Where to begin?

The Nebraska Tourism Commission picked a heck of a week to unveil its new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”

In just the past week, outside interest groups have poured more than $1 million in outside expenditures into Nebraska’s Republican Senate primary — mostly for attack ads. That brings the grand total for outside spending to $2.6 million.

Sid Dinsdale’s campaign has picked up enough steam that outside interest groups are spending major money to attack him as a — gasp! — moderate. The Pinnacle Bancorp chairman has loaned his campaign a million dollars for the final push toward Tuesday’s election.

The frothy far-right continues to beat up on Shane Osborn, who must be wondering what’s happened to the campaign money that is supposed to accompany the blessing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Establishment groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee have stayed out of the Nebraska race, leading us to believe that nobody cares who wins in Nebraska — except the Tea Party establishment, which is spending freely on Midland University President Ben Sasse.

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, who doesn’t plan to endorse any of the five Republican candidates seeking to replace him, criticized of the nastiness of the Senate race during interviews this past week.

Johanns, who has held elective office pretty much continuously since 1983, when he was elected to the Lancaster County Board, said he never mentioned his opponents by name in campaign ads. Here are a couple of his comments to David Drucker at the Washington Examiner .

JohannsMay82

JohannsMay81

Also not endorsing a candidate in the Nebraska Senate primary: Sen. Deb Fischer.

In other news:

  • With about 80 hours left in the campaign, the Sasse campaign has launched what it promises to be the very last commercial of his primary race. It is a positive ad, but who needs to go negative when you have outside groups doing the dirty work?

 

  • KETV Omaha and KLKN Lincoln pulled the 60 Plus Association’s ad that hammers Osborn for the fake Navy memo that his campaign produced to settle the question of whether he made the right decision to land his crippled spy plane in China. We hear the ad is airing on other Nebraska stations.The 60 Plus Association purchased $145,000 in air time.

 

  • In a rather ham-handed effort to help former state treasurer Osborn,  Pioneer Action Network aired a 15-second ad attacking Sasse for using his children in the ad to talk about how much their father “despises” Obamacare. “Tell Ben Sasse Nebraskans protect their families. They don’t hide behind them,” the ad says.

 

  • There doesn’t seem to be much truth in advertising with Empower Nebraska, a group that has spent $62,538 supporting Sasse with direct mail. The group’s web site describes it as “the first and only super PAC specifically created by Nebraska Republicans to support Nebraska Republicans.” According to FEC reports, however, the group had 10 donors through the April reporting deadline and only three of them were actual Nebraskans. The PAC itself is based at a Tampa, Fla., accounting firm. Six donors live in the Washington metro area and one lives in New Hampshire.

 

  • The Fact Checker column at the Washington Post has given 2nd District U.S. Rep Lee Terry three Pinocchio’s for his anti-Obamacare ad featuring Omahan Andrea Kodad. Turns out that Obamacare didn’t cause her health care premiums to nearly double or the tripling of her co-pays, after all. Kodad still has her old policy because the Obama administration allowed non-ACA compliant health insurance policies to be extended for another two years.

What’s the right’s beef with Dinsdale? Well, there a couple, but they don’t amount to much. Club for Growth and the For America Inc. PAC accuse him of donating to Democrats, which is true. The Pinnacle Bancorp PAC gave $3,500 to former Sen. Ben Nelson between 2006 and 2011.

Dinsdale also gave money to Columbus manufacturing executive Tony Raimondo’s Senate campaign in 2008. But the Behlen Manufacturing Group chairman was pretty much a DINO — Democrat in name only. He was a former Republican who came this close to landing a prominent post in the Bush administration in 2004.

Dinsdale has personally given about $20,000 to Republican candidates in federal races since 1999 — including about $9,000 to Lee Terry. In 2008, he gave Raimondo $2,300. The Pinnacle PAC has contributed about $63,000 to federal candidates over the past two cycles — only $2,500 went to a Democrat, Nelson. There’s not much behind the club’s claim that he gave Democratic candidates money “over and over again.”

