Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Heineman's "Premature and Inappropriate" Tax Cut

by Kyle Michaelis
The 2006 session of the Nebraska Legislature is right around the corner, which means we're about to get our first real sense of Gov. Heineman as a political force. Last year, he put his name on a significant package of business tax incentives, but these were in the pipeline well before he took office thanks to the heavy hand of the Chamber of Commerce that all but forced Heineman's signature, relegating him to the role of cheerleader in a game that had already been decided. His attempt ever since to portray himself as the the architect of the Nebraska Advantage legislation is simply laughable.

In a better example of his political track record so far, Heineman also dared to veto the legislature's closing of elementary-only school districts last spring, but this gesture was immediately dismissed as the political posturing it was - his veto summarily over-ridden by the state senate. Senators seemed hard-pressed to accept the authority of such a politically-calculated move on the part of a man first appointed as lieutenant governor only to then fall into the governorship - Nebraska's very own version of Gerald Ford (in so far as we can't claim the original one, who was born in Omaha).

Attempting to avoid Ford's place in the history books having never been elected President in his own right, Heineman now sets out to do a better job of winning over the legislature to his tax cut proposal. The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Gov. Dave Heineman said tax cuts will be his priority when lawmakers convene Jan. 4 in Lincoln for a 60-day session. And for the most part, lawmakers seem receptive, though cautious....

Forty-two of the state's 49 lawmakers responded to the tax question in The World-Herald's annual pre-session survey, and 21 said they would support a tax cut, 19 said they might, and only two were opposed.

Heineman said the survey results are consistent with what lawmakers told him as he developed his tax plan, and he is encouraged by their response.

"We know we've got to go out and work this hard, and we intend to," said Heineman, who is seeking election next year. "I think generally, there's fairly strong support for tax relief as the top priority"....

Although state senators generally had a positive response to tax cuts, they parted ways on the best way to go about it.

Of the 21 who favored tax cuts, 11 said they preferred income tax cuts, eight liked reducing sales taxes, in particular the remodeling labor tax, and seven said they wanted to reduce property taxes. A couple took aim at estate taxes....

Some lawmakers said Nebraska needs to set aside money to pay for possible financial damages for exceeding the Republican River water agreement with Kansas. Other budget needs they listed include maintenance of state buildings, jail reimbursement to counties, aid to schools and colleges....

Heineman said his plan sets aside adequate cash reserves. He said it is "premature and inappropriate" to assume that Nebraska will be penalized in the water dispute with Kansas....

Heineman, who faces two opponents in the Republican primary in May, said policy more than politics is driving his call for tax cuts.

"I'm not trying to win votes in that sense," he said. "I'm trying to develop good tax policy that allows this state to grow long term...If I was only motivated about this next election year, I'd propose an even bigger tax cut."

At least, from the sound of it, Heineman admits the cynical and manipulative motivations behind the Republican candidates' competing tax-cutting/ service-chopping proposals. What I'm yet to see is how or why Heineman speaks with such confidence that the legislature will give his particular proposal (still lacking in specifics as to what budget obligations he'd actually like the state to meet) more consideration than any senator's.

Whatever clout Heineman might desire as governor or within the Republican Party is surely called into question by the fact that he hasn't yet earned the vote of the people and faces a still-uphill challenge in his own party's primary. Also, he's going to be so desperate to sign some sort of tax cutting legislation to get on the good side of voters that an actual veto of whatever ultimately comes out of committee and gets through the legislature almost has to be considered an empty threat.

Finally, thanks to term limits, this is the last year of many senators' service, so they seem likely to be even less inclined than usual to take marching orders and dance to Heineman's tune. Of course, many will still be inclined to pass some sort of tax cut to assure their legacy, but there's no reason whatsoever for it to take the shape Heineman has proposed.

Let's face it - if Heineman thinks he's in control of this debate, he's sorely mistaken. Barring some thus far unseen backroom shenanigans - job promises and vote trading the likes of which would put even Tom DeLay to shame - Heineman lacks any substantive pull or political capital. For now, he is a pretender to the throne any which way you look at it.

And, let me say personally, Heineman's status as a "neverwas-to-be" isn't helped by his refusal to exercise foresight and recognize the incredible financial burden taking shape in Nebraska's water dispute with Kansas. To call talk of this burden "premature and inappropriate" is absolutely preposterous.

My God, only two days earlier the World-Herald reported that the Nebraska Water Policy Task Force Heineman is responsible for appointing held an 11th-hour meeting about how to cover this very expense, ultimately proposing a raise in the state sales tax - the most regressive tax of all. With a plan such as that on the table, he actually has the audacity to dismiss the issue and the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in an attempt to protect his precious tax cut and the votes it might buy. How disgusting!

For behavior like this, so lacking in integrity and leadership, any comparisons between Heineman and Gerald Ford are just too unkind to the 38th president, even though Heineman seems most deserving of a similar fate at the ballot box.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

The 12 Days of Christmas Vacation (or, Where Do We Go From Here?)

by Kyle Michaelis
In case you hadn't noticed, I've taken a break from posting the last two weeks. Apologies to readers for the daily disappointment this must have caused each time they checked the New Nebraska Network to find it had not been updated.

Spending time with family and friends this holiday season, simply reading the news rather than consuming it in the hopes of offering informed and thoughtful commentary, made for a pleasant Christmas break that makes me question - yet again - the purpose of this site.

Admittedly, there is a need for a progressive voice to challenge the atavistic, complacent, and reactionary impulses of Nebraska's press and politicians so dangerously confused for the status quo by the people of this state. The idea that this site, let alone my writing, might even begin to serve such a function, however, reeks of the most grandiose delusion imaginable.

There are those who believe "blogging" to be a revolutionary new battleground for the soul of America. I do not personally agree, rejecting this supposed revolution as yet another instance of hype trumping substance. Nevertheless, there is potential in this new media (so far as it can be considered such) to get ideas out there, get people talking, and - maybe, just maybe - get them to cast-off the low expectations of themselves and the government that has so crippled us as a democracy.

The Internet, by way of sites such as this (I hope), also has the potential to encourage and advance the ideal of the independent press on which every freedom we hold dear relies. Information truly is power. I do not envision a future where blogs will truly wield power of their own, but they surely can serve as a conduit by the accountability they might force and the alternative perspectives they provide to restore some of the power to the people that is now so manipulated and wasted by the purveyors of talking points in the Mainstream or Corporate Media.

Of course, so much of the online community is little more than a sounding board, happy to to be co-opted by those in the business of message control - the prevalence of such sites not only obscures but also jeopardizes whatever possible good might emerge from hence. How sad that this sort runs such risk of winning the day - at such cost to the future - by virtue of the near-impenetrable echo chamber they create.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave this site? My own motives are simple - I am passionate about the singular ability of government to serve the people, particularly the forgotten and disadvantaged in society. I believe in education and the free exchange of ideas as the only hope for enlightened democracy, detesting ignorance and hypocrisy even while admitting I myself am sometimes guilty of both offenses, reason for which I am committed to subjecting my opinions to the criticism of others that such instances might be revealed.

As I've reiterated almost everyday over the last 9 months, I also look at the Nebraska media and see a critical shortage of anyone willing to even nudge the "Powers that Be" on behalf of the people. Worse even than that, the silent slumber of the progressive spirit in this state has become so deafening and deadening that it might well be a sin not to do what one can to call it forth. As feeble an attempt as it may be, this endeavor has been just such an answer to the duties of moral and political conscience.

But, more even than those reasons, I have maintained this site because I love to write. I have needed a creative outlet and have been fueled in my meager efforts by this need. It is on this front and for this purpose that I am most torn about continuing the New Nebraska Network in its current capacity (if at all). This is not a format that lends itself to refinement. For lack of substantive input from readers, I can't even claim that it has spurred much growth in my own thinking besides that inspired by the failure of my out-sized ambition. I yearn for something demanding of more than just my time and effort, writing that is inspired by more than the day's headlines and my all-too-predictable opinions.

No, I'm not going to cease work on this project nor on the even greater project of reaching the people of Nebraska and opening their eyes and minds to a new political identity that better fits what I believe to be their inherent decency and common sense. The New Nebraska Network lives...for now...and, I hope, for the near future. Yet, I make no promises or assurances for the form or the regularity of posts in its second calendar year. Whatever muse I follow - not for want of urgency or purpose - nevertheless suggests that other creative pursuits less remote and immediately gratifying might well take precedence soon. We shall see.

There are great things to be done - that is for certain - but I am not so foolish or arrogant to think this site might play more than the smallest of parts - a cameo in what will hopefully prove a tale of overcoming what once seemed insurmountable odds. If I can accomplish anything, I would like it to be encouraging other voices to come out of the woodwork. Be thoughtful, be respectful of others' opinions, but also be proud of what you believe and unafraid to question all who imagine themselves authorities in the press, in the statehouse, or even at the local coffeeshop. Those of us who truly give a damn about our fellow citizens and about the future we leave for future generations must take it upon ourselves to inspire and enlighten by our conviction, courage, and veracity.

I'll be right here doing my part for at least a while longer. I have not yet had my fill of having my say. But, the time is long past due that others be heard...whatever the format, whatever is on their minds. Only in our silence is the failure of our dreams assured. Yours is the voice that you seek.

That's enough from La-La Land. HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Now, let's get back to work.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Stenberg Loves Judicial Activism" Redux

by Kyle Michaelis
A few days ago, I received a comment from George Lauby - one of the central figures in Nebrakans for Local Schools, the organization fighting the state to keep Nebraska's Class I, elementary-only school districts alive.

In response to an earlier NNN post about the judicial activism on which this group and its would-be champion, Don Stenberg, are relying - hoping a judge will disregard the letter of the law to protect the supposed interests of voters - Mr. Lauby wrote:
We think it is the Legislature that has exercised undue activism. The law in question - LB 126 - eliminates 205 school boards without a vote of any of those boards.

In regard to the suspension of LB 126, if the law was simpler – such as setting a speed limit or removing seat belt requirements – it could be completely repealed after a referendum vote.

However, LB 126 is an unprecedented restructuring of Nebraska’s K-12 educational system. It eliminates both Class I and Class VI districts and divides taxable property, assets and liabilities among the remaining school districts. LB 126 affects virtually all of Nebraska’s approximately 450 school districts, again, without a vote by any of those districts.

If it is implemented and then repealed at the ballot box, it at best would create tremendous legal complications. Not only that, the number of signatures required for a valid referendum and petition drive have increased dramatically in recent years, under a still controversial decision. That requirement is part of the injunction request filed in the courts by the Class I school supporters.

In Legislatively eliminating school boards, Nebraska is facing a truly historic and unprecedented situation. And, be that as it may, so far the court's injunction against implementing LB 126 has cited the firm constitutionally guaranteed right of the people to a valid referendum vote, and the precedence that takes in our state's constitution. The decision is well-grounded in law. The courts serve as a check on Legislative activism.

-- George Lauby, Nebraskans for Local Schools

I thank Lauby for his thoughful response. It speaks well of Nebraskans for Local Schools that its leadership should be so willing to engage in this important conversation in multiple forums and venues. Still, I can't help but be perplexed by this idea put forward of "Legislative activism."

Making law is not only the responsibility of the legislature, it is its main purpose for being. Everyone will not always like the laws passed or their outcome, but the suggestion that state senators have over-stepped their bounds by representing the interests of voters and creating corresponding legislation is quite ludicrous.

A democratically elected legislature can pass bad laws, it can pass unconstitutional laws, but any attempt to translate the already specious reasoning behind rhetorical assaults on judicial activism to this particular branch of government is an exercise in absurdity. They're just doing their job.

But, I don't mean to insult Lauby or his cause. The target of my scorn is Don Stenberg for so blatantly employing cheap, Rush Limbaugh-tested soundbytes against judicial activism in his campaign for U.S. Senate while hypocritically demanding just such action in his piggy-backing of local causes to further his political ambitions.

And look, Stenberg's not stopping with the Class I schools controversy in his attempt to keep a high-profile. Unable to compete with the fortunes and fundraising of the other Republican candidates (not just Pete Ricketts but even David Kramer), Stenberg is attaching himself to any cause he can.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
The Nebraska Supreme Court should not even consider setting aside the state’s term limit constitutional amendment, according to a document filed by the Don’t Touch Term Limits group.

“The people of Nebraska have spoken on this issue, not once, not twice, but three times,” said former Attorney General Don Stenberg, pointing out Nebraskans approved term limits in three different elections. Courts overturned two of those decisions.

“The people of Nebraska want to be governed by citizen legislators. They have written that principle into their state constitution. The people’s decisions should be respected by their public servants, but it isn’t,” said Stenberg, who is representing the pro-term limits group.

But State Sen. Dennis Byars of Beatrice, one of the senators fighting the impending limits, said Stenberg hasn’t respected the people’s decisions because he keeps running for office after having been defeated.

Stenberg is involved in his third U.S. Senate race as a candidate in the Republican primary.

Stenberg's attempt to campaign in the courtroom is rather unsettling, but one can't really blame him when his campaign has otherwise been such a non-starter. It's sad, however, to see issues that some people are very passionate about being so abused.

On this particular issue of term limits, I have to give Sen. Byars a hand for poking fun at Stenberg and pointing out his again relying on rhetoric without any concern for the personal hypocrisy it betrays.

It's the will of the people, Don - take a hint, give it up, and go home.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Hergert Hits the Fan

by Kyle Michaelis
Nebraska's infamous Degenerate Regent Dave Hergert today stands very close to criminal indictment after Attorney General Jon Bruning announced the convening of a grand jury to consider the charges against him.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
A grand jury will determine whether University of Nebraska Regent Dave Hergert should be prosecuted for breaking state campaign finance law.

The grand jury can subpoena witnesses and provide additional evidence, said Attorney Gen. Jon Bruning as he announced that Lancaster County District Court Judge Karen Flowers will convene a grand jury in January. Bruning said he personally believes that Hergert broke state law.

After reviewing the evidence gathered by the Nebraska State Patrol, Bruning said he believes “there is credible evidence that Mr. Hergert violated the law.”

Although Bruning said his office can file charges directly, he believes the grand jury process will help uncover additional evidence and give the public greater trust in the system.

Hergert met once with investigators in September or October but refused to cooperate after that, Bruning said during a Monday morning news conference.

The state patrol cannot force people to talk with them, while the grand jury has subpoena powers, he pointed out....

“The bottom line is I want the truth. Nebraskans want the truth. And we deserve the truth,” said Bruning.

“Elections are a key part of our democracy, and the integrity of the electoral process must be taken seriously,” he said....

In addition to the campaign finance law, the grand jury may look at whether Hergert violated state laws prohibiting falsifying public records and making false statements under oath.

Included in Bruning's request to convene a grand jury, which was immediately granted, are a pair of interesting charges that suggest this case may be even more serious than previously thought.

Bruning specifically cites Nebraska Revised Statutes 28-901 and 28-924 as potential misdemeanors:
Section 28-901 - Obstructing government operations

A person commits the offense of obstructing government operations if he intentionally obstructs, impairs, or perverts the administration of law or other governmental functions by force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, breach of official duty, or any other unlawful act, except that this section does not apply to flight by a person charged with crime, refusal to submit to arrest, failure to perform a legal duty other than an official duty, or any other means of avoiding compliance with law without affirmative interference with governmental functions.

Section 28-924 - Official misconduct

A public servant commits official misconduct if he knowingly violates any statute or lawfully adopted rule or regulation relating to his official duties.

Both of these statutes go beyond the simple campaign violations that had previously been under investigation and suggest criminal conduct while an elected official - likely some form of obstruction of justice. As such, these offenses would most certainly be impeachable, regardless of the miserable and disgusting manner Hergert had hoped to weasel his way out of being held accountable by the state legislature.

Of course, these charges might just be a way of forcing Hergert's cooperation, but - from the boldness of Bruning's statements - I'm thinking there's a whole lot more to them than that.

Hergert is going down, and Nebraska will be better off for it. He should have done the decent thing and resigned months ago, sparing the state all these expenses and protecting the integrity of the University of Nebraska. Instead, he has embarrassed himself and his voters while degrading the University. For that, he has earned the people's contempt.

Hergert has brought this on himself by his arrogance and his disregard for the rule of law. At this point, I almost hope he continues in his delusional refusal to resign - though his increasingly likely resignation would certainly be better for Nebraska - just because he deserves to be prosecuted in the public eye as the impeachment process would assure.

Huskers Against Hergert
have been all over this, hitting the nightly news and posting up a storm on their blog. Thanks again to this impressive UNL student organization for leading the charge to hold Hergert accountable and demanding ethcial conduct from our elected officials.

Two members also had a very funny but all-too-true Letter to the Editor in today's Daily Nebraskan, reading:
Finals Week is finally upon us and some of our peers may begin studying, but why? Why would one do such a thing when there is an easier, proven path to conquer the system? CHEAT!

We propose this week usually filled with stress and cramming be renamed "Cheaters Week!" This is a more appropriate and accurate title if we are going to follow the leadership of our fine university.

A few of our very own university regents cheated and broke state laws to win recent elections; at the same time we attempt to promote integrity and honesty in our academic institutions. We all know cheating is wrong, but if you get busted by your professor simply inform them their bosses promote such actions. We can't cheat, why can they?

So, forget about late night studying and that textbook you were supposed to read two months ago. Go ahead and cheat, it's your own regent endorsed method to success!

Jeff Armour & A.J. Bohac
Huskers Against Hergert

Well said, gentlemen. Keep up the fight. It seems like Hergert's day of reckoning just might be at-hand.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Stooping to the Nebraska GOPs Level

by Kyle Michaelis
Since the Nebraska Republican Party persists in its childish and fundamentally dishonest "petititon drive" (aka "political stunt") calling on Sen. Ben Nelson to refund $83 to every citizen of the state for the $145 million settlement of the Boyd County nuclear waste dump fiasco he inherited, it is only fitting that they be held to the same ludicrous standard for Governors Johanns and Heineman's total failure to see that Nebraska lives up to its obligations to maintain the Republican River's flow levels to Kansas.

As Harold W. Andersen writes in his column today:
In 2002, when Nebraska settled a lawsuit with Kansas, state officials agreed to stay within Nebraska's legal water allocation in the Republican River Valley, figured over a three- to five-year period. In 2003 and 2004, irrigators used about 64,000 acre-feet more than Nebraska was supposed to consume. Projections indicate that this year, Nebraska irrigators took 42,000 acre-feet more than allowed under the agreement with Kansas.

It has been estimated that $375 million would be needed to retire enough irrigated acres to solve the legal problem, with the amount to be payable over a 15-year span....

A variety of suggestions have been made to finance the solution of the problem (by retiring irrigated acres). They include increasing the state sales tax, establishing or increasing fees on wells and irrigated acres, an initiative petition to dedicate state tax dollars to water or asking the Legislature to approve a 3-cent property tax rate increase for natural resources districts....

A state Water Policy Task Force is considering possible solutions to the multimillion-dollar problem of cleaning up the mess - a mess that need not have been created if Nebraska governors and legislators had shown the foresight and political courage to put some reasonable, effective restraints on the drilling of irrigation wells and the amount of water pumped from such wells.

Such restraints predictably would not have been popular with some irrigators and potential irrigators, but such action would have discharged state government's responsibility to protect the state's precious groundwater supply in the short term and, even more importantly, for the long-term future.

Of course, Andersen chooses to be vague in assigning blame for this situation because it rests so squarely on those of his shared partisan stripes, but the facts speak for themselves. Republicans have controlled the levers of state government for almost 8 years, meaning this needless $375 million expense was incurred entirely on their watch for their want of leadership (are we recognizing a pattern here?).

They want to hold Nelson responsible for not turning his back on the people of Boyd County? Then we should damn well hold them responsible for not having the political courage to do what had to be done to see Nebraska live up to its Republican-contracted water obligations.

$145 million vs. $375 million. That's $83 per person vs. $215 that every man, woman, and child in this state is going to be paying one way or another for the Republicans' failure. The Republican River is carrying Nebraskans' hard-earned dollars straight to Kansas because of the Republican Party's incompetence.

I know the issue is more complex than that, but if the Republicans are so willing to point fingers they invite and deserve such recrimination. So I ask, when can I expect my check?

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This Medicaid Stuff I Keep Talking About

by Kyle Michaelis
Updated - see below

Almost each and every time the Republican candidates for governor have whipped out their respective tax cut plans so that voters can play Goldilocks and decide which proposal is "just right" for them, I have generally decried these efforts as irresponsible in the extreme.

Much of this response is founded in the state's ever-expanding Medicaid obligation, to which none of the candidates have proposed a solution while each trying very hard to make the budget shortfall it foretells a whole lot worse. Our state will either be prepared for this problem when it hits critical mass or we will see a wholesale cut in state services that brutalizes and abandons the state's neediest and most elderly citizens.

By not talking about and recognizing this problem now, these Republican candidates for governor are sealing the fate of Nebraska's least fortunate and washing our hands of their suffering.

Of course, outside the spotlight, where common sense is still generally free to tread, a statewide panel does exist to analyze this problem and hopefully pave the way for the necessary changes that will prevent an outright disaster in the coming years. They've just released a report, however, that shows neither the willingness or the creativity to address the enormous magnitude of the coming Medicaid crisis.

The AP reports:
Sticking with the current Medicaid program, and not looking at wholesale changes in eligibility or services, won endorsement Wednesday from a council formed to recommend reforms.

The panel did not want to shift toward a defined contribution system where benefits available to recipients are variable and targeted to needs, as opposed to the current system where benefits are fixed.

Also supported was a Medicaid reform report's recommendation that no substantial changes be made to current eligibility standards.

"We haven't come up with any bold ideas for Medicaid reform and neither has anybody else across the country," said Ron Ross, currently state treasurer and former director of the Health and Human Services Department. Given that, changes will have to be made incrementally instead, he said.

The report contains 28 recommendations for improving Medicaid....

Sen. Don Pederson, chairman of the reform council and also of the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee, acknowledged that the recommendations included in the report will not "turn the battleship around" but instead will "help slow the growth of this program."

The push for reform comes as costs of Medicaid have grown 11 percent a year since 1985 and last year took up 17 percent of the entire state budget. Left unchecked, Medicaid is poised to take up larger portions of the state budget, leaving little money for anything else.

Not surprisingly, the report ordered by the Legislature concluded that the current program is not sustainable. Immediate changes would save $72 million in state and federal funds in the first year. Last year Medicaid cost the state $470 million.

"It took us a long time to get into this mess, and it's going to take us a long time to get out of it," Pederson said....

The state health system will monitor reform efforts in other states, so Nebraska won't be a laboratory for bad ideas....

Recommendations for change approved by the reform council will be forwarded to the Legislature, which will likely use them as the basis for bills introduced next month.

Medicaid is the health insurance program for the poor and disabled...One in seven Nebraskans - some 241,000 - receive Medicaid, including more than half of the state's 15,000 nursing home residents.

Sure, we don't want to be a laboratory of bad ideas, but, right now, the worst possible idea is to do nothing - which, in too many ways, is precisely what this panel proposes. Their wait-and-see approach is at our state's peril. Absent a national reorganization of the Medicaid program, likely in the form of a total overhaul of the U.S. health care system, we are just taking another step up the ladder, setting ourselves up for that much bigger a fall.

While understandable that they want to avoid "Chicken Little"-hysterics, I fear politics has more to do with this panel's silence than the actual reality of the situation, in which the sky is not yet falling but EVERY indicator says it will (and soon). For this panel to not at least reprimand politicians for engaging in the tax cut-equivelant of an arms race while this outstanding obligation looms over our heads is only further testament to the meekness and inadequacy of their recommendations.

**Update - 5:22 pm -
Both the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star weighed in today with their own responses to these proposed Medicaid reforms. Both are far more positive about the "cautious" appoach than I am. Interestingly, both also neglect to make any mention of the tax cuts being talked about and promised in the coming legislative session, as if their were no connection whatsoever between a state's tax receipts and its spending on social services. How very conveniently divorced from reality of them - even President Bush would have to be impressed.

Of course, there's no way to tax ourselves out of this problem, but disregarding how policy changes might hasten or provoke a budgetary shortfall is just plain absurd.

You know what else both newspapers fail to mention - the imminent need for reform at the federal level and the failure of this panel to advocate a more national approach, calling on Nebraska's Congressional delegation to enter the debate with ideas of their own. It is a glaring oversight that completely misconstrues the depth of this problem and the breadth required of any true solutions.

The will does not exist for reform at the state level. Meanwhile, you can't even get the average Republican in Washington D.C. to say the words "health care" because they're so devoid of ideas and invested in/owned by the purveyors and profiteers of the evermore broken system in place.

Strange days ahead. With such incompetent, non-existent leadership, can there be any doubt about our ultimate destination?

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Democrats Have A Candidate - Hahn for Governor

by Kyle Michaelis

I'll be damned. It looks like the Republican primary between Dave Heineman and Tom Osborne won't end with a coronation.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Internet entrepreneur David Hahn of Lincoln said Wednesday that he has decided to enter the 2006 governor's race and would make a formal announcement soon.

"I have decided to run," said Hahn, 50, an attorney and CEO of New Digital Group, a Lincoln-based company that builds online publishing networks.

"I'm a Nebraskan, and I love this state," Hahn said. "All of these significant and serious issues that face us - both in the near and long term - need to be debated."

"I think we need new leadership," he said.

Hahn is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy. It would be his first bid for public office....

He declined to talk in depth about his political agenda, saying he would go into details about his stance on the issues when he makes a formal announcement, which he said would be soon.

"I believe I'm in the mainstream of Nebraska values and our history and culture, and that that will come out in debates," he said.

A political unknown, Hahn comes to the race with little name recognition but a political role model: former Nebraska Gov. Bob Kerrey.

Kerrey was little known and had few ties to the Nebraska Democratic Party when he defeated Republican Gov. Charles Thone in 1981.

Hahn is a fifth-generation Nebraskan who was born in Omaha and grew up in Stromsburg. He earned his undergraduate degree at Sterling College in Kansas and a law degree at the University of Nebraska School of Law in 1981.

Meanwhile, the AP shares the following:
"I just don't see any innovative and firm leadership in the right direction from any of the candidates on the Republican side," Hahn said in an interview late Wednesday. "Right now it's just a focus on who can fill out more tax cuts without any firm understanding of how we're going to pay for that"....

He said his campaign would focus on economic development, education, health and access to health care and rural revival.

"For too long we've just paid lip service to maintaining the rural part of our state," Hahn said.

When Hahn said he was considering a run for governor, the Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Mark Quandahl said that was "good news" and that Hahn would be a "great candidate."

Hahn promised to be engaged in the campaign and called for a series of eight televised debates with his Republican opponent.

When asked what it will take to win, Hahn said "Hard work and straightforward talk."

"I intend to meet and greet and talk with citizens all over the state," he said. "That will be right up to Election Day."

Got to say it's refreshing to see a candidate talk about the other side of the tax cut debate. Amazing that the addition of a Democrat to the electoral mix should have such an immediate impact.

I am certainly glad someone has stepped-up to this momentous task and look forward to hearing more from Mr. Hahn and learning more on where he stands. Best of luck to him. Nebraska will surely benefit from having what will hopefully prove a true alternative to nearly eight years of the Republican status quo (with all its incompetence, its slavery to monied interests, and the economic stagnation that has followed from both).

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Embracing the Extreme of Sex Offender Hysteria

by Kyle Michaelis
Despite my meager protests and those of others, many Nebraska communities - especially along the Iowa border, from whence this particular bandwagon set forth - continue to adopt residency restrictions for registered sex offenders.

Although there seems to be quite a bit of resistance in the state legislature to adopting statewide restrictions (for constitutional reasons and those of simple practicality), it's hard to believe the public isn't going to eventually get what it wants on this one. The appeal of the illusional security these restrictions provide is just too strong.

That leaves the main question just how far the people are willing to take this. As we've seen in Iowa, once a government starts down this path there doesn't seem to be a place to stop. You start restricting areas around schools, then around city parks, then around libraries, bus stops, and swimming pools. 500 feet becomes 2000 feet becomes who knows how far.

Well, finally little Dyersville, Iowa seems on the verge of quitting with all the funny business and simply doing this the old-fashioned way (sans rope, tar, or feathers). Yup, they're considering an outright, total ban on sex offenders in general:

The AP reports:
DYERSVILLE, Iowa - The City Council here may take the domino effect on sex offender ordinances to the next level.

City officials of this northeastern Iowa city are considering implementing an ordinance that would ban sex offenders from living anywhere within city limits.

In previous months, several cities and counties across Iowa have expanded on a state law that prohibits offenders from living near public places where children congregate.

But few cities - if any - have gone this far.

"It is about as restrictive as it can get," said Mayor Jim Heavens at a council meeting Monday night.

The council tabled the proposal to allow time for public feedback.

This isn't surprising in the slightest. In fact, it's little more than the logical extreme of this whole poor excuse for public policy.

If/when Dyersville decides to take this step, it won't be long at all before other towns and cities follow suit. After all, no elected official wants to be liable for not having done everything possible to prevent sex offenses...particularly against children. Who can stand up to the criticism that their town (or state) doesn't care about its children as much as they do in Dyersville (or Iowa)?

Once you give in to these fears, they completely control the debate. There's no escaping that. Fear spreads like wildfire and refuses to be tempered by common sense or principles.

And, truly, on principle, there is little to no difference between proposed residency restrictions and city-wide (or even state-wide) bans. The latter are simply more honest and bold in announcing these measures' true intent...which, again, one can't help sympathizing with because of the abhorrent nature of these crimes yet can't possibly support while holding any hope for redemption, rehabilitation, or a functional system of justice.

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Choose Your Tax Cut Poison

by Kyle Michaelis
Gov. Dave Heineman released his tax cut proposal. Details follow:
Reduce the state income tax to its 1997 level, about a 3 percent reduction. Heineman estimates it would save the average family of four earning $55,000 about $120 over three years.

— Eliminate the 5.5 percent state sales tax on home construction and home repair labor at estimated savings of $99 million from July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2009. Those services were made subject to sales tax in 2003.

— Lower the current lid of $1.05 per $100 of assessed property value for schools to $1.025 next fiscal year and $1 the following year. Current law doesn’t call for the drop to $1 until the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The state would contribute an additional $174 million to make up for the drop in local tax revenue for schools. Heineman estimates that a homeowner would save $125 over a three-year period for every $100,000 in property value.

That amounts to about $420 million in cuts over three years. Responses to the propoosal have varied from polite acknowledgement by state senators to childish derision a la Dave Nabity. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
State senators didn’t immediately stamp it with their approval, saying they needed to comb through its details first. They may not have any to scrutinize until next month, when Heineman plans to release them as part of his budget recommendation.

The two candidates trying to unseat Heineman as governor, meanwhile, criticized the plan.

