The “State Exchange” Case: The Federal Government Shouldn’t Win, but it Probably Will

Patrick Borchers is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

PatBorchers01This won’t come as a shock to most of you, but the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is a mess.

It’s not just that it’s a mess in that its mechanisms don’t match the stated goal of universal and affordable care. It’s a mess from a craftsmanship standpoint.

It’s been made messier yet by the Supreme Court. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate on a tortured rationale. Most people thought that Justice Kennedy would be the swing vote in that case, but I was confident that he’d vote that the individual mandate was beyond Congress’s power. After listening to the tapes of the oral argument, the vote I was worried about was Justice Roberts’s and, as it turned out, with good reason.

Roberts managed to construe the individual mandate as a “tax” (an argument that the other eight Justices rejected) and joining with the Court’s four liberals (who said it was “commerce”) upheld the individual mandate.

The Court, however, struck down the mandatory Medicaid provision as being too coercive. The ACA as written would have required states to cover everyone up to 133% of the poverty line or lose all of their Medicaid funding. The Court ruled that states must be given a choice as to whether to accept the additional Medicaid funding offered and many, including Nebraska, have refused on the ground that even if Congress holds to its promise to cover 90% of the increased cost it will be ruinously expensive.

But buried in the ACA’s thousands of pages of text is a ticking time bomb and it has to do with the “exchanges” on which persons who don’t otherwise have coverage are to buy their policies. The ACA clearly gives states the choice of either creating their own exchange or allowing their residents to buy on the federally created exchange (the notoriously buggy site).

Part and parcel of the ACA’s redistributive economics is that persons between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line are entitled to gradually diminishing subsidies the closer they get to the 400% ceiling. But the flawed Medicaid aspect of the law makes a mess out of the scheme. For states like Nebraska that have opted out, there are people who don’t qualify for Medicaid and are too poor to receive a subsidy.

But back to the exchanges.

Most states (34 at this point), including Nebraska, have opted not to create their own exchange. Then someone noticed something odd about the subsidies. The ACA says that the subsidies are available to those who are “enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under section 1311.” But the federal exchange is created by a different provision, section 1321. And the federal exchange makes no mention of subsidies.

So it appears that under the plain language of the ACA the subsidies are only to go to those who signed up under a state exchange created under section 1311. Moreover, there are other apparent downstream consequences, such as the employer mandate disappearing in states that don’t have their own exchange.

The theory advanced by most commentators is that this was just a drafting boo boo born of the fact that the state and federal exchanges appeared in different versions of the bill and that nobody noticed the gap before it went to the President’s desk. However, the talkative Prof. Gruber (remember him of the “stupidity of the American voter” quote?) was filmed saying that it was an intentional strategy to force states to create their own exchanges.

The lower courts, predictably, arrived at conflicting results. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (centered in Richmond, Virginia) applied what I call the “we know what you meant” theory of statutory interpretation and ruled that the subsidies extend to those who signed up on the federal exchange. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia applied what I call the “you’re stuck with what you wrote” theory of statutory interpretation and held that they did not.

A couple of weeks ago, the case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. The verbal gymnastics performed by the lawyer for the federal government, egged on by the Court’s four liberals, were something to behold. The government has at least three main theories as to why the subsidies should attach to the federal exchange. First, read “in context” Congress meant to extend the subsidies to the federal exchange, because otherwise the statute would unravel. Second, the reference to “state exchange” isn’t really that – it’s a reference to whatever exchange the state uses (never mind that stuff about “created under section 1311.”) Third, the statute is “ambiguous” and therefore administrative agencies (here the IRS) are entitled to “clarify” the statute through administrative regulations.

It’s clear beyond any doubt that the four liberals will vote with the government. In fact, they left so little chance for challengers’ lawyer to speak that Chief Justice Roberts gave him 10 extra minutes. If I had been the lawyer for the federal government, I think I might’ve just said “what she said,” pointing to Justice Kagan, who ran point for that wing, and sat down.

