Election spending in Nebraska initially made waves during the primaries, when Pete Ricketts decided he really didn’t want bull-spunk connoisseur Charles Herbster as the next governor (and I can’t blame him), and spent an eye-watering $1.375 million to get Pillen the nomination. He didn’t send that money to Jim himself though – only $100,000 was donated directly to Jim’s campaign. What he did was set up a PAC, or a Political Action Committee, and fed them money so they could run opposition ads against Herbster and Brett Lindstrom. He even convinced dear old mum and dad to chip in to the tune of an additional $250,000 for the Conservative Nebraska PAC, under their own names, so we could all see that what Petey wants, Petey gets.
Granted, Charles Herbster donated more than eleven million dollars of his own money towards his campaign, something Ricketts derided him for publicly, because if anyone is going to buy a political office, it should be him.
Because he was just getting warmed up.
In June, Marlene Ricketts threw $1.5 million into the Voter ID petition drive. This was on top of the $376,000 she donated in 2021. Pete must have gotten nervous last month, because he threw in another $100,000 on top in early October. Voter ID was also funded by donations from Thomas Peed and Sandhills Global (owned by Thomas Peed) to the tune of $200,000 – but we’ll talk more about the Peed family later.
The human thumb also isn’t shy about donating to legislative candidates – to date he’s put $156,700 directly into candidates in 13 districts, no doubt hoping to turn some seats over and put enough Rs in power to ensure that the right-wing agenda (more on that in a minute) can make it through the next legislative session. Rather than put all his eggs (and by eggs I mean “money”) into the Conservative Nebraska basket, he put $514,000 into the Nebraska Future Action Fund PAC ($314,000 initially and another $200,000 later). It was pretty quiet through August and September and only recently ramped up the opposition spending, targeting a handful of individuals (these numbers are accurate of when the NADC website posted the data Nov 4th):
- Matthew Williams (NU Regent) – $88,862
- Deborah Neary (State Board of Education) – $151,294
- Greg Gonzalez (Douglas County Sheriff) – $146,291
- Wendy DeBoer (Legislative District 10) – $45,001.53
To put that kind of spending into perspective, Deborah Neary has only raised about $95,000 for her own campaign. Pricketts also spent an additional $72,500 on State Board of Education candidate campaigns – $25,000 for Marni Hodgen, $25,000 for Elizabeth Tegtmeier (a walking argument for why sex education is necessary considering her homeschooled son is in trouble for sexual assault), $20,000 for Kirk Penner, and $2500 for Sherry Jones. As if trying to stack the SBOE in his favor wasn’t enough, he threw $10,000 at resident Millard christofascist Sean Swanson, and pledged a relatively paltry $2,500 to Mike Kennedy for the Millard Public Schools Board race. Maybe he found out that Herbster donated $2,500 to Kennedy and didn’t want to be shown up, but then, Kennedy is the treasurer of the freshly minted GQP party in Nebraska and the walking equivalent of a skidmark in a pair of tighty-whiteys (and worse, uses a Hotmail account), so I feel like him asking Pete for money must have been kind of awkward.
Speaking of the GQP, the Ricketts have donated $560,000 to the Nebraska Republican party (about half their donations), but not a dime since February (gee, I wonder why). The GQP has also been busy doing his opposition spending for him, especially in the SBOE race, launching ~$185,000 so far into opposing Deborah Neary, Helen Raikes, and Danielle Helzer ($70k each against Danielle and Helen!). They’ve sunk smaller amounts of money into supporting individual R candidates across the state, but their SBOE opposition is noteworthy when you consider the most they’ve spent supporting any one candidate is about $16,000 (Christian Mirch).
Back to Caillou and his family though. So far, the Ricketts family has spent an incredible $5,223,450 on this year’s elections, putting their hand-picked pig farmer slash village idiot in line for Governor, buying candidates in the legislature and SBOE, and (weirdly enough) the University of Nebraska Regent race. Why? Clearly public education is on Pete’s mind, and he was pretty disappointed when yet again, funding private schools with tax dollars (and providing tax breaks to the wealthy in the process) failed to get past the legislature multiple times. Thus Pete also found it in his withered heart to donate $25,000 to the Nebraska Federation for Children.
The Nebraska Federation for Children has received $675,000 this year from the American Federation for Children, a front for the right-wing effort to privatize public education in this country. Pete comes off as a ‘new money’ small fish in the big DeVos pond on that one, but he is still doing his part to tank Nebraska’s excellent public education program so the Ricketts family can swoop in with more private education academies and gobble up those sweet tax dollars. So far, the NFC has focused all their money on legislature races (gotta get past that filibuster) and nothing on SBOE, not that the SBOE race needs more money thrown at it.
How does that compare to Democratic candidate support from national PACs? There’s three major players from what I’ve seen (Conservation PAC, funded by the LCV Victory Fund, The PAC for America’s Future, and Way Back PAC), and their total spending has been about $334,000 – half of what the AFC has spent to fund the NFC.
