The Wheels Down Politics Show – Pete Sepp — National Taxpayers Union

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

Pete Sepp 02Jerry Kratochvil interviews Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.

Kratochvil asks Sepp about his thoughts on Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds’ and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts’ recent joint appearance in support of Renewable Fuel Standards for ethanol. They also talk about how the GOP Presidential candidates are discussing the RFS issues.

They continue their discussion about the increase in the Gas Tax in both Iowa and Nebraska, and the idea of broad change in tax laws and how that can be achieved.

They finish the discussion talking about how states can change policy on larger issues when there is a crisis and immediate attention is needed. And how they can do it when there is no perceived crisis.

On the Web: National Taxpayers Union
Twitter: @NTU
Facebook: National Taxpayers Union


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

#NE4DP confident they’re there

Version 2The AP’s Grant Schulte is reporting that Nebraskans for the Death Penalty WILL likely get the signatures needed to put reinstatement of the Death Penalty on the Nebraska ballot in November of 2016.

He quotes NE4DP’s spokesman Chris Peterson saying,

“… it has gone well. We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be successful.”

If this were a Monday Night Football game back in the 80’s, Dandy Don Meredith would be singing, “Turn out the lights! The party’s over…”

Considering how tight-lipped Peterson has been on any numbers over the past weeks, this is the first indication he has given, and it is unlikely that he’s say this is they still had major efforts needed.

Further, Don Walton is speculating in his weekly column that NE4DP will get not only the 5% needed to put it on the ballot, but the 10% they need stop the Death Penalty from being repealed in the interim. (He is getting that info from SOMEwhere…)

Walton’s question is whether they will try to execute someone in the mean time. Interesting question.

So if they do have it on the ballot, the real campaign for the General Election vote to reinstate the Death Penalty, will be over a YEAR away.

There is a decent chance the campaign for that will be head and shoulders over the Presidential vote in Nebraska.


The Koch Brothers had a retreat recently, and invited a select few elected officials to be speakers.

Sixteen, to be exact.

And one of those 16 was Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.

The whole list:

The governors —
Wisconsin’s Scott Walker
Indiana’s Mike Pence
Illinois’ Bruce Rauner
Texas’ Greg Abbott
Arizona’s Doug Ducey
South Carolina’s Nikki Haley
North Carolina’s Pat McCrory

The senators —
Colorado’s Cory Gardner
Utah’s Mike Lee
Nebraska’s Ben Sasse
Alaska’s Dan Sullivan
Florida’s Marco Rubio
Texas’ Ted Cruz

The congressmen —
Ohio’s Jim Jordan, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus
Wisconsin’s Sean Duffy
Michigan’s Justin Amash

In addition to the elected officials, the crowd heard from presidential candidate Carly Fiorina earlier Saturday and will hear from former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Sunday.

The gang spoke to about 450 donors at a California resort.
Cash bar.


The LJS has a short iinterview with former Governor Dave Heineman — one of the first and few that he has given since leaving the McMansion back in January.

Nothing really breaking. Per usual, he doesn’t comment on Governor Ricketts at all noting, “You can only have one governor at a time.”

The main interesting note:

He called a return to elected office “unlikely” for him.
However, he said, “I don’t want to ever say never.”

By the way, a Terry Brandstad situation (of coming back) is not a likely thing.

Walker-ing around

That's Tom Ricketts, not Ted Cruz, next to Pete...
That’s Tom Ricketts, not Ted Cruz, next to Pete…

Welcome to the Carl Curtis Open Comment Friday!

The Comments section is OPEN to your conservative / libertarian / socialist / Democrat / Republican / Tea Partyish / whatever-your-bad-self-is-into thoughts!

Follow the “rules” and remember what the great Jim Rome says: Have a take and don’t suck.

Suggested topics, including some from the past week…

  • Your favorite Presidential candidate, and why
  • Iranian nukes
  • Ethanol
  • Nebraska schools
  • Killing businesses over beer sales at your “charity” concert
  • Ernie


Per the Washington Post, Joe Ricketts has thrown his substantial support behind Presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker — to the tune of $5 Million.

