GOP establishment is backing Ben Sasse’s opponent in Nebraska; Updated

Via Mark Hemingway.  Won’t these guys ever learn?

This brings us to the May 13 primary for the open Senate seat in Nebraska, where the NRSC’s meddling is particularly hard to justify. The two top Republicans are Ben Sasse and Shane Osborn. Both men are impressive. Sasse is a fifth-generation Nebraskan and Yale Ph.D. He worked for Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company, specializing in crisis management and turnaround projects. Just after 9/11, he worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy. Later in the Bush administration, Sasse was an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, where he worked on initiatives to rein in entitlement spending and modernize health care, and acquired a reputation as a formidable health policy expert. He moved back to his hometown of Fremont, Nebraska, to become president of Midland College. In the last four years, Sasse rescued the college from bankruptcy, gained national attention for his tenure reforms, and doubled the college’s enrollment…

Yet there’s little doubt who the NRSC’s preferred candidate is. If you guessed it’s the former Bush administration official, endorsed by the likes of former vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Rep. Paul Ryan and Senators Tom Coburn and Mike Lee, you’d be wrong. “Looking at their records and their rhetoric, you wouldn’t be able to tell which is the candidate of the Tea Party and which is the candidate of K Street and the GOP establishment,” reported Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney in January. “But their donor lists make it crystal clear. The Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund are backing Sasse. Perhaps for that reason, K Street and the GOP establishment are bankrolling Osborn.”

Officially, the NRSC is neutral. “As far as I’m aware and have seen, the NRSC isn’t taking sides in Nebraska,” Walsh tells The Weekly Standard. “Both Osborn and Sasse have used the NRSC to host fundraisers.” That’s a bit of a red herring. Providing space for a fundraiser isn’t nearly as important as who the NRSC brings to it. In the case of Shane Osborn, some of the biggest Republican-friendly names on K Street keep showing up on his guest lists. Billy Piper, McConnell’s former chief of staff and current UnitedHealth lobbyist, has been raising money for Osborn. Carney further reports that medical device lobbyists canceled a Sasse fundraiser for fear of alienating Republican Senate leadership. “It’s no secret that Mitch McConnell and the NRSC are working behind the scenes to defeat Ben Sasse in Nebraska,” says SCF executive director Matt Hoskins…

So why is the NRSC pulling the purse strings in a race where there isn’t even an incumbent, much less a classic insider-outsider divide? Sasse has used his health policy expertise to run hard against Obamacare, and Hoskins speculates, “McConnell was upset that Sasse called for stronger Republican leadership to stop Obamacare.” However, McConnell’s search-and-destroy mission against SCF-endorsed candidates might have more to do with Hoskins than Sasse. Hoskins was the chief of staff for former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint. For years, Senate Kremlinologists noted a litany of cloakroom-and-dagger operations prompted by DeMint and McConnell’s long-simmering feud. Since leaving the Senate, DeMint has used his position as head of the powerful Heritage Foundation in ways that have irked Senate Republicans.

Governor Palin endorsed Ben Sasse last Thursday.  By going to his website and donating to his campaign, you can demonstrate your support for both Mr. Sasse and the Governor while simultaneously registering your contempt for the GOP establishment and their petty inside baseball crap. That’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned. I understand that the NRSC is an incumbent protection entity, but you’d think they would have learned their lesson with Charlie Crist.  This is not to say that Osborn is as bad as Crist, but the fact remains that there’s no incumbent in this race and, thus, no role for the NRSC and their K Street cronies to play in the primary.

Update: Be sure to read Stacy’s post chronicling the efforts of the Democrat website, Politico, to smear Ben Sasse by trotting out an old and discredited story and passing it off as “news”.

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