Ricketts and racists

I want to tell you a story. It’s a true story. It’s a fact-checked, researched, and important story. And it has a hell of an ending. If, by the time I’m finished, you feel comfortable with Pete Ricketts potentially being governor and are okay with the GOP in general, then we have very different sets of moral values.

The story doesn’t start in Nebraska. It starts in Indiana. Charlotte Lucas and her husband own Lucas Oil. Their name is on the Indianapolis Colts’ stadium, if you’re not familiar with any of their other products. They are huge GOP supporters. Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which gives corporations the right to donate as much as they like to whoever they like, these billionaires have the ability to use their money to change the course of elections. They are ripping elections from the hands of the people and putting them in their pocketbooks.

And they’re doing that now in Nebraska.

You’ve seen those nasty ads attacking Chuck Hassebrook, a good man who would do this state proud; some of those are bought by a group known as “Protect the Harvest.” The ads they run are the dirty ads, the ones that politicians know all about and refuse to call out because they are glad someone is running them and bloodying their opponent’s good reputation.

Charlotte Lucas, who may well have never set foot in this state, is a huge donor to “Protect the Harvest.” A quarter of a million dollars has been given from her company to prop up the PAC running nasty, negative ads against Chuck.

PAC

This is not the end of the story.

It could be. It should be enough that billionaires who don’t live here are trying to sway an election in a way that’s beneficial for their company. But that’s not where the story ends…

On October 2, 2014, Charlotte Lucas went on Facebook and posted the following:

“I’m sick and tired of minorities running our country! As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think that atheists (minority), muslims (minority)n or any other minority group has the right to tell the majority of the people in the United States what they can and cannot do here. Is everyone so scared that they can’t fight back for what is right or wrong with this country?”

Her subsequent “nonapology” apology consisted of her saying she expressed herself “clumsily.” She did not distance herself from the content, only its presentation. A billionaire who is paying for Pete Ricketts’ attack ads posted a racist rant she stood behind.

And where’s Pete on this? Where is he standing up for the minorities who live in Nebraska? Where is he saying “Thanks but no thanks. If you’re going to mock, ridicule, and insult people I am trying to represent, I don’t want you to run ads on my behalf.”

Every election cycle, I get emotionally invested. That is almost always followed by crushing disappointment, as the political machine does something gross and people throw up their hands like “what can you do.” I’ll tell you what you can do: You can vote for Chuck Hassebrook. You can vote against Pete Ricketts. You can tell people like Charolette Lucas that her billions don’t give her the right to disparage millions upon millions of Americans.

If there is one position I am constantly blasted about by conservatives, it is my indictment of the GOP for rampant, unchecked racism. I am told time and again that “not all Republicans” are racist. To which I often counter, “no, but almost all racists are Republican.” And at the highest levels, the top dogs, the kingmakers who fund the campaigns and choose their candidates, those people are racists sometimes too. I’ve often explained the relationship of the GOP to racists like this: Say you throw a party (a grand old party). 500 people show up. And 10 of them walk around saying racist, awful shit. If I’m at that party, I do one of two things. I either get those people to leave or I leave myself. That’s what I’ve always demanded of the Republican party: Make the racists leave or you should leave the party.

Do you want a governor who would stand with this woman? Do you want a governor who has so little to run FOR that he is counting on outside money running AGAINST his opponent? Chuck Hassebrook is a good man with good values. Pete Ricketts is a coward who won’t stand up for minorities and who gets in bed with people who don’t care at all about you so much as they care about their bottom line.

So I ask you now the question I referred to at the beginning. At the end of this story, can you possibly feel comfortable with Pete Ricketts being governor or with the GOP in general, knowing their biggest donors are so full of hate?

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1 Week Later: How Nebraska Watchdog is failing its readers and themselves

Let’s do a quick recap before we get to the new business.

Overview

Nebraska Watchdog.org published a misleading and inaccurate story about State Senator Amanda McGill. The story was framed to make Amanda look like “a frequent flyer” who misused both campaign contributions and taxpayer money to “travel the world” without benefit to Nebraskans. After fact-checking, I proved Amanda was not a top spender of state funds for travel, that campaign finances don’t require itemized expenses and therefore we can’t know who ranks where in terms of campaign travel spending, and that Amanda did introduce and pass many bills based on her travels. I also pointed out the misleading tone and biased approach of a piece designed to be “fact-based” reporting and not editorial opinion. I am now actively working to get the story repealed and to have the writer apologize to Amanda.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deena Winter from Nebraska Watchdog.org writes the story. That prompted my initial reaction, questioning the process, motive, and basic facts. I found Ms. Winter on Twitter and pressed her for specific numbers. She refused.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I again pressed Ms. Winter for the evidence she had used to write her story. She provided one small sample, which I would later find was inaccurate. At this point, the “right-leaning political commentator” she quoted in her story, Chris Scott, began responding to me on twitter, claiming that he had the information. I asked him for it. He refused. He only reiterated the story’s theme, which was that Amanda spent “more.” At this point, I began reaching out to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Committee, the Nebraska Budget Office, and the Legislative Manager. I also began combing through hundreds of campaign finance expense reports.