(As the late Thurston Howell, III used to say, “That’s walking around money…“)

The Post notes…

(Joe and Marlene Ricketts’) son, Todd, is another Walker donor and co-chairman of his national fundraising efforts. In recent months he has hosted events for the governor and traveled with him on the campaign trail.

Joe Ricketts, the family patriarch, settled on Walker after private meetings over the past year at his New York apartment and his ranch in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole valley. They bonded over their Midwestern backgrounds and conservative views on spending, associates said.

Laura Ricketts, daughter of Joe and Marlene, is one of the Democratic Party’s mega-donors. Pete Ricketts, one of the couple’s three sons, was elected governor of Nebraska last year.


ICYMI, Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, quizzed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz regarding the proposed Iran nuclear agreement earlier this week.

See a good chunk of the exchange, mainly regarding inspection notification, here:

While Muniz insisted that the inspection agreement includes a 24 day clock (as if three weeks isn’t an inordinate amount of time), Senator Fischer noted that in fact the text of the agreement says it is 89 days.

(Wonder which the Iranians will use?)

When asked on a call about her thoughts on the President’s declaration that it is either this agreement or WAR with Iran, Senator Fischer noted that it is a false choice, and that the President is misleading the people.


On a separate note, Secretary Moniz is a cross between George Washington and Ernest Borgnine.

Muniz Equation


Have a great weekend!

Remember that you can hear all of our podcasts on The Wheels Politics Show at!

Mismanagement and advantage

Screen-Shot-2015-06-11-at-12.48.29-PMThe audit of the Omaha Housing Authority that many were looking forward to left as many questions as it “answered”.

The first is, what was the holdup in releasing the document in the first place? There didn’t seem to be any justification in the delay, and that makes it questionable on any of these type of documents.

As far as the body of it, there were a few nuggets to pull:

The report was extremely harsh on former Omaha City Councilmen Fred Conley and Frank Brown, as well as current Councilman Ben Gray.

Brown was the Executive Director of “Housing in Omaha” a non-profit organization formed to assist OHA. As E.D., Brown was paid over $77,000 per year, but, according to the report, he had…

Minor small business experience (company failed). No private or public housing experience and very limited management experience. Elected official. Took advantage of position to get job created for him at HIO. Rather than making a contribution through his job, seemed to have impeded normal functioning for personal power.

This position amounted to an unnecessary transfer of functions already being performed by OHA staff and added to HIO’s losses.

Oh, and who was the guy who lead OHA at the time Brown was installed?

Brad Ashford.

Ashford generally gets cited in the report as “keenly interested in improving the OHA governance,” though this was apparently after he propped up Brown. Ashford was generally “credited” with working on the main court settlement at issue, however…

In complying with the requirements of the settlement, OHA made a number of flawed business decisions that ultimately led to the development and occupation of properties that were not able to sustain themselves financially.

Our results show significant issues over the period from 2002 through 2011 related to the use of governmental funds, inaccurate financial reporting, ineffective governance, and poor financial management / internal control.


The kicker of the report was that OHA was directed to repay over a million dollars because of the malfeasance.

HUD told them to pay it back over 6 months.

Their counter-offer was paying it back over 40 years.

CONGRESSMAN Brad Ashford then jumped in to try to get HUD to lay off OHA by writing them a letter, as a Congressman, and trying to get Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse to sign the letter too.

The Senators did not sign.

Considering his major position and involvement at OHA, some consider his sticking his nose into the Federal procedures to be a conflict of interest, at best.

Go figure.


But the report is particularly scathing towards Conley (“no prior housing related experience“) , and current Omaha City Council President Ben Gray (“no housing or business related experience“).

Fred Conley/Ben Gray have unduly influenced several management decision i.e. reversing a staff termination through extraordinary change in personnel policy, pushing contracts to preferred vendors against management’s recommendations, raising the question as to whether they were serving the “constituents’ interests” or OHA’s best interests.