Meanwhile, the 60 Plus Association spent $100,000 on Thursday to attack Dinsdale on radio and TV for saying he would always vote to raise the debt ceiling. That probably plays well with the base, but the rest of us know the debt ceiling is raised only to pay for debts already incurred. Floor votes are where spending is controlled.

Dinsdale continues his positive campaign with the ad below. Sasse says he’s run a clean campaign. He may have left most of the dirty work to outside groups, but we just can’t get over the fact that he asked his elderly great-uncle, a noted Fremont businessman and philanthropist, to donate to an outside group’s attack ad. uVoted4them would never treat their relatives so badly. Anyway, here’s Dinsdale’s latest:

uVoted4them.com apologizes for the gap in posts. We hit our nasty limit early in the week. You know it’s bad out there when spring cleaning is more appealing than politics.

 

Endorsements, stereotypes and bad jokes

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, the Republican representing Nebraska’s 1st District, has endorsed Ben Sasse in the Senate race and Pete Ricketts in the race for governor. Sasse was Fortenberry’s chief of staff during the “spring of 2005,” according to the Omaha World-Herald. We’ll have more to say about Fortenberry’s endorsement in an upcoming post.

*****

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer will be campaigning later this month in Iowa for Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, according to the Weekly Standard. Former Alaska Gov. and Tea Party royalty Sarah Palin, who endorsed Fischer in 2012, has also endorsed Ernst and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse and Pete Ricketts. Palin endorsed Sasse for Senate in a Facebook post; she endorsed Ricketts for governor at a splashy event in Grand Island. The World-Herald has a nice photo of the two.

Tom Brewer's military career makes impressive campaign visuals, but you'd think it would also make him less likely to jump to conclusions about his fellow soldiers.

Tom Brewer’s military career makes impressive campaign visuals, but you’d think it would make him less likely to jump to conclusions about his fellow soldiers.

The day after Wednesday’s deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, retired Army Col. Tom Brewer has issued a statement calling for all personnel on military bases to carry guns.

“The men and women of the United States military have spilled their blood across the globe to protect our way of life and the rights given to use by the Constitution, including the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. These rights should not be denied by our own government on American soil,” Brewer said in a news release.

The 36-year Army veteran, who served six tours of duty in Afghanistan, is Rep. Adrian Smith’s Republican opponent in Nebraska 3rd District. They will debate April 25. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Mark Sullivan of Doniphan.

Only law enforcement and security are currently allowed to carry guns on military bases. uVoted4them.com doesn’t want to be rude, but asks the question: If everyone is in uniform, and everyone has a gun, how is anyone going to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys when the shooting breaks out?

We know Col. Brewer is a man of action, but isn’t it unfair to every veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to jump to the conclusion that the shooter, 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, suffered from PTSD? All we’ve heard is that he had been treated for depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation. PTSD was only one of the diagnoses being explored, and not everyone with PTSD goes on murderous rampages.

*****

One of uvoted4them.com’s email treats is Daily Kos’ daily roundup of campaign news from across the nation, which is usually handled in a far less ideological manner than most Kos content.

Here’s part of the email from Thursday:
Jesus

No, Jesus hasn’t entered a Nebraska House race. And, no, state Sen. Ernie Chambers hasn’t sued Jesus. “Jesus. Seriously?” was Daily Kos’ reaction to 2nd District Rep. Lee Terry’s insensitive joke about being late to a committee hearing because his plane was delayed, maybe because of a faulty ignition switch.

The hearing was about faulty ignition switches on General Motors vehicles linked to 13 deaths. GM hid the problem from 2001 until finally issuing a recent recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year.

This is the second time in about six months Terry has gotten national attention for foot-in-mouth disease. He faces businessman Dan Frei in the Republican primary. State Sen. Brad Ashford is the Democrat in the race. Terry has apologized.

 

The Ricketts edition

With quarterly campaign finance reports due in just a few days, inboxes are loading up with fundraising appeals, including one from Republican candidate for governor Jon Bruning.

Under the subject line “I will be outspent,” Bruning bemoans the deep pockets of rival Pete Ricketts, the scion of AmeriTrade founder and gazillioniare Joe Ricketts.

BruningMar27fundraisingemail
Chin up, Jon. Whining isn’t the Republican way, and money can’t buy love. Pete Ricketts spent more than $14 million of his own money trying to beat Ben Nelson in the 2006 Senate race and still lost by 12 points.

