nancy Keenan 180,971 44.1% James J. Tikalsky 9,132 2.2%
2002 Denny Rehberg (inc.) 214,100 64.6% Steve Kelly 108,233 32.7% Mike Fellows 8,988 2.7%
2004 Denny Rehberg (inc.) 286,076 64.4% Tracy Velazquez 145,606 32.8% Mike Fellows 12,458 2.8%
2006 Denny Rehberg (inc.) 239,124 58.9% Monica J. Lindeen 158,916 39.1% Mike Fellows 8,085 2%
2008 Denny Rehberg (inc.) 307,132 64.2% John Driscoll 154,713 32.4% Mike Fellows 16,282 3.4%
2010 Denny Rehberg (inc.) 217,696 60.4% Dennis McDonald 121,954 33.8% Mike Fellows 20,691 7.9%


External links

  • Congressman Denny Rehberg official U.S. House site
  • Denny Rehberg for Senate
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Ballotpedia
  • Project Vote Smart
  • GovTrack
  • OpenCongress
  • Roll Call
  • Federal Election Commission
  • The Washington Post
  • Financial information (state office) at the National Institute for Money in State Politics
  • On the Issues
  • The Library of Congress
  • The Washington Post
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • C-SPAN programs
  • The Washington Post
  • SourceWatch
Political offices
Preceded by
Allen Kolstad
Lieutenant Governor of Montana
Succeeded by
Judy Martz
Preceded by
Rick Hill
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Montana's At-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Steve Daines
Party political offices
Preceded by
Allen Kolstad
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Montana
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Mike Taylor
Preceded by
Conrad Burns
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Montana
(Class 1)

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