You’re not going to believe this, but Conley and Gray disagree with the findings of the report.


ICYMI, State Senator Ernie Chambers grabbed himself some official state stationery and some scissors and Elmers Glue and made a pretty letter to the Governor, making fun of the Chicago Cubs, Ricketts’ family and Ricketts’ legislative success.

Chambers’ “poem“, which would insult most 4th Graders, goes like this:


Governor Ricketts, most folks agree:
One more and then, with proverbs, I am done”

Father Ricketts’ ball team is The Cubs.
(Sometimes, they play like ragamuffin scrubs.)
The other day, Cubs fans turned bitter,
Watching “their” Cubs suffer a NO-HITTER.

By your Father, you were not outdone.
Peter Ricketts, you’re your Father’s son.
Confidently, you stepped to the plate;
On your shoulders lay a heavy weight.
As with “them Cubs,” (tho’ you be no quitter) —
Legislators pitched you a NO-HITTER.

This was in the LJS.
No word as to whether they asked Chambers why his letter and poem were printed on taxpayer-funded stationery.

Or why, according to unicameral staffers, we hear that Chambers prints his “Erniegram”…usually multiple pages, printed in color on the state copier, at least 60 copies, produced almost daily during session and once every week or two during the interim.

And we are always hearing about how brilliant Chambers is.
Maybe someone could teach him to use one of those TV-typewriter gadgets, and the electronic mail on the Information Superhighway.

And, no reason to link here…
…but it is interesting that Chambers, of all people, would mock Joe Ricketts success as a father.
Just going to leave it at that.

(And, “they play like ragamuffin scrubs“? Geez even Don Walton points out that Chicago is only 2 games out of the Wildcard…)

Boy, just think what Ernie could have come up with about Steve Bartman…


And this just in from The Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.03.50 PM


Lautenbaugh has kids in school, and “hates to fly”.

But “Ever” is such a long time…


And just a note to be sure to hear the exclusive podcast with former Congressman Lee Terry on The Wheels Down Politics Show.

This is Terry’s first interview since leaving office. (We think.)

Give it a click, and tell a friend!

The Wheels Down Politics Show – Rep. Lee Terry

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

Lee Terry 02Jerry Kratochvil interviews former Nebraska 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry.

Lee tells Jerry about his life since leaving Congress in 2014 after 16 years in office (not including serving on the Omaha City Council prior to that). He tells a bit about what issues he is involved in now and how he has kept up with the issues since then.

They then get into the discussion of Congressman Terry’s opposition from within his own party that began back in 2010, and eventually resulted in his loss in 2014. They talk about the influence of the “Tea Party” and the source of some of his opposition in his races, including the TARP bailout.

They then talk about some of the issues and dynamics of the 2014 General Election, including the now notorious, “Nice House” comment. Lee continues by talking about some of the more memorable issues during his term and the work that he did in Congress.

They then get into Lee’s thoughts on some of the current day’s politics, including how the 2nd District race is shaping up, his thoughts about General Don Bacon and the current politics and policy surrounding the Death Penalty in Nebraska.

They conclude with Lee’s thoughts on the Iran nuclear deal, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Boys Town Coin.

On the Web: Lee Terry at Kelley Drye
Twitter: @LeeTerryNE


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

Don’t ask about that!

South OThe OWH has a story about how its Big Brother, Berkshire Hathaway, is supporting the fight against Global Warming…er…CLIMATE Change.

Shockingly, all the statements they made about the certainty of climate warm-changing were made without quoting any sources or any other direct scientists.

Of course if they did, that would subject them to scrutiny. Though they do quote some UNL scientists who say that if the weather turns warm…er…the CLIMATE changes, agriculture states would be hardest hit.

Well, THERE is some hard science we can get behind. If the weather gets bad, farmers will be affected. Of course, if the weather IMPROVES, farmers will also be affected.

