Omaha, NE.—TV attack ads are nothing new but there’s an unfamiliar face on the attack in one key Nebraska race.
It’s the Lathrop-Riepe legislative battle in Ralston and southwest Omaha. And that unfamiliar face belongs to the little known Washington D.C. based Republican State Leadership Committee.
“Steve Lathrop is just another out of touch liberal and that’s the last thing Ralston and Millard families need,” says the RSLC’s 30-second commercial which is running night and day on an ad-buy totaling at least $17,000, according to public records examined by News Channel Nebraska.
Democrat Lathrop, who is trying to win back his old job after term limits pushed him out in 2014, tells NCN, “I don’t know why they are coming into Nebraska…it’s a further erosion of our non-partisan legislature.”
Lathrop’s opponent, incumbent Republican State Sen. Merv Riepe, has not been available to comment on the RSLC’s attack.
Riepe however is backed by his fellow Republican, Gov. Pete Ricketts. During the primary Ricketts, who has openly backed plenty of Republicans up and down the ticket, gave Riepe’s campaign $5,000. Lathrop beat Riepe in the primary 54-47, but the two square off again next month in an Election Day showdown when significantly more voters are expected.
Ricketts is currently vice-chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association and is a former national committeeman for the Republican National Committee. Ricketts media buyer for his reelection campaign is Ax Media of Kansas City, which also arranged the RSLC’s anti-Lathrop ads.
Asked by News Channel Nebraska if the Ricketts’ campaign was directly or indirectly involved in the RSLC’s Lathrop attack, Ricketts campaign manager Jessica Flanagain said, “Governor Ricketts has not contributed to or been involved with this group.”
RSLC spokesman David James tells NCN, “As a national organization, with a history in Nebraska, we operate with a variety of premier Republican political consultants and vendors.”
According to FollowTheMoney.org, the RSLC has backed 10 Nebraska state candidates since 2006, including former Attorney General Jon Bruning and nine legislative hopefuls, with a 6-3 winning record—apparently all without TV ads— in those officially non-partisan Unicameral races.
Joe Jordan, NCN: Does Gov. Ricketts think it is appropriate for a political organization from outside the state to take an active part in a non-partisan race?
Jessica Flanagain: The idea that Steve Lathrop is non-partisan is laughable, he flirted with running for governor with a statewide “listening session,” ran for Democrat National Committeeman and actively recruited democrat candidates for legislature in 2016. Elections have consequences and Republican organizations like the Republican Attorney’s General Association, RNC, RGA, NRCC, and NRSC as well as their counterparts on the Democrat side, engage in races across the country.
So far the RSLC’s rival, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, has not jumped into the Lathrop-Riepe fight.