Jon Bruning: Angry Young Man

A little quiz. Which Nebraskan wrote the following?:

  • “I think a woman should have a right to choose.”
  • “I believe in gun control.”
  • “I believe homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else.”
  • “I believe in affirmative action. If a woman or a black person takes the place of a white male in a law school entering class, we’re better off.”
  • “I would love to persuade you that trickle-down economics was a farce or that Ronald Reagan was incapable of understanding complex policy arguments.”

OK, time’s up.

Bob Kerrey? Nope.
Ernie Chambers? No sir.
Maxine Moul? No mam.

Well, maybe all of them did write those things at some point, but we’re looking at a specific article.

Would you believe Attorney General Jon Bruning?
Ding ding ding!

Well, he didn’t write them as AG. He wrote them back as a second-year law student at the University of Nebraska in an Op-Ed for the November 13, 1992 edition of the Daily Nebraskan.

(“Conservatives, come out of the closet” – Jon Bruning – Daily Nebraskan.
Click here for a .jpg image of the article, and here to download the .pdf.)

This article has been rumored for some time, and it was recently sent to Leavenworth Street by a few different people. If it had been brought out in previous Bruning campaigns, we hadn’t seen it.

Now Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has taken the lead in changing major campaign positions. He went from strongly Pro-Choice while running for Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994 to strongly Pro-Life while running for President. And many believe he is suffering the consequences for flipping on these positions. But it’s tough to compare someone running for Senate and a second year law student. Bruning never ran for office as a liberal and he has certainly brandished his conservative credentials in the Legislature and as AG.

Now, one could probably come to different positions on abortion, gun control, homosexuality and affirmative action over a span of 15 years (though we’ll let someone else give his positions as a state Senator just three or four years after this article).

But we gotta say…the knocks on President Reagan? “Incapable of understanding complex policy arguments”? We haven’t heard Bruning’s position on Reagan these days, but we’re not sure how you can change your position on that. Would be curious to see where he stands now.

So what to make of the manifesto by a 23 year-old liberal law student who uses the school paper to specifically call out “Conservatives”? Well it’s certainly alarming to read the liberal positions of one of Nebraska’s leading conservatives just fifteen years ago. Should he have to stick to these views throughout his whole career? We’d say probably not.

So while some would see this as the “Gotcha” for Bruning, he no doubt knew this would be coming out sooner than later, and he now has ample time to explain how his positions have evolved (assuming they have).

Nebraska campaign season start early enough for ya?

48 comments

  1. Eric says:

    This can’t be for real. With yesterday’s flip, I thought Bruning seemed like a typical calculating politician, but today I stand corrected. If this is true, then he’s not just typical, he’s the king of blind ambition. It makes Romney seem downright principled.

    My favorite part is that “life begins in the tenth week of gestation”. Is it possible to make this stuff up?

  2. Eric says:

    By the way, it seems that someone has penciled in “11/13/92” near the top of the article. I’ll stop by the University library later today and see if I can verify.

  3. Let's Be Real says:

    Let’s be real. Deeds are what count. I challenge anyone to look at the record of Jon Bruning as a representative of the public trust. He has a solid, implecable record on on conservative issues, including right to life. He has been consistently endorsed by right to life organizations. This record began at the Nebraska Legislature and has continued as the Attorney General. This is how one should be judged rather than based on something written as college student. Which one of us does not look back on their formative years and wish we had done something differently.

    These are simply the tactics of those who know their recent actions have not upheld the trust given to them by Nebraska voters. A trust the Jon Bruning has upheld.

  4. Street Sweeper says:

    Eric,
    Thanks on the date. The guesstimation of 1992-93 works, but if you can confirm the 11/13/92 date, the denizens of Leavenworth Street would greatly appreciate it.
    -SS

  5. Anonymous says:

    Eric,

    If Bruning IS the typical calculated politician as you accuse him to be, wouldn’t he have refrained from expressing himself so explicitly in WRITING, let alone a actual newspaper article that he can’t run away from? Not so typical of a calculating politician.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As a conservative who is in neither Hagel’s or Bruning’s camp, let me say that this piece by Young Bruning churns my stomach. It’s akin to a 24-year-old athiest who spells out the reasons God can’t possibly exist and then, 14 years later, applies for the priesthood. Bruning bared his soul. Republican voters now get to play St. Peter as an older Bruning approches the pearly gates. (Matthew 16:18-19)

  7. Street Sweeper says:

    Commenters, if you can handle it, please give yourself at least a nickname of some sort so that we don’t just have a bunch of “Anonymous” comments.