Conservatives Scalia and Alito pushed back mightily. Justice Scalia was nearly taunting the government’s lawyer daring him to cite to a case where the Supreme Court has “rewritten” a statute to make it make more sense. Justice Thomas, who doesn’t ask questions, is a good bet to vote with Scalia and Alito because Thomas has little patience for others’ mistakes.

Which brings us to Justices Roberts and Kennedy. Roberts, normally an aggressive questioner, didn’t say much. Kennedy was hard on both lawyers. At times he seemed worried that interpreting the statute to only extend subsidies to states with their own exchanges would be unduly coercive, like the Medicaid trap that Congress tried to build. At other junctures he was highly skeptical of the government’s argument that the statute was “ambiguous” and that the IRS could be trusted to fix it.

Roberts’s near silence is hard to interpret.

Predicting the outcome of these cases is difficult. On the one hand, I was very surprised that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. It seemed very likely that the full D.C. Circuit would reverse the three judge panel that read the statute literally, which avoid the split in the lower courts and allow the Supreme Court to stay out of it.

But the simple math is that the federal government clearly has four rock solid votes. The challengers have two in Scalia and Alito, and probably a third in Thomas. So the government only needs to get one of Kennedy and Roberts. I hope to be proved wrong, but I think the government will get the vote it needs.

Crazy pills

SupportBlue 02Tell me what sort of world we are living in.

Please tell me what sort of place we have created where a 77 year old, elected official to state government suggests — in any way, shape or form — that he is going to get a gun and shoot the police, and people find that to be a reasonable statement.

Nay, not just people. OTHER elected officials!

Oh, that’s no big deal!
That’s his right!
You don’t know his experiences!
You’re privilged and lucky!
He could have said MUCH worse!

THIS is the society we have created?

Are you people freaking nuts???


Is it simply because it is Ernie Chambers and our standards are so bottomed out for him we really don’t care what he says? Is he really just the old kook who wanders down the street saying the CIA put a radio in his head?

Because last time I checked, the main stream press still goes to him for quotes and thoughts and consults with him on the MAJOR issues of the day.

Oh, but suggesting he is going to shoot the police? Ernie being Ernie!
That’s his right!
You missed the CONTEXT!

At this point, I get that Chambers is a kook — and I certainly hope all will appreciate this little episode the next time everyone runs to him for his latest bits of wisdom on various subjects. But what of all of his colleagues and others who are somehow defending or dismissing his statements?

Sen. Dave Bloomfield: “He has done a great service to this body for 40 years.”

Sen. Ken Haar: “We’ve all said things that we shouldn’t have.”

Speaker Galen Hadley: Senators have “the absolute freedom of speech.”

Sen. Al Davis: Chambers frequently uses “hyperbole”.

And then many others — Sen. Rick Kolowski, Sen. Kate Bolz, Sen. Bill Kintner — wanting to pivot to other issues with the, “why don’t Senators show the same effort on issues A, B & C that are important to me!”

Uh, hey look: Your colleague just suggested shooting policemen.
How about you condemn those statements and leave it at that?
Is that really so difficult and outrageous?



I had a brief back and forth on the Twitter — which frankly is no place for any decent discussion — with the OWH’s Mike’l Severe about Chambers’ remarks.

He gave the, “I didn’t say he was right,” and “You don’t get it because you can’t feel the way he does. Its impossible. Not your fault, feel lucky.”

“I think he should say what he feels. I have disagreed with him many times. But that is how he lives his life, shouldn’t stop.”

Honest to God, is it REALLLLLLLLY that difficult to say, “People shouldn’t suggest killing cops. Ever.”

Does there REALLY have to be the, “Well, he has a right…”, “you don’t know where he is coming from…”, “check your privilege..” bullshit?

Yeah, we all get it. Chambers doesn’t like the police. He thinks blacks have a different experience with police. He thinks police brutality is out of hand.