Besides, it’s not like Ricketts will bombard you with anything new. It’ll be all the old stuff about how you got rich in public office or went easy on your buddies at Nelnet. You did a very nice job of explaining that to Nebraska voters in 2012. Oh, wait. You didn’t. Well, good luck, anyway.

******

Speaking of the Ricketts clan, Bloomberg has a good read
about the Ricketts family’s decision to take a page from the Koch brothers playbook by building a network of wealthy supporters for their Ending Spending PAC. Already onboard, according to Bloomberg, is Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who spent $100 million in 2012 to support a handful of Republican candidates, including presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich. No word yet on which five-star resort the Ricketts will choose to entertain their members.

*****

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, who sailed to victory after securing the fundraising help of the Ricketts’ political action committee in 2012, was blessed last week with  two new grandchildren, Margaret May and Bryan Carl. One twin was born just before midnight and the other was born just after midnight. These lucky kids don’t have to share a birthday. Parents are Adam and Tisha Fischer.

 

Senate race roundup

Omaha banker and Republican Senate candidate launches first commerical

Omaha banker and Republican Senate candidate launches first commercial

If you missed Sid Dindale‘s first commercial during Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News Wednesday night, you can catch it here on YouTube.com The Omaha World-Herald says it’s a small, $15,000 buy, but we’ll undoubtedly see more from the Omaha banker’s campaign to succeed Mike Johanns in the Senate. All of the major GOP candidates for Senate have now launched commercials.

If a 16-day government shutdown didn't kill Obamacare, how do Nebraska's Senate candidates expect to do it?

If a 16-day government shutdown didn’t kill Obamacare, how do Nebraska’s Senate candidates expect to do it?

All of the Republican candidates are on the Obamacare-must-be-abolished bandwagon, but none has explained how it will be any more possible in 2015 than it was in 2013, when the House voted more than 50 times to abolish the Affordable Care Act.

The reality is that these things will have to happen first: A Republican takeover of the Senate (highly unlikely this year) AND the untimely, unfortunate deaths of both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. It is only with Republican control of the Senate and a President John Boehner (there’s a thought!) that the Affordable Care Act could be killed.

So major league kudos to Chris Schukei, assistant news director at KHAS/TV5 in Hastings, for trying to press Senate candidate Shane Osborn on how he would be any more successful in killing Obamacare than the man he hopes to replace, Sen. Mike Johanns.

Schukei’s question: “When all of you are talking about being able to repeal it and make the changes, isn’t it the reality that the equation is going to be the same? Mike Johanns has been voting no against this all the way. So, can any of you go to Washington and make any difference in this?”

Osborn’s answer: “I think you can make a difference. If you couldn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this. Right? You have to go there and build relationships and work together to get what’s best for the country done, and put the country first.” You can see the full interview at YouTube.com. This exchange starts at about 1:38.

Osborn obviously misses the point, but you can’t really blame him. None of the Republican Senate candidates has addressed the real life obstacles that killing Obamacare would involve. And that includes prop candidate Ben Sasse, who traveled the state with a 12-foot stack of paper to represent all of the federal regulations related to Obamacare. (It’s the nation’s health care system. Of course it’s complicated. Medicare Part D was complicated, too)

* * *

Monday is the last day for aspiring members of Congress to file paperwork with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office for the May 13 primary. Candidates need to appear in person and bring $1,740 to cover the filing fee.

***

Finally, uVoted4Them.com is soliciting questions you would like to see answered by House and Senate candidates before the primary election. How old is the Earth? is the first question on our list. It may seem silly, but the answer — 5,000 years or a whole lot older than that — tells you a lot about a person and their politics.

Add your questions through the comments box or send them to  acjc40@aol.com

Aside

Nebraska more Republican than conservative

According to the pollsters at Gallop: Nebraska is one of the most Republican states in the union, but not one of the most conservative.

Gallop found at least 10 states more conservative than Nebraska in 2013. The most conservative of all, according to Gallop is Wyoming, with a population that is 51.4 conservative. Also coming in ahead of Nebraska in conservativeness were Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Oklahoma.

