WASHINGTON — Brad Ashford is being paid to lobby on behalf of Rural Media Group, which owns RFD-TV.
Or at least that’s what the former Omaha congressman reported this week on federal disclosure forms.
According to that disclosure form, he’s lobbying through the Omaha firm Houghton Bradford Whitted PC LLO. Rural Media Group paid the firm $10,000 in the third quarter of 2018, according to the paperwork.
The specific lobbying issues include “representing Rural Media, a/k/a RFD, in connection with potential legislation that would ensure access to programming in rural market areas now controlled by cable networks.”
But company founder Patrick Gottsch took issue, via email, with the idea that they have engaged any lobbyists.
“RFDTV has hired no lobbyists,” Gottsch wrote. “Never has. Never will. ... If we ever hire a lobbyist we will sure let you know with the proper press release.”
When a reporter noted the official disclosure form that had been filed, Gottsch referred to “misinformation” but did not elaborate.
It’s common for Capitol Hill lawmakers to go into lobbying after their time in office. Ashford, 68, said he didn’t want to lobby for just any client that came along, however, that it had to be related to something rooted in Nebraska.
“I knew I didn’t want to be a Washington lobbyist,” Ashford told The World-Herald. “But I miss representing Nebraska businesses and interests and so forth.”
The rural lifestyle television network faces challenges in trying to make sure larger cable companies keep offering it to their customers, Ashford said.
One question is whether there’s a role for Congress to take in addressing that situation and ensuring that rural-based content continues to be available, he said.
There’s currently no specific legislation related to the issue but there could be at some point .
Former House members have a one-year “cooling-off” period during which they are prohibited from lobbying, but Ashford is beyond that period.
Ashford, a Democrat, defeated GOP incumbent Rep. Lee Terry in 2014. He represented Nebraska’s 2nd District for one term before being defeated by Republican Don Bacon in 2016.
Ashford mounted a bid to reclaim the seat but lost the Democratic primary earlier this year to nonprofit executive Kara Eastman.
While not the same as being a congressman, Ashford said, working on the RFD-TV situation gives him an opportunity to keep working on Nebraska-related projects and to do so in a professional capacity.