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On Friday, September 8th the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission fined me $500 for not disclosing campaign costs associated with my campaign for the Legislature during the summer of 2016.
An Alliance man, Richard Schommer, alleged in a complaint that I didn’t disclose the amount I paid for horse feed, food, lodging and fuel. It was for this infraction I was fined. His complaint also alleged my use of my Army surplus HUMWV (hum-vee) wasn’t properly reported. Lastly, his complaint said the gift of Henry Rifles I made to my friends who accompanied me on the ride also wasn’t properly reported. The Henry rifles were my personal gift to my veteran friends that endured the 500 mile ride. I paid for these out of my own pocket. The HUMWV was simply rented for a parade. The commission did not find these complaints sufficient to merit any fines.
As many of you know, I did what I called “The Freedom Ride” during the campaign. Along with a number of friends (veterans) who I served with in my thirty-six years in uniform, we rode mules 500 miles around all thirteen counties of the 43rd Legislative District. My opponent, former Sen. Al Davis, out-spent me during the campaign more than four to one. My campaign was ran on a shoe string. We didn’t have the money to saturate the newspapers, radio and TV stations, pay for multiple weekly mailings of attack ads or buy thousands of signs. We had to do something else to generate some publicity for the campaign.
The idea for the ride was actually something one of my veteran friends came up with. Stick a “Brewer for Legislature” sign on a mule, and ride the animal around the entire district. It was a novel idea. A 92-year lady in Brewster told me the last time she saw a politician campaign on horseback was when she was a little girl. The original plan was to bring together a group of old friends, all of us Army veterans, some I served with in Afghanistan, and do something together so we could catch up on old friendships. It was a “Veteran Ride” as much as it was a political campaign event. Scattered across several states, many of us hadn’t seen each other in decades. My friend Tony (my Legislative Aide) flew home from working in Afghanistan to do this. Win or lose the campaign, it gave me memories I will cherish for the rest of my life, one last ride for some old soldiers. In spite of some complaints from my back, I don’t regret a minute of it.
Ignorance of the law is no defense. It’s true. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of expenses on the ride. In particular, I didn’t do a thing called “in-kind” donations very well. A typical day of this 23-day ride we would stop and camp in a little town along the route. Folks would often greet us and sometimes bring a picnic supper. I didn’t record the “value” of a tub of potato salad, or a bale of hay a rancher may have given the mules, or a tank of fuel I bought out of my own pocket for my own pickup, or a package of hamburger one of my friends may have bought and grilled burgers for supper. I didn’t try and “estimate and report” the value of the grass the mules ate along the Cowboy Trail or the State-owned right-of-way along the roads and highways we rode. I didn’t keep track of the occasional hotel room my friends bought so they had a bed and a hot shower for a change, instead of a cot in a tent.
Everything on that ride I paid for was out of my own pocket, or something one of my friends bought on their own. I didn’t spend a dime of what little I had raised in campaign contributions to pay for any of it.
Regardless, all of those sorts of things should have been reported. Anything of value that is used by a campaign has to be reported. That’s the law. I’ve paid my fine and I’ll take my licks for this. The Accountability and Disclosure Commission told me I could pay my fine with campaign funds. I paid for it out of my pocket because people didn’t donate money to my campaign to pay for my mistakes. Obviously I know better now and it won’t happen again. I guess I’ll just have to find an accountant who knows how to ride a mule the next time I do this.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 471-2628.