    Oh and Matthew 16:18-19
    “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    I’m not actually sure how that applies in this case, but then that’s why we run a political site and not a Biblical one…

  8. Cousin Eddie says:

    Bruning is nothing more than a conservative joke… If this was his published stance in 1992, did he vote for Clinton or H.W. Bush? Clinton no doubt!

    After reading this article, I have changed my mind on Bruning. Once I thought of him as a real conservative, but now I see him as nothing more than a fake politician taking positions and not believing in them. Hagel actually believes in what he says – not because it’s popular, but because he believes it’s right.

  9. Uncle Wiggily says:

    Sweeper:

    Being an old UNL dood, I can assure you (though you prolly already know) that the Daily Nebraskan is, like most college organs, as liberal a rag as you’re ever going to see. You want to get published in it, your essay better read like the Communist Manifesto. It’s the nature of the beast: college = liberal (OK, except for Bob Jones U and Falwell’s place).

    Shoot, I think I even carried a sign for the S.D.S. one night after several hours at the Diamond Bar and Grill. There was this skinny hippy chick ….

    I’d be more surprised if Bruning had written a Right-slanted article back then.

    Keep rockin’

    UW

  10. Street Sweeper says:

    UW,
    I’m going to disagree with you on this one.

    I will grant that nearly everyone does and says things in their youth that they regret, or didn’t mean.

    But at age twenty-three, and in his second year of Law School (not undergrad), I’m a little surprised that his apparent true feelings hadn’t matured yet. And I guess I’m surprised that he did such a massive 180 just a few years later when he was in the Legislature (1996). (And w/o a detailed knowledge of his voting record, I’m going on the assumption that it was conservative.) These are the writings of a staunch liberal who is challenging Conservatives to a fight.

    But again, the proof is in his voting record and record as AG as to his conservatism today. That’s just what makes this relatively shocking.

  11. don says:

    This is really old news that Bruning has repeatedly addressed. Over the last decade he has established an impressive, conservative list of accomplishments. He doesn’t deserve a cheap smear-job like this. Look at what Ronald Reagan wrote early in his career ~ which began much later than Bruning’s. Maybe you could attack his values too.

  12. Street Sweeper says:

    Don,

    When a large majority of voters has never seen this, or heard Bruning address it, then I hardly think this is a smear-job.
    You think Reagan didn’t address things he did in his past?

    People want to know candidates’ views and how they evolved. They’re not voting for dog-catcher. They’re voting for someone who will shape the laws, the Supreme Court and the path of the country.

    This is worthy of discussion, and should be addressed head-on by Bruning or any others instead of whimpering that we’re being mean.

  13. THINKamerica says:

    The best part is definitely where Bruning stoops down from his mountain to drop the “personally, I think life begins in the tenth week of gestation upon inception of brainwaves…” That part kills me.

    A close second is where Bruning plays the martyr – “I suppose you could call me the idiot who is foolish enough to show compassion…”

    Third best part is where Bruning hints that Nebraska conservatives are typically not bright and not well read, and later, “too scared” or “too lazy” to argue with the intellectual giant that is Jon Bruning.

    Charges of political opportunism can be overcome. Being exposed as smug and arrogant? Much more difficult.

  14. Street Sweeper says:

    Eric,
    A reader has suggested that if/when you search for the UNL library copy of this article, you search microfiche or electronicly, as opposed to hard copy.
    -SS

  15. Tom says:

    When accepting the Party nomination on July 17, 1980, Ronald Reagan eloquently stated: “I am very proud of our party tonight. This convention has shown to all America a party united, with positive programs for solving the nation’s problems; a party ready to build a new consensus with all those across the land who share a community of values embodied in these words: family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom. … More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country; to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values.”

