It's tit-for-tat season in the U.S. Senate race.
Republicans on Friday regurgitated old ethical allegations against Bob Kerrey after Democrats criticized Republican Deb Fischer for not telling her legislative colleagues about an old land dispute she had with a neighbor.
Mark Fahleson, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, said the criticism against Fischer was an attempt to “inoculate” Kerrey against his own past “ethical problems,” including the fact that in 1989 Kerrey bought and sold cattle future contracts while a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“Maybe that kind of conduct is just what occurs every day in New York — take Martha Stewart, for example — but it's not what we do in Nebraska,” Fahleson said.
Democrats countered that the GOP criticism of the cattle trades was “old news.”
“This was an investment that Senator Kerrey made, and he closed the account in 1989 when commodity issues were starting to come before the Ag Committee and when he realized there was the potential for a conflict of interest,” said Chris Triebsch, Kerrey's spokesman.
Kerrey and Fischer are running for the U.S. Senate. The race began heating up even more this week as Democrats tried to make political hay out of a lawsuit that Fischer and her husband, Bruce Fischer, filed against a ranching neighbor.
The Fischers lost the lawsuit in 1997, but Democrats allege she supported two bills in the Legislature that related to the dispute.
Fahleson held a press conference Friday to denounce the Democrats' criticism of Fischer, while resurrecting two criticisms of Kerrey.
The first was the cattle futures that Kerrey bought and sold for six months in 1989, after he was elected to the U.S. Senate and appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee. At the time, the person who managed Kerrey's investment account said that the senator had been investing in cattle trades for several years. He also said Kerrey did not know about the specific trades made in his name.
Fahleson then criticized Kerrey for cashing in $850,000 in stock options in 2002, while he was serving on the board of directors of Tenet Healthcare Corp. Kerrey bought and sold the stock about a month before the company came under investigation for alleged Medicare fraud and its stock price collapsed.
At the time, Kerrey said he made the transactions on the advice of his financial consultant and accountant.
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