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June 24, 2011

28

Coby Mach fights back, takes on Journal Star

by Deena Winter

It is on.

A battle has broken out between the local newspaper and a prominent local radio talk show host.

LIBA head and talk show host Coby Mach

While “Drive Time Lincoln” and LIBA head Coby Mach started out by saying he wasn’t trying to “pick a fight with a guy who buys ink by the barrel,” he didn’t hold back in responding to the Journal Star’s recent story taking him to task for pulling down a six-figure salary while lobbying government to shrink. Not surprisingly, Mach took to the airwaves to fight back, saying the story was a “hit piece” riddled with errors and the reporter refused to meet with LIBA officials to get more information before going to print.

The Journal Star wrote about how Mach earns $106,000 as head of the Lincoln Independent Business Association and got big raises during the recession – even while lobbying governmental entities to freeze salaries, cut benefits and cut positions.

Mach said in response to the story, LIBA board Chairman Tim Cox sent a letter their 1,075 members saying the story contained more fiction than fact, and that Mach got a bump in pay – to nearly $116,000 in 2009 — because LIBA was often operating with only two employees that year. Mach’s salary dropped back down to nearly $107,000 last year.

Cox said the LIBA board of directors set financial and performance benchmarks and Mach was “paid accordingly” for hitting them. He said the job has no pension or retirement benefits and a “bare-bones” insurance option.

Mach was particularly perturbed by the fact that the paper went to Democratic Party state chairman Vic Covalt for comments in the story. Covalt claimed Mach’s job was a part-time job and that LIBA “pays no taxes.”

LIBA says Covalt was wrong on both counts: LIBA does pay payroll taxes and pays rent on a building whose owner pays property taxes, and Mach is required to work at least 40 hours a week and typically works 50 to 60 hours weekly. Mach said the Journal Star reporter, Nancy Hicks, was shown documents proving that, but still printed Covalt’s allegation.

Mach said he puts in a lot of hours – losing “precious time with his wife and two daughters – often arriving in the office by 7 a.m. and returning at 6 p.m., after doing his “Drive Time Lincoln” radio show. He said he attends many night meetings and is “in the office prior to church on Sunday mornings.”

“It’s a great job, don’t get me wrong,” Mach said. “I love it.”

Mach said, “We all have the ability to work harder… (to) work two or three jobs to make ends meet.”

He said the story implied there was some kind of salary threshold at which people are not allowed to have a voice in local politics.

Mach said LIBA invited Hicks to come in and meet with the chairman of the LIBA board and LIBA accountants to explain issues in the story, but she declined, saying, “My bosses are concerned that you’ll break the story on Drive Time Lincoln.”

“Who cares about facts? Or getting the story right?” Mach said. “It’s all about scooping Drive Time Lincoln.”

Mach said he invited Hicks to join him on his radio show the day the story came out, but she declined. (That’s no surprise: The paper would never let me do the show either when I worked there.)

Mach repeatedly questioned why Hicks went to Covalt for comment – asking why the head of the Democratic Party would be asked to weigh in on his salary rather than the head of another business organization or city employees or even the mayor.
Mach said apparently, anyone who wants to have a voice at city hall must “start with an email to Nancy Hicks” first.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, nothing illegal… except become a very influential voice from a nonprofit organization,” he said.

Hicks said she could not comment on Mach’s rebuttal, and other editors were out of the office Friday and unavailable to comment.

However, Mach skirted the central issue raised by the story: While he has lobbying government to keep salaries lean and cut benefits and jobs and urging the government to pay more like the private sector, he was earning a tidy six-figure salary leading that lobbying group.

I was surprised to read that Mach makes six figures, because a few years ago, when the City Council was debating whether to hire a researcher, Mach, a chamber representative and I were sitting in the back of the room and we all were kind of shocked when a councilman mentioned that the person should make about $80,000 a year. Mach jokingly said he would apply for the job if it paid that much.
I guess it really was a joke.

As to Mach’s questioning why Hicks went to Covalt – I think the answer is obvious. Over the half-dozen years I covered city hall, it was very clear that Mach and LIBA and Drive Time Lincoln were a thorn in the mayor’s side. More than once, a mayoral aide tried to get me to write a hit piece on Mach.

They felt it was a conflict of interest for Mach to head up LIBA and also host a radio show – plus occasionally act like a reporter by attending press conferences.

It is a weird dynamic: Coby lobbies for LIBA, but also sometimes puts on his journalist hat. It’d be like Rush Limbaugh also having a job as the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and attending White House press conferences, too.

That’s why I’d bet this story was fed to the paper by a Democratic operative (perhaps Covalt himself) or a member of the mayor’s office. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

28 Comments Post a comment
  1. LC
    Jun 24 2011

    Mach has been disrespectful to individuals in this community. I’m glad he’s finally getting his due in the public eye.

    Reply
    • Publius
      Jun 24 2011

      Seriously, this is your comment. Could you please site examples of his “…been disrespectful to individuals in this community…”? I’m no supporter of Mach’s. But if someone is going to accuse another of such actions of being disrespectful, it would be nice that you substantiate your claim.

