September 2, 2014

Ricketts and Hassebrook talk issues, but also get personal in debate (AUDIO)

Republican Pete Ricketts and Democrat Chuck Hassebrook talked issues, but also got personal during the gubernatorial debate at the State Fair in Grand Island.

Issues included prison reform, Medicaid expansion, and minimum wage.

Both Hassebrook and Ricketts endorsed using alternative incarceration programs, such as drug courts, to reduce the state prison population. Hassebrook, though, stated he would not take building a new prison off the table. Ricketts said it wasn’t time to build a new prison.

Ricketts rejected expanding Medicaid, following the example of Gov. Dave Heineman, a fellow Republican. Ricketts expressed concern the federal government wouldn’t fulfill its promise to pay 90% of the tab of expansion. Hassebrook accused Ricketts of putting partisan politics ahead of common sense, insisting the state has forfeited $2 million in federal funding its hospitals could use to cover the working-poor.

Hassebrook endorsed the proposed increase to the state minimum wage, which voters will decide in November. Ricketts insisted there are better ways to increase the wages of working Nebraskans, including worker training.

The debate turned personal when Hassebrook accused Ricketts’ father of funneling money to third party groups to run ads against Hassebrook.

Ricketts said it is all part of the record.

“Actually, this is all public disclosure and I’m sure if Chuck had found something he would be happy to share with you all,” Ricketts stated.

“No, it’s not all public disclosure,” Hassebrook quickly countered.

Hassebrook pointed out third party groups do not have to disclose their contributors.

“It may be that your father’s laundering the money by giving some of his millions elsewhere and having someone else contribute to your race,” Hassebrook said. “But, I think it strains credibility to say that your Dad would spend $4 million on two races in Michigan and Georgia, but with his own son running in Nebraska, take a walk.”

Both Ricketts and Hassebrook claimed they would seek to lower property tax rates. Hassebrook added he would not promote a “risky” tax scheme, make a reference to Gov. Heineman’s proposal to scrap the state income tax in exchange for ending numerous sales tax exemptions. Ricketts denied Hassebrook’s claim that he endorsed the plan, stating the proposal was flawed in a couple of ways.

The Omaha World-Herald sponsored the debate.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Gov. Heineman calls EPA the enemy of agriculture (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says federal regulations being issued by the Environmental Protection Agency pose a big problem for agriculture.

Heineman takes direct aim at the EPA, especially its proposal to expand the Clean Water Act.

“As I kiddingly say, but I think it’s fairly accurate, you know, when we have a little rain in the state and there’s a little pond in the ditch, they think that’s an environmental wetlands and they want to regulate it,” Heineman says, adding. “It’s ridiculous.”

Heineman, answering a question about what is the biggest regulatory issue facing Nebraska agriculture, says the federal government under the Obama Administration has been over-aggressive with its regulations.

The governor says he appreciates the efforts of the Nebraska Congressional delegation to curb what he considers federal over-reach.

“The fact of the matter is we all support clean air, clean water, and appropriate regulations, but it’s the EPA that’s the enemy of agriculture, I’ll put it that way.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Crewman from “Cops” TV show killed in Omaha shootout (AUDIO)

A crew member from the reality television news program “Cops” has died of wounds suffered in a police shooting in midtown Omaha Tuesday night.

Omaha police say 38-year-old Bryce Dion died from police officer gunfire.

Dion was part of the “Cops” filming crew following police as they responded to a robbery report at a Wendy’s restaurant. Omaha police fired on a suspect in the restaurant, who also was shot and killed.

The suspect has been identified as 32-year-old Cortez Washington, apparently a parolee from Kansas.

Both Washington and Dion were rushed to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Washington died that night. Dion later.

Officers opened fire on Washington when he brandished a handgun. Police report it was discovered afterward that the gun was an Airsoft pellet gun.

Dion is from Lawrence, MA, but had been living in Santa Monica, CA where he worked for numerous television series. Dion served as the sound engineer for the “Cops” filming crew.

AUDIO:  Omaha Police Department news conference on fatal shooting. [30 min.]

Former federal cyber security official convicted on child porn charges

A federal jury in Nebraska has convicted the former acting director of cyber security for the United States Department of Health and Human Services on a number of child pornography charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s office reports 56-year-old Timothy DeFoggi, formerly of Germantown, Maryland, has been convicted by a federal jury in the District of Nebraska of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography, and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography in connection with his membership in a child pornography website.

DeFoggi is the sixth individual convicted in an ongoing investigation of three child pornography websites. A single administer ran the three websites out of Omaha and has been convicted in the District of Nebraska of child exploitation.

According to evidence presented at trial, DeFoggi registered as a website member on March 2nd, 2012. He maintained his membership until the FBI took down the website on December 8th of that year.

Through the website, DeFoggi accessed and solicited child pornography. In private messages with other members, DeFoggi expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children, going so far as to suggest a meeting with another member to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children.

The jury reached the verdict after a four-day trial before U.S. Chief District Judge Laurie Smith Camp. DeFoggi is scheduled to be sentenced November 7th.

Democrat Domina and Republican Sasse spar in State Fair debate

United States Senate candidates staked out positions and tried to make distinctions during a 90-minute debate at the State Fair in Grand Island.

Whether the federal health care law pushed through Congress by President Barack Obama works became a point of contention between the two main candidates.

Democrat Dave Domina asserted repeal of the Affordable Care Act simply won’t happen, referring to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona’s contention that to try would be a “fool’s errand.”

“We don’t want to send a new U.S. Senator to the Senate on a fool’s errand,” Domina stated. “The Affordable Care Act works for many people; 76 million Americans have more access to prevention, eight million more are insured, seven million by extended Medicare.”

Republican Ben Sasse disagreed.

Sasse, who has built his campaign largely on a promise to work for repeal of the law, insisted it doesn’t work, because it didn’t address the real problem.

“But, the primary reason we have so much un-insurance and growing un-insurance is because Washington has already tried to pick winners and losers in the past, with a tax code that is biased for large firms and against farmers and ranchers and small business people which is where most of the job creation is happening,” according to Sasse.

On the possibility of immigration reform, Sasse stated a dysfunctional Washington cannot hope to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“First of all, the primary purpose of the federal government is to secure American citizens from enemies foreign and domestic and when you don’t have a secure border, you don’t have a border that’s secure against trafficked nuclear materials,” Sasse said. “So, obviously we need to begin by actually securing the border first.”

Domina said America must embrace many of the immigrants who have made their way into the country illegally.

“I think that if someone is in the United States out of love for this country and the opportunities it presents, did not flee arrest in the country from which that person came, contributes with honor here and seeks to be an American, we should give that person an embracing love and an immediate pathway to the citizenship we cherish so much,” Domina stated.

Domina claimed he presented the best credentials to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican who is retiring from public office.

“The United States and Nebraska have a big problem. It’s time to send from Nebraska our best prepared, our most articulate, our clearest thinker, our least partisan, and our most effective voice,” Domina said.

As for Sasse, he stated he wasn’t running to become a part of Washington.

“I’m not running for office, because I need a job or because I care about being a part of any club that’s called the U.S. Senate,” Sasse stated. “I’m running for office, because I want to have a great conversation about solving our big problems and passing on the meaning of America to the next generation.”

The debate also included independents Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson as well as two independent candidates who have yet to qualify for the November ballot.

The debate was sponsored by the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Rural Radio Network.

Tyson Havranek, KHAS, contributed to this article.