Cornhusker Kickback: The Documentary

In case Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson thought he was going to spin his way out of the Cornhusker Kickback via Greta Van Susteren, PBS just dropped its foot on that top.

In the PBS Frontline documentary, “Obama’s Deal”, the ominous music and photos and voices absolutely hammer The Benator, and pretty much blame him for Republican Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts.

See the whole thing here.

For the main part featuring Nelson, start at 39:45 and go through to around 44:00.

Here is the main transcript featuring Nelson, with the associated photos. But be sure to watch to get the full effect of the dark photos, tinkling piano suited for a horror movie, and voice over that could very well be used on NFL Films. (We kept waiting for the setting to be described as “The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field…”).

There were still some, Senator Lieberman was one, Senator Nelson of Nebraska was another, who still said, “There’s merit to what the insurance industry is saying,” and those were critical swing votes.


Rahm Emanuel and Harry Reid were now doing deals just to win over Democrats.



The final holdout was the Democrat from Nebraska, former insurance executive, Ben Nelson.


Ben Nelson is one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, and they needed his vote, they had to have his vote.


That meant sitting down and hammering out a deal. Really giving him almost what he wanted, anything he wanted.


(Former Dem Chair, Howard Dean) The focus at the end in a bill like this was how do you get those last two or three votes. And compromises are made and thrown at Senators’ feet in order to get them to vote.


In Nelson’s case, the cost was one hundred million dollars.


The costs of expanding Nebraska’s Medicaid would be covered by the U.S. taxpayers.


(Sen. Orin Hatch, R-UT) To a lot of us we were very very upset about it. It was very poorly done, but it was the only way they could get it through was to bribe their Members.


The press called it the “Cornhusker Kickback”.


Nelson promised to vote for health care reform.


(Rush Limbaugh) Prostitution has been legalized in Washington, D.C.


Is this deal for Ben Nelson for ever and ever, amen? For ever and ever and ONLY for Nebraska.


I think it stinks, I think it’s sleazy.


This isn’t sleazy, this is gangster.


You gotta compliment Ben Nelson for playing The Price Is Right.


(Former White House counselor, David Gergen) It’s not a pretty process there is deal-making, that’s the way it’s been done for a long long time but those deals done in your front parlor can be pretty smelly. The public was all ready up to here with what they were seeing in Washington and I think it just put them over the side.


(Hatch) That was very sour stuff to most people in this country. They realized that this is not the way to legislate.



(Audio of Senate roll call vote) Mr Nelson: Aye!



The White House wasn’t paying attention, but up in Massachusetts that Cornhusker Kickback was still hanging in the air.



(MA Senate candidate Scott Brown) Business as usual is not the business we like, and all those back room deals for Nebraska and others it’s just wrong and we can do better!

Keep in mind folks, that this is PBS. Public television! This ain’t Fox News (where Nelson got a full half hour to argue his case). This is a documentary by the libs, gang.

If there was any question that Nelson would forever have the Cornhusker Kickback branded into his hide, this doc has settled the issue.

***

And then what’s even more hilarious is Nelson’s response to his hometown newspaper, the McCook Gazette.

He says:

The Public Broadcasting Service aired a one-sided program that buys into partisan talking points…Sure, we accept commercial networks pushing “entertainment” programming carrying slanted points of view. But PBS?

Yup Ben, that’s PBS. Practically an arm of FoxNews and the GOP combined.

To quote a local politco: “The harder Nelson tries to explain it away, the crazier he gets.”

***

And just to pile on (my, this topic has come up a lot lately), here is an article today from the Columbia Journalism Review. The title? Bad News for Ben Nelson? The Cornhusker Kickback still grates on Nebraskans.

A sample:

“I see it as detrimental in getting him reelected,” Ed, a driver for UPS told me. “He singled out Nebraska and made people wonder what was going on under the table.” Thirty-one-year old Jeff Melichar, who was working at his family’s Phillips 66 station on P Street, put it this way: “We even had the governor of California knocking us.” Melichar, a Democrat, voted for Nelson, but he added: “This is not going to go away. Any Republican could stand on the corner and point Cornhusker Kickback and make him sound as shady as possible, and that’s it. I wish it wasn’t the case, but he damaged himself. The fact he voted ‘yes’ on the bill ended his political career in Nebraska.”

37 comments

  1. Solomon Kleinsmith says:

    Are you surprised?

    FRONTLINE, and public TV news is by far the best on TV. Actual reporting, no commercials, real wonks having real conversations on the issues, as opposed to people vomiting talking points at each other… cable news is garbage. There is better news on the internet, if you know where to look, but PBS is the best there is on TV.