      Reply
      • LC
        Jun 24 2011

        Have you never listened to his radio show?

  2. Debby Brehm
    Jun 24 2011

    If Nancy Hicks wanted an opinion on Coby’s salary she should have called one of LIBA’s 1100 members, not Vic Covalt who isn’t a member. Then she would have heard that many of LIBA’s members feel Coby is UNDERPAID, certainly not overpaid. And what difference should it make to anyone who isn’t a member? LIBA does not receive one penny of taxpayer dollars; it is funded by its members.

    Reply
  3. Steve Bowen
    Jun 24 2011

    A conflict of interest to be the President of LIBA, a Journalist and a Talk Show Host? I think you just justified Coby’s six figure sallary.

    Of course, a liberal democrat operative would discribe a conservative Journalist as a conflict of interest.

    It seems to be far more newsworthy that the democrat leadership is lobbying the newspapper to run hit pieces on conservative people, and that they are apparently willing to do so.

    Reply
  4. Ellie
    Jun 24 2011

    My surprise with this story is that Nancy Hicks doesn’t know the difference between a tax payer supported job and a private sector job. Coby’s salary is no one’s business unless they pay for it with tax dollars. What the LIBA board deems as a reasonable salary for his job is up to that board. Nancy is confusing the public and perpetuating class warfare which is a ploy of the Progressives and left wing political operatives. Actually she maybe “outing” the LJS and its aim or maybe this was a Democratic inspired story placed by them through Nancy. I think you made a wise decision to leave the paper and have this blog. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Jeff Poley
    Jun 24 2011

    Deena:

    I’m not surprised that Mach is such a cry-baby. Many folks who constantly take pot shots at those with whom they disagree take great offense when they are criticized. If he feels so abused, maybe he should trade his buckets of publicly subsidized air-time on Drive Time with Hicks’ barrels of ink.

    Jeff…

    Reply
  6. Matthew Platte
    Jun 24 2011

    “Drive Time Lincoln” is transportation socialism: let’s get everyone into air-conditioned boxes on taxpayer-funded infrastructure so CobyM can utilize public spectrum promoting … well, whatever it is he’s promoting these days.

    Without socialism providing streets for his listeners, without government regulation keeping the radio pirates from stealing his over-the-air bandwidth, CobyM would have no “Drive Time Lincoln” show, and thus would be relegated to either blogging or writing for the local newspaper.

    Reply
  7. ej
    Jun 24 2011

    Don’t Hick’s editors bear some of the blame for this debacle? Surely they recognize axe grinding when they see it? Lesson 1 on Day 1 in J-school: Don’t go to sources who have an axe to grind.

    Of course, this BS coming from the local Dems is no surprise, considering the new lows they stooped to during the last election.

    Reply
  8. Shawn Traudt
    Jun 24 2011

    This is what happens when watching corn grow or flood waters rise gets boring…news stories get written that have little to no fact and don’t provide accurate information. I too have long subscribed to the “don’t pick a fight with folks who buy their ink by the barrel” idea myself. But then again, the LJS of today isn’t the Seacrest machine of yesterday. One could make an argument that’s why this story exists in the first place. LIBA has become significantly more powerful than the LJS.

    Coby Mach has done an incredible job for an organization that needed a fire lit under it. He has provided great leadership, phenomenal membership growth, and garnered public interest in things that were otherwise not discussed. He should be (and has been) rewarded for obtaining his goals. That is how private enterprise works. There is no comparison to draw between what someone is paid and the mantra that they preach. Calling for responsible government and fair taxation, doesn’t mean that you should be paid less, especially when you’re not paid by that same government.

    Coby has done his job well, works his tail off, and is supervised by a board of some of the best business people in our community. Would he take a city job for $80,000 a year over his…well who wouldn’t…work 20 hours a week, have a 2 to 1 match on your 401(k) +++.

    I’m grateful for Coby’s efforts and proud that he questions elected and appointed officials alike, and the he stands up to those who feel they are “untouchable”. And no, I’m not a member of LIBA.

    Reply
  9. Roberta
    Jun 24 2011

    Colby we all work extra hours and are away from our families, we do not whine about it. Also, aren’t you the guy who keeps going before Council saying compare City pay with the private sector or are you not the private sector.

    Reply
    • ej
      Jun 24 2011

      If you listened to Coby’s show the day the “article” came out, Roberta, you would know that he wasn’t whining about his hours. He merely was pointing out that his job with LIBA is indeed a fulltime position. And that this fact was clearly spelled out in the organization’s tax filing documents that were provided to Nancy Hicks, who then chose to ignore the facts when she included the quote from Covalt about the LIBA job being only part time.

      Reply
    • Jason Christenson
      Jun 27 2011

      Which city position would you say is comparable to “President of LIBA”?

      Reply
  10. Hinske
    Jun 24 2011

    If Coby’s LIBA job a full time position, why does he have a radio job? If he wants to spend more time with his family, he could give that up and perhaps Hicks will take over for him, lol.

