LINCOLN — State Sen. Ernie Chambers intensified a shame campaign Friday aimed at a colleague who admitted last summer to using his state laptop to engage in cybersex.
The Omaha senator discussed, in explicit terms, the ethical transgression of Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion. Kintner has defied calls to resign from some fellow senators and the governor for misusing a state computer in 2015.
To the discomfort of some of his colleagues and perhaps some of those looking on from the gallery, Chambers repeatedly stated in open floor debate that Kintner “masturbated on Skype with a woman.”
“I’m going to keep the heat on Kintner, and if he had any respect for his family, he’d get out of this place and never come back again,” Chambers said Friday.
As Chambers spoke, a stern-faced Kintner walked quickly out of the legislative chamber. In the hallway, he suggested the Speaker of the Legislature has the authority to restrict Chambers’ comments to the subject of debate.
The Legislature’s rules of procedure state that no senator shall use “profane or abusive language when speaking to or about another member.” They also say senators must confine their remarks to the question before the body.
“His words and actions say a lot more about him than they do about me,” Kintner said of Chambers.
Speaker Jim Scheer said Friday that Chambers “hasn’t crossed the line.” The Norfolk senator said that while he views the matter as distracting from the usual business of the Legislature, it’s not the speaker’s job to restrict debate.
Several veteran lawmakers said that would be a difficult judgment call for the speaker to make. Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion said, however, that it’s jarring to hear details of the Kintner incident spoken on the floor.
“I do hope that Sen. Chambers will be mindful when schoolchildren are in the gallery,” he said.
Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha said the practice has always been to allow senators to speak freely during debate, even on highly sensitive topics.
“I think we should be very careful before we limit what others can and cannot say on the floor,” he said.
Kintner, who is married, engaged in masturbation in 2015 while videoconferencing with a woman he met on Facebook. The incident took place while Kintner attended a conference in Boston, and he reported it to the Nebraska State Patrol after the woman tried to extort him.
Attorney General Doug Peterson referred the incident to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, which found that Kintner had violated state law concerning the use of public resources. In a settlement, Kintner was assessed a $1,000 fine.
The outspoken conservative lawmaker has so far avoided confronting Chambers on the floor. Last summer, he initially said he did not owe his colleagues an apology, but eventually reversed course.
“I apologize for placing you and the Legislature in a difficult position,” Kintner said in the written statement he released in August.
The Legislature’s Executive Board took no action to expel or otherwise discipline Kintner before the session began. For that reason, Chambers has directed a good deal of venom toward those members of the Legislature who do not believe Kintner should be punished further.
Chambers himself faces the possibility of removal from the Legislature. The candidate he defeated in November is challenging whether the legislative veteran lives in his district.
A special legislative committee will investigate the residence question and report to the full Legislature, which will have to decide the issue.
On Friday, Chambers launched into a recitation of one of the more than 29 rhymes he has written about the Kintner incident over the summer and fall.
Chambers has promised to read all of what he calls his “Kintner-grams,” along with an investigative transcript of the conversation between Kintner and the woman during the cybersex episode.
“I think it’s a waste of time,” Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte said of Chambers’ monologues. He added that he thinks when bill debate begins, the commentary on the floor needs to relate to the underlying legislation.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said he believes Kintner will face a motion that he be censured, expelled or impeached this session. He added that he may well be the one to file such a motion.
Krist said he’s heard some senators say what Kintner did does not matter to their constituents.
“I disagree. I think there’s people all across this state who watch this Legislature and care about what goes on in this Legislature,” he said.