Protect Nebraska Children has only managed to scrape together a bit under $47,000 from their perpetually terrified member base, and spent about $20,000 to support their genitalia-obsessed SBOE candidates and another $20,000 to oppose a bunch of crazy people that don’t think all teachers are pedophiles. Notable donors of theirs are none other than the SBOE candidates themselves, and it’s all very, very small, undersized potatoes compared to the big Ricketts and DeVos money, but at least they can call their LGBTQ-phobic, science-denying PAC a truly grassroots movement.
Aside from the Ricketts clan, who else is dropping the big bucks? The surprising answer is the Peed family, and apparently urine trouble if you get on their bad side. Earlier this year Shawn and Tom put together the Together Nebraska PAC, initially funded entirely by them to the tune of $250,000… and immediately started spending it attacking Adam Morfeld. As of November 4th, the Peed family has been so pissed off, their PAC has splashed out ~$396,000 on negative ads and mailers just to try to flush the potential Lancaster County Attorney down the toilet (okay I’ll stop now). For quite a while, Adam was being showered with affection (okay I lied), and I was surprised to see a friend receive a negative mailer for Tim Royers, Nebraska Educator of the Year 2016, sent by none other than Together Nebraska. Turns out the Peeds found some friends and started opposing more candidates (numbers as of the end of October):
- Timothy Royers – $22,594
- Machaela Cavanaugh – $51,830
- Wendy DeBoer – $59,063
- Angie Lauritsen – $38,153
- Michael Young – $26,042
- Adam Morfeld – $396,000
The number is so staggering for a County Attorney race that I had to repeat it. Incidentally, Morfeld has raised a truly incredible $388,000, the vast majority from hundreds of individual donors, the exact opposite of the Peed PAC. That’s what grassroots look like.
So who’s Together with the Peeds?
- Joseph Hausmann (CEO of Hausmann Construction, Roca, NE) – $125,000
- Mike Wilke (Wilke Farms, Stanton, NE) – $50,000
- JSMM Farms Partnership (Albion, NE) – $50,000 (they’ve also dropped $200,000 on Pillen)
- Tonn Ostergard (Chair and CEO of Crete Carrier Corp., Lincoln, NE) – $50,000
- Nomi Health (Orem, UT) – $25,000 (Nomi has also donated to other Rs)
- Adams Land and Cattle Co (Broken Bow, NE) – $25,000
- Bruce Rastetter (Heartland Pork Enterprises, Hawkeye Energy Holdings, Hubbard, IA) – $25,000
- James Timmerman (Omaha, NE) – $25,000 (the Timmerman family are also pretty big donors to right-wing candidates)
- Hawkins Construction Co (Omaha, NE) – $25,000
- Jeffrey Schumacher (Capitol Casualty Co, Lincoln, NE) – $25,000
- AKRS Equipment Solutions Inc (Lincoln, NE) – $20,000
- Werner Enterprises PAC, Genesis Health Clubs, Ken Stinson, Dean Settje – $10,000 each
Those aren’t the only donors, obviously – Together Nebraska has managed to pull together well over $800,000 of rich old white man money to fund opposition advertising for races in Lincoln and Omaha. Probably brings a tear to Pete’s eye to think that he isn’t part of it. Part of the PAC, I mean. He’s definitely part of the rich old white man club.
The Peeds don’t need a PAC to spend money either – Tom has sent $20,000 to Elizabeth Tegtmeier, $25,000 to Marni Hodgen, and $20,000 to Kirk Penner, three of the four horsemen of the SBOE-pocalypse. Sandhills Global has sent $50,000 directly to Pat Condon, another $50k to Jim Pillen, $7k to William Barger, the aforementioned $100k for Voter ID, and… a really weird $250,000 to Suzanne Geist for Mayor who isn’t even running this year. Guess we have that to look forward to.
There are other players out there, the Stinsons and Timmermans and such that show up consistently to donate to candidates, the Republican Party, and to PACs, but the majority of the money being spent to fill your mailbox and pollute your airwaves with right-wing propaganda is being spent by the Ricketts family, the Peeds, and a dark money DC PAC. Democrats are facing $5.2 million in Ricketts spending, ~$1.743 million in PAC spending by the non-Ricketts right-wing, and ~$400,000 from the Nebraska Republican party.
BuT wHaT aBoUt DeMoCrAtiC SpEnDiNg?! Barbara Weitz, aka the Anti-Pete, has donated about $408,000 total, of which $150,000 went to Campaign For a Healthy Nebraska. The Lozier family has contributed about $118,000 to various campaigns, including $20,000 each to Campaign For a Healthy Nebraska and Preserve the Good Life, another pro-Democratic PAC. One of the biggest spenders is the Nebraska State Education Association, and the vast majority of their spending has gone to candidates that support public schools (i.e. Democrats) and the Preserve the Good Life PAC. Nebraska Planned Parenthood has also spent about $147,000 supporting various pro-choice candidates. The biggest pro-Democrat PACs have collectively spent ~$1.318 million, or about as much as just the NFC and Together Nebraska have spent together.
I’m not here to tell you to vote for one candidate or another – that’s up to you to decide. I just want you to consider who is paying for and supporting their scaremongering campaigns and what their ultimate agenda is before you cast that vote.