As noted in the title, this article is about the subject of money, including campaign fundraising and expenditures and income / wealth earned by Bruning during his years in public office.
Earlier today, we published an article, pictured at right, which covered a broad range of topics about Nebraska’s current Attorney General; some, we think, have been little discussed elsewhere. In addition, we provided many links of potential interest to voters.
We hope our analyses of candidates in the U.S. Senate race are unorthodox, not only in regard to their contents and supporting information, but for the fact that we are attempting to provide factual, truthful information, and, when appropriate, inform regarding our conclusions without telling readers how to vote.
One aspect of our analysis, noted in that earlier article, regarded why it seems Jon Bruning has been the presumed front-runner in Nebraska’s GOP U.S. Senate primary. We have concluded that one of two key factors is Mr. Bruning’s demonstrated ability to raise money.
Relevant basic information that was included in the first article is repeated for reference:
Follow the Money: Bruning 2000 – 2012 overview page but EXCLUDES U.S. Senate race
Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC): Bruning for Attorney General full list of filings
Federal Election Commission (FEC): Bruning 2011 – 2012 overview
Open Secrets – lists data for ALL Nebraska candidates in the U.S. Senate race (Bruning’s specific information is pictured to the left, click the image to see all)
Jon Bruning has raised a LOT of money during his career as an elected official; voters must decide whether that is a positive or negative accomplishment, particularly considering that…
- The bulk of it has come from outside of Nebraska
- Significant amounts were used for purposes other than funding his own campaigns, including large sums passed along to the Nebraska Republican Party and very large sums used to finance candidates for other offices, especially seats in the Nebraska State Legislature
Here is a representative sample image from the Bruning for Attorney General Report of Contributions over $250 from all sources other than individuals for 2010:
**Note that the donation from TransCanada was returned, but that had not yet occurred when this snapshot was taken.
According to FollowtheMoney.org, which focuses on state-level elections, running for Attorney General in the 2010 Election, Bruning raised over $900,000, over half of which was from outside of Nebraska:
Note that the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC) reports for Bruning’s campaign in 2010 shows end of year reports, 2010 and 2011, for “Bruning for Attorney General”, show $360,000+ remaining balances each year.
In addition to his Bruning for Attorney General campaign committee and Bruning for Senate, Inc. committee, Bruning has raised money for at least two PACs in Nebraska for which he is listed as one of the controlling individuals:
Citizens for a Better Nebraska filed its Statement of Organization on April 6, 2006 with the NADC, listing the election cycle for which the committee intended to support or oppose candidates or ballot questions as November 2, 2010.
Its first report of contributors over $250, filed for the period April 2006, is pictured, below:
Jumping ahead in time, here is the first section of the report of contributors filed for the year 2010 (click the image or here to view the full page of contributors):
And here is the list of contributions made (paid out) by Bruning’s Citizens for a Better Nebraska in 2006 (note that the “x” means in support of):
Then, returning to 2010, here is a list of contributions made (paid out) by Citizens for a Better Nebraska that year:
Nebraskans for a Better Tomorrow filed its Statement of Organization with the NADC July 7, 2008:
The first report of contributions TO this PAC – the “seed money”:
Nebraskans for a Better Tomorrow is still an active PAC and submitting annual filings with the NADC, although there has been no new activity reported either regarding contributions or expenditures since 2008. The balance of funds has remained at a little over $700.
Note that the information reported here comes from research regarding Jon Bruning’s tenure as the Attorney General of Nebraska, not as a member of the State Legislature, and it does not include examination of his FEC reports as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Due to what we have found here, we may, as time allows take a look at some campaign donations from either or both of those campaigns.
Obviously, the reports above, which constitute only a representative sampling, raise a lot of questions, some of which pertain to Nebraska’s state laws on campaign and PAC contributions and expenditures, some about other elective office holders in Nebraska, and still others about news media and lack of investigative reporting. Those subjects are all worth exploring, but we will ponder and defer, returning, necessarily, to Jon Bruning.
With great wealth comes great responsibility. This maxim defines the classical ideal of noblesse oblige, essentially that one who enjoys great advantages is obliged to conduct him- or herself with the utmost integrity. Bruning’s behavior has led some to question his ethics or, at the very least, his judgment in connection with the giving and receiving of campaign donations.
First, as noted above, Bruning clearly has been a regular sugar-daddy to a veritable horde of Republican office seekers, handing out an amazing amount of money with, apparently, little or no concern for the principles of the candidates he’s supporting, other than that they bear the all-important “R” after their names on the ballot. Is this really what donors to Bruning’s campaigns intended Bruning to do with their money when they wrote him those checks? Even if his donors have no problem with him passing the bucks, so to speak, is Bruning’s promiscuity — in terms of his support for candidates from all points along the political spectrum so long as they claim to be Republican — consistent with good judgment from one who calls himself a conservative? Have Bruning’s financial contributions to other candidates promoted or hindered conservatism in Nebraska? (NOTE: A look at the recent actions of the Unicameral with regard to the CIR,1The article to which we’ve linked in the text, above, details events in the Unicameral associated with public employee collective bargaining / ...continue voter ID, and the expansion of Medicaid to cover illegals requires a big NEGATORY in response to that last question.)
With regard to his receipt of campaign donations, Bruning has been accused of exchanging favorable actions by the Office of the Attorney General for donations from businesses and industries affected by those actions, which would, if true, amount to crony capitalism. Proving allegations of this nature beyond all doubt is often impossible. Businesses, like individuals, support candidates sympathetic to their own self-interests. Officeholders’ actions may benefit a business or industry that has donated to their campaigns because the result was the correct one, not because the action was payback for donations rendered. Not surprisingly, much of the “proof” of these allegations revealed to date regarding Bruning and his activities is circumstantial, amounting to quite a lot of smoke but, as yet, no fire.
But Bruning does have a disturbing tendency to court the appearance of impropriety even where none may exist — to wit, his entirely inappropriate decision to co-own a vacation home with two Nelnet executives shortly after he waived a $1 million settlement payment due from the company to the State of Nebraska and after accepting campaign donations from the company and its employees. Note that Bruning withdrew his waiver of the $1 million settlement payment after it was challenged, much like he returned the campaign donation he received from TransCanada after it became publicly known and criticized.
This behavior is not indicative of a person who weighs and anticipates how his actions appear to others. Rather, it reflects an attitude that it’s easier to apologize for bad behavior — and seize an opportunity to achieve a goal if no one calls him on it — than it is to do what’s right in the first place and, possibly, forgo the opportunity.
New questions have arisen regarding campaign donations, and their timing, from the owners of Adams Land and Cattle Company, the Attorney General’s handling of a court case associated with a water pollution charge filed against the company and whether, the single charge and penalty amounts in the settlement agreement were adequate, considering multiple violations.
An additional set of concerns raised by critics and opponents regards the amount of wealth Bruning has accumulated during his fifteen years in elective offices which paid $12,000 (as a State Senator) and $75,000 – $95,000 (as Attorney General). An Omaha World-Herald article published April 22, 2012, devoted a significant amount of space to the whole subject, which is worth a read with a critical eye. We will not regurgitate all the information here, but only highlight a few noteworthy points:
- Jon Bruning refuses to release his income tax returns, and in repeating that refusal to OWH explained that “it would be too time consuming and too invasive to do so”.
- Bruning first achieved success as an attorney in private solo practice through securing Cox Communications as a client. It’s reasonable to question how a solo attorney would be retained as counsel for the country’s third largest cable provider – especially so early in his career. Some explanation for Bruning’s ability to land such a client so early in his career may be found in the fact that his wife, Deonne, was a staff attorney for the Nebraska Public Service Commission, at the time. That entity has regulatory control over the telecommunications industry, among others. Following his securing of Cox as a client, the OWH article notes, other telecommunications companies followed.
- An article in the Lincoln Journal Star entitled, “Bruning says wealth overstated, invested with friends”, published in August 2011, provides a few points of contrast to the information in the OWH article, and a few additional details.
- Bruning sat down with reporters from Nebraska’s two largest newspapers to, loosely quoting his stated purpose in each case, clear up misunderstandings about the extent and sources of his wealth. Considering that questions persisted from August 2011 to April 2012, at least, is not reasonable to ask: Why not just release tax returns?
One of the cardinal ethical rules of the legal profession is that practitioners avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Bruning seems oblivious to that rule and to how his actions appear from the perspective of one on the outside looking in. Is this evidence that Bruning lacks integrity, good judgment, both, or none of the above? That question – along with those posed in our first article about Jon Bruning – is yet another for voters to decide for themselves.
While we’re all chewing on such questions, perhaps some music is in order.
Mr. Moneybags of Monopoly acquired from NewGrounds
Notes & References [ + ]
|1.||↑||The article to which we’ve linked in the text, above, details events in the Unicameral associated with public employee collective bargaining / CIR legislation. Highly relevant to several matters, including that CIR legislation, one of the PACs highlighted in this article, Nebraskans for a Better Tomorrow, and the obvious involvement of Nebraska’s Governor, Dave Heineman in that PAC is the article, “Political Influence in Nebraska: Where the Money Leads”,|