    I challenge the critics to review Mr. Bruning’s record on President Reagan’s “community of values” and find a single departure. More importantly, I would encourage the host of this site to engage in the spirit of “unity” and “sense of shared purpose” that President Reagan spoek of, rather than dredgin up old news to divide the party itself.

  16. Street Sweeper says:

    Tom,

    To answer your request: This is a blog about politics in Nebraska. This isn’t a GOP party blog. The state GOP is welcome to develop one of those if they want (and which I encourage them to do). Bruning’s writings and views are political issues that deserve discussion. Our purpose is to host a spirited discussion of politics, not to sing cumbaya around the GOP campfire.

    And as far as what Reagan said (who, by the way, Bruning said was incapable of understanding complex policy arguments), I’d go so far as to suggest that Bruning’s challenge to Hagel is splitting the NE GOP. Now you could also say that Hagel is doing the same, but, in any case, both arguments are valid.

    But we won’t be sticking our heads into the sand. This is the right time for parties to have a discussion about their direction, and we believe this post furthers those discussions.

  17. Anonymous says:

    SS–why the Bruning hatred? I can understand having this debate. It’s legit. But why respond so anti-Bruning to every comment?

  18. Street Sweeper says:

    Well, I will say that I certainly don’t mean to come off as negative to Bruning. I would offer the post itself as L St’s opinion on this topic. But I’d also state that the pro-Bruning forces commenting here should respond to the message, instead of attacking the messenger.

    For instance, in defending Bruning’s radical departure from his Law School days beliefs, I’d offer that one often doesn’t truly nail down his or her belief system until they are out of college. Now Bruning went straight from undergrad to law school, and my experience is that those law students who haven’t been out in the real world yet extend their college mind-set during the law school years. So Bruning is going to have a different outlook as a 23 year old law student, than what a 23 year old college grad in the working world would have. When he got out of law school, that outlook apparently changed.

    That’s a response I would give to this article, which again I believe deserves to be heard, instead of simply yelling “smear!”.

  19. OmaSteak says:

    I doubt there are many people who at some point in time in their youth were not “liberal”…due to inexperience if nothing else. As one gets older having started a career, gotten married, began an family, the intelligent shed the “liberal” ideas of youth and become more conservative as times passes. If for nothing else than to play the game we all play in this society. How many “liberals” in office truly believe the BS they spout? If they did, wouldn’t they all have taken vows of poverty and be working for charitable organizations? Not that supposed “conservative” office holders are much better or all that different.

  20. Eric says:

    I am at the moment sitting down in front of a microfilm machine (I tried to get electronic version through LexisNexis – but it doesn’t seem to be working) here at Love Library on the campus of UNL (braving the bomb threat and all), and have found that indeed the article in question is from 11/13/1992 – a seemingly unlucky Friday the 13th for Mr. Bruning. For those of you who think this is just the ramblings of a naive youth, you need to read some of these columns. These are well-thought-out, carefully articulated arguments. He consistently makes the case for Clinton, Finnegan (ran against Bereuter), etc.

    Some fun quotes:

    10/30/92: “The best direction for the future includes a government-sponsored basic health care plan for all Americans.”

    11/6/92: “One of the most exciting additions to the Senate is Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois.”

    I can understand people having evolving views over a decade or so, but this much is a little hard to swallow. Can you imagine Kyle Michaelis 15 years from now launching a primary challenge from the right of the most conservative member of the Senate? (yeah, yeah, I know – you don’t think Hagel is conservative – whatever).

  21. Street Sweeper says:

    Eric,
    You may tape a badge on your chest that says “Official Leavenworth Street Correspondent”. (Please take it off when the cops pull you over.)
    I’m going to update the post with that date.
    Thanks
    SS

  22. right-wing rant says:

    The human heart doesn’t change overnight or over 15 years. Bruning’s left-wing rant is as unacceptable today as it was in the early 1990s.

    You want a relevant Bible verse? Try Matthew 16:24-25. Need a translation?? Bear your cross, Jon Bruning.

  23. ptg says:

    Hey, I was still an idiot when I was 23. The older I get, the stupider 23 year old me gets. There’s no shame in it as long as you get past it.