That afternoon, I received the first wave of information from the sources I contacted at those offices. At that point, I wrote Joe Jordan, the Managing Editor for Nebraska Watchdog, and sent him this letter.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I received a curt response from Mr. Jordan. I followed up by asking him to respond to my specific factual questions. He never replied beyond the initial response below.

joe

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Mr. Scott began suggesting I was simply confused. At this point, Ms. Winter stopped replying to me.

Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26, 2014

I contacted a different person inside the Legislative Office. Meanwhile, I began sharing the story on various local sites.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I received a bombshell from the Legislative Office, revealing that Amanda was only in the top 5 in travel spending 1 time in 8 years and that the top spender was former State Senator Deb Fischer, who racked up more than twice as much as Amanda in just about half the time. I updated the story. At this point, I started a petition.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The petition passes 1500 signatures in under 24 hours. I began tweeting at both Mr. Jordan and Ms. Winter with no response.

What now?

Today I am contacting the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. As it is a conservative organization, I do not expect them to take these criticisms to heart, but they are ultimately responsible for the content that is published through the Watchdog sites, of which Nebraska Watchdog.org is one. In addition, I continue to try and get a response from Ms. Winter and Mr. Jordan. I have plans to present the petition in person to the office of Nebraska Watchdog if I do not receive a response in the next few days.

Everyone I tell about this situation has the same reaction: this is why I hate politics. It’s true, things like this are horribly demoralizing. How is the public supposed to stay educated on the truth behind candidate positions and experience if the very people who claim to provide that information warp it or misrepresent it? I make no apologies for starting this all because Amanda is a friend. She is a kind, smart, determined woman who has done nothing but serve this state in the most respectable way possible. To see a journalistic outlet shrug off their code of ethics to take a shot at a good person who just wants to continue to help her community is disgusting.

I know that Mr. Jordan and Ms. Winter are hoping I’ll just go away. That, or they’re hoping that the election will come and go and this will go away with it. Please help me make sure that doesn’t happen. You can sign the petition here. But I also ask you to join me in demanding on social media that  and  address these concerns. You can also reach them by email at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org and joe@nebraskawatchdog.org.

I know it’s easy to shrug this off as “politics as usual” or to think this is not a big deal. But it only remains politics as usual because we let it, and it is a very big deal, in that Amanda has passed legislation that has protected the health of children and defended our liberties. We can’t afford to lose her, and certainly not because a false story is used to spread misinformation.

A letter to Nebraska Watchdog in response to your story on Amanda McGill

UPDATE NUMBER 2: After a few days of waiting, I finally got a detailed breakdown of travel expenses paid for by the State of Nebraska for the last 8 years. You will not f**king believe what I found.

1.) Only once in 8 years was Amanda in the top 5 in travel spending.

2.) In the last 8 years, one person overwhelmingly dominated travel expenditures: Deb Fischer. Before becoming a US Senator, Fischer racked up (you will not believe this) $27,772 just from 2006-2011. In 2007-2008, Fischer spent $9638.

3.) The top 3 total spenders in the last 8 years: Fischer ($27,772), Vickie McDonald ($19,638), and Bill Avery ($18,917). During that same span, Amanda spent $12,865. In 8 years, Amanda spent less THAN HALF of what Fischer spent in 5.

4.) Let’s give the other side their due: In 2012-2013, Amanda was the top spender…by $11. For context, she spent $62 more than the person who spent the 10th most.

These numbers were provided to me by Diane Nickolite, the State Legislative Business Manager and the same person who provided numbers to Deena for the story detailed below. I would be happy to provide them to you upon request, just leave a comment with your email and I’ll forward the PDF I was provided.

Between this revelation and the fact that the Executive Director or the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, Frank Daley, conclusively said that it is impossible to know how much each senator spent on travel from their campaign, I can now, officially, conclude that this story was a lie or a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Time for another letter to the editor…

UPDATE: I spent 2 days researching this story, contacted a half dozen folks, and combed through hundreds of campaign finance disclosures. This was the entire response I received from the EIC of Nebraska Watchdog:

Joe

So, there you have it, it’s okay for THIS story to be full of inaccuracies and completely biased because others are probably biased on the other side. FYI: I responded with a simple request for him to address the errors and inaccuracies. I have not heard back.

