Sen. Mike Groene is one of the hardest working senators in the Legislature, his colleagues and employees say, but the state teacher’s union continues to depict him as a lazy lawmaker.
The teacher’s union has sent at least three mass mailings accusing Groene of regularly being late to work. The union plunked down at least $20,000 for design, printing and production of the color postcards, in addition to donating $10,000 in cash to Pederson’s campaign, according to state disclosure records.
One of the “fake information” mailings says Groene missed key votes on key issues, even though the Legislature’s records say he didn’t.
The mailings are marked, in fine print, from the NSEA-PAC, which stands for “Nebraska State Educational Association – Political Action Committee.”
Under Nebraska law, the group that pays for political ads is required to put its name on them. That rule comes from the state agency that oversees campaigns — the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The commission also identifies and reports campaign donations.
Groene’s former legislative aide, Brett Waite, said the NSEA wants a senator who will be a “yes-person” to do their bidding, in a lengthy letter about the topic (see the opinion page.)
Waite said Groene is one of the first senators to arrive at the capital building in the morning, and other employees and senators agree. Waite also paised Groene’s intellect, work ethic, responsiveness, zeal and respect for others. He said Groene keeps his door open to everyone.
Pederson’s camp paints Groene as someone who can’t get along with senators and interest groups, although senators from across Nebraska, including the speaker of the legislature, came to North Platte to support Groene’s re-election.
Those who work with Groene say he is extra busy. Not only does he have bills to steer through the legislature, he is also the chairman of the education committee and studies each education measure that is introduced. And, he goes farther than most senators, taking a keen interest in complex bills about property taxes, school funding and NCORPE — the largest geographical government operation in Nebraska.
As an example of one of the “fake facts” mailed from the teacher’s union, one card says Groene missed a key “balanced budget” vote. However, Nebraska is required by the state Constitution to keep its budget balanced. The bill that Groene supposedly missed voting on was a budget adjustment introduced on behalf of the governor, something that happens most every year to keep the budget balanced. Groene was “present but not voting” initially. He voted later as it was overwhelmingly approved, 41-4.
Groene said he sometimes is present but not voting if he is undecided or has some concerns about that particular bill.
Political advertisements usually paint rosy pictures of candidates, complete with pleasant phrases, but this campaign has a nasty tone, with the majority of the mud thrown by the teacher’s union.
The NSEA is by far Pederson’s largest contributor. The Nebraska Realtors are second, with a $10,000 contribution, plus mailing a card or two.
Pederson is spending heavily. As of Oct. 29, she had raised $82,000 for her campaign and spent $62,000 of that, mostly on radio, television, social media and mail-out ads, according to accountability and disclosure commission records.
By the same date, Groene had raised $57,403 and spent $38,000, according to the commission. Most of Groene’s advertising had been with radio and television. He also advertised in newspapers, sent mailing cards and posted some billboards.
Groene openly admits he is confrontational in the legislature when it is called for, because that is what it takes to represent western Nebraska in the body where most senators are from cities on the east side of the state. He said he strives to be a leader, not a senator who goes along to get along.
On the other hand, Pederson touts herself as someone who can work with everyone.
In response, Groene referred to Pederson as “Miss Congeniality” at a recent candidate’s debate/forum, and said that approach does not work well in the legislature. He also points out that he has never attacked his opponent through advertising.
However, he has nothing good to say about the NSEA leaders who made and mailed out the cards.
“They are completely out of control,” Groene said, “for too long we have allowed them to hide behind children.”
(For more about campaign lies — as well as candidate profiles, letters, issues and ads — pick up a copy of this week’s print edition of the Bulletin before you make your choices. It is on sale all over Lincoln County.)