But can we please get it out of our system that Berkshire and the others are working on Global Warmin…CLIMATE change, out of the goodness of their hearts? They will do it IF it makes good business (including PR) sense. If not, they will “buy and hold utility companies throughout the world for decades to come.”

Which is fine.
But enough of, “OH the CLIMATE!!!”


Just wondering if the OWH got a chance to ask their boss Warren about all of his contributions and thoughts on baby-parts dealers, Planned Parenthood.


How about that…


The newsies report that there are currently 8 applicants for the Legislative Seat abandoned by Brad Ashford COS Jeremy Nordquist.

A former Democrat state Senator from the District, John Synowiecki, has applied for the gig — and will likely run in 2016 whether he gets the appointment or not.

Discussing the applicants, the LJS’s Don Walton gave an interesting description of the South Omaha District:

The 7th District spreads across South Omaha and through downtown Omaha and includes older eastern European immigrant neighborhoods.

Right. Because that’s how we all think of South Omaha these days, right?

It’s like a stroll through Old Town Prague. From the front door of the Bohemian Cafe, along the side of the parking lot, and back into the Bohemian Cafe through the back door.

In case Don missed it, when South High won the state soccer tournament a few years ago, they weren’t running the Polish flag across the field.

So while Don may long for the old days of when my grandma was baking kolaches along 13th Street, the reality is it is just a tad more Latino these days.

But that doesn’t quite jibe with the name, “Synowiecki”, now does it?

Interesting that The Don left out the CV of one applicant: former Missouri House of Representatives member Zach Wyatt-Gomez.

Wyatt-Gomez made headlines a few years back when he was the only openly gay Republican serving as a state rep. He gave up his seat when he went back to school, but has apparently renewed his interest in elective government.

On his Facebook page, Wyatt-Gomez gives an account of why he is a Republican. (Though I honestly don’t know much more about him — and this isn’t meant to be some sort of endorsement.)

Now if only Don can find out if he is a fan of dumplings and kraut…


And speaking of being non-responsive, didja see Hillary’s response on whether or not she supports the Keystone XL Pipeline?

“If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question,” Clinton said. “This is President Obama’s decision. I’m not going to second-guess him.”

THERE’s you “leader” Democrats!
Such a Bold statement, eh Nebraska?

“Hey Hillary, what’s your position on [insert absolutely ANY issue here]?”

“Oh my! That’s a current issue! I can’t answer that! You’ll have to elect me to find out what’s in my head.”

Mighty fine candidate ya got there.


Be sure to check back to Leavenworth St. on Wednesday for an EXCLUSIVE podcast guest on The Wheels Down Politics Show!

Caped Crusaders

crusades 02Ah, the OWH’s Erin Grace is at it again.

“Again?” you say?

Well, you may have read her Sunday column about Governor Pete Ricketts’ views on Catholicism.

That’s all it was about, you see. It was JUST about Pete’s views on Catholicsm…and how he applies it to the Death Penalty debate. (She calls it a “crusade”. See what she did there?)

See, Grace did some deep research, and consulted a number of Catholic Theologians regarding the Death Penalty, and what is and isn’t adherence to Catholic dogma.

She found that Ricketts’ views aren’t Kosher with Church teachings…on the Death Penalty. And she wants you all to know it.

But what about OTHER church teachings? What does Erin Grace think about those?

Well kids, THAT’s another story.

See when she wrote a few years ago about Catholics and ABORTION — mainly as to how some Catholics feel about the Church being forced to fund abortifacient drugs — well…the official views of the Church weren’t so important.

She focused on a few individuals. (One of them being on the Brad Ashford for Congress team, not to mention “Nebraskans for Kerrey”.) But she wasn’t so interested in zeroing in on those politicians (gee, wonder what party they’d be from?) who are Pro-Choice.

Wonder what she would have found it she’d delved into that issue deeper?
Would those pols even give her the time of day, if she wanted to get their thoughts on Catholic philosophy and abortion?

Would she point out their hypocrisy?

