The Price of One Party Rule — The GOP’s Culture of Corruption
One of the many down sides of the Nebraska GOP’s control of the state Constitutional offices and Unicameral is that it is difficult to hold their elected officials and candidates to account for their misdeeds. This has created a certain arrogance and high handedness that makes GOP elected officials believe that they can do anything and get away with it.
The Nebraska GOP’s culture of corruption became an issue in 2013 during the Heineman Administration when then Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy was forced to resign over the use of a state cell phone to call several women who weren’t his wife. Apparently, Sheehy had called four different women between 2009–2013 on a taxpayer funded cell phone. It was discovered that Sheehy had made thousands of these phone calls in the run up to his ouster.
After 2013, the Heineman Administration doubled down on even more corruption. Sheehy wasn’t the only Heineman Lieutenant Governor who had to resign under fire. Then Lieutenant Governor (and Ricketts running mate) LaVon Heidemann was forced to quit in 2014 after it was revealed that he had assaulted his sister in a family dispute over an estate. Moreover, then future Attorney General nominee Doug Peterson threatened Heidemann’s sister with a junk lawsuit if she filed for a protection order against Heidemann.
The Nebraska GOP’s culture of corruption and arrogance has continued into the Ricketts Administration. An alarming example of this problem was the revelation in 2016 that then State Senator Bill Kintner had a sexually explicit video of himself and a woman on his state computer. Nebraska statutes bar state elected officials and civil servants from using their state computers for nonessential activity of a personal nature.
Even more alarming than this revelation about Kintner, it turned out that Governor Ricketts was aware of this videotape as early as July 2015. Ricketts claimed that he asked for Kintner’s resignation in 2015 but the Governor kept these revelations a closely guarded secret until the scandal broke on July 29, 2016.
In 2016, the Nebraska Democratic Party demanded that Governor Ricketts come clean about this dirty GOP sex video. As then NDP Chair-Elect Jane Kleeb said: “Ricketts knew a year ago about the sex video, asked Kintner to resign and then did nothing. The fundamental question is why did Ricketts keep this from the public for over a year and only when another brave state senator made a statement to press call upon Kintner to resign? A year has gone by and instead of solving this major breach of public trust in a day, Ricketts makes time for Cubs games.”
Then NDP Chair Vince Powers stated: “Ricketts furthers the GOP sex tape cover-up by erroneously claiming he could not disclose the facts of the case because of an investigation by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The law states only that he could not disclose the existence of the investigation, he can and should disclose the facts to the public.”
It is evident that Governor Ricketts covered up this scandal because he desperately needed Kintner’s vote in the legislature. When Ricketts covered up Kintner’s sex video, he “owned” Kintner during the 2015–16 session and could count on his vote. Powers contended: “(T)the past legislative session would have been completely different had the allegations came out sooner and Kintner resigned.”
Kintner finally resigned in disgrace in January 2017 after he posted a tweet that alleged that participants at a women’s march were too unattractive to be victims of sexual assault. Kintner never apologized for his disgusting, sexist tweet and he refused to answer any questions about it.
The latest sex scandal involving a prominent Republican blew up last week when it was revealed that Senator Mike Groene had taken inappropriate photographs of a female legislative aide while they were in Groene’s State Capitol office. Groene has a long history of insulting his constituents, making sexist and racist remarks, and pushing out irresponsible anti-vaxxer propaganda on the floor of the legislature. The North Platte senator resigned shortly after the story became public.
These new revelations stem from a complaint filed by Groene’s aide over these outrageous pictures. According to the Nebraska Examiner: “The chairman of the Legislature’s Executive Board, State Sen. Dan Hughes, confirmed Friday afternoon that a workplace harassment complaint had been lodged against Groene and that it was being taken “very seriously.”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the scandal is that the pictures taken by Groene were emailed by him to other parties with captions of a sexual nature. Just who received these pictures? What did they do with those outrageous emails? We deserve to know now!
This entire episode is disgusting and it requires an independent investigation by the unicameral. The woman who was victimized by Sen. Groene has shined a light on the working conditions in the unicameral. Women usually don’t report harassment because of the well founded fear or belief that it’s futile. Republicans generally treat whistle blowers very harshly.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers is currently running for Attorney General. If he cannot preside over a safe working environment, how can he be chief law enforcement officer of the state? Let’s hope that Hilgers is smart enough to understand the importance of a thorough and independent investigation of this scandal.
These scandals have occurred because the Nebraska GOP has owned the state government, lock, stock and barrel since 1999. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Electing more Republicans will perpetuate the GOP culture of corruption, higher taxes, dysfunction in state government and the exodus of young people from our state.
The only candidate for governor offering any real solutions to our problems is State Senator Carol Blood. At a recent candidate forum, Blood said it best: “If you’re unhappy with how things have been the last few decades, if you’re unhappy with the fact that your property taxes are too high, then I’m going to ask you, Why do you keep voting the same way?”