While a “step in the right direction,” the cuts should be deeper and tied to a plan to reduce state spending, said U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne.

“I’d hope we could do better than that,” Osborne said. “Not addressed here are things that could be done to significantly decrease state spending"....

Strong state coffers — a forecasting board predicted in October the state would get an additional $262 million over the next two years — is expected to make many senators willing to consider cuts.

Omaha businessman Dave Nabity, a Republican candidate for governor, panned the Heineman plan as “form but not substance” that relies too heavily on faith that revenues will continue to grow....

“How about 40 bucks a year over three years?” Nabity said of estimated savings for a family of four earning $55,000 under Heineman’s plan. “Whoopty-aye-yay.”

Ahhh, to be so rich that $40 doesn't mean a damn thing. But still, regardless of Nabity's slap in the face to Nebraska's working families, Heineman's numbers don't add up.

A $420 million reduction in tax collections over 3 years vs. a projected budget surplus of $260 million over the next two means, on average, at least another $30 million has to be cut from somewhere while the costs of providing health care and education sky-rocket and numerous state-owned buildings stand in disrepair.

I'll "whoopty-aye-yay" to that.

Obviously, Heineman and his gubernatorial opponents are willing to say anything at this point. They seem willing to promise whatever will get them the most votes without completely bankrupting the state under their supposed watch (and Nabity, in his desperation, hardly even considers that). That leaves the common sense of our state senators our last true hope for responsible government (historically, not always a wise gambit).

From them, it's clear that Heineman's tax cut proposal won't be the only one of its kind. Already, longtime Lincoln Senator David Landis has made his own proposal of an approximate 50% cut in vehicle taxes not only more noticeable but also reaching a broader cross-section of Nebraska citizens.

At least, the Landis proposal has a bit of flexibility attached to it should the state's economy suddenly face a significant down-turn. Heineman, Osborne, and company seem happy to play in a magical world of unicorns and fairies where no such possibility exists (just as they similarly disregard the coming health care/medicaid crisis that haunts our every step).

I don't know where it all ends. I don't know where it should. But, remember that it's always a lot easier promising money back to the voters than it is saying where the required spending cuts are coming from. Until I hear the latter, these promises are just more politically-motivated drivel.

More proposals will come, as well they should. Each of our state legislators - having actually been elected rather than appointed and then stumbling into the job like Heineman - have the right and the duty to be heard in setting the immediate course for the state budget. As more facts and proposals unfold, the lay of the land will become much clearer and, hopefully, the reasonable course thus far avoided by the GOP candidates for governor shall surely reveal itself.

"No taxes without representation. No tax cuts without meeting our obligations...as a great society and as thoughtful, compassionate human beings."

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Black Monday

by Kyle Michaelis
Word is in that today is set to be "Black Monday" for Nebraska's poor, elderly, disadvantaged, and student populations. Yes, Governor Dave Heineman is expected to announce his tax cut proposal, which is almost certain to test the limits of irresponsible governance for the neglect it implies for state services and citizens in need.

Of course, Heineman is following in the fiscally-reckless and politically-charged footsteps of his fellow Republican gubernatorial candidates, Tom Osborne and Dave Nabity. In the quest for votes, I fear the lengths these characters will go to out-do one another in promising the largest tax cuts may well prove unfathomable.

Despite Nebraska's looming budget shortfall, the time may well have come for reasonable, targeted tax cuts benefitting working families and small business owners. But these must always be balanced with our obligations to the less fortunate and the future vitality of our state.

I sincerely hope that Heineman has kept these concerns in mind. I only wish I could be more confident that such hope is not misplaced.

We'll know more about the type of man Heineman is and the type of battle that lies before us in a matter of hours. Cross your fingers, folks. This one could get ugly.

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Nebraska Education's Low Expectations

by Kyle Michaelis
I don't have time to write extensively on this issue right now, but the time will come when Nebraska will have to face the harsh reality of the rapidly diminishing quality of its public education, particularly outside of Omaha and Lincoln where good teachers are becoming a rare commodity and excellence has all but disappeared in favor of mediocrity (both mandated and by-default).

In some school districts, administrators are well on their way to turning our public schools into mini-Enrons - inflating numbers, fixing standards, and even going so far as to root-out educators who choose to teach rather than placating students, parents, and school board members who care more about passage rates than the quality of learning.

Yes, there is a lot more to be said on this subject, and it will be said in time - whether on this website or elsewhere in the state - because rural Nebraska is doomed if something isn't done about the cancer being embraced as the salvation of its schools, that of low expectations.

For one example of this catastrophe-in-the-making's early manifestation, check-out the following Omaha World-Herald report:
"The citizens of Nebraska have every reason to be proud of their local schools," said Fred Meyer, president of the State Board of Education.

But Nebraska's pride might be puffed up by locally created tests that are easier to pass.

Nebraska and Iowa, compared with some other states, use easier measures to assess school quality for President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. The federal law imposes sanctions on low-performing schools based on exams selected by state and local educators....

Less-challenging local tests may make it more likely that schools can meet new federal requirements, but educators say tougher standards would mean more student improvement in the long run.

A look at recent test results also shows that some Nebraska districts set much tougher standards than others....

• Gretna, Norfolk and South Sioux City, among other districts, reported near-total proficiency in some subjects and grades, based on their own assessments. Yet when their students took national standardized tests in the same subjects, many scored below the 50th percentile.

• Some districts had proficiency levels on their own tests that were nearly equal to the percentage of students who beat the national average on a standardized test. For others, there was as much as a 30 percentage-point gap between those two measures....

• On the federal reading test, just 34 percent of Nebraska fourth-graders were graded proficient or better. A total of 68 percent were deemed at least partially proficient. But on Nebraska's own tests, 85 percent were declared "proficient"....

Education Commissioner Doug Christensen said there are good explanations for some of the apparent discrepancies....

"You can trust the statewide results," he said.

But Christensen acknowledged that other states may have more ambitious goals than Nebraska.

Yes, ambitions like students being able to compete in the modern world, being able to read, write, compute, and - most importantly - think critically....no, we don't want any of those. So, we choose the easy path. We short-change our students to artificially maintain the federal cash flow. We tell ourselves everything is fine, with state officials offering their every reassurance that good enuf' is good enough for us.

Ahh, but we will pay for this. Even sadder, our children will pay for it - for the rest of their lives - because we have failed to invest in them, failed to invest in this state's future, and failed to believe that we can and should do better.

Though teachers should be paid more in Nebraska, money is not the answer. We can no more spend our way out of this problem than we can test out of it. If I might be so bold, what our schools need is a renewed purpose in a system emboldening them (and perhaps forcing them) to expect more than students simply showing up.

Something must be done. Soon. Very soon. Each year we wait, it will become more difficult to restore our schools' integrity and avert the crisis it portends.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ben Nelson's Iron Curtain

by Kyle Michaelis
Immigration reform is clearly going to be a focus of the 2006 Congress, not to mention the 2006 elections. With President Bush having lost the people's trust in Iraq and unwilling to tackle (or even admit to) the nation's health care crisis, this seems the lone issue on which Republicans think they can really capture the public's support because people recognize the problem and want a solution.

The problem is that many of these proposals, including the most recent by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, too closely resemble a "final solution" that fundamentally betray the American character and our national heritage.

Quite simply, I am appalled by Nelson's contribution to this important debate. His "Border Security Act of 2005", co-sponsored by Republican Senators "Crazy" Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is so extremist in its call for a police-state along the southern border that it sickens and dismays me as an American and a Nelson supporter.

The "key elements" of this bill include:
Southwest border Security: Provides for the construction of a border fence from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, employs additional border patrol agents, and coordinates aerial surveillance with the Department of Defense.

Federal, State, Local Law Enforcement: Provides federal enforcement resources in the form of additional personnel and equipment to support border security, establishes a new Assistant Attorney General position within the U.S. Department of Justice and adds more U.S. attorneys and immigration judges, provides for additional worksite investigators, and increases the number of detention facilities by nearly 50%. Clarifies that state and local law enforcement officers have the authority to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law, and requires that aliens who don’t show up for their immigration hearings or who are under final orders of removal are listed in the National Crime Information System database, making it easier for state and local law enforcement officers to locate them.

Penalties and Enforcement: Increases penalties for illegal aliens who willfully fail to depart from the United States and for illegal aliens who make fraudulent statements on identification documents. Makes alien criminal gang members inadmissible and deportable.

Honestly, most of these are reasonable and probably necessary changes. But the proposed border fence (described in the Omaha World-Herald as "two parallel fences with a road corridor to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border") is so abhorrent an idea that it renders the entire plan objectionable, if not outright despicable.

While I appreciate Nelson's pragmatic choice to secure the border before addressing the larger issues of immigration reform (such as enforcement on employers and the handling of illegal immigrants already in the country), this plan's raw extremism clearly demonstrates the danger of not taking a more comprehensive approach. It reaches far beyond the limits of conscience in true draconian fashion, foolishly seeking to wipe-out a "problem" comprised of human beings seeking a better life. As such, they (and we, as a country) deserve more humane, multi-faceted, and dare I say American legislation.

For more on the still-developing immigration issue, including the perspectives of those seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Nelson in 2006, read this World-Herald article. Though unclear from the article, it appears Nelson's uncharacteristic bit of fanaticism - his iron curtain - would be rivaled only by Don Stenberg, from whom such a radically bad idea would be far more expected.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Fortenberry's Folly Hurts Small Town

by Kyle Michaelis
The people of tiny Cordova, Nebraska - population 150 - are none too happy that the long-awaited pavement of the dirt road connecting it to Insterstate 80 was dropped from the monstrous federal transportation bill by Congressional Republicans ... apparently without even a whimper from their elected representative, Jeff Fortenberry.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry noticed the muddy and slippery conditions of Cordova Road as he made his way 30 minutes behind schedule to this small village for a meeting.

“I got a taste of it,” he told the more than 50 people who gathered in Cordova Thursday to discuss the 5.5-mile stretch of gravel road that links the town to Interstate 80.

Cordova Road was on track last year to be paved but was the only Nebraska project of more than 20 left off a federal transportation bill passed earlier this year. Local leaders weren’t aware the project had been abandoned and called Fortenberry to their town of 150 for answers.

“I think the biggest question everyone here has on their mind is why were we singled out?” Cordova Mayor Delayne Eberspacher asked Fortenberry during the midday meeting. “Sure, there were budget issues, I know, but nine new projects totaling $25 million and our measly $1.5 million project gets left off?”

Fortenberry said he didn’t consider $1.5 million “measly,” and the Cordova Road project wasn’t given to him as a high priority. Former Rep. Doug Bereuter, whom Fortenberry succeeded for Nebraska’s 1st District House seat this year, had earmarked the road near his hometown of Utica for paving while he was still in office.

“It was a personal decision of Bereuter to work on this project for you,” Fortenberry said. “It was his prerogative to help you and that’s fine. But he controlled more money than me; that came with the tenure. It’s not that you were left off any list, just that the process started over when I got the projects.”

Cordova, about 45 miles from Lincoln, is the only town on the I-80 corridor with a gravel road leading to the interstate....

“I don’t think it was some pet project for Doug Bereuter,” Eberspacher said after the meeting. “It’s a culmination of years and years of work to get this road paved. Years. It still just feels like we got the rug pulled from under us.

I'm sure being a Congressman with a young family is very difficult - does anyone else think Fortenberry might just be in over his head?

First, he shows up 30 minutes late to a meeting attended by more than 1/3 of the town, without having made any contact whatsoever with Cordova officials when the funds they were counting on were dropped without explanation or notification. Then, rather than taking responsibility for the slight, Fortenberry tried to portray this as a low-priority pet project of Bereuter's - right to the faces of people who have pleaded for this and been passed over for years.

Fortenberry can make all the excuses he wants but none can justify such blatant and insulting disregard for his own constituents. For all Fortenberry's talk of Bereuter's lost seniority, something far greater has been lost to voters in the first district, with the citizens of Cordova some of the first (though certainly not the last) to pay the price.

Bereuter knew how to say "NO" to his fellow Republicans when a vote didn't serve the interests of Nebraska's first district. Though far from a true independent, he was, at least, more than a rubber stamp.

Fortenberry, on the other hand, has shown neither the aptitude, the inclination, or even any aspiration to being more than a whipping boy for his party masters. His vote is a given, a non-concern, and - as such - he has no clout as his district receives no consideration. This is an instance of Fortenberry's putting party before people, plain and simple.