    If no benighted liberal can be enlightened without being labeled inconsistent, then why bother trying to change their minds?

    Is the stink of liberal thought so persistent that once you’ve had one, you can’t get rid of its odor?

    The real question here is: who stinks less: Bruning, Hagel or Fahey?

  24. Eric says:

    Doing a little further research, it seems that the article in question was near the end of his stint as a DN columnist. Curiously enough, Rainbow Rowell begins making appearances on the opinion page shortly after. I’d like to think that the humiliation caused from being replaced by Rainbow sent him into a deep depression which made him question his core beliefs, and he ultimately come away hating everything he represented as a DN columnist. At any rate, there are only 4 years from the end of his liberal rants till his election to the Legislature.

  25. Tyson Kennard says:

    unfortunately, politics is a “what have you done for me lately” game. Sorry, but as a GOP’er Hagel is dead to me. In 2008 it might just be the lesser of two evils in which case I forgive the specter of a 23 year old kid. Hagel betrayed us on the Iraq war and he betrayed us with his amnesty proposal for illegal aliens. Bruning has more conservative principles in his left pinky than Hagel does in the hand that waves his white surrender flag.

  26. bts in Omaha says:

    Who says we’ll have a Hagel-Bruning contest? After seeing this column, I pray that Daub or Johanns enters the race. Daub can be in-your-face, and Johanns can be stale, but at least you know they’re not wearing sheep’s clothing.

  27. Ugly Kid Joe says:

    Lay off Jon! Think of all the criminals he has prosecuted.

    (Here’s betting those criminals are saying the same thing Jon is: I was young, dumb and did a bad thing. You can’t change the criminal mind.)

  28. SweetWillis says:

    Hey SS! Looks like the GOP Civil War of ’08 has officially begun! Anyway, in the spirit of piling on, I went back through my personal archives and dug up one of my all-time favorite Bruning-isms:

    “We say we need to be tough on crime — I’ve been so tough on crime, it makes me want to throw up sometimes.” Jon Bruning, September 22, 2005, Omaha World Herald (It should be noted that, to this day, the meaning of the aforementioned quip has yet to be identified)

    But we all need to start thinking more creatively about this impending showdown. How about UFC style promotional posters with menacing looking headshots and sweet nicknames: ‘Pukin’ Jon Bruning vs. ‘Give up’ Chuck Hagel.

    –SW
    PS: How come I can’t be an LS Correspondant? I’m so much funnier than that Eric dude…and I have awesome, chisled abs!

  29. 'Sker says:

    Published Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Denial of commutation angers Bruning

    BY LESLIE REED
    WORLD-HERALD BUREAU

    LINCOLN – Attorney General Jon Bruning on Wednesday blasted the Nebraska Board of Pardons for refusing to commute the life sentence of a convicted kidnapper, saying the board’s action was a politically motivated attempt to appear “tough on crime.”

    Bruning was the lone dissenter in the Pardons Board’s 2-1 decision to deny Jeremy Herman a chance at freedom. Fellow Republicans Gov. Dave Heineman and Secretary of State John Gale voted against commuting the sentence.

    Bruning noted that the Pardons Board has not commuted a life sentence since 1990. He said Herman’s case, in which a 15-year-old boy was killed, seemed to be a rare instance where the board could show mercy.

    “This board used to commute people. Tough guys like (former Govs.) Charley Thone and Jim Exon would commute people. We commute none. Why do we even have a Pardons Board?” Bruning said.

    He said the board should have considered making Herman, who has served 13 years for a crime he committed at age 17, eligible for parole in 15 years.

    “Mercy is among the highest virtues of human beings,” Bruning said.

    Heineman and Gale said Herman’s family had not presented a compelling argument to commute the sentence from life without parole to a set term of years.

    They said that Herman, who did not attend the hearing, had been sentenced according to state law and that it is not the Pardons Board’s role to second-guess court decisions.

    Bruning made an impassioned speech about what he called the politicizing of criminal sentencings after it became apparent that Heineman and Gale were going to oppose commuting Herman’s sentence.

    Bruning said such sentences don’t serve society and cost taxpayers too much money. He said he was commenting “at (my) own peril,” but he asked two reporters in the room to take down his remarks.