And you know what? He may be right about all that!

NO ONE is going to begrudge him his right to speak out all day about it.
Not me, and not anyone in the legislature or the Mayor’s office or the Governor’s office or the United States Supreme Court.

But the moment he suggests killing cops — in an imaginary world, in a real world, after he’s gone crazy, only if he was a violent man — he, and ALL of his supporters and defenders should expect the CIVILIZED world to come down on him.



So should Chambers be expelled from the Legislature for this, , or should Chambers resign as Sen. David Schnoor has asked?

Well, I’d suggest a few things.

Schnoor’s example isn’t bad: Put it on Chambers. FIRST, make it known that what he did is beyond the pale and that he SHOULD be ashamed of himself. Is that really so difficult to do?

Sure we all know he’s not going to do it, but make HIM say that. Let HIM defend his cop killing statements — which he is already trying to do (below).

But I would also suggest that actually kicking him out, or trying to go that route will set up a precedent that will create a slippery future path. And if you kick him out, and then he gets re-elected, what then?

Here’s the thing, it IS possible to be intolerent of someone’s statements without demanding that they be banned from speaking.

And is that so difficult? All these Senators and others are bending over backwards to defend Chambers’ right to say something before anything else.

How about they just say that Chambers’ statements are outrageous…and leave it at that? Do statements like that need a qualifier?


The kicker on all of this is Chambers’ latest statements where he seems to be adding qualifiers now. Not an apology mind you! But The Mighty Ernie who doubled down on what he said now says…

Chambers said “there’s not a person in my (legislative) district who thinks I would want to shoot a cop.”

“The kids in my community are too smart to put that interpretation on those words,” he said.

Hahahahahha! Riiiiiiiight.

Because an 18 year old kid who thinks it is OK to have a gun and shoot someone is really going to be looking into the heart of his state Senator — who just said that he would shoot a cop first and ask questions later. (Said 18 year old will of course be sure to read the context of the hearing and check the bill’s co-sponsors.)

For those of you who still think Ernie is a genius with his finger on the pulse of the community, check that statement again.


New non-Ernie post coming at noon.

Why the Unicam won’t do anything to Chambers

“Burke’s Bulldog” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

Chambers room 01Here’s the truth of the matter – the Unicameral is an institution that has bent over backwards to make Ernie happy. He has had a history of saying racist remarks on the Unicameral Floor, and not only does he NOT get criticized for it, he seems to be glorified. There is even a Hearing Room named after him (see attached).

Senators are afraid that he will bring the session to a grinding stop or kill their bills on the floor. Freshmen make it a point to say how much they appreciate him (*cough*Ebke*cough*). And the media? If you can find a negative article about Chambers written by Paul Hammel, JoAnne Young, Grant Schulte, Martha Stoddard or the Omaha World Herald or Lincoln Journal Star’s Editorial Boards, I’d gladly read it.

Go on. I’ll wait.

But if it wasn’t for Nebraska Watchdog and KFOR, Thursday is a nothing day. But both of those entities have hit Chambers before. It wasn’t until Senator McCoy brought up the issue. Then it was the media that arrived late to the party. And here we are today.

One last thing – the big winner from all of this: Randy Gregory.

Chambers fallout

Some thoughts on the Chambers Outrage from yesterday…


Chambers comical act — and make no mistake, it’s all an act — was even more so because of Chambers inital reaction to the controversy: Shoot the messengers.

He attacked Deena Winter’s story, attacking her journalistic integrity, her reporting, her website and basically her.

Go ahead and re-read her initial story. She was spot on from the start. She put all of the comments in context and got pretty much all (if not completely all) of it correct from the start. I am not clear on who got the story first — her or KFOR’s Coby Mach — but her’s was the first in print and the one picked up nationally.

