Nebraska Politics

The Western Nebraska Senator Ignoring the First Amendment and Shilling for Big Oil

In the mind of State Senator Tom Brewer, we are trapped on the combustible zeppelin of social justice  careening toward a menacing wind turbine, as Brewer watches from his log cabin inside a machine shed, and nothing can save us but more guns. Or something like that.


Man, we wish Tom Brewer were the leader many voters had hoped. He’s the only Native American senator in the legislature. He knows the horror of violence, having been shot multiple times in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, instead of working to decrease gun violence or address inequality in the state, he is taking oil industry money, quashing dissent, and pushing guns into a violence-saturated society.

The First Amendment Means People Get to Criticize the Government.

Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer recently wrote on Facebook that he is “baffled” by the continual calls for gun control after every mass shooting. His post included the usual morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest tedium about guns not being relevant to gun violence. A Nebraska resident and Seeing Red contributor, Danielle Savington, commented rationally and civilly that several gun control laws could impact gun death rates, including safe storage laws. Brewer replied to her, “Danni Layne, Do you have a job? Are you paid to do this on your work time?”

Exchange between Danielle Savington and Tom Brewer on November 8, 2018.

The implication was clear: Tom Brewer, like a number of Republican elected officials in Nebraska, believes that dissent must be punished, in particular by threatening a resident’s job. The most notable case of this was when Congressman Jeff Fartenberry Fortenberry sicced his congressional chief of staff on Ari Kohen, reporting him to his employer, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for liking a photo of a defaced campaign sign on Facebook. That incident prompted an ethics complaint against Fartenberry Fortenberry.

Savington called Brewer out on it, asking him, “are you planning on pulling a Fortenberry and call my boss?” In response to this question, Brewer deleted Savington’s comments and blocked her from commenting on his Facebook page, stating, “we had to delete trolls for using this to attack the Senator.” This is what a man armed to the teeth considers an “attack.”

Government Officials Cannot Block Dissent in Public Discussion Forums.

Brewer’s blocking of Savington is a First Amendment violation. This is his official senator Facebook page, and blocking people discussing political matters is unconstitutional (see “Knight v. Trump”). Savington can block Brewer; Brewer, as a senator, cannot block Savington.

This was not the first time the Senator attempted to intimidate a Nebraska resident for daring to disagree with him. Last year, when Brewer wrote publicly that social justice is “a totalitarian philosophy” and “is simply evil,” Lincoln resident Fran Kaye wrote a letter criticizing him. In response, the former chair of the Nebraska Republican Party and National Republican Party Committeeman, via his law firm Mattson Ricketts, sent a sweeping open records request to Kaye’s employer, the University of Nebraska. He asked to see all email between various people connected to Kaye over the span of months, as well as emails including the term “social justice.” The request also included emails “relating to the communication between Francis [sic] Kaye and Senator Tom Brewer, a copy of which is attached as Exhibit A, from any email address controlled by [Kaye’s department chair], whether official UNL address or otherwise.”

So the punishment that Kaye faced for criticizing Brewer’s ignorant opinion on social justice was an invasive request from Nebraska Republican Party operatives to inspect the political communication of her colleagues, including private communications (which, to be clear, they are not legally entitled to).

Open records requests are meant to be “sousveillance” tools. “Surveillance” means watching from above; “sousveillance” is watching from below. We have open records laws so the little guy–say, an ordinary citizen who holds no political or public office–can keep an eye on what the policy makers are doing. Instead, Nebraska legislators exempted themselves from open records requests but get surrogates–officials in their party–to use the law to intimidate and surveil individual dissenters.

So in the space of a single calendar year, Brewer has 1) had party officials waste university time by demanding the work and private emails of one resident’s co-workers because she criticized him publicly, 2) implied to another resident that her critical comment on his (idiotic) Facebook post would land her in hot water with her job, and 3) unconstitutionally blocked her from communicating with him in his chosen forum about his positions.

That’s not even the half of the dishonesty this senator has brought to his office, though.

Brewer Wants You to Believe He Moved 400 Miles and Built a Cabin inside a Big Metal Shed.

Brewer is legally required to reside in the district he represents and to intend to return to his domicile there. So when he ran for office, he listed his residence as located in Gordon, Nebraska, despite appearing to reside in Murdock, 400 miles away. That Gordon address? It’s a giant, mostly windowless aluminum machine shed, and according to his opponent, is not listed or taxed as a residence. Yet Brewer claims that he built a log cabin inside of it. Yes. He says he lives in a log cabin that is enclosed inside a giant, nonresidential machine shed.

Senator Tom Brewer says he lives in a cabin nestled inside this shed in Gordon, Nebraska.

Before you too quickly wonder about the gullibility of voters in Nebraska’s 43rd Legislative District, bear in mind that money is what usually wins elections. The biggest donors to Brewer’s opponent, Al Davis, were a nonpartisan highway infrastructure group and the teacher’s union. Those donations combined were lower than the $20,000 Brewer got from a single donor–a man named Audie Musgrave of Dallas, Texas.

Brewer is Protecting Us from Dangerous Wind! (Not the Kind Coming from Fartenberry)

Why is a resident of Dallas, Texas pouring 20k into a candidate for state legislature race three states north? Well, Musgrave owns a company called Petra Chemical Company, which specializes in producing chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite, which is used in fracking and “enhanced oil recovery.” Petra Chemical’s clients include companies such as Occidental Petroleum (also known as OxyChem), a multinational corporation specializing in petroleum and natural gas exploration. One area of particular interest to this industry is the area nicknamed “NeoBakken” (after the North Dakota oil fields), the Niobrara Shale Play, which reaches into Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Western Nebraska.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, then, to see that Brewer regularly posts about the hazards of wind energy. To hear him tell it, the U.S. faces few threats greater than wind turbines (maybe social justice, but certainly not AR-15s). Wind turbines making noise, wind turbines catching on fire like the Hindenburg, and even wind turbines causing global warming. “According to a Harvard study, making electricity with wind is worse for the environment than making it with coal,” he recently wrote.

Except not so much. What the study actually suggested was that by mixing layers of cooler and warmer air surrounding the turbines, the turbines cause a warmer ground temperature near the turbines at night and cooler during the day–these effects may cancel each other out anyway, but at any rate are taking place right next to the turbines. So yes, if you want to warm your feet at night, stick them underneath a wind turbine. If you want to warm a climate, keep pulling fossil fuels from the ground.

Don’t tell Brewer this, though–he may call your boss from his shed/cabin turducken and try to get you fired.