    Reply
  11. Jane H Kinsey
    Jun 24 2011

    City officials want no opposition to their decisions or their implementations of tax payer money.
    While I do not always agree with LIBA, to whom I owe no allegiance and have never endorsed me, they serve a good purpose in Lincoln for opinions that can make government more accountable. We need more people to speak up against local government who wants to not
    be accountable to the Public. Did you ever look at the local budget and find a specific expense item in all the superficial, general information? Good luck: it takes hours and then you probably won’t find it.

    Reply
  12. Jane H Kinsey
    Jun 24 2011

    I forgot to mention that Beutler’s aides and city department heads make as much or more than Mach with exorbitant retirement and vacation and hours.

    Reply
    • Reader
      Jun 25 2011

      Yes, and there is about sixteen of them.

      Reply
  13. Gene
    Jun 24 2011

    If you consider that some of that pay is compensation in lieu of benefits, he’d probably make in the low 80′s in a regular firm (I figured benefits at 25-30% of his salary). Not that it matters, but you have to take it into consideration.

    Reply
  14. Roger Yant
    Jun 24 2011

    Below is what I wrote to OPED page, and sent. Most likley won’t be printed. A little extra on the pools at end. Roger

    Why the big bro ha ha over Coby Mach’s income? He works in the private sector and it effects no one but the board and members of LIBA. I see he took a pay cut this year, have you ever heard of any government employee taking a pay cut? I sometimes disagree with LIBA (EX who they backed for mayor) but it is a good organization. No I am not a member. But why did the Journal have to even run this story, or non story.
    One more item, the city can save $150,000 by closing the pools, you mean we can’t come up with $150,000? How about removing one of the golden chairs that will be put in the new arena. Tell you what, keep the pools open, I will go out personally and raise the $150,000 to keep them open next year.
    Good God we have our priorities in the wrong place.

    Reply
  15. Kathy
    Jun 24 2011

    Coby can make any salary I don’t care – the point for me is that he is always telling everyone how, when times are so hard that they don’t have a right to ask for money. Maybe if he took less salary during these tough times the dues that LIBA members pay could go down, helping the small business owners that he so often refers to as the engine of new job creation.

    Reply
  16. tyler w
    Jun 24 2011

    I listened to his show Thursday and you nailed it Deanna, he totally avoided the issue of his hypocracy in speaking out against exactly what he recieves in financial compensation. No one could have imagined he was making that kind of money at a small “non-profit” in Lincoln Ne. That’s why its a story Colby! Also his show that day was non-stop supporters calling in and getting air time. I didnt hear one person who had a contrary opinion on his propaganda hour. I tried to call in but the lines were tied up by LIBA members who were undoubtably plants because it sounded so scripted and contrived.
    Colby stop whining. Look in the mirror! You have rules for everyones else and then rules for yourself, and the rationalizations you make for your snake-like parasitic existance are worthy of condemnation.

    Reply
    • Lori Newman
      Jun 24 2011

      His name is Coby! – ready the paper. I got right thru with my non-contrived comments!

      Reply
  17. bobloblaw
    Jun 24 2011

    He is playing three card monty. Complains how the story is inaccurate about his “part time job” to take the onus off his pay. Acts like a journalist but reports half truths to get his audience amped up. Oh – and sneaks in the back entrance of a fundraiser band competition to avoid paying admission (Lincoln High-October 2010). Now I know he is not some poor old tool but an overpaid idiot.

    Reply
  18. Larry H. Wikoff
    Jun 25 2011

    No one in this episode is wearing a white hat. Coby is a hypocrite whining about other peoples wage/salary going up in hard times, except we find out, for his. Heard no whining from him about that. He has the right to run his mouth under the first amendment, just as we do. Just wish he would have let me finish running mine, back in 2008, when I called in after he was trying to tag Obama as a socialist. I called and was pointing out that BOTH Obama AND McCain rushed back to Senate in Oct. ’08 to vote for the trillion dollar Banksters bailout bill. [Socialism for the rich!] And I pointed that fact out and rhetorically asked: “…then what do you call McCain then?” He heard it and hung up on me!!! Because of taping lag they use, audience never did hear the question. Thanks Coby for censoring the truth. Guess you dont like truth out about yourself either! L. Wikoff

    Reply
  19. Reader
    Jun 25 2011

    So, Deena, you need a half hour or so spot on the radio and then you can get into the news conferences too; you could call it Deena’s drive time, or Winter wake up. So Colby, what brought this on airing about the city gambling club or the bullying, and what do you do when a gang is after you?

    Reply
  20. dale gribble
    Jun 26 2011

    Is Nancy Hicks one of the Journal Star’s “Rainbows and Butterflies” reporters?

    Reply
  21. fedwayup
    Jun 26 2011

    Watch out Coby this is just a warning, next you’ll be going to asphalt or mowing ditches with the Heckendorn mower or picking up pennies out of the urinals.

    Reply

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