Chambers attacking her showed what a total buffoon he is.



a ridiculous but amusing person; a clown.
synonyms: clown, jester, fool, comic, comedian, wag, wit, merry andrew, harlequin, Punchinello, Pierrot More


And oh by the way, Senator, there’s this new magical thing called the “Information Superhighway” that allows us to INSTANTLY hear the audio from your hearing. So we don’t have to wait to “read the transcript”. We heard what you said. We heard the tone. We heard the context.

You should get yourself one a’ them TV-typewriter thingys.


Chambers went on to attack Senator Beau McCoy who called him out on the floor, somehow knocking him for his new job. Again, Chambers can’t even look at himself a LITTLE and see why he is a pariah.

And of course telling Chambers that the story is on FOXNews onlh makes him glow. He figures he’s made it. He said it kiddingly, but you better believe he means it.


But let’s look at what Chambers actually said:

“My ISIS is the police. Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people as the police do us daily. And they get away with it.”

Now that seems to be the line that everyone in the news is leading with. And it certainly gets your attention because ISIS, and beheadings and all else.

But, frankly, I’m not sure I find that one to be that big of a deal. I get what he’s saying: People in my district are “terrorized” by the police, and ISIS is a terrorist group.

OK. Whoopee. What a really dumb analogy — but an analogy nonetheless. People get a little too whipped up whenever someone uses language that loosely compares two groups.

His analogy is stupid because the police are nothing like terrorists, don’t act like terrorists and are here to serve and protect, not terrorize. Now dopes like Chambers can always pick out exceptions where rogue cops do bad things, or an otherwise good cop screws up. Because, you know what Ernie? They’re human.

But you don’t find terrorist groups who serve the community, take out bad guys and otherwise protect us. They don’t do that.

(An EXCELLENT comparison of terrorist groups would be street gangs, who, the last time I checked, are a real problem in Senator Chamber’s district. But he’ll just gloss over that little fact.)

But the point is that if Chambers had just said, “terrorist” or maybe even “Hamas” or something like that, there wouldn’t be this uproar. But he says “ISIS” and everyone gets extra bent out of shape. Arguably “terrorist” is bad enough for a state Senator to say, but I’d venture that we wouldn’t be here if that was the only word he used.


But Chambers next line IS beyond the pale:

“And if I were going to do something — and I’m not a man of violence — I wouldn’t go to Syria…I would do it RIGHT.HERE…

If I was going to carry a weapon it wouldn’t be against you, it woudln’t be against these people who come here that I might have a dispute with. Mine would be for the police. And if I carried a gun I’d wanna shoot him first and then ask questions later, like they say the cop ought to do. Could I get away with it? You know I couldn’t get away with it. They better hope I never lose my mind and find out I’m on my way out of here.”

Now if that isn’t a direct threat against the men and women of the police department, I don’t know what is.

And Chambers can say he’s a “man of peace” or that he doesn’t suggest anyone else take any actions. That doesn’t exonerate him.

And, oh by the way, Chambers began his whole diatribe about ISIS and guns and everything else with, “And I would tell young people…”

This is a direct threat. It is something any kid who is in his district will no doubt take to heart.

So Senator, please let us know when you STOP telling young people to do these things, because in YOUR OWN WORDS, that’s what you were doing.


A few notes on some others.

State Senator Tommy Garrett was in the committee with Chambers and did make some defensive type remarks directed at Chambers. But in general, those in the room with him generally get a pass for not jumping up right there to give him “what for”. When someone says something bombastic, you don’t always hear exactly what they said. Maybe you’re taking some other notes, or thinking something else, or otherwise thinking, “what did he just say?”

And of course, whenever Chambers is speaking, many just turn down the noise and stop paying attention anyway.


After you’ve heard the actual audio and read the transccripts (if that somehow helps you) I’m not sure how you take the above statement, about shooting cops, and give that the ol’ “Ernie being Ernie!” schtick.

It’s time that he is called out on this crap and that Senators stand up against him, like Senator Beau McCoy did.