  2. Macdaddy says:

    See? The media isn't liberal. There should be hearings into how this outrageous piece of right-wing propaganda was aired on PBS and if any taxpayer funds were used to produce it. This is an outrage! An outrage, Sir!

    There ya' go, lefties. I just saved you some time by going ahead and sending in your response.

  3. Oh mander says:

    Everyone keeps saying his political career in Nebraska is over. It very well could be – I don't know.

    But keep in mind (1) voters in general suffer from severe Attention Defecit Disorder, and there is plenty of time for people to become distracted by something else before his term is up; and (2) the people calling for his head over this issue didn't vote for him anyways.

    I guess we'll have to wait and see . . .

  4. mediawatcher says:

    Nice presentations sweeper – as onesided ad the original piece.

    Anyone find it interesting that the drive by on Nelson didn't include any comment or response from Nelson? Sweeper I noticed you cut out the relevant part of Nelson's statement in your selective editing.

    Anyway, imagine this: Sweeper citing PBS and CJR. Sources, I'd imagine that until today, carried no credibility with him/her.

    Frontline is usually very good – but in this case went out of its way to slam Nelson, Baucus, Reid and Obama. A poor example of journalism by any measure.

    As for the CJR piece – the fact the writer actually balks on the question of medicaid being an unfunded mandate – especially in the context of this bill – tells you what you need to know about her motivations.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh Mander, I can assure you that there are more than a few Nebraskans who voted for Nelson who are calling for his head. You can check the archives over at NNN to see how pissed the left is about Nelson.

  6. macdaddy says:

    Nelson is living in the past if he thinks this will blow over by 2012. There is 100% certainty that we will be talking about Obamacare and the Cornhusker Kickback in 2012, especially since there's somebody running in 2012 by the name of Obama.

  7. Oh mander says:

    Anger over the passage of "Obamacare" has already subsided a considerable amount, and it's only been a month. Maybe not amongst the Fox News crowd, but many liberals and independents that were opposed to the legislation are slowly realizing that this isn't as bad as they were lead to believe. Again, I'm not saying Ben is safe – I'm just sayin that the fear and anger will return to a level that he can handle, at least in a hypothetical primary.

  8. Macdaddy says:

    Huh? Opposition to obamacare continues to rise and is at its highest level ever. Keep whistling past the graveyard, though.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I heard at the Tea Party rally a new and more accurate way to portray the National Health Care law, not ObamaCare but rather NelsonCare. Seeing as how it was Benita's vote that allowed this bastard of a bill to see the light of day.

    Oh and by the way lots of people are still really ticked by what has been happening in Obamanomics, and are now just saying "November is Coming".

  10. Latina says:

    Anonymous 853:

    "benita". So you insult Nelson by inferring he's a hispanic woman? How very misogynistic and xenophobic of you.

    You must be so proud of yourself.

    Sweeper – Frontline got one thing right: Calling Nelson "powerful."

  11. Anonymous says:

    As I said it before I will say it again. NELSON SOLD US OUT!!! Voting to end Cloture and then voting against the healthcare fix it bill. Wow Nelson you are a true champion of the people. Truth be told, you are NO moderate and have become beholden to the far left wing socialist of washington.

    Good bye Mr. Nelson you have just lost my vote.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Are you telling me Nebraskan Voters will for get the biggest political screw job in our history. Nelson will be leaving his office as quick as Calahan left Nebraska Football. Bring that name up around the stadium and people remember. Bring up Conhusker Kickback and people get down right pissed!

  13. Boss Tweed says:

    Senator Nelson did NOT SELL US OUT!!! He has remained true to his corporate bosses. He voted to hand his friends in the insurance business as big a handout as the bankers got, then protected his pals at Nelnet by voting in their favor on the consolidation bill. He is a true conservative and defender of the far right wing of corporate America.

  14. Anonymous says:

    In the good, old days it was taken for granted that it was the job of our elected representatives to bring home as much benefit to Nebraska as they could. Nowadays someone who is good at is called all kinds of names.

    The same week, NEGOP Chair Mark Fahleson endorsed the use of contributor money to buy trips to bondage clubs, buy alcohol disguised as "office supplies," waste money on luxury suites and private jets, and take a generally frivolous attitude toward corruption and sleaze.

    What's wrong with this picture? I would rather have a Senator who hustles to get more for Nebraska than a potted plant like Terry who can't ever get amything done.

  15. Mr. T says:

    The media seems to be ignoring the "Camel Kickback" that is happening with Senator Lautenbaugh. It appears from his latest NADC reports that he is pocketing thousands from out of state tobacco companies. So it appears that Scott sold his district's priority bill designation to the highest bidder. Now I know Scott will post that this is not the case and it is all perfectly legal (which it is)…but certainly sleazy. This is the kind of thing that has gotten the T-Party and his district fired up. We deserve better from our electe officials.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh mander expresses the correct sentiment. Health care reform will blow over (the changes aren't very significant, after all, without the dreaded "public option"). And those of us who watched Ben Nelson up close and personal during his gubernatorial reign know his proclivities. It's the same old, same old… That being said, I do hope Nebraskans send Nelson back to McCook in 2012.