Here’s the original letter:

Dear Mr. Jordan,

I am writing this in response to a story by Ms. Deena Winter titled “Candidate for state auditor was a frequent flyer as senator.”

Your mission statement reads, in part, as follows: “The goal of Nebraska Watchdog is to ensure good government with unbiased news reporting.” I find the aforementioned article to be in violation of your self-declared principles in the following regards:

A review of Senator Amanda McGill’s campaign declaration of expenses reveals a total of $15,629 used for travel, not “more than $21,000.” 

Winter writes: “According to the Legislature’s budget office, the amount she spent on taxpayers’ dime was above average for lawmakers during the past four years.” She did not reveal how much above average or what average was. Nor did Winter mention that Senators are given a stipend annually, whether they choose to use it is up to them. The ambiguity present in presenting comparative judgement, “above average,” without context is intentionally misleading.

I pressed Winter to provide the numbers she used. After she refused for some time, she finally provided only the last 4 years of data. The average amount that Senator McGill was “above average” compared with her peers was $240 annually. Only when aggregated and disguised do those few hundred dollars add up to accusations of a “frequent flyer.”

Winter writes: “McGill has a reputation among some lawmakers for being an unusually frequent flyer.” At no point does she provide any evidence or grounds for this accusation. Not even in anonymous fashion. Winter’s assertion is presented without a single piece of evidence that any lawmaker has this opinion of her. This amounts to rumor mongering, which is beneath a publication that prides itself on “unbiased” news reporting.

The expert that Winter uses to critique Senator McGill is credited as a “right-leaning political contributor.” No mention of credentials is made beyond that. And yet he is promoted as an expert, quoted as explaining “Not a lot of these trips have really translated into any type of legislation.” This is inaccurate. The following bills McGill introduced just in the 103rd legislative session relate directly to trips she took:

  • LB186 – About juvenile facilities
  • LB255 – About human trafficking
  • LB933 – About labor trafficking and human trafficking

Winter writes: “As an aside, McGill also spent $275 to pay a fee for filing her campaign report late last year.” Investigative journalism without bias does not allow for opinionated “asides” that provide a fact unrelated to the story in order to introduce a negative comment on the subject.

Rod Edwards, the campaign manager for McGill’s opponent, Chris Janssen, is given space in which to launch an unfounded attack that constitutes clear bias “Using her campaign funds to travel the world shows a serious lack of judgment on her part,” he said. “How can Nebraskans trust her to look out for their money when the only two examples of her having any monetary oversight — the other as executive director of the Lincoln YWCA — have been failures?” The decision of Winter to include mention of a subject unrelated to travel is inappropriate. Then Winter expands on the unrelated incident: “McGill was program director when her former boss embezzled from the YWCA by stamping McGill’s name on checks without her permission.” The decision to include this crime for which someone else has been sentenced and accepted responsibility has no place in a story about travel expenses.

Winter also makes assertions that Senator McGill’s campaign expenditures seem out of line; however, a brief personal review of legal forms required by such campaigns revealed how impossible it is to make a comparative analysis. While Senator McGill itemizes her expenses, others do not. For example, Senator Al Davis cited “Supplies and Gas” at an expense of $43,907 from his campaign fund. It is unclear if that is related to travel. Senator Annette Dubas listed no description for an expense of $54,703 in 2013. For Winter to suggest that McGill’s spending is either (A) excessive or (B) that her use of campaign funds is suspicious, is completely unsupportable given the information.

To verify this, I reached out to the Executive Director or the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, Frank Daley. Daley told me “Because reporting of expenses is not by category, we have no way of electronically extracting the information you are seeking from the campaign statements on file.  The only thing that I can suggest is that you may look at the campaign statements of those candidates you are interested in and take note of those reported expenditures that appear to suggest travel expenses.” To be clear, in order to know how Senator McGill stacks up to others, Winter would have had to have combed through individual campaign expense forms as I did for the last day.

I refer  you to items 7 and 8 of the Nebraska Revised Statue 49-1446.03, which states that campaign funds can be used for the following:

(7) Meals, lodging, and travel by an officeholder related to his or her candidacy and for members of the immediate family of the officeholder when involved in activities related to his or her candidacy;

(8) Conference fees, meals, lodging, and travel by an officeholder and his or her staff when involved in activities related to the duties of his or her public office;

Senator McGill chose to use money that was NOT taxpayer money for trips within her function as a state senator. Not only is that legal, as you can tell above, it’s not something to be disparaged as “jet-setting” and does not make her a “frequent flyer” as Winter describes. When McGill was in China regarding foreign trade, a huge relationship for the Nebraska agriculture sector, Winter brings in “right-wing political commentator Chris Scott.”