The new poll showed a 37.5 percent approval rating for President Obama in Nebraska, compared to a national approval rating of 46.5 percent. Self-identified Republicans make up 50.9 percent of Nebraskans, with 34.5 percent identifying as Democrats or leaning Democrat, according to Gallop. That’s a hefty 16.3-point lead.

The District of Columbia had the most liberals, with 38.1 percent. Also in the most liberal column were Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and California.

Catching up

LeeTerryEmailFeb12

Rep. Lee Terry sent out this email Wednesday evening soliciting money for his reelection campaign. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are willing to do anything to take his 2nd District seat away from him?  Apparently not. As of yet, Democrats have failed to finish the first step: Finding a candidate. Potential opponents still have another couple of weeks to file the formal paperwork with the secretary of state’s office, but it looks like Terry will skate through 2014.  

*** Third District House candidate Tom Brewer has completed treatment for leukemia and is returning to the campaign trail, according to KCSR in Chardon. Brewer has a meet and greet scheduled Sunday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Praire Pines in Chadron.

*** Mark your calendars now: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has proclaimed the week of February 24 Stop Government Abuse Week. Cantor says House Republicans will be bringing a package of legislation to reign in President Obama’s ability to issue executive orders and regulatory guidance to federal agencies. Cantor says the Obama administration “is threatening people’s liberty and their hard-earned paychecks.”

Republicans have been ramping up the fear campaign since the State of the Union Address, when the president announced he would sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska’s 3rd District went after it full-force last week in a column in The Business Farmer. Smith suggested that Obama would use an executive order to impose gun control, and said it represents a “dangerous shift in power.”

SmithColumnFeb6

So, once again, we present this chart on the use of executive orders, showing Obama to have issued the smallest number of executive orders since President Cleveland.

Presidential Executive Orders

Aside

Debt ceiling passed, tidbits from the trail

SnowpacolypseFrustrated Americans may have learned the secret to motivating legislators to act quickly in Washington this week: Snow.

Eager to leave town ahead of a snowstorm, a “clean” debt ceiling bill was passed without any of the showmanship that stalled the debt ceiling hike last fall. It passed the House on Tuesday 221-201 and the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 55-43.

The entire Nebraska delegation to Washington voted against extending the debt ceiling. The legislation, which is now headed for President Obama’s signature, suspends the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, well past the November mid-term elections. The U.S. was expected to hit the current debt ceiling on Feb. 27.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation that would repeal the 1 percent cut in military retirement pay for working-age retirees. Lengthy, expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have boosted military benefits to the point that they consume more than half of the American defense budget. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Pentagon and Hill leaders are seeking ways to cut benefits, but heavy lobbying by veterans’ groups has stymied attempts at reform.

Bank executive and Nebraska Senate candidate Sid Dinsdale has opened a campaign office in Lincoln in the Candy Factory, 201 N. Eighth St. in the Haymarket. Dinsdale is an Elkhorn resident and chairman of Pinnacle Bancorp. His campaign website describes him as anti-Obamacare, anti-debt, pro-Keystone Pipeline and  secure-the-borders-first on immigration reform.

Republican wordmeister Frank Luntz would be proud of Republican Senate candidate Shane Osborn. In an interview with Brent Martin of the Nebraska Radio Network, Osborn remembered to use the word “bill” to describe Obamacare. Last year, with the launch of Obamacare looming, Republicans began referring to the Affordable Care Act as a bill, despite the fact that it had been law for nearly four years. Osborn also remembered to suggest that President Obama was a lawless dictator for delaying the employer mandate again.

Aside

Coburn endorses Sasse; RNCC builds deceptive web sites

Nebraska Senate hopeful Ben Sasse

Nebraska Senate hopeful Ben Sasse

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn has endorsed Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse, whom he says he spent a considerable amount of time with while Sasse was an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services during the most recent Bush administration. He said he found the-then HHS staffer ‘responsive and very responsible.”

Lincoln Journal Star writer Don Walton reported Coburn’s endorsement of Sasse a few days ago. Said Coburn: “If he was running in Oklahoma, I’d vote for him.”

