Legislature misogyny Nebraska Politics The Patriarchy

Nebraska Senator Mike Groene: Unfit to Serve

I, like many Nebraskans, read about the equine therapy massage bill sponsored by North Platte Senator Mike Groene, (pronounced “Groany”). I have nothing against animal massage. I have been practicing it illegally in my home for several decades. Equine massage therapy sounds rewarding for both animal and practitioner. What I am resentful of is the fact that this topic took up precious legislative time. This second session of the Nebraska legislature was short, lasting only 60 days. Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks’s bill to require lawyers for youths charged with crimes was thwarted in part by this bill. Critical decisions about property tax were swept aside to give time to the massage bill. 

Nebraska State Senator Mike Groene

My shock grew as I read about Mike Groene’s behavior at the helm of the Nebraska Legislature’s Education Committee. Groene apparently has not stepped into an actual public school (let alone an urban one) since the 1950s. He blames the troubles facing children on lack of religion, single parents, and a lack of discipline at home. Groene yearns for the good old days of his fascist imagination when teachers could hit misbehaving students. His experience selling fertilizer equipment for the last 20 years ill prepares him for leading this committee.

In a recent meeting of the Education Committee, he denied that schools should employ social workers.Children are ‘mentally ill’ now. They have ‘behavioral health.’ They don’t disobey, and if you’re religious, they don’t have a sin nature. They’re ‘mentally ill,’” Mike Groene said in response to a proposal to put a social worker in each of the state’s 17 educational service units. Groene’s comments show that he stigmatizes mental health care instead of recognizing the benefits mental health services could have to students’ well-being. As I would come to find out later, he is also fond of using “mentally ill” as an insult.

This lack of empathy toward the problems facing modern youth, several months after the mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, shows a cold disconnectedness. Children today face a world that is dramatically different from the one Groene knew growing up as a white boy on a farm in rural Nebraska.  

In a 2015 interview with Nebraska Educational Television, Groene says, “I hear from occupations, I hear from business, I hear from banks, but I very rarely hear from people who come to me and say, ‘I’m a citizen and this is what I’d like done.’ I hear that back home when I walk the streets but I don’t hear that in Lincoln, Nebraska.”

So on 5pm on April 12th, I sent Mike Groene a quick email.

Email sent to Senator Mike Groene from Tina Koeppe

As it turns out, Mike doesn’t want to hear from citizens with criticism.

Groene’s response later that evening shocked me with its cruelty.

First reply to Tina Koeppe from Mike Groene

It’s an abusive, misogynistic trope, to gaslight an angry woman by calling her crazy.

Calling a woman crazy is supposed to make her shut up. This is the world that Groene belongs to. Referring to another human as an animal is simply childish and offensive.

Shocked, I posted his response on my Facebook page. Within an hour, the post went viral. The message was reposted on a Facebook page dedicated to documenting Groene’s abusive communications with citizens. A woman named Candi immediately jumped to Groene’s defense.

Facebook comment defending Senator Mike Groene

When I enquired why Candi had access to Groene’s emails, she responded:

Facebook comment defending Senator Mike Groene

My email it seems, had gotten under his skin and he forwarded it some of his cronies and their spouses so that they could stick up for him. In any of the jobs I’ve held, forwarding work emails to my friends and their spouses is grounds for dismissal. It’s simply not professional behavior.

Minutes later, another email from Groene arrived in my inbox.


Second email to Tina Koeppe from Senator Mike Groene.


This, from a man who reportedly smashed a radio when angry over football, and seems to have some anger issues of his own. Groene doesn’t even try to hide his contempt for public schools and teachers. He assumed I’m a teacher. (I’m not.) He has also adapted variations of the Trumpian “You’re fired!” catch phrase for use in his communications with a voter. According to Groene, anyone who disagrees with him needs to lose their job ASAP.  As it turns out, Groene is well known for his hateful emails to constituents.

At this point I discovered that the Nebraska Legislature has no ethics committee to keep this behavior in check. I forwarded his emails to the members of the legislative Executive Committee. I received a lengthy response from Senator John Kuehn sticking up for his colleague. While Keuhn’s ’s response was far more professional in tone, he justified Groene’s communication style, explains that I “asked for it” by being impolite. He also points out that I’m not even from Groene’s district.  

As Chair of the Unicameral’s Education Committee, Groene is obligated to hear from any Nebraskans. His committee directs policy for the entire state. My tax dollars pay his salary. Citizens have the right to complain and question the activities of elected officials. The decisions made by Groene affect citizens all around the state, not just in his home county.

On April 14, an article appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star telling Groene’s side of the story. The reporter made one attempt to contact me–through Facebook Messenger. Since we don’t have any friends in common, the reporter’s message was not delivered to my inbox and I didn’t see it until the article went live. The reporter, JoAnne Young, copied and pasted information and comments from my Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Groene is described as a folksy old coot who likes to ruffle feathers with his outspoken candor. He, in turn, is quoted as saying that I am a known internet troll who regularly does this sort of thing to politicians. He declares that he was just “yanking my chain” and thought I might have a horse in need of a massage.

My experience illustrates that Mike Groene is unfit to serve the people of the state of Nebraska. It’s time for him to step aside and let someone with more qualifications and decorum take over. He needs to go back to selling manure spreaders, as he obviously excels in spreading manure. 

Who knew that an irate email from a citizen would launch such a public meltdown from an elected official?

As I explained to a new friend recently, I like this new hobby of scolding politicians.

Final email from Tina Koeppe to Senator Mike Groene