State Democrats are going after Attorney General Jon Bruning with guns blazing: They bought ads in the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald accusing Bruning of basically being a slackard attorney general while making millions on the side.
• Bruning’s AG budget has grown 81 percent during the past 8 years; faster than the pace federal spending has increased.
• Since 2007, Bruning has tripled the value of his personal non-publicly traded assets from a range of $4.3 million to $17.8 million in 2007 to a range of $12.6 million to $61.3 million in 2011, according to his financial disclosure statements. Dems ask where he found the time to do that while serving as AG.
• While serving as AG, Bruning has held positions on at least 24 different banks, private businesses, and LLCs — not counting personal trusts and non-profit foundations. “No wonder he doesn’t have time for his day job,” the Dems said.
• Bruning “completely forgot” about a pending felony case, and the judge was forced to dismiss it. (Lincoln Journal Star 6/14/11).
• Bruning “botched” the acquisition of lethal drugs needed for the execution of a convicted murderer and “then tried to cover up his mistakes,” costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. (Lincoln Journal Star 7/13/11)
• Bruning has accepted at least $62,000 worth of gifts and trips to at least seven foreign countries, numerous rounds of golf and free tickets to sporting events.
What’s interesting to me about these allegations is that the most surprising of them — that he’s got those kind of assets — I’ve never seen documented by a newspaper. Shame on newspapers for completely missing the story. It’s always embarrassing when political operatives uncover stories that reporters ought to be getting.
In addition to the $95,000 annual salary he draws as Nebraska attorney general, Bruning reported earning $57,500 in income from his interest Frontier Holdings, the bank holding company, and $4,440 in income from a holding company called Green Jacket Capital, which sold its minor investments last year in medical aesthetics companies.
According to Bruning’s U.S. Senate financial disclosure report, he has millions of dollars in assets from investments in everything from 50 percent interest in Omaha and Des Moines storage companies to 15 percent interest in a bank holding company that owns three rural Nebraska banks. The most lucrative reported was his interest in a company that owns banks in Davenport, Madison and Pender, Neb. He also reported interest in a company that owns retirement homes in Kansas City, Austin, Texas and Round Rock, Texas.
And many of those investments appear to have been made since he was elected attorney general in 2002.
While Bruning reported millions in assets, he also reported a few million in debts, according to the statements I reviewed.
Bruning’s campaign manager, Trent Fellers, released this statement in response to the ads: “Ben Nelson’s votes for ObamaCare and big government spending just don’t align with Nebraska values, and neither do his politics. These desperate actions show just how out of touch Ben Nelson and his political machine are with Nebraska voters, who time and time again have rejected dirty politics like this. As sad as these actions are, they are predictable and we expect more of them. Ben Nelson and the Washington establishment backing him are focused on Jon because they must be hearing the same thing Jon hears as he travels the state — Nebraskans are disappointed with Ben Nelson’s style of politics and are demanding new leadership, and Jon is poised to provide that leadership next November.”
You’ll notice Fellers did not address any of the issues raised in the ads. I’ve asked him how Bruning made so much money since he’s been a public servant most of his career; I’m waiting for a response.
I’ve been trying for awhile to determine whether the arena project is on time or not — after a construction bidder pointed out to me that bidding documents made it appear the project is three or four months behind schedule.
However, project coordinator Dan Marvin insisted to me that the project is on schedule. And the mayor certainly has repeatedly said the project is on schedule. So I’ve been taking them at their word. And I’ve been keeping my eye on one major milestone coming: The date they said they would actually begin construction of the arena itself.
That date was set for Sept. 16, 2011. And guess what? Looks like they’re on target for that, because a true groundbreaking for the arena is scheduled for Sept. 15 (weather permitting). Now, I’m not naive enough to thinks reporters can’t be easily snowed, and we’ll all know for sure when September 2013 rolls around whether this baby is coming in on time. (Or should I say coming out?)