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Sasse hires big GOP media gun

By   /   October 18, 2013  /   7 Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

Updated 2:10 p.m. Friday

LINCOLN — The fundraising frontrunner in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race, Ben Sasse, has hired well-known media consultant Fred Davis, who’s known for creating unorthodox TV ads such as Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch…  I’m you” and another depicting Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s opponent as a demon sheep.

HE MAKES IT HAPPEN: Republican media guru Fred Davis

Davis also helped little-known Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer beat out two household names last year with an onslaught of devastating TV ads urging Nebraskans to elect “anybody but (Jon) Bruning” the weekend before the GOP primary. She went on to win the U.S. Senate seat.

On his website, Davis says he was retained about a week before the primary and created the ads “generally credited with pushing Deb Fischer to victory.” The ads were paid for by the Ending Spending PAC, funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

Last year, Davis and the PAC took considerable heat when the New York Times reported they were considering an ad campaign that would’ve gone after Barack Obama for inflammatory comments made by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Sasse’s recently released campaign finance report shows he has paid Davis and his firm, Strategic Perception, nearly $9,000 in consulting fees.

Davis also worked for failed Republican presidential contender former Ambassador Jon Huntsman and produced the TV spot featuring Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world,” comparing him to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

“Fred has a great creative talent for delivering messages and we’re looking forward to having him on the team fighting against Obamacare,” said Tyler Grassmeyer, Sasse’s campaign manager. “We’ll be offering some creative messages on bringing Nebraska conservative common sense to the Washington gridlock.”

The candidates’ campaign finance reports tell us more than who’s winning the fundraising war; they tell us where each candidate is getting money and support. Here are some other interesting nuggets we found in the reports:

Brianna Soukup for Nebraska Watchdog

BIG BUCKS: The president of Midland University in Fremont, Ben Sasse, raised the most money in the last quarterly campaign report to the FEC.

Benjamin Sasse

About half of Sasse’s $815,103 in donations this quarter came from Nebraskans.

Sasse, former assistant secretary of health in the President George W. Bush administration, is perhaps the most vocal anti-Obamacare candidate out there, and that surely helped bring in about $50,000 in donations from people in the health care field, including:

  • $1,250 from Mutual of Omaha insurance executives.
  • $2,600 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska CEO Steve Martin.
  • $500 from the Medical Device Manufacturers Association President Mark Leahey.
  • $1,000 from the Masimo PAC; Masimo deals in medical supplies manufacturing and sales.
  • $500 from an executive at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
  • $1,000 from EHealth PAC, which represents insurance companies.
  • $6,100 from executives at New Enterprise Associates, a global venture capital firm investing in technology and health care.
  • $2,300 from executives of Leavitt Partners, a health care consulting company formed by former HHS secretary Mike Leavitt. The group is tracking Obamacare insurance exchanges.
  • $5,200 from Covidien, which manufactures health care supplies and products.
  • $1,000 from an executive of Samofi, a French multinational pharmaceutical company.

Among Sasse’s other donations:

  • $2,600 from software developer Scott Baird, the husband of Lincoln Democratic Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird.
  • $500 from George Washington University President Stephen Trachtenberg, whom the National Journal “credited” with helping set off a tuition arms race.
  • $1,000 from S. Lawrence Kocot, deputy director of the Engelberg Center for Healthcare Reform at the Brookings Institution.
  • $5,200 from former Intel CEO Craig Barrett.
  • Seven donations totaling about $24,000 from various employees of McKinsey & Co., the world’s biggest consulting firm where Sasse previously worked.

Sasse also received a number of donations from cattle companies and feedlot owners, and loaned his campaign $20,000.


OSBORN: Former State Treasurer Shane Osborn brought in the second biggest haul this quarter.

Shane Osborn

Osborn’s campaign said 30 percent of his $336,544 in donations in the most recent quarter came from Nebraskans.

His campaign war chest includes donations from people who work at consulting firms, investment companies, property management companies, investment banks and government relations firms. Those are likely related to his past job as state treasurer and current job in financial services.

“Through Shane’s work in the financial services industry he has built a solid record of prudent financial management, something sorely missing in the U.S Senate,” said his campaign manager, Bill Novotny.

He is particularly popular with JP Morgan employees: 18 of their managers and bankers donated a combined $19,000 to Osborn. In addition, the JP Morgan Chase and Co. federal PAC donated another $5,000.

Among his out-of-state donors is $5,000 from Katharine Armstrong, the Texas woman whose family ranch is a popular destination for pilgrimages by prominent Republicans. In fact, she’s the woman who called her local newspaper to report Vice President Dick Cheney had shot a man on the ranch.

Novotny said Osborn knows Armstrong because her son, Karson, is a friend of Osborn’s. Osborn helped him find a job in the financial services industry after he left the armed services.

“Shane’s commitment to finding military veterans careers is well-documented and we are pleased to have Mrs. Armstrong’s support,” Novotny said.

Other donations of note:

  • $2,600 from Google Vice President Lee Carosi.
  • $1,000 from former US ambassador to Belgium Stephen Brauer.
  • $2,600 from Google VP Lee Carosi, former general counsel to U.S. Sen. John McCain.
  • $10,400 from the CEO and his wife of Evertson Co., the largest oil producer in Nebraska.
  • $500 from an Exxon manager.
  • $1,000 from Goldman Sachs Vice President Joseph Wall.
  • $500 from the American Gas Association.
  • $1,000 from Areva Inc PAC, which represents the nuclear industry.
  • $5,000 from United Parcel Service PAC.
  • $3,000 from Osborn to himself.

Bart McLeay


ALL IN: Bart McLeay announcing his candidacy in Omaha.

The McLeay campaign said 82 percent of its total $303,117 raised this quarter came from Nebraska donors.

The Omaha lawyer’s coworkers must really believe in his candidacy, because about two dozen Kutak Rock lawyers and spouses donated a combined $12,350 to his campaign, plus $5,000 from the firm’s PAC.

He’s also getting a lot of financial support from his family. Nine McLeays have donated nearly $35,000. McLeay also loaned his campaign $52,000.

Other donations of note include $10,400 from a ConAgra executive and his spouse.

The fourth candidate, Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale, got in the race too late to have to file a report. His first report is due in January. All four are Republicans; no Democrats have joined the race yet.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified a donation to the Osborn campaign as originating from the Nebraska Soldiers Foundation, which Osborn helped form. The donation came from Osborn, who was listed as an executive of the foundation.

Contact Deena Winter at [email protected].

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Graham Spanier

    Ben Sasse still needs to overcome the fact that he hired a sexual predator and conducted his own investigation and allowed his friend Jason Dannelly to destroy evidence before the police ever found out.

  • Retired Doc

    Whores, all of them – from both parties. None of them fight for this state and all they care about is getting re-elected and lining their own pockets.
    No thank you.

  • Biff Pocoroba

    Do tell…more detail, please.

  • chuck drew

    No question, Davis is a master slimeball, BS slinging, PROPAGANDIST that Nebraska brain dead sheep should lap up, hook, line & sinker! Err stinker!! The guy could even make that POS, D Cheney look like an altarboy!!

  • chuck drew

    Yes save us the google search & do tell us more!!

  • George Jefferson

    Fred Davis looks like a nun.

  • Ricky Fulton

    Is this guy still sticking to Obamacare will ruin America? That ship has sailed get a new line Sasse. Try getting a jobs plan together.