(Holding my breath starting…now!)


The LJS ran a story on Saturday about the Death Penalty reinstatement petition process. They noted that Chris Peterson of the “Nebraskans for the Death Penalty” would not give them an update on the number of signatures they have collected so far.

However, Madison County has gotten theirs. Madison County reportedly has gotten signatures from over 15% of voters. Note that Norfolk, where the 2002 bank robbery and 5 murders took place, is in Madison Co.

Note the rules for the ballot:

By collecting the signatures of approximately 57,000 registered voters (5% of registered voters in Nebraska) and signatures from at least 5% of registered voters in 40% of Nebraska’s counties (38 of the 93 counties), the question will be placed on the November 2016 general election ballot.

If approximately 115,000 registered voters (10%) sign the petition including at least 10% of registered voters in forty percent of Nebraska’s counties, the law repealing the death penalty will be suspended until the outcome of the November 2016 election has been determined.

No word from Peterson on financial contributions, though he did note, “We could always use more help and more money, because this is a very labor-intensive and expensive undertaking.


And back to the LJS, Don Walton wrote in his Monday column about former Omaha Fire Union head Mike McDonnell running for legislature…

The Legislature is non-partisan and state senators act independently — perhaps more so during the past legislative session than at any time in recent memory — but party affiliation matters during legislative election campaigns both in terms of money and organized support.

Recent voter registration figures in South Omaha’s 5th District: 8,066 Democrats; 4,487 Republicans; 4,357 independents.


So which is it? The legislature is super NON-partisan…but hey, look Democrats! And lots of them!

Oh, and you might note that the Nebraska Democrats almost consistently vote as a block and are no more “independent” from each other than rest of the Warsaw Pact were from the former Soviet Union.


Hey, if you like my interviews on The Wheels Down Politics Show, today I have up an interview with Representative David Young of Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District — which ranges from Des Moines to Council Bluffs, and generally takes in southwest Iowa.

Young had a particularly interesting election in 2014, where the GOP primary went to the convention (because no candidate received more than 35% of the vote) and Young finally won on the 5th ballot.

I talk with Congressman Young about a number of issues before Congress, as well as his district constituent work in the state that is currently overrun with Presidential candidates.

(He also does a killer Chuck Grassley impression.)

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


And just because…Don Walton cites in his column, for some reason…the USA Today’s Top Ten baseball rankings? Because he is hoping for a split between the Computer Rankings and the Coaches’ Poll to see who will make it to the World Series?

(Oh and Don, the Royals are ranked 2nd in your poll today, not 3rd…
But for some reason, I’ll stick with the Standings.)

Friday I’m in Love

Carl Curtis button 01Today we will keep with our new-ish Friday tradition of the Carl Curtis Open Comment Friday.

The comments section is open up to the topics that YOU want to discuss.


And please feel free to continue the discussion of Charter Schools, that was initiated during my podcast interview with Millard School Board Member, Mike Kennedy.

Kennedy expressed that he is not a big fan of Charters, though may be in favor of vouchers.

Others in the recent comments have said they are fans of Charters, and that they can be effective and can be held accountable.

Have at it.


Other topics?

  • Iran Nuclear deal
  • The Planned Parenthood tissue harvesting videos
  • Reinstatement of the Death Penalty
  • Your favorite Presidential candidate…


More later as things hit the wires.
And as always, follow Leavenworth St. on the Twitter @LeavenworthSt.

(Yes, I did use this headline before, about 4 years ago. There’re only so many songs by The Cure…)

Get off my lawn!

Ben_Nelson_EthanolWelcome to Throwback Thursday (as every Thursday has become on The Facebook.)

This one from the Editorial Page Editor of the New York Times, Andrew Rosenthal:

When Lehman asked Rosenthal to give his opinion on the “most ridiculous” Republican candidates in the race, Rosenthal named Donald Trump and “Ben Nelson.”

“Everything Ben Nelson says is ridiculous,” said Rosenthal.

