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Punches flying in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race

By   /   May 6, 2014  /   No Comments

Brianna Soukup for Nebraska Watchdog

FINAL WEEK: Fireworks are flying as the top four Republican candidates enter the final week before the May 13 primary election to fill Mike Johanns’ seat in the U.S. Senate.

 
Updated Tuesday 2:23 p.m.
By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — Fireworks are exploding, attack ads are clogging the airwaves and candidates are inescapable as Nebraska enters the final week of campaigning before the May 13 election.

The U.S. Senate race really is heating up, with Washington, D.C., publications zeroing in and outside groups bashing and boosting candidates with ads and media releases.

Here’s a roundup of the latest news from the campaign trail:

Sasse spoke to groups that support Obamacare

The Hill reported Friday that U.S. Senate race frontrunner Ben Sasse, who has made bashing Obamacare the centerpiece of his campaign, made six figures speaking before health care groups that supported the Affordable Care Act.

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Ben Sasse

Sasse, former assistant secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, is considered a health care expert and his many speeches, writings and work in the field have been picked apart by his opponents.

The Washington, D.C., political website reported that Sasse earned $114,000 giving speeches on health care policy to eight pro-Obamacare health associations in 2012-2013, including the Arkansas Hospital Association, Baylor Health and the Texas Hospital Association.

Sasse’s campaign told The Hill his speeches were all critical of the law, “and no transcripts or recordings have surfaced to suggest otherwise.”

Osborn accused of exaggerating resume

On Monday, it was Senate candidate Shane Osborn’s turn to take a punch from The Hill, which accused him of exaggerating his duties when he was Nebraska’s state treasurer from 2007 to 2011.

The Hill reported that Osborn’s campaign website claims as treasurer he managed $9 billion in transactions and $16 billion in pension investments, but the state’s annual financial report and a former Democratic state treasurer say otherwise.

Shane Osborn

Shane Osborn

While the treasurer is the custodian of all state funds, the state’s investments are overseen by the Nebraska Investment Council, on which the state treasurer is an ex-officio, or non-voting, member.

The Club for Growth PAC on Tuesday called for Osborn to explain the discrepancy, noting that Osborn has made similar claims about his resume elsewhere, including the website of his former company, Princeton Advisory Group, where his biography says he oversaw $17.5 billion in pension investments as state treasurer.

“Shane Osborn says he’s running on his record as treasurer, but now it turns out he has been exaggerating his resume all along,” said Barney Keller, Club for Growth spokesman. “Shane Osborn should say whether or not he misled clients of Princeton Advisory Group into thinking he was something he’s not.”

Asked for comment, Osborn’s campaign manager, Bill Novotny, reiterated his comment to the Hill, saying the state investment council oversees the state’s pension investments and Osborn helped protect taxpayer dollars and ensure a solid return on investments.

“It is telling Ben Sasse’s handlers in Washington, D.C., have grown so desperate that they are now co-opting attacks launched by Nebraska Democrats against the proven conservative in the race for U.S. Senate, Shane Osborn,” Novotny added.

The Hill report suggested its “revelation that Osborn may have exaggerated his duties as state treasurer could give fodder to detractors who have already attacked him as dishonest.”

60 Plus ad pulled

That was a reference to an attack ad by the 60 Plus Association critical of the Osborn campaign for circulating an official-looking memo defending his actions in 2001 when he was a Navy pilot and landed a spy plane on a Chinese island after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet, rather than ditch it, and his crew, in the ocean.

Osborn and 23-member crew were held captive for nearly two weeks. He was hailed as a hero after the international incident, and was elected state treasurer after leaving the military and returning to Nebraska.

The Osborn campaign said Tuesday that two Nebraska television stations, KETV and KLKN, have decided not to air the ad “after reviewing legal documents pertaining to the false and despicable attack.” They called it a “dishonest, shameful attack against Shane Osborn’s military service” and accused Sasse and his allies of being behind it.

Madison Project ad

The conservative Madison Project is airing a radio ad accusing Senate candidate Sid Dinsdale of being a “counterfeit conservative.”

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Sid Dinsdale

“Are you sick of politicians who run for office as conservatives, then vote with the liberal elites once they get to Washington? Well there is one Republican running for U.S. Senate who will do just that,” the Madison Act Fund ad says. “You see, liberal Republican Sid Dinsdale is trying to fool voters by claiming to be a conservative Republican, but unfortunately he’s more aligned with the liberal politicians in D.C.”

They claim Dinsdale supported giving Obama “another blank check to increase spending,” opposed conservatives attempts to defund Obamacare and donated to liberal Democrats running against Republicans.

The Omaha banker is running third among the four top Republicans, but polls indicate he’s surging as Sasse and Osborn beat each other up.

Dinsdale called the ad “appalling.”

“Washington, D.C., special interest groups continue to meddle in this election by spending incredible amounts of money trying to tell Nebraskans how to vote,” he said in a statement. “These groups are using lies to try and fool Nebraskans about who the true conservative is in this race. Their claims could not be further from the truth.”

He said he’s a life-long, pro-life conservative who’s voted for Republicans in every election, supported countless Republican candidates and has supported Republicans’ attempts to repeal and defund Obamacare.

“I’m not the candidate who said Obamacare was an important first step in health care and could be fixed,” he said in an obvious reference to a Sasse quote in a Fremont Tribune 2010 story that Sasse and the newspaper say was taken out of context.

“I will also fight to balance the federal budget and get our spending and debt under control,” Dinsdale said.

Sasse attacks coming
The Sasse campaign has been pushing supporters hard to vote early, and this is likely part of the reason why: A group called Freedom Pioneers Action Network is spending over $103,000 to oppose Sasse.

The Weekly Standard notes that the PAC’s treasurer is Justin Brasell of Jackson, Miss., a veteran GOP consultant who was Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager in 2008. McConnell’s allies have been working against Sasse ever since he was endorsed by his arch enemies at the Senate Conservatives Fund.

The Sasse campaign warned supporters in an email Sunday that they hear another large onslaught of attack ads are coming, “possibly up to a quarter-million dollars” worth of TV ads.

Omaha lawyer Bart McLeay is also in the Republican hunt for votes in the May 13 primary. The winner takes on Democrat David Domina in the November election.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.

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