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Johanns blasts outside groups doing ‘dirty work’ for campaigns

By   /   May 8, 2014  /   No Comments

Updated Thursday 1 p.m.
By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns won’t be endorsing anyone in the GOP battle for his seat, but did weigh in on the influx of outside groups’ nasty ads flooding the airwaves in Nebraska.

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns

“Some of the stuff you see on TV it’s like, ‘My goodness,’ ” he said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

Although Johanns didn’t name names while criticizing the ad wars, so far the campaign has included an ad — paid for by the 60 Plus Association, which endorsed Ben Sasse — where veterans criticize Shane Osborn’s distribution of an unauthorized Navy memo supporting his 2001 decision to land his spy plane in China rather than ditch it (and his crew) in the ocean.

The same group also has another ad hammering Dinsdale for saying in interviews that he would “always” vote to raise the debt limit.

Another ad paid for by a Tea Party group called Madison Project (which has also endorsed Sasse) calls Sid Dinsdale a counterfeit conservative. Yet another ad by the Freedom Pioneers Action Network (which has ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) questions Sasse’s anti-Obamacare stance and accuses him of hiding behind his children by using them in an ad.

Johanns said he never ran an ad that even mentioned an opponent because “I just never wanted to do it” and “it seemed to serve me pretty well over time.” He doesn’t draw a distinction between campaigns and outside groups that “do the dirty work” for them – candidates who get a group’s endorsement and then benefit from the negative ads they buy.

“It’s all part and parcel of the same campaign,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’ve sought the endorsement.”

He thinks Nebraskans are “extremely discerning” and know the massive investment of money by outside groups to defeat or support candidates is “not without consequence.”

“Of course those making the investment expect something in return,” he said. “It’s so obvious to every Nebraskan.”

Johanns said Nebraskans are “the most discerning voters in the United States of America” and will “sort this out.”

“They don’t need me to tell them which direction to go,” he said.

Former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, Midland University President Ben Sasse, Omaha attorney Bart McLeay and Pinnacle Bancorp President Sid Dinsdale are vying for the GOP nomination in Tuesday’s primary election. The winner takes on Democrat David Domina in November.

***

Speaking of dirty work, the Daily Caller published a story late Wednesday accusing former State Treasurer Shane Osborn of using taxpayer-funded workers and equipment to do political work.

It is against the law to use public resources for personal use or political activity.

The story details emails between Osborn and staffers while he was treasurer, from 2007 to 2011, about things such as giving gifts to donors and helping supporters with official state business.

Ben Sasse (left) and Shane Osborn (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Ben Sasse (left) and Shane Osborn (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Osborn’s camp denies they were political, since he didn’t run for re-election. But in a 2008 email, Osborn asks two aides to get copies of a Fox News TV segment to show potential donors.

One of those aides just so happens to be Trent Fellers, who is now a Lincoln city councilman. Another 2007 email shows Osborn told Fellers to monitor his campaign email account on a laptop.

“Asked about this, Osborn allies said Osborn was receiving official work email on his campaign account so he asked his executive assistant to routinely check the account for any official business that may come through,” the Caller reported.

When asked for a comment, the Osborn campaign seemed to lay blame for the story at the feet of the Sasse campaign, saying, “A few cherry-picked e-mails taken out of context and shopped by Sasse and his allies changes nothing and demonstrates one thing: they are growing increasingly desperate.”

***

Earlier this week, Dinsdale addressed the radio ads accusing him of being a counterfeit conservative.

.

Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale

On KLIN’s “Jack & Dave” show he called the allegation laughable, noting that he helped try to recall Omaha’s Democratic Mayor Jim Suttle and saying he’s donated to “hundreds” of Republicans and very few Democrats.

“When they’re in power and you’re in business sometimes you gotta do that,” he said on the show.

He estimated he’s given to Democrats three or four times in his life. Campaign finance records show he’s made the following donations to Democrats:

• $2,300 to Anthony Raimondo in 2008 to challenge U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns.
• $500 to Nancy Thompson in 2004 to challenge GOP Congressman Lee Terry.
• $500 to environmental advocate Peter Hoagland, who ran for Congress in 1990.

Pinnacle Bancorp (of which Dinsdale is president) also has a PAC which has donated:
• $1,000 to Ben Nelson and $250 to Maxine Moul in 2006 – out of a total $13,250 the PAC gave to all federal candidates that year.
• $500 to Thomas White in 2010 – the only donation to a Democrat out of a total $8,500 the PAC gave to federal candidates that year.
• $2,500 to Ben Nelson in 2012 — although he was the only Democrat to receive a donation out of the nearly $50,000 the PAC donated to federal candidates that year.

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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