    “We say we need to be tough on crime – I’ve been so tough on crime it makes me want to throw up sometimes,” Bruning said. “How tough on crime can we be?”

    Gale said the public has demanded that criminals serve longer sentences in Nebraska.

    “It’s not the voice of the people,” Bruning said. “It’s the voice of politicians trying to get re-elected. At some point, it’s got to end, and to me this is where it is.”

    Herman, who will be 30 next week, was sentenced to life without parole for his role in a 1992 kidnapping that ended in the death of his one-time friend, 15-year-old Jeremy Drake.

    Herman’s co-defendant, Christopher Masters, then 19, was convicted of first-degree murder as the shooter and was sentenced to life without parole.

    The pair had picked up Drake in an attempt to figure out who had stolen Herman’s car stereo speakers. Drake was killed in Omaha’s Hummel Park.

    One of Herman’s key supporters at the hearing was Mona Schlautman, Drake’s mother.

  30. 'Sker says:

    I hope SS posts my previous submission of Bruning during a parole board meeting a couple years ago. Shades of his past leanings can be gleaned.

    Something worthy of your consideration:
    In college, liberals rule. Bruning is a liberal.

    In Nebraska, conservatives rule. Bruning is a conservative.

    In D.C., liberals rule. Bruning…

  31. Anonymous says:

    Billy with his Goggles on says….

    someone cue the ‘When you make a promise, you keep it’ video. mix that w/ the ‘Hagel guy’ comment ole Jonny Bru came up with a couple weeks ago.

    man, this guy is as predictable as an Owen Lei closer.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Interesting. Deeds are what count…but writing a newspaper article for an entire campus to read isn’t a deed?

    “Which one of us does not look back on their formative years and wish we had done something differently.”
    –I would guess most prisoners in Lincoln have the same thoughts…but Bruning isn’t so forgiving of them…should we be of him?

    At the age of 24, I would hope we are past our “formative years.” Bruning has been positioning himself for a political career since I can remember…everything the guy does is political. He’s a politician and that’s why I won’t vote for him. Hagel isn’t a politician…precisly why I vote for him.

  33. OmaSteak says:

    Hagel isn’t a politician??? I damn near choked on my coffee reading that. You don’t get elected to the US Senate without being a consumate politician much less reelected. If, by some fortunate circumstance, the surge works in Iraq and Chuck decides to run for reelection, just watch how he explains to NE voters that his opposition to the war was “successful in prompting the Bush administration to make needed changes in direction” or some such drivel…truly the mark of a top level “politician”.

  34. Oracle says:

    One’s views don’t change that radically in such a short time frame. Bruning is just another Mitt Romney, playing to whatever crowd he needs the support of.

  35. fearful Republican says:

    If this Bruning/Hagel matchup happens, it is going to be the nastiest race we have ever seen in this state. It stands to tear the party apart. The potential was there in the Governors race last year, but fortunatly that didn’t get out of hand.

    Bruning’s DN columns were getting e-mailed to me from some dummy account by yesterday afternoon. They had to get my e-mail from a Republican list so it was cleary the Hagel camp firng back.

    If this is a sign of things to come, it will get ugly.

    If the election could be held today, Bruning or another Republican could beat Hagel for the Republican nomination.

    However, he has complete control over the party apparatus in the state including the governor.

    If Tom Osborne couldn’t overcome it, I don’t know if Bruning or someone else will be able to do it.

    There is a difference most Republican activists like Heineman and didn’t like Osborne because of his above the fray of politics attitude. On the other hand, most of them are unhappy to say the least with Hagel. Still Hagel holds the power and money strings of the party appartus. The question is when push comes to shove how many Repulican activists will have the balls to go against him when their access to the party is threatened. Heineman is a shrewd politician but is beholden to Hagel and doesn’t like Bruning, which will make it even harder for Bruning.

    Hagel is cleary weakened. He is dilusional if he is really still considering running for president with his anemic fundraising efforts. His current situation doesn’t even give him a good war chest for the senate re-election bid let alone a presidential bid, which may really have been the final straw for Bruning to be willing to make the challenge.

