The November elections shocked the nation in many ways. Here in Nebraska attack ads and robo calls seemed to reach a new level of frequency and insult. Shadowy organizations like Americans for Prosperity, Trees of Liberty and Citizens for a Sound Government flooded the election cycle with fabricated stories and outright lies. Democrats and Republicans alike faced embarrassment and character assassination.
One of the worst attacks was launched against Senator Les Seiler a self-proclaimed conservative Republican, who had been appointed by Governor Ricketts and served with distinction. Governor Ricketts was not shy when reversing his support based on Sen. Seiler’s votes to override several of Ricketts vetoes. The Governor contributed $5,000 to Seiler’s opponent Steve Halloron.
The attacks against Seiler were particularly outrageous when they focused on his attendance record. Records filed with the clerk of the legislature show that Seiler had nearly perfect attendance at public hearing before the Judiciary Committee, which he chaired, missing only 2 of 17 hearings. He also chaired all 14 executive sessions of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Seiler’s record as a member of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee was perfect, showing he attended all 11 public hearings and all 9 executive sessions.
It should be noted that every bill before the Nebraska Unicameral gets a public hearing and attendance by nearly every senator is exemplary. The only exception to the rule is the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. If Trees of Liberty wanted to focus on attendance they might have looked at Senator Beau McCoy who was recorded absent for 15 of 18 public hearings and 7 of 14 executive sessions. His colleague, Senator Tyson Larson, did not perform much better, missing 13 of 18 public hearings and 7of 14 executive sessions. These two examples are the extreme exceptions to the rule of generally good attendance by senators.
Senator Seiler was not the only senator to be attacked who voted to override the Governor’s vetoes. Senators Johnson, Crawford, Garrett, Kolowski, Davis, and others faced the wrath the independent committees. It is unfortunate that those who choose to vote their conscience in a constitutionally non-partisan legislature should be slandered for demonstrating their independence.
The most troubling part of the attacks is the inability of the public to follow the money. Independent committees can hide behind their non-profit status, making it nearly impossible to identify their donors. As a result, wealthy individuals and political operatives can avoid transparency and direct lies and fabricated stories against candidates. This type of campaigning undermines our democracy and discourages potentially good candidates from running for office.
Common Cause Nebraska
Committee Attendance Records
- Agriculture Committee
- Appropriations Committee
- Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee
- Business and Labor Committee
- Education Committee
- General Affairs Committee
- Government Committee
- Health and Human Services Committee
- Judiciary Committee
- Natural Resources Committee
- Retirement Systems Committee
- Revenue Committee
- Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
- Urban Affairs Committee