So, unfortunately, I’m looking your way, Senator Ebke. Saying Chambers’s statements “probably went over the top a little bit,” is not only not true, but also lets him off to say it and do it again and again. And that’s NOT out of context. The context is all there for all of us to hear.

And Senators Les Seiler and Bob Krist are also giving Chambers a pass.

Well, wrong.

It’s time to, a the very least, to tell him to knock it off.

This isn’t Ernie being Ernie. It’s way past that, when you start telling people that you’re going to start killing cops, because that’s a better alternative than going to Syria. Adding a “just kidding” at the end doesn’t fix it.


Cheers to all the public officials who are taking to the hashtags to support the police.
And also to Mayor Jean Stothert for making a statement calling Chambers out.

We will be watching to see what happens next.

Should 2/3 of the Senators kick him out?
I’m not sure I’d go that far. Feel free to debate.

But to call this just another Ernie statement is a crock.

The #NE02 campaign begins!

Bacon campaign 02News that Don Bacon was likely to run for Congress in Nebraska’s 2nd District had been around for a few months now, so his announcement on Tuesday wasn’t exactly a surprise.

But what was a bit of a revelation, and arguably changes things immediately in the race, was the introduction of Bacon by former Governor Kay Orr.

Now Nebraskans don’t go to the ballot box and immediately say, “Who is Kay Orr endorsing? That’s my candidate!

And you can’t just say that Orr has the “Midas Touch” for candidates.


…she does have one heckuva recent track record in GOP primaries.

Deb Fischer in 2012.
Ben Sasse, Pete Ricketts and Doug Peterson in 2014.
There are plenty of other GOP endorers who don’t have those belt notches.

But probably the best thing that Orr does give a candidate, especially a relative unknown like Bacon, is credibility.

Who has any idea who Don Bacon is? (In broader circles, anyway.)
Who knows if he can put together a competitve campaign?

Well, Kay Orr endorsed him…so he must be someone to pay attention to,” says Average GOP Voter (and Donor). At the very least he is not someone who can be immediately dismissed.

Donors will pay attention. The media will pay attention. And primary voters will now pay attention.


Bacon’s rollout was a very smooth event, and one that any political operative would be satisfied with. General Consultant (and former Deb Fischer for Senate manager) Aaron Trost and Mark Dreiling put together a precise and clear event that had people in a good room, that just spilled out the doorway (as you’d want it to).

Their logo is clear and simple, and they also have the bonus of a candidate with a very easy name. While “Bacon” is easy to host puns on, it’s not difficult to pronounce or remember — significant for a political unknown.

Bacon for Congress logo 01

And the candidate?

Hey first YOU should listen to the Wheels Down Politics podcast for the FIRST post-announcement interview with Bacon.

In general (ha ha ha) he comes off as a very pleasant and kind person. When one thinks of an Air Force General, you probably think brusque and overly forceful. Bacon however comes off as an extremely nice person — and his kind descriptions of his present and potential primary opponents only enforced that.

He is immediately knowledgable about military issues, of course. His discourse on other political issues is a little more generic — especially after extreme detail about military issues — but one would expect that to change as the campaign goes forward. It would be surprising to find in a few months that he hadn’t really focused hard on a few more issues.

So with that intro and backing, one would have to almost immediately consider him a top-tier candidate for the #NE02 nomination.

Everyone is still waiting on Shane Osborn, and if anything Bacon’s introduction might give him some pause. If a nomination isn’t a slam-dunk for Osborn, it is possible he would consider other options that he has.

If Osborn does run, an interesting aspect is that military issues may be ceded to each of them, and could possibly cancel each other out. Bacon was certainly more of an administrator than Osborn, so maybe Offut type issues are different. But Osborn’s government and business experience may then be brought more to the forefront.

If state Senator John Murante decides to go forward with a run, he would arguably need to push out with a top Orr-type name to immediately give a campaign some juice. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

As far as we know Chip Maxwell is still planning a full run (at this point we would argue that he needs to re-announce, if he wants people to know that he is for-sure running). And we hear that while Dan Frei hasn’t made things oficially official, he is still more than likely.

