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Freshman Sen. Jon Tester Posts Daily Schedule to Fulfill Campaign Promise

Finding freshman Sen. Jon Tester isn't very hard these days.

Just check his Web site. It'll tell you whether he's in the Senate gym, at dinner with his wife, or meeting with interest groups from his home state of Montana.

Tester's daily schedules are available in an online archive, fulfilling a promise the Democrat made in his campaign against Republican Sen. Conrad Burns last year. Burns attracted heat for his relationship with Washington interests — most notably convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff — and ethics became a central issue.

"It gives people better access to what I am doing," Tester said.

His schedule, posted at the end of each business day, includes details about how he spends his personal time. Among the activities: dinners with wife Sharla and trips to the members-only Senate gym (Tester says he is trying to lose weight to fit into a new suit).

Is it strange for people to know his every move?

"Nobody's called me," says Tester, a farmer and former president of the Montana state Senate. "We're new to this game, too."

One House freshman, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also posts her daily schedule online, though she isn't archiving past schedules. Gillibrand calls her schedules a "sunlight report" to fulfill her campaign pledge to let constituents know what she is up to.

Tester wasn't aware of any other senators who post such detailed logs. Assistant Senate Historian Betty Koed says she is also unaware of any precedent.

By making his schedule so available, Tester is setting a high standard, said Alex Knott of the Washington watchdog group Center for Public Integrity.

"It gives the common citizen the ability to see how Capitol Hill works," Knott said. "And lawmakers would be less likely to set up meetings with questionable lobbyists if they knew it's going to be put up on the Internet each day."

Tester's schedules show a few lobbyist meetings, including one with BNSF Railway Co. Montana grain growers and shippers have complained that the company monopolizes the rails in the state and the lack of competition has led to higher shipping rates.

"We would rather be working with BNSF rather than see them as an adversary," Tester said, adding that the Web site allows issue opponents to see whom he is talking to, and then come in and present their own opinion.

The Web site also shows a meeting with lobbyists from Anheuser-Busch Cos.

"That was a 'shake hands' out in the hallway," Tester said. "We didn't talk policy."

He added that the company has a "tremendous interest" in Montana malt barley.

"I never said during this campaign that I wasn't going to meet with lobbyists," Tester said. "I'm going to listen to everybody. The people you see on the schedule, they are the people who called in and I didn't happen to have another meeting. If they happen to be a lobbyist, that's fine. We are here to listen."

Most of Tester's meetings appear to be with Montana groups. On Monday, for example, Tester met with Kenadine Johnson of the Montana Office of Public Instruction, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath and Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel.