Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Power Behind Bruning and Hagel

As pols across Nebraska continue to talk about Bruning and Hagel, Hagel and Bruning, let’s take a look at who is pushing their support for the two big players in the GOP Senate Primary.

Team Bruning

Sokol, Andersen, Bruning and Osborne

David Sokol

Like Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein, “follow the money”. In order for Bruning’s campaign to have any legs he has to have some initial strong financial support. Who better than the chairman and CEO of MidAmerican Energy and one whom many speculate to be Warren Buffett’s heir apparent at Berkshire Hathaway? Sokol was Jon Bruning’s finance chairman for his 2002 campaign and you may remember financed the poll that Bruning took of Nebraskans back in January. So what is Sokol’s stake in all this, and why take on someone like Hagel? Well, first off, he probably likes and believes in him. But also consider that the all the big-wheels in Nebraska business also love to be king-makers and kitchen cabinet members. Sokol is no different, and he’s the one helping Bruning (who will have a difficult time raising PAC money for a primary against Hagel) to find some deep pockets.

Tom Osborne

Don’t think that loss to Heineman still stings? Osborne bet his brief political career that he could cruise into the Gov’s office last spring. Unfortunately for him, he hemmed and hawed when making his decision, and by doing so, cost himself a major endorsement in one Senator Chuck Hagel. When Osborne couldn’t decide, Hagel made the decision and went with Dave Heineman and never looked back. You’ll remember the shot of Hagel and Heineman arm in arm the day after the primary, and TO does too. Also remember who was an Osborne backer in the primary: one Attorney General Jon Bruning. So TO can pay back Bruning for his support and pay back Hagel for that hatchet in the back.

Harold Andersen

How much influence does the retired publisher of the Omaha World Herald have these days, beyond his Sunday vanity column? Tough to say. But the member of Augusta National will have a rolodex filled with folks who may be able to open their wallets for the A.G. So what’s Andersen’s beef with Hagel? Well, he has never been keen on Hagel’s anti-Bush stance, and expressed that back in one of his Sunday columns back in 2004. And Hagel’s response to Andersen? “With all due respect, Harold Andersen does not know what he is talking about.” You think that one-liner doesn’t stick in old Harold’s craw? Don’t’ think we haven’t seen the last of Andersen’s columns on this topic.

Team Hagel

McCarthy, Heineman, Hagel, Johanns and Gottschalk

Dave Heineman

This one’s easy. Heineman is a veteran of Nebraska politics, and a veteran of the U.S. Army, having graduated from West Point. Hagel’s early endorsement for Heineman means that Heineman owes Hagel -- probably for his political life. There’s no way Heineman will forget that. And don’t expect the politically savvy Heineman to get tripped up on whether or not he supports Hagel’s position on Iraq. But even with his debt to Hagel, don’t forget that there is no love lost between Heineman and Bruning. Bruning was another Tom Osborne supporter and Bruning ticked off Heineman during the whole investigation into the State Treasurer’s office. Not to mention that Heineman would support many other alternative candidates (such as a Hal Daub or Mike Johanns) long before he’d support Bruning.

John Gottschalk

We throw in Gottschalk, current publisher of the Omaha World Herald, as the foil to Harold Andersen, but with an entire newspaper in his hands, instead of just a Sunday column. Hagel has always gotten strong support from the OWH, and that won’t change as long as Gottschalk is involved. Also keep in mind that it was Gottschalk who introduced Hagel to his now long-time business associate, confidant and campaign treasurer, Mike McCarthy of the McCarthy Group (and formerly with Hagel at AIS) . Never underestimate how much the OWH likes to be THE king-maker in Nebraska politics.

The Money Men

Mike McCarthy, chairman McCarthy Group, and Hagel bud is Hagel’s main money man. And Hagel should still be able to pull all the PAC funds he needs. But how about this Murderer’s Row of Nebraska lined up for a May fundraiser, hosted by Governor Dave Heineman:

  • Walter Scott, chairman of Level 3 Communications;
  • Jim Young, president Union Pacific;
  • Ken Stinson, chairman and CEO Peter Kiewit Sons;
  • Bruce Lauritzen, chairman First National Bank;
  • Gary Rodkin, CEO ConAgra Foods;
  • Richard Bell, chairman HDR;
  • Mogens Bay, CEO Valmont;
  • Howard Hawks, CEO Tenaska;

Do you think this group could provide a few duckets into the Hagel coffers? Think Bruning could ever come up with a fund-raising base like this?

Mike Johanns

Ahhhhh the wild card in this whole matter. As we noted in a previous post, it was interesting that when Bruning polled about the Senate race back in January, he did match-ups against Daub, Ricketts, Fortenberry, and Terry – but not against Mike Johanns. Again, in his recent poll, he matched himself against Hagel and Daub, but not Johanns. Why, you may ask? Because it’s pretty clear that if Hagel dropped out and Johanns jumped in, it would be Johanns’s race to lose. Because some have suggested that maybe Chuck Hagel doesn’t really want to campaign again across Nebraska. And maybe he would rather jump onto the big political stage to talk about the war, instead of hopping from Sidney to Lexington to talk about soybeans. And if he did do this, do you think Chuck Hagel would announce his support for Jon Bruning? We still think it’s a real good chance that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture could get in this race. You can bet that is Jon Bruning’s biggest fear.


Camel's Back said...

Hagel just voted with the Democrats for a timetable for withdrawl.


That's the sound of the last straw breaking.

Senator Hagel and to his staff who reads this blog:

You do not represent me and my values and beliefs as a Republican

I will be voting for change in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Horses a$$ said...


I won't.

change? seems Bush is still in power and we're still at war. wouldn't the change be now war? so bruning goes to DC and is a lockstep Bushie...where's the change?

Camel's Back said...

In my post I did not say I supported Bruning, Daub, Johanns or anyone else.

What I am saying is that I believe that we should support our president and give him the time to let this new plan succeed.

To that end Senator Hagel does not represent me or my values as a Republican and I choose under my right as a voter to not vote for him again.

It is time that we hold Senator Hagel accountable. We vote for a represenative not a maverick.

Senator Hagel you no longer represent me.

Anonymous said...

This disinterested citizen can report that the president of one of Nebraska's largest and most influential organizations today told me his members are in no hurry to give Senator Hagel the boot.

"Sen. Hagel has been very good to us," he said. "We have a great relationship with him. Our members, many of whom are Republicans, aren't going to toss a war hero out of office because of one issue."

Another representative of this organization said Hagel's stand on Iraq is probably represenative of more than half of his members. He believes that the Nebraskans who are complaining about Hagel are the same populists who have disliked Hagel since Day One.

I can tell you that David Sokol has always held something against Hagel. Sokol is quite chummy with Nelson, so perhaps he had to pick and choose. This Nebraskan has heard Sokol bash Bush, as well. For him, this contest is all about David's big ego. As S.S. stated earlier, he fancies himself a king-maker.

Street Sweeper said...


When ever possible, please give yourself a name -- any name -- so you can be distinguished on this comment board from every other "Anonymous".


One Out In The Third said...

This is about more than his selling out of our troops...Hagel has sold out to the illegals and leaves our borders with gaping holes. It's been time for a change for some time now.

Ed Randoulph said...

Gottschalk is ths same guy who cheered for Osborne, Kleeb, Witek, John Hanson ... must I go on?

He's a little man in really big britches as he loses influence (and readership daily). Don't put much stock in who he does or does not support.

-Ed Randoulph


This is politics people and I can tell you Sen. Hagel has decided to "GOD FORBID" do the right thing and speak his mind but not mindlessly following Bush. As a former staffer for a DEMOCRAT I can assure you that Sen. Hagel is not in the wrong here. Step back and get your head out of the republican sand pit. I voted for BUSH twice and will vote for Rudy in the 2008 election. Bush is a blundering idiot and is you just look at the news for 5 minutes you will see his career rapidly dissolving. Be proud to have a senator like Hagel who looks out for the people of Nebraska even when he puts his neck on the line. How about you go to Iraq and see the devastation first hand then get back to me. When lifelong Generals in the military are "retiring" because of them being asked to compromise their morals to make the president look good we need change at the top.

Tee said...


Please explain how Hagel, a purple heart veteran war hero has sold out our troops? Have you talked to a soldier lately? How about our guard units who were supposed to come home in February but are still over there?

Is looking out for our troops' best interest "selling them out?" Selling them out is going into Iraq without an exit strategy. Selling them out is not admitting mistakes sooner and moving to correct them. Selling them out is keeping them in Iraq the middle of a civil war to be picked off from both sides. They've done what they were sent there to do. Asking that they now come home is not selling them out.

Hagel has been there. Think twice before you claim that a purple heart veteran has sold out troops.

Tee said...

Furthermore, who would represent Nebraska well? I light of a likely Democratic take over of Congress and possibly the presidency (if not...a moderate will be in office). Do we want someone who can work with the democrats or a "yes man" who has no influence?

Street Sweeper said...

Just an FYI, the Dems already have both houses of Congress.

Kyle Michaelis said...


That's a pretty thorough run-down. Nice work. The one point on which I'd have to disagree, though, is your including Tom Osborne as a factor. I'm pretty sure Coach is done with politics - and I say good for him.

All the proof you need that Osborne is walking away - at least, from his ill-fitting status as a Republican insider - can be found in Lincoln's city election, where Osborne contributed $2,000 to Democrat Chris Beutler's mayoral campaign.

After too long in the wilderness of petty partisanship, Dr. Tom has his soul back. It's a good day for Nebraska.

John Paulding said...

Bendedict Arnold was a war hero too. Spare me the mindless pap that excuses everything Hagel says or does because he was in the military.

We all respect his service and sacrifice for the country, but that shouldn't give him a free pass to say whatever he wants. It is an irrational argument to try and stifle debating the issues.

One Out In The Third said...

tee... a 10 year Marine Corps veteran...who volunteered for duty in Viet Nam because I believed in the "purpose of good"...the same premise our troops hold today...I do question Hagel's vain glorious intentions.

I have talked to our troops...the parents of our troops...and fellow Nebraskans...who in what I still believe to be a majority...believe that what we are doing in Iraq is the correct and Christian thing to do.

People talk about John McCain's mental state...I question Hagel's. Purple Heart war hero makes him 100 percent on the dot? I know Silver Star and Bronze Medal recipients that wouldn't walk across the street to shake his hand.

Those who have signed the dotted line to do service in the military know that there are no promises. There are no guarantees you will be home for Christmas...tonights meal will be hot...or that it will not rain on your parade. Cuts in the military over the past 30 years have required the infusion of Guard's a fact of life and you have to roll with the punches. You don't have to show Guard enlistees a picture showing that.

I've been there...7 years longer than Hagel...Does that make me a military expert??? Hell no. I'm sorry I didn't achieve "Hero" status...but the way I look at it...everyone who has served in the military in the defense of this nation is a "Hero." And most don't wear it on their sleeve.

Hagel pretty much signed off on his political career yesterday when he walked across the aisle. I wish him luck selling shoes.

curbfeeler said...

SS, your call for pseudonyms might have benefited Bruning when he was 23.

Some have suggested that at 23, in law school, Liberal Bruning was a jellylike political fetus. Yet Hagel at 21 argued for GOP principles while in Vietnam. At that age Heineman was being an Army Ranger.

This Hagel-Bruning thing is about more than money. Its is about things a man either has or lacks.

The story for both Hagel and Heineman is all about consistency of party and values, hard military service, and electoral success against overwhelming odds.

Compared to that, Bruning’s Republicanism seems an expedience, his military service is non-existent, and his association with losers and Nelson's pals is an embarrassment.

snowBLWR said...

Somewhere, Matt "The Rat" Coneally is smiling...



Tee said...

SS--I know the Democrats control both houses of Congress...I didn't articulate what I meant. I mean that in 2008 it is unlikely that the make-up of Congress will change in favor of the Republicans. On top of that, the President will likely either be a democrat or a moderate. Therefore, it is important that Nebraska has senators who can work with both sides.

OOIT--First of all, thank you for your service. I appreciate someone who walks the walk and does what they believe (ironically enough, the same reason I'm a fan of Hagel). I value what you have to say about the war above those who have never been. However, I value Hagel's view of the war because he's been to Vietnam AND Iraq multiple times. He sees what's going on over there. He is privy to more information than we could imagine. Therefore, I trust his views given his experience and access to information.

I also think it's dangerous to make a war into a political or religious issue. Such a point of view seems to require that in order to be a "good" republican or christian, you have to support the war in Iraq. I am both and I waiver in support for the war (supporting troops, however, is very different).

Using religion, especially Christianty, to justify war...marching under the banner of the cross and killing in the name of the "prince of peace", seems questionable. It reminds me of the crusades and a time of horrible corruption in the church. I seems that if God wanted to topple Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan he could do it on his own...without our help.

Furthermore, if our army's purpose is to liberate oppressed people, why not start in Africa?

Rangleoff said...

Lighten up Frances! The only major flaw with the R Party is that we give free passes to already elected officials. Lifetime appointments must stop. Look at our Congressmen for proof that a challenge is needed. We R's gained power in Neb. but we must be responsible with it. People will jump ship and the party will lose traction if it continues to be a scarlet letter to oppose a sitting R. Let's face it, some people are good at being elected and that is where the good stops.
Open up and accept or we will soon be in trouble. Remember these words.

DuraPatcher said...


Your title should have been "The Power Behind Hagel and Not Behind Bruning." Is it too late to update your posting?

Bruning has Sokol. Hagel has everyone else including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I am almost embarassed for Bruning. Maybe he could get George Grogan to support him. They have a lot in common.

This hypothetical match-up is over before it even began.

HagelLOVESHagel said...

Hagel does NOT have Senate Republican leadership support. If he did, he would not have only $200k in his re-election coffers.

Has anyone ever figured out why Hagel's staff has so many (7 last time I checked) Democrats on it? Does Nelson's have that many Republicans?

Hagel's done, and good riddance.

Street Sweeper said...


FYI, Hagel and Mitch McConnell are buddies. And if that isn't well known, then the fact that McConnell is coming in for Hagel's funder should be clearer evidence.

And since you're claiming to be "in the know", please tell what Hagel staffers are Dems? That should be public record, right? Our guess is that the number is closer to zero, so we'd love to know your info. Please educate us.


Scarface said...

If you're really not playing favorites in the Senate race you should share this. Fair is fair. Both men have said things and later felt otherwise.

By the way, all the old guard GOPers are talking about 1995, when Hagel was pro-choice. Funny how running for office helps you find religion.

Street Sweeper said...

The link is there, consider it shared.

HagelLovesHagel said...

I'm not claiming to be in the know - but I do surmise that $200k in Hagel's re-election account means that he is out of the NRSC fundraising loop. Don't you? Hagel and McConnell can hold hands and skip for all I care, money is the best metric of actual Senate support - and Hagel has squat.

As far as the 7 Democratic staff members, I was told that by one of his staff. I made the mistake of assuming she was a Republican in a political conversation; she angrily replied that she was a Democrat, and that it was presumptuous to assume Hagel's staffers were Republicans, as a total of 7 were Dems. FWIW, this was, as I recall, about 2 years ago.

I'm sure an intrepid blogger could check the voter registration of his current and former staff to verify (or disprove).