Do Maxwell and Frei split voter groups? Do Bacon and Osborn? Bacon and Murante?

Is there another candidate out there who dives in to really split things up?

Are there enough donors?

Is it really only March?


In the last full post up, a quote was added from a source opining on how the Winner Take All vote could have been affected in committee:

“If Ricketts had done a better job of communicating with Murante he could have bottled it up longer in the Government committee and seen whether some trading could be done, or avoided the embarrassment.“

Another email was sent in, addressing that, so here is a bit of another view on all that:

I don’t agree with the above statement. As many readers know, the odds of a bill making it to the floor without a Senator having to burn a priority designation hinges almost entirely on if it gets out of committee early.

Had the bill died an early death like the Voter ID bill, then I could understand someone saying they should have delayed the bill to get all the ducks in a row before moving it. I would be more willing to fault the vote-counters had they passed the bill out of Committee and sent it to the floor if they knew they were a couple of votes short.

But Winner Take All MADE IT PAST THE FIRST ROUND OF DEBATE! The ducks were in a row! I’m just guessing here, but I would assume Senators McCollister and Ebke promised to vote for cloture (which they did in the first go around). Which means the action of moving it from committee to the floor was sound.

Holding it in the Government Committee wouldn’t have helped – if anything waiting on it would have forced Senator McCoy or Senator Murante to use a priority just to even bring it up. After that, it becomes an issue of keeping everyone in place – which is where things went south in this case. Spending a couple of weeks on ice in committee would not have helped shore up votes (especially when they clearly didn’t need them the first go-around). Instead, I think the exact same thing happens – it passes the first round, then Ebke and McCollister fold.

In my view, the Government Committee did a good job moving on it quickly and Senator McCoy did a good job getting it through the first round of debate (which was further than any other prior attempt, if I’m not mistaken). The fault doesn’t lie there. The fault lies in the two Senators who flip-flopped on their votes, in the Republicans in general for not being as united as the Democrats, and in the Governor’s people for not keeping an eye on the vote tally.

Issue addressed?


Remember that you can find the interview with Don Bacon — and Shane Osborn and Deb Fischer and Hal Daub and Andy Stebbing — and all of our podcasts at and by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.

(Easiest just to subscirbe to the podcast on your iTunes app!)

The Wheels Down Politics Show – Don Bacon

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

Don Bacon 0001
Don Bacon & consultant, Aaron Trost

On the heels of his Omaha announcement, Jerry Kratochvil sits down with newly declared Nebraska 2nd District Congressional candidate, retired Brigadier General, Don Bacon in his FIRST post-announcement interview.

Jerry talks with Don (or General, or “Bits”) about his background growing up on the farm, joining the Air Force, being stationed around the world, and finally, after a time as a commanding General at STRATCOM (aka SAC) in Bellevue, making his home in Omaha, and deciding to run for Congress.

Bacon expounds on his political philosophy opposing Democrat Congressman Brad Ashford, some of his potential GOP opponents, thoughts on some of the issues of the day, and on his friendship with former Governor Kay Orr — who introduced him for his announcement.

Bacon and Kay Orr 02
Former Gov. Kay Orr introduces Bacon at his announcement for #NE02

You can find this, and all of our podcasts at and by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.

Makin’ Bacon

300830-F-XX000-004Don “Bits” Bacon will be announcing his candidacy for the GOP nomination for Nebraska’s 2nd District House seat at 10am today.

Check back later today for coverage of this event.

All relevant puns for the headline, listed in the comments below, will be considered.

Independent Announcements

The NRCC put up a new ad today, hitting the 5 year anniversary of ObamaCare.
See it here:

You will note at the end, they included Nebraska’s 2nd District Congressman on their hit list:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.01.17 AM

Maybe not the last time.


