Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pete Ricketts Approaches $10 MILLION Milestone

by Kyle Michaelis
Talk about being a "Reagan Republican."

To be honest, I couldn't quite believe my own calculations when I wrote almost 6 weeks ago that Pete Ricketts would end up spending $12 million of his own money in his campaign against incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson. Yet, as ridiculous as that idea remains, it appears closer and closer to becoming a reality with word that Ricketts has dumped another $2.5 million of his billionaire father's Ameritrade fortune into his well-funded but still-floundering campaign.

This pushes Ricketts' personal spending in the primary and general elections right up to the $10 million mark, making his reaching $12 million all but inevitable. In fact, such previously unheard of and unfathomable spending in Nebraska politics could even prove an underestimation with well more than 6 weeks remaining before Election Day.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
Pete Ricketts has plugged another $2.5 million of his own money into his Senate campaign, bringing his total personal contributions near the $10 million mark.

With the Republican nominee’s new infusion of funding, Nebraska appeared headed toward a record-busting Senate contest with total expenditures approaching $20 million....

“Clearly, this is a sign (Ricketts) does not have a broad base of support across the state,” Nelson campaign spokeswoman Marcia Cady said Wednesday night.

“He’s unable to raise money. The only support he has is his checkbook,” Cady said....

Ricketts’ new commitment of personal funds comes during the week White House political guru Karl Rove is due in Nebraska to campaign on his behalf. Rove is scheduled to address a $100-a ticket reception and a $500-per-plate dinner for Ricketts in Omaha on Friday evening.

Ricketts spends $10 million and, for that, not only have voters been subjected to 10 months worth of endlessly grating campaign ads but, now, Nebraskans must suffer Karl Rove polluting our state with his poisonous, win-at-any-cost approach to politics.

One can only imagine what depraved campaign tactics Rove's cursory appearance will inspire on the part of Ricketts campaign manager and Rove devotee Jessica Moenning, who will no doubt be looking to impress. This race is her opportunity to shine, and if Rove is taking an interest it seems safe to assume there's plenty of ugliness yet to come. In some recent comments, this site has already seen a few hints of what Ricketts' supporters are capable of and just how far beyond the bounds of decency they are willing to go.

Those same people will ask what possible relevance Ricketts' spending the family fortune on his campaign could have. They need only look at their own actions - and the level of discourse we have seen this summer - for the answer. All this money has had an undoubted corrupting influence that has alienated Nebraska's voters while cheapening our democracy. In so many ways, Ricketts' attempt to buy a Senate seat has resulted in his selling-out the state he supposedly wants to serve. We've seen a disturbing cycle of escalation in the candidates' attacks ever since Ricketts' slick but insulting campaign ads first surfaced early this summer. How sad to see that such great financial power would not be backed-up by at least some measure of civic responsibility and democratic concern that could have prevented such a degrading situation.

Of course, the Nelson campaign has played along with Ricketts, keeping pace and rarely missing a beat in the back-and-forth so as not to be caught-off-guard. At least, Nelson did have the decency to offer an eight-week cease fire in the candidates' first debate but Ricketts summarily rejected that offer because he'd be giving up the bread & butter of his scorched-earth, $10 million-and-counting campaign.

As reported, "the Ricketts effect" has the potential to push total expenditures in this race above $20 million. The previous high for a Nebraska Senate race was the $7 million spent in Bob Kerrey's 1988 defeat of David Karnes. On the other hand, Nelson's race with Don Stenberg in 2000, which proved more of a nail-biter than this one shows any signs of being, was fought on a shoestring budget of only $4.5 million by the two campaigns.

So, behold what Wall Street Pete Ricketts has wrought on Nebraska politics with his free-spending ways, totally devoid of accountability to anything but his trust fund - at least until voters have their say in November. One hopes this particular Pandora's Box has not been loosed to hold sway and run havok over Nebraska politics from here on out, but time alone will tell that tale.

Until then, enjoy the show. There are 47 days remaining.


PS- It's worth noting that in the vaguely comparable but more competitive race in Arizona between wealthy Democratic challenger Jim Pederson and Sen. Jon Kyl (a native of Oakland, NE), the National Republican Senatorial Committee has made a very big deal of Pederson's political spending and his partially self-funded campaign. They have devoted an entire website (with animation) to attacking him on these grounds, although he's done little but contribute from his personal fortune to the candidates and causes in which he believes, including his own. These attacks are entirely undermined by the NRSC's tepid but real support of Republican Pete Ricketts, who's proven far more reliant on self-funding than Pederson, contributing almost as much to his own campaign in the last 10 months as Pederson has in 15 years of involvement in Democratic politics. Needless to say, the Arizona market is also much more expensive and has a much greater population than Nebraska, putting the ridiculousness of Ricketts' insane expenditures, not to mention the NRSC's hypocrisy, into full display.


Anonymous Daily Bulldung said...

The fact that there's a Democrat somewhere that's spending a lot of his own money makes YOU the hypocrite, not the NRSC. Don't you know that, hippy?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

But I didn't defend Pederson, and I haven't attacked Ricketts. I think these ridiculous levels of spending have had a terrible effect on Nebraska's political climate, but Ricketts is certainly within his rights to spend daddy's money as he chooses.

Of course, I might question whether all this money couldn't have been better spent. If I were Ricketts, I would also be worried by the fact that so few contributors are willing to invest in his campaign. That's generally a sign that voters don't believe in his candidacy or his message. . . assuming he had one.

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know if you meant to call yourself "Daily Bulldung" but it is certainly a more appropriate name - and a more apt description of your comments. you should consider keeping it.

Anonymous Daily Bulldung said...

I guess my parody of the 'Dogger was a bit too accurate. I was trying to sound as kooky as possible.


Anonymous Peregrin said...

I'm reminded of the movie "Brewster's Millions." Why on earth would this guy spend millions of his own money, unless he was planning on stealing it all back once in office?

And that's the less cynical perspective.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sick and tired of all the "Crap Attack" commercials that Ricketts is airing on the television these days. It is apparent that he does not have a snowball's chance in HELL of winning, so he feels the need to revert to these tactics.


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