Now Leavenworth St. isn’t here to quibble with the opinions of the mighty New York Times on the subject of Ben Nelson.

But it is possible he meant Ben “Carson”.

Oh, and speaking of “ridiculous” were you aware that Rosenthal is a “truther” about…D-Day? As in “did it really happen?


THIS is the guy who thinks Hillary is awesome and all the GOP candidates are dopes.

(Oh, and he hates Ben Nelson.)

From here on out we will get all of our Editorials from the York News Times


I hope you took, or will take, a few minutes of your commute or your walk or your workout to listen to my most recent podcast with Mike Kennedy on The Wheels Down Politics Show.

Mike and I talked about his 13 years of experience on the Millard School Board, and some of his thoughts on the various education topics these days.

Here is a short excerpt on the topic of Charter School:

I’m not a huge fan of Charter Schools.

I get why people want Charters. Charter Schools can have very different forms, but one of the forms they’re trying to push in the state is basically have an independently run Charter that’s run by a private entity — which could be nonprofit or for profit — and basically that they receive the funds and control the property, and run the school and set the curriculum.

Here’s my concern:
There’s Charter Schools that do a wonderful law. And there are Charter Schools that do a horrible job. And I think the law that (Governor Ricketts) was supporting, that was offered by Senator Larson, allowed the authorization of 5 Charter Schools in Douglas County.

Here’s my issue with it:
We have good schools in this state. And we have the ability of choice by doing inter-district transfers — like Millard kids going to OPS or Westside and vice versa — in fact about 2,000 OPS kids go to Millard Schools at this time for their school choice.

If you open 5 schools and you say, “it’s going to all these wonderful things of educating kids and getting kids out of poverty,” and all that; What about the kids in the other 55 elementary schools in the OPS school district?

They don’t have an answer for that.

The problem is Accountability. You have to set standards. If someone is receiving taxpayer dollars, you need to set standards, hold accountability — whether that’s state take over the district, giving sanctions or something like that.

Nebraska has wholly — wholly — neglected that aspect.

And immediately following those comments, you can hear Kennedy’s thoughts on OPS’s Nathan Hale Magnet Middle School for Leadership and Social Justice, and their abominable test scores from three years ago.

I really enjoyed this interview with Mike, and I think we will be hearing more from him in the future.

And just to make it easier for you, you can hear the whole thing by clicking here:


If you weren’t following on the Twitter yesterday, do take 2 minutes to watch the latest video, resulting from The Donald giving out Senator Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number:

My favorite is the mini-pizzas also in the toaster oven.


And as long as I’m screaming at you kids flat-brimmed hats, I’ll just spit out that I’m finally tired of the “new Husker unis for one game!

Yes it was cute and new and all that a few years ago. But now it’s just a goofball reason to sell jerseys and frankly is just more of the Oregon Duck-ification of college football.

That being said, I still like the throwbacks from the 60’s.

But I say ENOUGH of the Dallas Knights and their uniforms from Any Given Sunday.

And turn down your dadgum “rock” music too!

The Wheels Down Politics Show – Mike Kennedy

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

Gov. Dave Heineman, Mike Kennedy, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert
Gov. Dave Heineman, Mike Kennedy, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert

Jerry Kratochvil talks to Millard School Board Member Mike Kennedy.

Having served on the school board for 13 years, Kennedy gives his thoughts on a wide variety of subjects in the education field, including the Nebraska Learning Community, Charter Schools, testing of kids, accountability of schools, national standards and after school programs, among others.

Kennedy gives some straight-forward thoughts on other topics such as school vouchers, after school programs and the true effectiveness of the Learning Community.

Kennedy also talks a little about being the first attorney in Nebraska to represent a client seeking a divorce from a same-sex marriage.

A veteran of campaigns for Mike Johanns, Chuck Hagel, Hal Daub and Jean Stothert, Kennedy finishes with some thoughts on his future in elective politics.

On the web: Millard Public Schools – Board Members
Facebook: MikeKennedy1970


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