My Side of the Fencepost

Thank God it’s over!
By Jim Dickerson
I’m old enough to remember the days before PACs and Super PACs.
Those were the days when political attack ads didn’t totally dominate the broadcast media in the weeks preceding an election.
Of course, the two major political parties (and possibly a third party once in a while) were active. In small states like Nebraska, they were generating and spending campaign donations mostly on a local, regional and statewide basis.
Back then, there was more local campaign activity. We saw local rallies. Candidates for statewide office would turn out often for local meet-and-greet sessions, and they would sometimes even go door-to-door in small towns handing out posters and stickers.
I miss those days.

Elections are now all about who can raise and spend the most money, but that’s not the worst thing.
The worst thing is that spending by Political Action Committees and other outside groups can be a major influence on a statewide or even regional election.
That, according to most political experts, is a proven fact.
The strategy isn’t rocket science. It involves picking out something, or possibly several things, about an opposing candidate that you know won’t play well in a particular state or region.
Then spend your amassed millions and hammer away at those flaws you believe will resonate the most with voters.

The U.S. Senate race this year between Deb Fischer and Bob Kerrey is a good case in point.
Some say the attack ads started during the primary season when outside money was brought in to label Kerrey as a carpet bagger and liberal who is no longer connected to Nebraska.
That theme continued into the general election season.
Then, the attack ads started against Fischer. Let’s see, I believe I have it memorized. She and her rancher husband filed suit against a neighboring landowner in a boundary dispute. The Fischers lost, but the suit ended up costing the neighbors $40,000 in legal fees.
The Kerrey camp (or the PAC camp on his side) contends Fischer will absolutely follow the party line, unwilling to compromise and end the gridlock in Congress.
More anti-Kerrey ads followed, with videotaped quotes like “I support President Obama” and “The longer I live in Greenwich Village, the further left I am on health care.”
There are some variations on the general themes, but we all got the picture — a long time ago.

As I write this on Monday morning, I’m sure both sides will continue to grab every bit of broadcast time they can get.
So, by the end of October, the two campaigns had spent a total of $8.5 million, with more than $5 million of that coming from outside the state.
Omaha World-Herald reported last week that Kerrey had a money edge over Fischer, having spent $5 million to her $3.4 million. And, some say, that’s rhe reason recent polls show the election to be much closer than previously thought.
In some ways, we’re lucky. Much more outside money was spent on races in larger population states.
The questions: As voters, do we feel our votes have been influenced by this constant bombardment? Did all that money make any real difference in the outcome of our U.S. Senate race in Nebraska?
Oh, that we could take all that PAC money and apply it to the National Debt, or give it to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. . .
I’m just glad it’s over

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