    But I hope Boss Tweed's understanding of what went down becomes the accepted point of view at this blog. 'Cause that's the real problem with politicians today. It's no longer conservative v. liberal, Republican v. Democrat. It's corporate interests v. rugged individualism, folks. Until the 'tea parties' focus on this reality, we can't get back to our roots and our original constitutional intent.

    Publicly financed "economic development" is your true enemy, not your neighbor living on Social Security…

  17. wondering... says:

    Hey Sweeper – why didn't you use this excerpt from "Cindy" in the CJR story:

    The Cornhusker Kickback didn’t trouble her much, and she thought that the media attack on it had spun out of control, but she is not sure if she will vote for Nelson. There are a lot of other issues that are more important, she explained, like gun control and agriculture. “He’s the most Republican Democrat we’ve had.”

    Didn't fit your narrative on this issue?

  18. Street Sweeper says:

    Yep. there are lots of other words in the article. And should you click THE LINK THAT IS THERE FOR YOU TO CLICK you will find other words there too.

    That's why we put THE LINK.

    You're welcome.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why aren't people posting at NNN–are they busy watching the Documentary?

    Kyle posted four articles the past week. Only 4 comments on all of them.

    Many, things really went downhill fast for them since BTO walked!

  20. Scott Lautenbaugh says:

    To "Mr. T"–

    You're right– I will respond to what you posted. The Cigar Bar bill I carried in 2009 was like the amendment I tried to attach to the smoking ban in 2008. It seemed patently unreasonable to me to let government put businesses designed for smoking (often at a substantial investment of tens of thousands of dollars for humidors, ventilation and the like) out of business. I can't see where that stance is very anti-Tea Party– getting government off of the back of some business owners in the state.

    Now, regarding your "sleazy" accusation– the contribution you complained of came from what is primarily a cigarette manufacturer. You can't smoke cigarettes in a cigar bar (I know that sounds crazy, but it's true). They may also manufacture some low-end products you can buy at Walgreens, but nothing that I believe would ever be sold in a cigar bar. So, it's curious that they'd be so into my cigar bar bill now that they are giving "kick-backs" for it as you say, considering they didn't suggest the bill, or even bother to testify for it or lobby for it in 2009.

    I'd submit that they support me because I have a record of standing up to a particular extremist in this area who will work to curtail our freedoms until his last dying G.A.S.P. (I hope that's not too subtle).

    So, I guess I'll just say that if anyone is REALLY from the Tea Party, and/or really concerned about this allegation, would like to discuss it, call me at 689-8718.

    However, I think I know who "Mr. T" may really be, and he'll probably get angry when I point out again that my opponent was endorsed last time only by Ben Nelson (out of all the other elected officials in the state), and who (based upon his NADC filing ON Monday) has received most of his support to date from three sources that, umm, may not be alligned with the Tea Party movement's goals, shall we say? So, it seems unlikely that the Tea Partiers are "fired up" against me, as my friend Mr. T suggests.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Well said Senator! And many apprecviate you standing up for the businesses who have invested that money…on a side note, one business is essentially out of business because of the anti-smoking law…Smokeaters. A friend of mine owns it. She no longer has employees and has a warehouse full of smokeater machines. Too bad the state couldn't at least help her unload those since they put her out of business! 🙂

  22. Anonymous says:

    Senator "L".

    I would suggest that if you are going to defend ourself as not being sleazy that you not use non-factual information (aka lies). (espescially ones that are so easily checked). You claim that the tobacco industries that have given you thousands did not lobby in support the cigar bar bill. A quick check of NADC shows that they were registered to lobby to support LB 355 – your priority bill. So nice try to dodge, but next time use facts.

    It certainly is a smart strategy to bring up GASP to defend your "heroic" fight on behalf of the out of state tobacco companies. That guy is a lunatic (no offense to actual lunatics). Really who you are fighting against is the majority of your consituents who supported the smoking ban and other measures to reduce smoking. Heck even the Governor signed the smoking ban bill becasue he knew that the majority of the public supported. And an even larger majority who do not think that cigar bars is the biggest priority for our district. You seem more than willing to carry forward Marlboro's pro-cancer agenda – no matter what the people think.

    Just another politician who has lost touch and chooses to ignore the will of the people. That's what has a lot of folks mad.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Just a hunch that anon 1:14 is really still Scott.

    I feel bad for Big Al's Typewriter Emporium, their business has been going down hill for a few years.