And, lest I forget, Sasse has a birthday card for Sarah Palin on his Facebook page that Palin fans are welcome to sign. The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate hits the big 5-0 on Tuesday.

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The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has raised the ire of Democrats and others by putting up phony web sites that appear to support Democratic candidates, but are really fund-raising tools for the NRCC.

The NRCC has built at least 15 of these sites, including one targeting Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, and says it plans many more as the 2014 political season continues. According to CNN, the NRCC has purchased hundreds of URLs bearing the names of Democratic contenders across the nation.

The sites typically feature large, attractive photos of Democratic candidates, but the copy bashes them for supporting Obamacare or some other program Republicans consider a crime against America, They also include a donation box, with the money going to the to the NRCC and Republican House candidates.

The text on the sites makes it obvious that it is not in support of the candidate, but supporters of the candidates will find them confusing, which is just what the RNCC wants. Daniel Scarpinato, press secretary for the organization, told CNN “we are very proud of this program.”

McLeay launches 1st campaign ad

BartMcLeayAdPic

Republican Sen. candidate Bart McLeay has launched his first televison commercial with a statewide ad buy in the neighborhood of $100,000. The spot debuted during NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, and will be running for the next few weeks.

Some blogs have panned the folksy commercial featuring McLeay’s family, but it’s a nice change from the typical political talking head, and the McLeay family shows a natural talent for delivering lines. Catch it on YouTube if you miss it on your small screen.

McLeay is an Omaha native, business lawyer and partner at the Omaha law firm of Kutak Rock. He played football for a year at the University of Arizona and graduated from the University of Virginia law school.

According to his campaign web site, he is pro-gun, pro-life and pro-flat tax. He supports limited government and cutting spending “back to basics and budget(ing) within our means.” He says he would replace Obamacare with a free-market-based alternative, which may pique your interest because the basis of Obamacare is having Americans buy insurance on the free market.

Learn more about candidate McLeay at BartMcLeay.com

Senate notes

Max Baucus is new ambassador to China
Montana Sen. Max Baucus was elevated to ambassador to China Thursday by his Senate colleagues. They confirmed his nomination by President Obama on a vote of 96-0. Nebraska Sens. Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns voted for Baucus, a Democrat who served nearly 36 years in the Senate. Baucus voted “present” on his nomination. Not voting were Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, and Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.

Unemployment extension fails again, Johanns and Fischer opposed
The Senate fell one vote shy Thursday of moving ahead on legislation that would have renewed extended unemployment benefits for 1.7 million Americans. Nebraska Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer, both Republicans, voted against the extension.

S. 1845 picked up four “yes” votes from Republicans, but failed 58-40. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the 59th vote, changed his “yes” vote to “no” to preserve the bill’s procedural status as eligible for reconsideration.

It was the Senate’s second failed attempt to renew extended unemployment benefits since they expired Dec. 28.

The $6.4 billion extension was negotiated between Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada. Heller, Collins, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska provided the extension’s only Republican “yes” votes.

The latest extension attempt would have been paid for through changes in the federal retirement programs, known as “pension smoothing.” Republicans have no objection to pension smoothing, but would rather use the money to restore small cuts in cost of living adjustments in military retiree benefits.

An attempt to pass a three-month extension that would not be paid for also failed Thursday, 55-43. It was also opposed by Sens. Johanns and Fischer.

States individually determine the length and amount of unemployment benefits, but Congress commonly extends unemployment benefits in period of high unemployment. These extensions are paid for by the federal government.

Nebraska Senate candidate Dinsdale would be third richest member of Congress

Using data from Roll Call and financial disclosure forms, the Omaha World-Herald is reporting that banking executive and Republican Senate candidate Sid Dinsdale would be at least the third wealthiest member of Congress if elected today. His competitors in the race for Sen. Mike Johanns’ seat are far from poor, but none has wealth even approaching that level.

Dinsdale, chairman of the Pinnacle bank holding company started by his family, is worth at least $110 million, according to the World-Herald, but could be worth much more because assets are reported in broad categories. He would rank third in Congress behind Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican from California, who is worth at least $335 million, and might surpass Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who is worth at least $114 million. Issa made his fortune in car alarms. McCaul married into one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies.