No Going Backby Kyle Michaelis
- - - - - - - -
The Secret About Pete Ricketts' Sister (originally published 7/24/06, with minor alteration for clarity's sake)
I feel pretty damn slimy even writing about a political candidate's family. It's beneath my dignity and beneath the purposes I imagine for this site. But, as a writer, sometimes you don't choose the issues - particularly dealing with news that readers and the voting public are likely to find important, even if they shouldn't. Alas, it's not up to a reporter (or whatever the hell I am) to make those sorts of decisions.
What is the secret about Pete Ricketts' sister? Why is it relevant to his challenge against Sen. Ben Nelson? One reason and one reason alone: all the damn hypocrisy.
For months, we have listened to Ricketts' cookie-cutter, pre-manufactured message of so-called "Conservative change and Nebraska values," showing no respect at all for the diversity of thought and lifestyle existing within our own communities and, yes, within our own families.
But, what does it say about Ricketts - what does it say about his values - that he would exploit the hardship of a minority for political gain? What does it say that he would betray his own sister - who's a member of that minority - for such cynical purposes?
Doesn't Ricketts believe that family is one of those "Nebraska values" he talks so much about? Doesn't Ricketts believe one has a duty to love and support family rather than offering a message of intolerance that would see your own sister made a second-class citizen?
Because, make no mistake about it, that's exactly the divisive politics Ricketts has been practicing. In his homogenized vision of Nebraska, there doesn't seem to be room for anyone who's different. People like that are all expected to move elsewhere to find acceptance, as his sister has - hidden from view so big brother can hoot and holler with unthinking conservative war cries to which she might prove an embarrassing reminder of how low his campaign has sunk.
That's probably what's saddest about this situation - up to now, Ricketts has decided it better not to talk about his sister. Rather than speaking of her with love and acceptance, he seems to have considered her a liability whose name and status hopefully wouldn't come up during the campaign. For a man who's otherwise used his family - particularly his mother - as a key component of a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign, that seems like a very telling choice as to his ultimate character.
If there was a real question of respecting the privacy of Ricketts' sister, that would be one thing. But, from the looks of it, she's not the one ashamed of who she is. In fact, a simple Google search reveals that she's pretty damn open about it, making Ricketts' decision to avoid the issue stupid on top of its being self-serving and insulting.
Yes, you guessed it. Pete Ricketts' sister - Laura Ricketts - is a lawyer. The L Word. The second oldest profession. At endless campaign stops, even in his advertisements, Pete has bragged that he's not a lawyer, preying on voters' biases and denigrating an entire class of people as if they were unfit for public service. Now, it's been revealed he was even disrespecting a member of his own family.
Holding a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago (Pete's alma mater, as well) and a law degree from the University of Michigan, it's unclear whether Laura Ricketts is currently practicing or whether she has a partner, but the website of Ecotravel, a company she started with a different Ricketts brother, makes quite plain that she "practiced corporate law in Chicago."
And, not only has Ricketts practiced - she seems to be quite prominent in the Chicago legal community, even serving on the Board of Directors of a nationally known and widely-respected civil rights organization. She's also proven quite willing to put her money where her mouth is, supporting organizations in Illinois that would no doubt disapprove and wage war against her brother's message of soft bigotry here in Nebraska.
To think, Laura Ricketts has contributed more than $4,000 to her brother's campaign, only to see herself and the community of which she is a part insulted and demeaned in service to political soundbytes. Having donated money to Sen. John Kerry and the Democratic Party in 2004, it's sort of ironic that two years later she's helped fund her brother's advertisements holding Kerry out as one of those evil Democrats who might take-over with a pinko agenda if Ben Nelson isn't defeated this November.
After all, when Pete Ricketts talks about liberal, activist courts - when he talks about rewriting the U.S. Constitution to defend marriage from imagined assaults by armies of lawyers - he's not speaking in a theoretical vacuum. What he says affects real people and contributes to a true climate of intolerance, exploiting one group's fears and another's aspirations for cheap political gain.
I think it's time Laura Ricketts get back in the company of those who will actually accept her and defend her rights to be who she is - as a human being, the way God made her. Black or white. Lawyer or not.
We are all family. If her brother doesn't respect that, that's his loss. Nebraska values, indeed.