Republican Attorney General Jon Bruning said Thursday that two legislative bills aimed at taking control of a fund his office uses to give grants is politically motivated and meant to undermine his U.S. Senate bid.
Bruning, recently presented the check for $100,000 to Keith Olsen, outgoing president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, at the Farm Bureau's convention in Kearney. We Support Agriculture was formed by the Farm Bureau and other mainstream agricultural groups to portray farmer and rancher treatment of livestock in a positive light and to oppose efforts of the Humane Society of the United States and other animal advocacy groups to change livestock practices.
Critics of the grant say Bruning used it to curry political favor from the powerful Farm Bureau.
Republican Attorney General Jon Bruning on Thursday defended his decision to award $100,000 in environmental settlement money to an industry-backed farming group, and said Democrats were only seizing the issue to thwart his U.S. Senate bid.
He denied that the grant was hurriedly approved so he could present it at a Dec. 5 Nebraska Farm Bureau convention in Kearney. Email records from his office showed a 32-minute window between the time the formal application was received and the grant approved, but Bruning said the short time frame failed to account for weeks of talks between his office and the group.
Attorney General Jon Bruning responded today to criticism and legislation targeting his doling out of grants from settlement funds in what Democrats have called political gifts.
Democrats have criticized Bruning's $100,000 grant to an offshoot of the Nebraska Farm Bureau during its annual convention in December. Bruning gave the check to a three-month old group called We Support Agriculture, which the Farm Bureau and other groups formed to counteract negative portrayals of farming by animal rights' activists. Some Democrats questioned the grant, saying it appeared to be timed to curry favor with the politically powerful Farm Bureau while Bruning is running for the U.S. Senate.
In response, two Democratic senators proposed bills Wednesday that would take the grant money out of the attorney general's hands and give the Legislature more say in how it is spent. Sen. Heath Mello's bill would divert the money to Nebraska schools. Sen. Ken Haar's bill would send environmental settlement funds to the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund and consumer protection settlement funds would be subject to legislative review.
LINCOLN - Attorney General Jon Bruning on Thursday blamed election-year politics for recent criticism from Democrats that he funneled a $100,000 grant to an influential farm group to curry political favor for his Republican run for U.S. Senate.
Bruning was criticized last month for the grant, which was provided to We Support Agriculture, formed this fall by the Farm Bureau and other agriculture groups to counter criticism by the Humane Society of the United States about livestock-raising practices.
In his first public comments on the complaints, Bruning said the decision to provide the $100,000 grant - the largest grant ever by his office - required more than the 32-minute review indicated by his office email records. He denied that the grant was hurriedly approved so he could present it at the Nebraska Farm Bureau Dec. 5 convention in Kearney.
LINCOLN - Nebraska Democratic Party's 2nd Annual Chili Cook-off
We will be teaming up with the Food Bank of Lincoln again this year to collect food and raise money for the food bank of Lincoln.
Lincoln Firefighter's Hall - 241 Victory Lane, Lincoln, NE
5:30 - 8 PM
$10 at door or $5 with donation to food bank
$20 with food donation for whole family
Admission gets you all the chili, cornbread, and cinnamon rolls you can eat. Tea and Lemonade will also be provided.
Last year we collected over 120 lbs of food for the food bank, this year we hope to double that figure.
City Councilman Doug Emery and State Senator Ken Haar will be celebrity Judges. There will also be a people's vote where people put money in jars in front of their favorite Chili. All money collected from People's vote will go directly to the Food Bank of Lincoln.
Once again, Jon Bruning is in the news for all of the wrong reasons. The latest controversy surrounding the Attorney General and Republican Senate hopeful was the award of a $100,000 contribution from his office to the politically influential Nebraska Farm Bureau. Apparently, this money came from a state fund generated by fines paid by polluters.
The donation was to We Support Agriculture, formed earlier this year by the Farm Burea to raise awareness of how farmers and ranchers care for their livestock and the environment. However, it's been clear from the start the group was primarily formed for political purposes - to combat efforts by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups against certain inhumane practices, such as raising laying hens, sows and veal cows in crates so small they can't turn around.
Until last week there was no public complaint about Bruning's distributions from the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Fund.
That changed after State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm and Nebraska Democratic Party officials raised questions about a $100,000 check Bruning presented at a Nebraska Farm Bureau convention.
The donation was to We Support Agriculture, formed by the Farm Bureau this fall to raise awareness of how farmers and ranchers care for their livestock and the environment.
Bruning is considered the leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. The timing of the donation, during a heated run for the GOP nomination, to a group related to the politically powerful Farm Bureau and Nebraska Cattlemen raised eyebrows with Democrats.
State money awarded to a Nebraska farm coalition that was formed to fight an animal welfare group is drawing scrutiny from lawmakers, who question why Attorney General Jon Bruning awarded the money from a cash pool intended for environmental issues.
Bruning announced the $100,000 grant this week to "We Support Agriculture," a coalition created to promote farming in the midst of what it perceives as threats to Nebraska's agriculture industry. Bruning praised the group in a statement and encouraged an effort to fight the Humane Society of the United States, a national group that recently opened an office in Omaha.
"That's public money," said Haar, a Democrat. "It seems strange that a government official could just hand it out at their own discretion. I think we need to find out more about it."
The attorney general's office's public awarding of a $100,000 grant Monday to an offshoot of the Nebraska Farm Bureau has some questioning whether the money is more of a political gift, but Jon Bruning says it was a standard grant.
However, the donation raised eyebrows because the state's largest farm group's endorsement carries significant weight - Gov. Dave Heineman said the Farm Bureau's endorsement over Tom Osborne helped put him "over the top" in the 2006 gubernatorial battle. The farm and ranch advocacy group has more than 56,000 members in Nebraska.
"The guy's running for election and he's taking public funds and he's handing them out to people," Covalt said. "It stinks."
A Nebraska state senator is expressing concern with Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's 100-thousand dollar contribution to the Nebraska ag coalition called We Support Agriculture.
State senator Ken Haar of Malcom-a member of the legislature's Natural Resources Committee-tells the Lincoln Journal Star, "it doesn't feel right". Haar indicated that he would seek clarification on the process for awarding the money.
The money comes from the attorney general's Supplemental Environmental Project Fund, which contains fines for violations of state environmental laws. The attorney general's office told the newspaper that the fund is used to provide grants for "educational and enhancement programs that directly benefit Nebraskans."