Scott questions the need to go on a trade mission to China when McGill has no background in international trade and no legislation sprang out of the trip. “Is this really an appropriate, necessary trip?” he said.

Again, though introduced as an expert, Scott has no credentials. Perhaps that explains why he doesn’t connect an increase in Nebraskan politicians having a relationship in China with opening the first Nebraskan trade office in Shanghai the following year

I believe that having a journalistic site that holds politicians accountable so that the public can understand the truth is vital. As such, I would hope that you would chalk this article up as a largely unneeded piece and either delete it, rework it, or provide something like this letter to clarify these problems. Whether or not you agree with Senator McGill’s positions, her experience and record needs to be presented fairly. Ms. Winter’s article is poorly constructed either by accident or intent, and it would best serve your site and Nebraskans to eliminate it immediately.

Sincerely,
Ryan Syrek

How to write a hit piece about a good person

SEE BOTTOM FOR UPDATE

Step 1 – Get encouragement from a campaign that’s losing in a political race

Down in campaign money and goodwill, current Nebraska State Auditor Charlie Janssen is quite likely down to my friend and awesome human Amanda McGill. Nobody likes Janssen. He barely won a primary for Auditor against a guy who didn’t take donations for his campaign. What he is, however, is Republican. So that means cronies go into motion and begin whipping up bullshit and lies.

Step 2 – Find a site willing to publish said hit piece without any context

I cite NebraskaWatchdog.com here often. They’re pretty much the only investigative political source in town that don’t dream of bathing in the tears and blood of liberals. I know firsthand that they are frequently contacted or backchanneled by campaign staff desperate to get people talking about their issue. I’ve seen it happen. This part isn’t conjecture, it’s fact.

Step 3 – Find a writer willing to believe what you say and present a skewed case

Like I said, I think NebraskaWatchdog.com is alright. But there are stooges at every writing outlet. Meet Deena Winter. See if you can find a pattern of bias in the topics Deena has written about most recently.

I don’t know if Deena is a liberal or a conservative. But I do know that all of those stories fall into a pattern of making implications and assertions that favor the conservative standpoint, most at the expense of actual journalism.

Step 4 – Lie by omission

You don’t have to lie in an article to be untruthful. You just have to omit stuff. See if you can see what’s missing here:

The Democratic candidate for Nebraska state auditor, Amanda McGill, spent more than $21,000 in campaign funds and nearly $13,000 in taxpayer money on travel expenses for she and her staff over the past eight years. Before she was elected in 2006, she had never been outside the U.S. But since taking office she’s been to Germany, Italy, Turkey, China and New Zealand. She’s also flown around the country to Florida, Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington, D.C., on her campaign account. According to the Legislature’s budget office, the amount she spent on taxpayers’ dime was above average for lawmakers during the past four years.

It’s hard to notice something that’s not there, but it’s pretty easy if you’re looking for it. Say, what’s the “average for lawmakers during the past four years?” For economy of words, wouldn’t it be easier even to just say “the amount she spent was XXX dollars more than average.” If they contacted the budget office to get those gaudy numbers up top, they have to know what the average is, don’t they? I tried to find it on the website and couldn’t. So they HAD to have contacted the office to get these numbers. Unless, you know, they came from someplace else.

Step 5 – Frame a good person

God, I’m getting mad. Amanda is a good person who does good things and wants good things for all Nebraskans. This is how they captioned her photo:

Amanda

What do you notice? Do you notice the tiny words that are specifying that she’s learning about trade missions (Nebraska agriculture has a huge relationship with China)? Or do you notice the jab “Frequent Flyer?” But that’s not it. Deena adds: “And while it’s perfectly legal to use campaign funds to travel as long as it’s not just personal travel, McGill has a reputation among some lawmakers for being an unusually frequent flyer.” So clearly, she’s going to quote someone anonymous right? Like at least ONE SINGULAR LAWMAKER will be saying something in this article, even in anonymity right?

Wrong. Crickets.

This doesn’t stop Deena from saying “Some are questioning how good of a steward of taxpayer dollars she would be.” Yes, “SOME” lawmakers (none of whom are mentioned) and “SOME” other people are questioning that. I wonder WHO (see step 1 above).

Just wait, it gets better. And by better I mean GOOD GOD YOU HAVE TO BE SHITTING ME. I’m going to tell you who she quotes now. And you will not believe me.

“I question how good a steward they’re going to be if they’re going to be traveling with campaign money so excessively,” right-leaning political commentator Chris Scott said.

Right-leaning political commentator. She’s writing a story about a government office, cites “legislators” who doubt McGill, and quotes…a right-leaning political commentator. And what blistering slam dunk does this commentator offer?

Scott called three trips in three months for White House briefings “a little excessive.”

This is her expert. Deena cites him throughout, offering his amazing perspective on things like “I don’t think a state senator needs to be in D.C. on three separate occasions in three months.” Ah, well, seeing as how you are NOT a state senator, and are instead a “right-leaning political commentator,” I don’t know that you have the information to judge whether or not this was excessive, and lord knows Deena isn’t giving you context.

Step 6 – Go for the kill

You know the one person that has any actual credentials Deena talked to besides Amanda? You had to see this coming:

Rod Edwards, Janssen’s campaign manager, said the state auditor’s job is to look out for taxpayers’ money. “Using her campaign funds to travel the world shows a serious lack of judgment on her part,” he said. “How can Nebraskans trust her to look out for their money when the only two examples of her having any monetary oversight — the other as executive director of the Lincoln YWCA — have been failures?”

She uses a campaign manager to introduce a slam that’s out of context and disparaging. And then Deena goes all in.

McGill was program director when her former boss embezzled from the YWCA by stamping McGill’s name on checks without her permission.

And there you have it. Amanda has NEVER been accused of or even considered to be involved in what happened with the embezzling. In fact, that last little bit “without her permission” tells you she was a victim too. And now she’s a victim of an amateurish hatchet job.

The truth

State senators make $12,000 a year. 12K. And yet they are expected to treat this job as pretty much full time. That’s why mostly wealthy and retired people do it. Amanda is young. We need young. Young people get shit done. And young people also get educated. Amanda acted both as an ambassador for our state and as an information gatherer.

And here’s the single most important thing: Even with her bullshit, skewed approach, Deena couldn’t find any actual dirt. Amanda reported all of those trips. She was completely within her rights to use that money. She publicized that she was using it by talking in press and elsewhere about her trips. She used the information she gathered to propose several different pieces of legislation. Oh, and did I mention, NOT ONE SINGLE THING SHE DID WAS EVEN THE SLIGHTEST BIT SHADY. No dirt. None.

So what happens to young, kind people who are trying to make a difference in this state but have a liberal view?

Watch

New McGill

 

If you can find me a post on something about Charlie Janssen where someone talks about how hot he is, let me know. NebraskaWatchdog.com has a LOT to apologize for and to be ashamed about today. Amanda does not. Please share this to set the story straight. And look into Amanda on your own. I’m 100% confident if you look past lies like this, you’ll agree she’s a person we want fighting for us. It’s the reason they have to lie like this to keep her out.

UPDATE

Yesterday afternoon, I contacted the state’s budget office looking for numbers to either confirm or disprove this story. What I found is remarkable. Here’s the verbatim, unedited email I received.

Budget

I asked for clarity. I wanted to make SURE that I was reading these numbers correctly. I was told explicitly “The annual expenditure amounts I provided were for a subprogram within the Legislature’s budget that is labeled Senator Travel.”

There are 49 State Senators. Last year alone the total was $363,918. $363,918 divided by 49 is $7426. According to Deena’s numbers, Amanda spent $13K…IN EIGHT YEARS. As I figured, the math isn’t adding up.

I have a request to the budget office for senator-by-senator breakdowns. I’ll let you know when I get them.

Lee Terry has lost his mind (and hopefully the election)

Current Mood:

Look, I get that politicians have to spin issues. And when you’re Lee Terry and you have quite literally only f**ked things up while you were in office, you can’t run on what you’ve done. You run against the other guy. And not even the other guy, the tainted and completely unfair version of the other guy you paint him to be.

Lee Terry’s camp referred to Brad Ashford as being a part of a “left-wing” legislative committee that failed to get tough on crime.

I already told you why this is insane, but nobody else in the actual media (which I am not) is calling out Terry on his absolute total bullshit. So, to reiterate: BRAD ASHFORD WAS A REGISTERED REPUBLICAN UNTIL RECENTLY. He is about as non-“left wing” as you can be. Are you kidding me with this?! Let me say again: ASHFORD WAS A REPUBLICAN. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Brad Ashford was a Republican. Old McDonald had a farm, and Brad Ashford was a Republican. I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, Brad Ashford was a Republican.