ICYMI, there will be a “Special Announcement” from retired Brigadier General Don “Bits” Bacon tomorrow (Tuesday):

Omaha Marriott Regency
10220 Regency Circle
Omaha, NE
10:00 a.m.
For more information contact Mark Dreiling 402.290.3188 or email

If this is anything less “special” than his announcement for Nebraska’s 2nd District Congressional seat, it will be a surprise.

More to come!


The OWH wrote an “interesting” editorial the other day — and of course that’s “interesting” if you find “bias” to be “interesting”.

And it is an “editorial” so that means “reporting” goes by the “way-side” because “they” can “write” whatever “they” want.
(OK, enough with quotation marks, but you get the point…)

The OWH wrote up this elegent thing about how independent Brad Ashford is in Congress, because he doesn’t vote party line…just like their other favorite Nebraska Senators!

Let’s see their list of “non-party-line” Senators:

Chuck Hagel, a Republican, did it. So did Ben Nelson, a Democrat. As did Democrats Bob Kerrey and Jim Exon.

Well, how about a little detail, right?
These are votes. How about some percentages?

Chuck Hagel, 110th Congress…79% party line voting.
Ooooh! Pretty independent!

Uh… well, let’s look at the rest of his voting:
109th: 90%
108th: 95%
107th: 93%
106th: 92%
105th: 90%

Hmm. Not so “independent”, huh?
How about that?

Well, then how about Ben “Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson?
He was known for being super conservative, and non-party, right?
Depends on the term.

112th Congress, sort of indepedent of the Dems at 85%.
But go back to the 111th Congress, and he’s right up there at 93%.
(Must have made Brad Ashford and the rest of the OWH Ed board weep.)

The next 3 he was at 81%, 63% and 72%. Pretty low.
Ah, but when he came right out of the box in the 107th Congress he was at…90% party-line!

(Oh, and coincidentally, that 63% up there you see for Nelson just happened to be Nelson’s re-election year, against Pete Ricketts. How about that!)

Well, let’s look at the OWH’s paragon of virtue, Rockin’ Bob Kerrey.
90% party-line in his last 106th Congress.

Then, going backwards, he was 87%, 84%, 93%, 87%.

Wait a minute!…Saint Bob Kerrey voted 93% party-line!?!?


Hmm. So maybe we should compare him, to…I don’t known the MOST CURRENT SENATORS — whom the OWH conveniently left out of their little list of supers:

Mike Johanns went (going backwards): 89%, 87%, 92%.
Seems to be right “up there” with Kerrey.

And then Deb Fischer was, in the last Congress, 94%.
If we do the math, we see that Deb Fischer’s 94 is…1% higher than Kerrey’s 93%.

Now of course the Nebraska Dems HAVE to vote more conservatively than their couterparts from Massachusetts and California, because (take a minute to ponder this) Nebraskans are more conservative.

But how about the fact that Johanns’ average party-line voting was 89% and Hagel’s was 90%. And take out Hagel’s last Congress voting of 79%, and he’s at a whopping 92%. My, my, my.

Yes, yes, “Big surprise! The OWH is biased!”

But if they aren’t called out here, then where?


A frequent reader threw out an interesting scenario for Congressman Brad Ashford: Run for re-election as…an Independent.

The aforementioned OWH would practically melt with enthusiasm, yeah?

And it would be a total Ashford move — and one he has made before. And it would match his current voting and lack of campaign activity as well.


We have asked around a bit, and it isn’t on anyone else’s radar (yet).

And, it would take away the ONE advantage Ashford has — money from the DCCC and the rest of the Democrat party.

Is there an upside in that scenario?

In theory, let’s say in the 2nd, 1/3 goes to the Dem (let’s say a Pete Festersen), 1/3 to the Republican (let’s say…well, let’s not say) and then Ashford could come up with 1/3rd of Independents. And then peel off some from either side.