By here being a good, loyal Republican lackey (daring to think that's really what anyone wants), Fortenberry forgot the voters and betrayed their interests. Regardless of whether he would have ultimately voted for or against this notoriously bloated legislation, he had an obligation to consult with the people of Cordova about this project's being cut and perhaps to even make a stand on their behalf.

I mean, my lord, while $1.5 million is not chump change, Cordova is being perfectly reasonable wondering what the hell is going on here when this very legislation, which Fortenberry supported, dedicates more than $220 million to the infamous Alaskan "Bridge to Nowhere."

That project benefits a village of only 50 people (who supposedly don't support the bridge themselves) in a state that has only one vote in the House of Representatives. Cordova has three times the people in a state that should have three times the clout and would if its representatives had the backbone to do what is right by their own voters.

Alas, Nebraska's all-Republican delegation is not called "the Timid Trio" for nothing. For his total failure to lead and willingness to follow, Fortenberry might just qualify as the perfect embodiment of their every principle (or lack thereof).

Not wanting to offend fellow members Lee Terry and Tom Osborne, however, I'll simply declare him first amongst equals.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Term Limits Head to the Courts

by Kyle Michaelis
It's official. Nebraska's legislative term limits have been challenged. To the courts we go....

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
Three state senators and a group of voters filed a lawsuit with the Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday challenging the constitutionality of term limits on lawmakers approved by voters.

Sens. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, Dennis Byars of Beatrice and Marian Price of Lincoln were joined by six voters in the action.

They allege that term limits violate their First Amendment free speech and association rights and 14th Amendment equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

They petitioned to bypass the lower courts and file their case directly with the high court. It was not known when the high court would rule on the request....

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the voters by Lincoln attorney Alan Peterson, who does not represent the senators.

The lawsuit attacks the very language of the constitutional amendment, which says lawmakers shall not be “eligible to serve” after two terms.

The amendment goes on to define a term as “service in office for more than one-half of a term.”

“If the wording of the Nebraska constitutional term limits ... is in fact literally applied, then already some 20 Nebraska state senators have been serving for almost a year while ineligible,” Peterson wrote. “At midterm plus one day or so of the service by senators elected in 2004 — in other words, in the first week of January 2007 — many additional senators will reach ineligibility.

“Senators Byars and Price are right now vulnerable to disqualification as they are beyond the middle of their second term,” he said. “They appear to be ineligible even to finish out their present four-year terms.”

Well, this last week, I've said just about all I'm going to on this issue...here, here, and most importantly HERE (with a little help from my "friends"). After all that, it may be a good long while before I again type the words "term" and "limits" in close proximity.

Not that I don't enjoy a lively discussion (I did, very much so), but - pardon my mixed metaphor - once the horse is no longer kicking, it's time to tap-out.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out, especially with the clock ticking as we come so close to the registration deadline and primary. Pity this challenge wasn't begun a year ago that the courts might have considered the case without the added pressure of these fast-approaching elections. Regardless of how the courts ultimately decide, I couldn't blame them in the slightest if they washed their hands of the 2006 election, erring on the side of the state constitution as written to the detriment of the challenging incumbents.

Senators Byars and Price have undoubtedly thrown a bit of chaos into the electoral mix and, right now, I don't know quite what to expect - particularly with the off-chance that other previously-thought term-limited Senators might be rethinking their not-so-voluntary retirement from public life. But, I've had my fill of speculation on the matter (for the moment), though I wouldn't at all mind reading a few more opinions of fellow Nebraskans on the matter.

Post here. Join the debate linked above. Write a letter to the editor. Whatever - both sides are going to claim "the will of the people" on this one (legitimately, might I add). I'd prefer to hear your voice for myself.

Are you outraged at these Senators' audacity? Is it about damn time someone made this challenge? Do you even really care?

Talk hard.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Follow-up on Fortenberry's Filthy $4000

by Kyle Michaelis
Consider this one small step (a very small one, but a step nonetheless) for decency in Nebraska politics.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska said Wednesday that he would donate to charity the $4,000 his campaign received last year from disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California.

Fortenberry said he would give the money to the People's City Mission in Lincoln.

He made the announcement after Nebraska Democrats called for him to give up the "dirty dollars"....

"To help restore confidence in the institution of Congress, (Fortenberry) believes it is the right thing to do to donate the money," said Paul Webster, his chief of staff....

Cunningham resigned from Congress this week after admitting that he had accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. He now faces jail time.

Democrats said the Cunningham scandal was an example of corruption within the Republican ranks.

"These campaign contributions are yet another chain linking Fortenberry to the culture of corruption in the Republican Party," said Steve Achelpohl, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

If you look at the timeline, my own post calling for Fortenberry to donate this money wasn't even written until after he'd announced he would heed the Democratic Party's call. It hadn't been reported in the media yet, though, so I am happy to stand by my words on principle.

Moreover, their relevancy remains because, as Achelpohl of the NDP states, this issue is larger than a single contribution and a single act of Republican corruption.

In fact, the despicable Cunningham is not even the only connection Fortenberry has to those involved in this appalling bribery scandal. Those who stand accused of doing the bribing have also given a combined $85,000 to Tom DeLay's PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee - both from which Fortenberry has seen significant benefits of his own.

The $20,000 Fortenberry continues to sit-on from the indicted DeLay is especially troubling, demonstrating the fight to exorcise this corrupt influence has only just begun.

An anonymous response to my previous post on this matter suggests that I need to get information from more than Democratic Party press releases. I assure readers I've done my own research on this, with due thanks to the Center for Responsive Politics and their magnificent website.

With the Nebraska media so complacent and unquestioning, however, I'll admit Fortenberry's connection to Cunningham would likely have gone unnoticed without the Democratic Party's involvement. Thanks, again, to them (1) for doing their part to redeem this dirty money to the benefit of the People's City Mission and (2) for helping set a precedent that will hopefully see Fortenberry and others (don't think I've forgotten about you, Lee Terry) do the right thing with DeLay's dirty money as well.

Of course, some cancers can't be cured, and they say the same of addiction. The insatiable hunger for cash to fill campaign coffers likely qualifies as both and seems to hold the entire Republican Party in its grasp. Of course, corruption is not so confined to a single party - but its proven prevelance therein makes for one hell of a good place to start rooting it out.

And what better time than November 2006?

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