However you have to remind yourself that these claims are silly, please do.

But here’s the thing, nobody even calls anybody on these lies. So State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh comes out and says “If you did not introduce bills acceptable to the liberal left-wing committee, it was not coming out.” Shit, how crazy was this committee? If only there was some way to find out…

Here’s the committee.

To recap: Of the 8 people who make up this godless bastion of America-hating, left-wing liberal hippie shits, 2 were registered republicans, two don’t even declare a party, and one is a current democrat and former Republican. AT BEST the committee was HALF liberal. AT BEST. But they get to come out and say things like this and nobody says “Wait just a tick…”

The whole thing is preposterous, as this is just a crazy smear campaign. They have an ad running in which Ashford says “I honestly don’t think that’s the biggest problem” in referring to the Good Time Law. It’s soundbite, edited advertising bullshit. The Good Time Law, if enforced appropriately, is fine. But when people in our state can’t do math and admit they screwed up letting some criminals go and when they failed to deduct for bad behavior against Nikko Jenkins (and others), that’s not on the law. Dear Republicans: That line of thinking is like saying we should put a whole bunch more laws against guns on the books in the hopes of stopping people from doing dumb things. Your argument is always that we should enforce the laws we have. Well, there you go.

But all of this hinges on something very easy: Fear. Terry knows he can’t win on his merit. He has to jump out from behind the bushes and say “Boo!”

So, if you’re against Good Time Laws like Terry apparently is, let me ask you the question in a different way, Mr. (hopefully former) Congressman: What taxes will you be raising to pay for the new prisons? Which criminals would you suggest we not pursue because our prisons are overcrowded? Lemme know.

And while you’re at it, remember: Jack and Jill went up the hill, and Brad Ashford used to be a Republican.

How low can Lee go?

Oh my God.

That was my first thought. For real. Not some hyper-abbreviated OMG slang speak. All three words. Oh. My. God.

When I posted my comments the other day about Terry desperately trying to paint a nearly lifelong Republican as “too liberal for Nebraska,” a friend said “I thought you were going to talk about the other ad.” To which, I had to ask, “which other ad?” And then he told me about the other ad.

And then I threw up in my mouth.

If you haven’t heard about Lee Terry’s vile, manipulative, misleading, desperate mudslinging, you cannot really fathom how bad it is. I mean, you can try, but I don’t want your head going to those dark places, so I’ll just tell you. Terry is trying to link Brad Ashford with Nikko Jenkins, the maniac who slaughtered people here in Omaha. BRB, pukin’ in mah mouth again…

Okay, I’m back.

The total bullshit “logic” that Terry’s camp uses to make this desperate “Hail Mary” of negative association goes like this: As a state senator, Ashford supported the current version of the Good Time law that allows prisoners to reduce their sentences via good behavior. This was in the early 1990s. Jenkins was arrested for robbery in 2004. He got a sentence of 14-15 years but another few charges were tacked on while in prison. He had an 18-21 year sentence and served about 10.

So, clearly, Brad Ashford is responsible for Nikko Jenkins murdering people last year. That anyone could even make that argument with a straight face is just deplorable. But it gets better…and by better I mean much, much worse.

The current Governor of Nebraska, Dave Heinemann, is leaving quite the legacy. Right now, I’m pretty sure his tombstone could one day read “Dave Heinemann, a man who could give two shits about following the rules.” He wrote a “special column” that ran in some newspapers in the state blasting Ashford for this Good Time issue. YOU CAN’T DO THAT, DAVE!

The only reason those newspapers run a column from you is because you’re the governor. When you use your position to run a blatantly partisan column that attacks one candidate (from the other party), you are breaking the law that says you can’t use any public resources to campaign for or against candidates. You are putting the bully in bully pulpit!

What is going on here? It’s like the f**king Thunderdome when it comes to GOP control of this state. In just the last month, they have violated campaign restrictions and ignored the state constitution. What’s next? “We’ve decided to separate the polling places for Republican and Democrat voters. Republicans, you can vote at any Starbucks. Democrats, you can only vote inside this lit oven.”

But back to Terry, because this ad shows just how desperate and stupid he is.

Lemme break it down for ya.

1.) The argument makes no sense – Nebraska has had a good time law on its books for the last 45 years. Yes, it has been changed several times. But the core concept has held for more than four and a half decades. Brad Ashford didn’t create the goddamn good time law! Also, when he voted for the current version, HE WAS A REPUBLICAN! Or as Lee Terry would say, “Too liberal for Nebraska.”

2.) Jenkins was a time bomb – Nikko Jenkins told everyone around him what he was going to do. He begged to be treated for mental illness or committed to a mental hospital. But in this state, we don’t care about people who are ill. I mean, that’s the only reason I can think why our Governor rejected Medicare funding. The REAL problem here is that a man looked around, said “I will kill people if you don’t stop me,” and we said “You have fun out there, send some postcards!”

3.) Blame game – If you DO want to blame someone, I have an idea where to start. Here’s a hint: It’s with the same people who accidentally released a ton of criminals because math is hard.

This is from a great article over at Nebraska Watchdog that summarizes the Terry/Ashford/Jenkins mess: “Prison officials can also dock good time if prisoners misbehave, but Jenkins only lost a year-and-a-half of good time even though he assaulted a guard while on furlough, helped incite a prison riot, attacked inmates and participated in gang activities while imprisoned.” What kind of a good mood was the guy who reviewed Jenkins’ case in?!

I tell you what….you know what would look REALLY bad for Terry and Heinemann? You know what would be REALLY damning and ridiculous? If Brad Ashford led a charge to increase the amount of good time a prisoner can lose for bad behavior by asking Governor Dave Heinemann to administratively double the punishments. Here is a link to an article about the time that Brad Ashford wrote a letter to Governor Dave Heinemann asking him to administratively double the punishments.

I mean HOLY SHIT, right? Like, not only is the argument that Terry used insane, not only should Heinemann not be getting involved, but Ashford and Heath Mello ACTIVELY worked to fix the problem. It’s the trifecta of douchebaggery!

4.) The real problems – Let’s put a big f**king bow on this whole thing, shall we? Terry is, among many things, exceptionally bad at his job, which is technically to improve conditions for Americans, specifically in our area if he can. Do you know why we have good time laws, why ALL states have good time laws? Because the United States has the highest incarceration rate IN THE WORLD. Forget North Korea or wretched dictatorships in the Middle East, the good ole US of A puts more people in jail per population than anybody else. For once, we really ARE number one.

When you imprison people at this rate, you run out of places to put them. Now, unless the Government seriously considers my proposal to turn Kansas into one giant prison, the only choice states have is to soften up the sentences. The real issue is our ridiculous position against drugs, specifically marijuana. More than HALF of our prisoners are in there for drug-related crimes. We can’t keep someone like Nikko Jenkins, who robbed and beat people, in prison because we have to put a guy who sold some weed in there instead.If you think I’m kidding, consider that nearly 28% of all people in prison for drugs are specifically there for marijuana offenses.

And do you know what the SECOND leading cause of imprisonment is? Immigration, clocking in at just over 10%. If only someone, like I don’t know an elected Representative in congress, could propose reviewing how we handle drug laws and how we handle immigration (60+% of convicts combined), maybe we’d have room to treat someone like Nikko Jenkins when he tells people he’s going to commit murder.

You’ll notice I’m not suggesting that it’s Lee Terry’s fault that Nikko Jenkins killed people. Because it’s not. But THAT argument is actually easier to make than Terry’s fantasyland argument against Ashford. Sweet Moses this is crazy. I beg everyone so often “not to be fooled.” I’m not asking for that here. I’m asking you to see what this says about Terry. He’s wrong on facts. He’s desperate to stay in office at all costs. And he is a part of the problem that’s choking this country and state. You can vote early. Go do that now and get this clown out of the office he’s sullying.

Lee Terry thinks you’re stupid

There is a new Lee Terry ad out that is maybe the single most ridiculous ad that grinning jackass has ever produced. The gist of it strikes at the heart of why I do this blog. In the video (which, maddeningly, is not available online…presumably because the Terry campaign thinks the internet is just a fad that will pass or is populated entirely by liberal hippies), Terry links Brad Ashford with Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. It ends, like Rickett’s commercials and Sasse’s commercials and ANY POLITICAL ADS EVER IN THE STATE OF NEBRASKA, with a statement that Brad Ashford is “too liberal” for Nebraska.

Brad Ashford was a f**king Republican.

Until 2011, he was a registered Republican. He ran for congress in 1994 as, wait for it, A REPUBLICAN. The reason I’m not head over heels in love with Ashford is because HE WAS A REPUBLICAN. The sheer audacity, the unbridled stupidity inherent in trying to brand Ashford as a liberal shows how completely and totally clueless and cowardly Terry and his cronies are. Down in the polls? Throw some “he’s a liberal” on the fire, that oughta do it!

Are you kidding me with this shit, Lee?! Is this real life?! You have a candidate-sponsored ad that claims a guy who has been, for most of his entire life and not just his political career, a registered Republican is secretly crazy liberal. Do you think we are as stupid as you look? Sadly, that’s not the dumbest thing you’ve ever done (see, “Damn straight!”).

This fundamentally pisses me off for many reasons, not the least of which is the continued use of “liberal” as a pejorative in our state. Tar and feather a candidate with the suggestion he may actually work with both parties (gasp) and you win the election. It’s ridiculous. Also, if Terry and company do believe this to any degree (which they may, you never know), it’s just proof of how far this party has gone off the rails. A guy who served as a Republican and an Independent is now “too liberal” for your party. Give me a friggin’ break.

Don’t fall for this shit, people. Whether or not you support Brad, do not let this kind of chickenshit, evidence-free, panicked argumentation stand as valid. Brad Ashford is as bipartisan a human as you’re likely to find running for political office. I don’t see that as a huge virtue, but allegedly the rest of humanity does. Don’t let Lee Terry Jedi f**king mind trick you into believing a guy is a liberal simply because he opposes the rampant douchebaggery of Terry and his party.

I’m done now.

In defense of feeling defensive

“Ryan, you HAVE to tone down your language when you talk politics.”

“None of this matters anyway.”

“You seem so angry all the time about political stuff.”

“You state your opinions like they’re facts.”

My friends and family have feelings about my political attitudes…

And I get it. I do. I’m outspoken and loud. I speak in vibrant, sometimes hyperbolic language. I vehemently and staunchly defend each position I put forward. I definitely scare away some people who may be on the fence politically with my flamboyant and unrepentant commentary on these issues.

It’s a choice I made. And one people are free to question and disagree with. In my personal life, if I’m conversing with a rational actor, I sound nothing like I sound out here in the Internet world. But if I’m confronted face-to-face with someone spewing the kind of factless, mean-spirited, dangerous, evil rhetoric that I encounter on the net, you bet your sweet bippie I snap into my persona. I figured it was time to do two things: 1-Show you what my reasoning is for why I do/say what I do and 2-Show you what pushed me there.

Why I use “angry” language that isn’t “toned down” about my opinions

The Republican party is more conservative than they have ever been, at least in the modern era. While it’s true the Democrats have grown more liberal, proportionately, this hasn’t been an equal response. Remember: Only people really passionate and loud ever go around publicly talking about politics. So, what you have is an America where the EXTREME conservative voice is frequently heard and is rebut by a middling liberal response. A few years ago, I saw a friend of mine being absolutely assailed on Facebook about gay rights. I know a woman whose gun control beliefs caused her to publicly get threatened. I’ve seen former welfare recipients called terrible names. This is just in my personal experience, mind you. This is just what I see. What I haven’t seen is any of my liberal friends threatening conservatives with gun talk. I haven’t seen Democrats suggesting Republicans should be fed to Satan. I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who take an extreme liberal stance and stand up to the loud conservative voices. I just think there’s far less of them.

When I turn on a sports game I don’t care about, my proclivity is to root for whoever is losing. My favorite superhero is Spider-man. I love the underdog. I hate bullies. I am very, very aware that my brazen approach ticks people off. I’m equally aware that some of those people were neutral on the issues and were turned off by my approach or agree with me on the issues but hate how I say it. I respect that. That’s totally fair.

But the other side doesn’t get to be loudmouth bullies anymore, not while I’m watching. They don’t get to spew hate speech and anger unchecked. If this world is going to change, if we’re going to get any progress from our elected officials, we need to have smart, educated people making controlled arguments that win people over for sure. But we also need people who do research, formulate positions, and then punch back against the bullies as loud and as hard as they can. I know lots of people who are and will be the former. So I chose the latter. And I’m not sorry.

Why I feel this way

The tagline for this blog is “Life as a democrat in a state that hates them.” I’ve been told that’s an exaggeration. That this state doesn’t “hate” democrats. I’m not going to do much talking on this one. Here’s the GOP in Nebraska in their own words, see if you can pick up on a theme.

It’s only inferred there, with the “Nancy Pelosi” name drop… Oh, and it turns out that Brad Ashford’s votes on those taxes were mostly prompted by REPUBLICAN Governor Dave Heinemann. So…

“Too liberal for Nebraska.” That’s the tag. “He’s liberal” counts as all the negative advertising you need.

Here in my great state, it’s perfectly acceptable to simply point and say “THAT PERSON IS A DEMOCRAT” and watch as the pearl clutching and gasping ensues. I live in a state where simply BEING LIBERAL is an unelectable stance. That’s why I get worked up. That’s why I speak out. I hope you understand, even if you may not agree.