‘It’s Where I Teach My Kids To Waterski’: Nebraska AG Defends Lake House He Bought With Execs His State Investigated
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Buning (R) is pushing back against ethics attacks from state Democrats over a vacation home he purchased with executives at a student loan company his office gave a favorable ruling to only a year earlier.
"Big deal," he told a local NBC affiliate on Monday when asked about the issue. "It's where I teach my kids to waterski, right? I'm like a lot of families in Nebraska: I love Nebraska, I got a lake house in Nebraska. So what?"
Just as Attorney General Jon Bruning is trying to convince voters that his controversial $675,000 vacation home is no "big deal" a new poll indicates it is. Bruning still leads his GOP rivals but according to a recent survey (Sept. 30-Oct.3) by Public Policy Polling his lead is shrinking.
In January the three term Attorney General had a 28 point edge, now it's 21. "Bruning has had a lot of less than positive press coverage in recent days and it appears to be taking a toll on his image," according to the polling firm.
In mid-July the Washington Post ran an online article declaring it "Jon Bruning's Time" in Nebraska's Senate race. The article built its case on Bruning's wide lead in polling and fundraising domination over opponents in the Republican primary, along with his early endorsements by a national Tea Party group and Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood.
This was one in a series of articles called "The Rising" dedicated to up-and-coming politicians on the national stage. However, just two-and-a-half months later, the Washington Post's latest coverage of the Bruning campaign makes clear that the candidate's star is no longer on the rise and that his prospects have quickly fallen after a summer full of campaign missteps.
The Nebraska Republican primary was supposed to be a coronation for state Attorney General Jon Bruning. Instead, it has revealed some significant holes in the political armor of the man many GOPers expected to beat Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson next year.
Four years after he stepped aside for former governor Mike Johanns in an open Nebraska Senate race, Bruning finally got his chance - and a golden one at that.
Now, though, there are signs that Bruning's coronation is on hold - big time.
The move, which a Republican source confirms has been in the works for a few weeks now, follows the roughest patch of the attorney general's campaign, where he compared welfare recipients to "raccoons" and took considerable heat for his co-ownership of a lake house.
Nebraska Watchdog has confirmed that Jon Bruning's recently troubled U.S. Senate campaign has a new pitch man.
Bruning has tabbed Washington D.C. based McCarthy-Hennings Media to replace Dresner Wickers and Associates out of San Francisco. According to a 1994 Time magazine report Larry McCarthy was one of the admen behind the infamous 1988 Willie Horton attack ad, which helped derail Democrat Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign.
Michaelis is reporting that "the word in local political circles" is that Bruning has canned San Francisco-based Bob Wickers of Dresner Wickers & Associates - Bruning's consultant since 2001. He theorizes that this is a response to the withering publicity Bruning has endured for, oh, about six weeks now.
I asked around, and I'm told Wickers has been replaced with Larry McCarthy - which Politico calls "the GOP's leading practitioner of the art of the attack ad."
Last month, news broke of Attorney General Jon Bruning's buying a vacation home with two Nelnet executives a year after attempting to release the Lincoln-based company from a million dollar settlement obligation with the state of Nebraska. The Nebraska Democratic Party has since alleged that Bruning covered up his property holdings and conflicts of interest, violating the spirit - if not the letter - of our state's disclosure laws for elected officials.
What's most telling about this allegation is who hasn't come to Bruning's defense. In separate interviews with Nebraska Watchdog's Joe Jordan, the top two elected Republican in the state - Gov. Dave Heineman and Sen. Mike Johanns - have both specifically refused to defend the conduct of the presumed frontrunner for their party's 2012 Senate nomination.
If timing is everything the latest poll in the GOP Senate race appears to be bittersweet at best for Jon Bruning.
According to the poll Bruning leads the GOP Senate race but is a long way from the nomination. In addition it's possible the latest controversy confronting Bruning will make his run even more difficult.
Given the chance to rush to Attorney General Jon Bruning's defense, another major player in the Nebraska GOP has decided to punt.
In an exclusive on camera interview (see video below) with Nebraska Watchdog, Senator Mike Johanns says he doesn't know enough about Bruning's latest ethical controversy to pass judgment. "I kind of pay attention to these things. I maybe read an article here and there," said Johanns. "Quite honestly I wouldn't feel equipped to weigh in on that kind of issue without getting a better understanding."