  24. Scott Lautenbaugh says:

    To: Anon. 1:25 & 1:21–

    I'm assuming in your fact checking you reviewed the committee statement for my bill, which shows no lobbyist for "big tobacco" weighing in at all. It was a group of locals who banded together and hired their own lobbyist, as I recall it. Guess the "big tobacco lobbyists" were busy that day.

    Further, you mentioned Gov. H signed the smoking ban. It's worth noting that Gov. Heineman signed my bill, too. Did he have some nefarious motive also (like the 27 or 29 Senators who voted with me)?

    It is a fact that when polled, people do not favor a smoking ban in cigar bars. Nebraskans seem pretty fair-minded in that regard — understanding that if you want to avoid smoke, don't go to the few places that allow it under my bill.

    Finally, regarding the "pro-cancer argument", according to the American Cancer Society, the risks of less-than-daily cigar use "are not known". Do you suppose they aren't known for want of looking?

    This bill has only been a big deal to four groups (for differing reasons):
    1. Those whose businesses and/or jobs were saved;
    2. Those who see some ongoing value in a little personal freedom in the health arena
    3. Those who see no value in personal freedom if smoking is involved
    4. Someone who is looking around in vain for a justification for a second campaign.

    I don't hear much about it otherwise.

  25. Anonymous says:

    To Scott – Kind of an odd defense of your priority bill to say no one thinks it's that important. I agree, much like the historical horse race bill (this years priority) they were both bills with very little impact (esp in your district). Glad to see we agree on something.

    The industry support of 355 is what they reported to NADC. No links allowed or I would send. Hoping you can figure it out on your own. Not everyone who is lobbying on a bill testifies at the hearing. I would have guessed that you had figured that one out.

    As far as carrying the water on the pro-cancer agenda for the out of state tobacco companies that crack was more about you being one of only 14 Senators to oppose the smoking ban.

    I am sure the boys on tobacco road in North Carolina can count on you to continue to lead the pro-cancer charge to make smoking as easy, inexpensive and accesible as possible in Nebraska. I will predict it right here that you will be lobbying for RJ Reynolds tobacco in 2014. Been a good audition so far

  26. Scott Lautenbaugh says:

    To: Anon:

    Not what I said at all.

    And (and I think you know this) there is a distinct difference between designating something as a priority bill, which guarantees its debate essentially, and believing something is "the most important thing" in the Legislature.

    As you must know, each year we have several bills that find their way into law without the need for my prioritization. In 2009, LB 97 was the most important bill I introduced, and I was able to get the speaker to prioritize it– so I didn't have to. This year, it was probably 728, but Sen. Langemeier prioritized that for me.

    And, for the record, Historic Horseracing would have saved thousands of jobs throughout the state. I have a hard time saying that "has very little impact". I guess it's not your job on the line.

  27. Joe the Not Plumber says:

    Sounds like some General is out trying to give Sen Lautenbaugh a hard time. If he spent more time talking with voters in the district he would be more effective. Not only that but to hide behind an ANON post does little credit to his military background. Oh well I suppose he would legislate the same way, just what the people of Nebraska need.

    Nope don't think so. So do yourself a favor, and Nebraska, and grow a pair and post using your name. I suspect you won't because you lack the basic understanding of how the regular folk work and think. Too many years being waited on hand an foot perhaps.

  28. Anonymous says:

    This kind of bickering is shocking. I can't believe Street Sweeper allows Republicans to disagree with each other. He should take a lesson from Vile Kyle over at NNN and ban those that engage in this type of intra party destructive behavior.

  29. Majority says:

    It is a bit unnerving to witness, but perhaps it is a sign of the times. Whenever a group senses weakness in the leader(s) there is soon a changing of the gaurd and a period of unsettled behavior. I suspect this is what is happening now on a grand scale.

  30. Nathan says:

    I actually appreciate having a place to go smoke my cigars. I was against the smoking ban (no one was forcing to go there were they?) and I am glad I can enjoy a cigar inside now! People may not like it, but we have freedom of choice in this country: if I want to smoke cigars I should be able to, If someone wants to open a lounge for those people like me who want to smoke cigars they should be allowed to. No one is forcing me to go in there, no one is forced to go in there as a matter of fact. Its called FREEDOM!! (And it has the sweet/mild aroma to it, Cuban seeds and a Ecuadorean leaf. you should try it sometime anon/Mr. T).

  31. Nathan says:

    On a related note, I highly recommend Ravenite on 144th and Center street. Its right by the Old Chicago and its is a GREAT place to go and relax and enjoy a fine cigar and good scotch.

  32. Nathan says:

    I've been to Amsterdam, though I've never been to that place. The Van Gogh museum was a delight, and I wont tell you what other places I went to there!

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