    I’m not sold on Bruning yet. I want to hear his explanation of his liberal youth and need to be convinced he has truly converted to the conservative cause, but with it appearing he has the balls to take on Hagel I’m leaning toward supporting Bruning.

    The best thing for the party would be for Hagel to retire from the senate and not seek re-election to the Senate or make a run at the presidency.

    The race for an open seat would be intense, but it would not be the blood bath that we are going to see if it is Bruning versus Hagel.

  36. Tee says:

    The thing I like about Hagel is this–the man does what he thinks is right. Furthermore, he seems to have far-sighted strategies that benefit Nebraskans and Republicans. A couple years ago there was the judicial nomination fiasco…who took heat for not advocating a total destruction of fillibuster? Hagel. Who now dominates Congress…the Democrats. I’m still waiting for Hagel to be thanked. Early criticism on no exit stragety in Iraq and no security of the borders…look what has happened.

    Therefore the difference between Hagel and Bruning–Hagel does what he thinks is right…Bruning does what he speculates Nebraskans would like (much like Nelson). When the members of Congress have access to far more information than the general public, I’d rather have Hagel in office than Bruning.

    Hagel doesn’t care about polls (and obviously not about retaining office)…he cares about voting for the best policy. Bruning is worried only about the next step in his career and the next notch in his belt. Who really is interested in what is best for Nebraskans? I think the answer is obvious.

  37. Cally says:

    SS.

    Lighten up Francis.

    When did these trivial, inconsequential and all-around asinine tidbits become part of the political discussion?

    John McCain singing “Bomb Iran.” Barack Obama getting a phone call from Hillary. Jon Bruning writing an article over 10 years ago. And any other of a thousand meaningless actions by candidates that are beaten to death by media types…none of which are even remotely related to the identification of which candidate is the best in a given race.

    Come back to me if you have something in Bruning’s political career which would indicate how he would function as a Senator.

  38. Street Sweeper says:

    Dear Francis,

    First of all, we didn’t come to you, you came to Leavenworth Street. We put something out that we thought people may be interested in — and if the number of comments and hit count are any indication, they are.

    If you don’t find it at least interesting that Bruning wrote this diatribe just four years before he entered the legislature, then please, turn away quickly. Or you can feel free to re-read the post which states that we feel you can base your position on Bruning’s based on his record in office.

    Now don’t touch my stuff.

  39. bruin606 says:

    Wow – what’s worse? A guy who said one thing oin college and then did another later in life or a guy who says one thing nearly every sunday and votes the opposite later that week? From the war, to the Patriot Act, to Meth funding, to funding for veterans to even voting against his own resolution condemning Iraq – Hagel’s flip flops have grown weary to most nebraskans. I think it would be great to have a primary where theseissues can be hashed out and if Hagel wins itwill make him all the more powerful. But Bruning has a chance. The odds on Johanns getting into this mess are pretty low – he can make millions in DC and not ever have to worry about his next job.

  40. 'Sker says:

    Once Mike Johanns enters the Senate race, Bruning might actually consider releasing his early writings to the press just to get some attention.

  41. Anonymous says:

    FYI, The American Conservative Union has came out with its rankings for 2006. Hagel dropped from a 96% score in 2005 to a 75% score in 2006. Nelson is at 60%. While that certainly doesn’t give Hagel a liberal voting record, he no longer has one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate.

  42. Anonymous says:

    As somebody who has spent his career writing opinion columns, I know that some of the opinions I held during my younger days are not opinions I agree with today. Bruning, like most of us, has evolved in his beliefs and to use something he wrote as a second-year law student against him all these years later is a pretty good indicator of how desperately pathetic the liberal base in this state really is.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I agree that someone should be allowed to change their beliefs.

    But these are 180 degress from where he is now.

    I think Bruning owes Nebraskans an answer on when and why he changed his stance on almost every issue from that article.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I can say with a healthy dose of certainty that Bruning's DN column is more reflective of his personal beliefs than how he displays them as Politician Bruning.

    I'm surprised it took this long to come out…

  45. Street Sweeper says:

    And by "this long" you mean "at least three years ago"…

    (Kids, note that this post was written in April 2007.)

    Thanks for the link Tom.

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