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."
Feb 9, 2008 - Nebraska Supreme Court rules electrocution unconstitutional. (New York Times)
April 8, 2008 - Bruning said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the electric chair. (Lincoln Journal Star, 4/8/11)
April 16, 2008 - In Baze vs. Rees, U.S. Supreme Court upholds Kentucky's method of lethal injection, which requires a three drug cocktail with the first drug administered being sodium thiopental. In the court's view, the drug allows lethal injection to be considered constitutional because the sodium thiopental renders the victim unconscious, thereby preventing an execution from being considered cruel and unusual punishment as subsequent drugs are administered. (Source: Cornell Legal Information Institute) (Tennessee Office of the Courts)
April 16, 2008 - Attorney General Jon Bruning hails the decision, and says he will help the legislature craft a law allowing lethal injections to proceed. "We now have a road map for selecting a new method of execution for our state," Bruning said. (Source: AP, Neb. governor weighs effect of lethal injection ruling)
April 25, 2008 - Bruning drops push to have electrocution declared constitutional. (Associated Press, 4/25/08)
The poll by Hickman Analytics showed Nelson defeating all three high-profile Republicans running for the seat and holding a 54 percent favorability rating. He trailed both Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg in polling last June.
In the Hickman poll, results showed Nelson leading Bruning by 47 percent to 45 percent and Stenberg by 49 percent to 43 percent. He led state Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine by 50 percent to 37 percent.
"While this continues to be a highly competitive race, Nelson is positioned to win re-election if he decides to run for another term," Harrison Hickman concluded.
Late last week, Karl Rove's group, Crossroads GPS, launched another
$160,000 of factually misleading attack ads aimed at Ben Nelson.
According to our ad buyers that is on top of more than $500,000 outside
groups like Rove's have spent attacking Ben Nelson this year.
Another fact checking organization, Politifact, found the majority of Rove's claims were false during the 2010 elections. And a different organization created by Rove, American Crossroads, received similarly negative ratings for its misleading claims.
Here is what FactCheck.org said about Rove's latest ad against Ben Nelson:
regard to the economic stimulus, “We’ve trimmed the fat, fried the
bacon and milked the sacred cows.” The ad then calls the stimulus “a
bill Nelson helped write.” But Nelson didn’t write the initial bill,
which originated in the House. His comment refers to a “bipartisan
agreement” reached with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to trim
$110 billion from one version of the stimulus bill.
In today's Lincoln Journal-Star, GOP Senate front runner Jon Bruning told Don Walton that he wanted to move attention away from the horse race aspects of the 2012 Republican Senate race and focus on issues now. The Nebraska Attorney General said: "Nebraskans are interested in issues, not the horse race...I think Nebraskans want someone who will tell the truth."
Bruning's apparent desire to move the discussion away from the horse race aspects of the GOP Senate primary to the issues is an admission from him that the revelations about his financial status and conflicts of interests have badly wounded him. As we've discussed here in the past, Bruning has somehow managed to accumulate vast wealth with a net worth in the tens of millions of dollars on a government salary. In addition, Bruning's business dealings with Nelnet executives and conflicts of interests with that company have garnered a lot of media attention.
Jim DeMint is going with State Treasurer Don Stenberg in Nebraska's GOP Senate primary - putting the South Carolina senator's choice at odds with the Tea Party Express.
It's the latest setback for Attorney General Jon Bruning, who recently underwent a campaign shake-up and was courting DeMint's blessing.
The Tea Party Express now appears to be the single outlying tea party group to back Bruning.