The Republican super PAC called Crossroads GPS is airing ads attacking Kerrey for serving on the board of an insurance company called Genworth Financial at the time the company tried to get bailout money through the Trouble Assets Relief Program, or TARP.
As first reported by Nebraska Watchdog last month, Genworth considered buying struggling banks as a way to get bailout money. Kerrey was on Genworth’s board of directors from 2004 until March, when he stepped down to make a run for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska.
The Kerrey campaign noted today that former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, an adviser to American Crossroads, “must have forgotten” that his boss, President George W. Bush, signed the bailout program into law.
The Kerrey campaign said “many other companies” also considered their options through the federal bailout program.
“If Rove had a problem with this, he should have convinced his boss, President Bush, not to sign the legislation establishing TARP in the first place,” said Paul Johnson, Kerrey’s campaign manager, in a press release. “Rove is hypocritical at best and devious at worst.”
It should be noted, however, that Rove left the Bush White House in 2007 and the TARP legislation was signed in 2008.
The Kerrey campaign also took a swipe at its opponent, Republican state Sen. Deb Fischer, who benefitted from $250,000 in TV ads by a conservative super PAC the weekend before the primary election. The Kerrey camp said it’s ironic that Fischer’s victory “was paid for by a Wall Street broker,” Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. Ricketts bankrolls the super PAC called Ending Spending, which bought a wave of tough ads attacking Republican Jon Bruning’s ethics while buying other ads touting Fischer.
“State Senator Deb Fischer owes everything to Wall Street,” Johnson said in a press release. “Joe Ricketts bought her the primary victory with Wall Street cash. Now he and all of his wealthy Wall Street friends will expect something in return. If Fischer goes to Washington, she won’t be serving Main Street.”
Kerrey also implied in his primary night speech that Ricketts was trying to buy access with Fischer.
However, in its first public statement on the issue, the Fischer campaign responded by saying it had no involvement or responsibility for Ending Spending’s actions, or any other third party group. Fischer’s campaign manager, Aaron Trost, said Fischer won because she ran a grassroots campaign and talked about important issues like balancing the budget and repealing President Obama’s health care overhaul.
And while much of the national press’s take on Fischer’s win has been that Ricketts’ ads won the election, Trost noted that a week before the primary – and before a single Ending Spending ad had dropped or major endorsement was announced – internal polling showed Fischer down by 4 points, in a statistical dead heat with Bruning.
“It’s rich that multimillionaire Bob Kerrey would have the audacity to make such a claim,” Trost said. “If anyone in this race is an expert on Wall Street, it would be the candidate that lived there for the last decade.”
In other campaign news, Kerrey announced today that he has accepted an invitation to debate Fischer on June 5 at the American Legion Cornhusker Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Cornhusker Girls State at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He said he hopes Fischer will also accept the invitation to that and “many more debates.”
However, Trost said the Fischer campaign just received an invitation to the debate today and will not be able to attend that one.
"We promise Mr. Kerrey that there will be ample opportunity for him to explain the role he played in a company that received TARP funds and discuss the lavish compensation he received while running the New School in New York City," Trost said.
Reported by Deena Winter, [email protected]
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