Wednesday, October 05, 2005

"Masters of the Universe" Look to 2006

by Kyle Michaelis
Nebraska's business elite are already flexing their political muscle for the 2006 elections. Three of Nebraska's richest have drawn particular notice in recent days for their concerted efforts, voting with their pocketbooks and seeing that others do the same.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Political and business powerbrokers in Nebraska already are choosing sides in next year's Republican primary for governor.

Tom Osborne's camp counts some of the state's biggest business names: Warren Buffett, David Sokol and Walter Scott Jr....

Osborne, the state's 3rd District congressman, has a long relationship with many in the Omaha business community that dates to his years as Nebraska's football coach....

In large part, the race for the support of political and business bigwigs is run in tandem with the race for money. People such as Buffet...have a network of friends and supporters who can be tapped for campaign contributions.

For example, Buffett, Sokol and Scott sent a fundraising letter this summer on behalf of Osborne.

But all that influence isn't being spent in just one place. Nebraska's other marquee 2006 race has seen thise same trio of well-placed power-brokers skipping across the partisan divide to support incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in his bid for re-election. And, from every indication, they're not the only business leaders or Republicans to be doing so.

According to another World-Herald article:
Democrat Ben Nelson last week could have said, "Friends, Republicans and businessmen, lend me your ears - and wallets."

First, several GOP lobbyists held a fundraiser for the Nebraska U.S. senator, who is expected to seek re-election next year. The event was at Monocle, a Capitol Hill restaurant frequented by lawmakers and lobbyists.

And who showed up? Rep. Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican....

Second, Terry's predecessor, former Rep. Jon Christensen, also a Republican, organized another fundraiser for Nelson. The event was at Buchanan Ingersoll, a Washington law firm where Christensen, now a lobbyist, works.

Christensen said the firm's political action committee donated $5,000 to Nelson's campaign. He also wrote a personal check of $500 to the campaign.

Further, Christensen encouraged his colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to write personal checks to Nelson's campaign.

"He's been a good friend to Nebraska," Christensen said of Nelson. "He's genuine, and he cares about people. He cares about farmers, agribusiness, the little guy and the big guy."

Christensen noted that Nelson returns home nearly every weekend, and he sees him at events all around the state. "You've just got to stick with a guy that does that kind of work," he said.

Finally, Nelson won an important endorsement last week from BIPAC.

The influential pro-business political action committee's support has in the past often led to sizable campaign contributions from business leaders and other PACs.

Nelson also has a fundraising breakfast scheduled Monday in Omaha that was expected to raise $100,000 for the campaign, a spokesman said.

The breakfast, at Mid-American Energy Holdings Co., will be hosted by investor Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway; Walter Scott, retired chief executive officer of Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc.; and David Sokol, chairman and chief executive officer of Mid-American.

So, Osborne and Nelson in '06 - that's where the smart money is...or, at least, the big money.

Of course, on election day it's still "one person, one vote", but - let's face it - as they might say in Animal Farm, "Some votes are more equal than others"- particularly those with dollar signs attached.


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