Rep. Denny Rehberg (above) is challenging Sen. Jon Tester in 2012 in what is expected to be one of the top Senate races of the cycle.
Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Republican challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D), attended a fundraiser in Denver on Wednesday headlined by former elected officials and several executives from companies with a presence in the region, including BP.
The event took place on the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and according to an invitation obtained by Roll Call, it was co-hosted by Chad Calvert, a director of government and public affairs at BP America.
Reached by phone Wednesday night, Calvert, a former deputy assistant secretary for lands and mineral management at the Interior Department, said he co-hosted the event “as an individual” not a representative of the company. The Rehberg campaign reiterated that in a statement to Roll Call.
“BP did not sponsor the event nor did it contribute to the event,” Rehberg adviser Erik Iverson said in a statement. “Chad Calvert, a longtime friend of Denny’s who now lives in the Denver area and works for BP, attended the event in an individual capacity and made a personal contribution to Montanans for Rehberg. After selling his vote to Wall Street bankers you’d think Jon Tester would know the difference.”
In an email to Roll Call, Tester (D) campaign manager Preston Elliott said “this serves as a crude awakening to all Montanans who expect better from their representatives in Congress.”
“We all know Congressman Rehberg is close allies with wealthy special interests, but for him to take BP money on the first anniversary of BP’s historic disaster is about as out-of-touch as it gets,” he said.
BP was not listed on the invitation. Beyond the official invitation, Calvert sent at least one personal email, which was obtained by Roll Call, in search of potential guests for the fundraiser and identifying himself as a BP employee.
In it, he touted Rehberg’s support for the gas industry and position as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
“He has always been very active and supportive on our public lands and energy issues,” Calvert wrote. “On a personal note, he was one of my bosses when I was executive director of the U.S. House Western Caucus. He is very supportive of oil and gas.”
Other than Calvert, the hosts listed on the invitation included former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.) and his wife, Jason Begger, Brad Enzi, Gene Mallette, Randall Weeks and the Western Energy Alliance political action committee. Enzi is the son of Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
The event was held at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver. Attendees paid $1,000 per person or $5,000 per couple. Individuals paying $5,000 could have dinner at Elway’s restaurant in the hotel following the reception.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, BP’s campaign contributions dropped considerably in the 2010 cycle, but the company did continue to donate about evenly between Democrats and Republicans. BP gave Rehberg $1,000 last cycle.
The company’s largest donation to a Republican last cycle was $10,000 to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Its largest donations to Democrats were $4,000 to now-former Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln and $3,000 to New York Rep. Charlie Rangel.