Again, that’s an interesting way to go — if Ashford really thought he was going to lose, and there was no other way. But if he can still get the Dems and the I’s (in theory), why not go that way?

Well, in any case, no one will really be surprised at what Ashford does next.
(Because he’s so independent, you see!)


Some interesting conversations from the GOP Central Committee meeting. Some say Senator Ebke got lots of in-her-face lobbying on WTA.

Ebke herself says, reportedly, “nobody ever talked to me about it.

In any case, as we’ve heard, If Ricketts had done a better job of communicating with Murante he could have bottled it up longer in the Government committee and seen whether some trading could be done, or avoided the embarrassment.

Well, at least the Gov and his staff should be cactus-tanned, rested and ready for votes to come…


Hey you Creighton College-Republicans, former Terry and Hagel staffers, and anyone interested in how how things work on Capitol Hill, be sure to listen to our most recent podcast on The Wheels Down Politics Show featuring Dan Archer.

This is a really interesting episode, and I think you will find it interesting and enjoyable. Download it now!

Mixed Messages

LisaJones01“Lisa Jones” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

Am I the only one baffled by the Governor’s choice for Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol?

If you haven’t heard, Bradley Rice, the nominee for this position, was involved in a gender discrimination lawsuit when he was formerly with the NSP. In the trial, Rice admitted to providing interview advantages to men (a daylong prep session with the successful candidate and provided tips to two other male applicants, but not the female applicant) when he sat on the interview panel. You can certainly read more about it in the OWH and on Nebraska Watchdog, but long story short, the patrol lost the lawsuit and chose not to appeal, making restitution to the female officer and giving her the promotion. Subsequent articles have revealed more allegations of Mr. Rice’s views, such as comments that he believes women should not be employed in law enforcement at all.

So out of all the people Governor Ricketts could tap for this role, this is the guy?

To provide perspective, this is the same Governor who a few weeks ago asked Pat McPherson to resign over a racially-charged blog posting that McPherson says he did not even write. A racial slur on a blog post, unacceptable. But using your power to deny a female a promotion, costing thousands of dollars in legal fees–well, everyone makes mistakes.

In seriousness, whenever stories about sexism or gender discrimination in the workplace come up amongst my male friends, two things usually happen. One, there is usually a lot of resistance to and discomfort about thinking that that still happens. (It does. Not claiming a victim card, just stating a fact. It can be blatant, it can be subtle. But it happens.) Two, if they are a father, they say, “I’m going to teach my daughter differently. I’m going to show her that life is about possibilities, and the stuff isn’t going to affect her. I’m going to teach her to rise above it.” I’m sure a lot of fathers think that. That’s how I was raised, too. We will just raise our daughters to work hard, make good choices, and they will succeed.

But the bottom line is this: when they encounter someone who doesn’t think they should succeed because they are a female, and that someone has the institutional power within the workplace to deny them, every lesson we’ve taught them means nothing. Their skills, abilities, competencies, and drive don’t matter, because a man with power won’t let it matter. And every time we let something like this slide, or say “well, maybe we don’t know the whole story,” and give power back to someone who abuses it, we are really saying it’s okay–paving the way for the daughters we teach today to have daughters of their own with the exact same stories.

Maybe Mr. Rice isn’t a blatant sexist, but even his strongest defenders would have to admit that his actions appear to be, at the very least, a little sexist. Which leads me to wonder–if we have to ask the question of whether, just maybe, he’s a little sexist, should we be elevating him to the Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol?

The Wheels Down Politics Show – Dan Archer

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

Dan Archer 01An interview with Nebraska political veteran and current Washington, D.C. lobbyist Dan Archer.

Jerry Kratochvil talks with Dan about his career in politics and government including re-founding the Creighton College Republicans and working for Congressman Lee Terry and Senator Chuck Hagel. They finish up talking about Dan’s current gig as a D.C. lobbyist and how things have changed since the old days of Washington lobbying.

You can find this, and all of our podcasts at and by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.