Billionaire Ricketts Family BUYS the Nebraska Republican Partyby Kyle Michaelis
FEC Report: STENBERG FOR SENATE 2006 COMMITTEE
RICKETTS, J JOE 06/30/2006 $2100.00
RICKETTS, J PETER 06/09/2006 $2100.00
RICKETTS, MARLENE 06/30/2006 $2100.00
Charity is, of course, a virtue. But, this is just plain ridiculous. At the same time Pete Ricketts was purchasing his first attack ads against Ben Nelson, he was already paying off the campaign debt of the man he'd just beat in the primary - Don Stenberg - making the maximum contribution permissible under the law and getting some of his family to do the same. Pete then followed a similar course in Nebraska's Third Congressional District, handing out checks for $2100 like they were candy for Trick-or-Treaters to all three of the candidates who'd been running for the Republican nomination, though only the unqualified Adrian Smith was advancing to the general election.
But, that's nothing. For a display of the truly obscene wealth of the Ricketts family and just how willing they've been to purchase power and influence, you have to look at how much money they've given directly to the Nebraska Republican Party.
FEC Report: NEBRASKA REPUBLICAN PARTY
RICKETTS, JOHN JOE 07/07/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, JAMES A 09/17/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, CECELIA 09/08/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, KATHLEEN 09/17/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, LINDA 07/18/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, MARLENE 07/07/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, RICHARD 07/18/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, THOMAS 09/08/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, TODD 10/10/2006 $10,000.00
RICKETTS, J. PETER 07/06/2005 $2,500.00
RICKETTS, J. PETER 05/18/2005 $1,500.00
I can't say for certain, but I think the Ricketts family might now own the Nebraska Republican Party. In fact, the (R) next to Republican names on the ballot might just as well stand for (R)icketts for all the money the family flooded their campaigns with this election year.
Keep in mind that every penny you see above is in addition to the unfathomable, whopping, record-shattering $12 million Pete Ricketts put into his own Senate campaign - with every name above (and plenty of others in the clan) maxing out their personal contributions there as well ($2,100 in primary + $2,100 in general).
And, thousands upon thousands of dollars from the Ricketts family has also been distributed to the individual campaigns of Republican candidates across the state. In short, it's been an ungodly free-for-all.
Where the hell has the media been in reporting this take-over? To my knowledge, there's never been anything like it in Nebraska politics. In fact, since the days of the old-time political machines, I wonder if one family has exerted this kind of domination over a statewide political party anywhere in the country.
What's saddest about the situation is that all these millions of dollars stand poised to accomplish so little. All the money poured into Pete's campaign simply fueled one of the most negative and probably most annoying Senate races in the country. And, even worse, it's becoming clear - even outside the half-a-million dollars being spent to destroy Scott Kleeb - that the Ricketts family's endless cash flow has had a similarly corrupting influence on the entire Nebraska Republican Party, which is using its newfound riches to pollute the nonpartisan legislative races with the same type of negative attacks.
The Omaha World-Herald reports:
A political flier mailed in Omaha accused Democratic legislative candidate Steve Lathrop, an attorney, of having "worked hard to put criminals back on the street."
The mailing, which featured a sinister-looking man in dark silhouette, criticized Lathrop for representing two men who had assaulted an 81-year-old woman.
What the hard-hitting piece didn't say is that a judge appointed Lathrop to represent the men 20 years ago.
"I was appalled," Lathrop said, calling the mailing an "attack on my character."
The Nebraska Republican Party paid for the advertisement. The party has sent out a flurry of pieces critical of Democratic candidates in four legislative races in Omaha, Lincoln and southeast Nebraska....
The four Democratic targets of mailings criticized the Republican Party for getting directly involved in races for what are officially nonpartisan offices.
"My feeling is it's a dangerous road to go down. When the parties get this involved in legislative races and the Unicameral becomes a partisan place, we may have difficulty maintaining a one-house system," said Lathrop....
Tiffiny Carlton, executive director of the Nebraska GOP, defended the mailings and the party's active involvement in the races.
She said the Nebraska Democratic Party also gets involved in legislative races, although she did not have an example of Democrats sending out negative fliers in legislative races this year.
As for the Lathrop flier, Carlton said, it did not matter that Lathrop was appointed by a judge to represent the men.
"There's lots of attorneys that don't get appointed to criminal cases. You have to do something to put yourself in position to get appointed," she said.
Barry Rubin, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said the mailings were a sign that Democrats recruited strong candidates this year and that the GOP fears losing some seats in the Legislature.
"Their candidates are weak, so they have to resort to nasty, misleading attacks to make up for a deficiency of ideas," Rubin said.
Besides the fact that Carlton's justification of the Lathrop flyer is one of the most ignorant statements I've ever read about the American justice system ("You have to do something to put yourself in position to get appointed"), what we really see in this article is the Ricketts effect on the Nebraska GOP.
They've always been willing to run cheap and misleading attacks, but this year Nebraska Republicans have had the means to do so more irresponsibly than ever before. The Ricketts family has empowered them - indulging their worst and most ugly instincts, hopefully to the point that the already alienated public rejects this whole cursed marriage of Ricketts' fortune to the Republicans' fate.
Ricketts, Smith, and all the legislative candidates seeking to reap reward from this pathetic strategy have earned the scorn and the rejection of Nebraska's voters. On Election Day, such would be a fitting end to what will certainly be remembered as an evil era.