Money, Money, Money & the Omaha World-Herald

October 11, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. (exclusive) by Ivy Harper

The Omaha World-Herald’s Washington correspondent, Joe Morton, published an interesting article yesterday highlighting Bob Kerrey’s proposal to turn Congress into a non-partisan deliberative body. I’ve re-printed it below.

But first, my Joe Morton story. Doesn’t everybody have one? On May 11, 2010, I won the Democratic nomination for Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District against three candidates, one of whom – Jessica Lynn Turek – told the Lincoln Journal Star (LJS) in their fall Election Guide that her number one priority in Congress would be “to make money smell good.”

The trio of ostensible Dems that I was running against included a man that a young broadcast reporter told me when she went to interview him, he had a couple of porn magazines lying quite visibly on a table near her. She excused herself for a moment, went to a hallway, called her editor, shared that detail, and he told her to get out of the building asap.

Sherman Yates was my third opponent and I happened to meet him the day I filed at Secretary of State John Gale’s office. I was sitting in a sunken ante-room waiting and Mr. Yates began a conversation. He told me he was running for Congress as a Democrat but that when he learned the fee was $1,700 dollars, he’d had to regroup because he didn’t have that kind of money. The Secretary’s office reassured Mr. Yates that he could still file – provided he swore he had no assets – as “a pauper.”

Swear to God. Nebraska still uses that word. Officially. Turns out that Jessica Lynn Turek filed as one too.

I’ll tell you what’s weird: running against two “paupers” and a porn-loving candidate. For starters, I detest the word “pauper.” I mean, come on, Cornhuskers. Can someone please change that language? For the love of Dickens, it conjures bleak houses, poor boys, and unmarked graves.

Well, soon after the February, 2010 filing date, word spread that I was running against two “paupers” and on occasion, people would joke about it. That bothered me. On a number of levels. Mostly because, truth be told, I probably relate more to paupers than princes.

Nonetheless, running against two “paupers” certainly brought the issue of money front and center to my primary race. And okay, I will admit that one could concoct an entire comedy routine out of the absurdity of it all. I mean most people worry about running against candidates with boatloads of money and I’m running against not one, but two “paupers.”

For sure, that comes under the Man Bites Dog news umbrella.

So I filed in the middle of February and the 2010 Primary was the middle of May. In that entire three-month period, I never once met my three opponents. None appeared at any of the numerous “Candidate Forums.” Neither Mr. Yates or the porn guy answered the many “Candidate Questionnaires.” Jessica Lynn Turek answered the official LJS questionnaire, and let’s just say that her answers were unorthodox, to put it mildly.

After a while, reporters and broadcasters started calling me asking if I knew how to reach my three opponents. Of course, it’s standard journalism policy to attempt to give all candidates some semblance of equal time but no one in the media could find contact information for any of the three. In fact, I remember Don Walton asking me at the Mill if I had Jessica or Sherman or the other guy’s number so he could call them.

This gets back to Joe Morton pretty soon here. Anyhow, the three months flew by. I won but barely. And on election night, a politico told me that Jessica Lynn Turek had been a “ringer,” a word I’d only recently learned about via an episode of “The Good Wife.” Sounds naive, but I had no idea what a ringer was. Her role was to siphon Czech votes away from me and she succeeded. She’d been set up to win and I was supposed to be humiliated by being beaten by a “pauper.” More on that later.

The Saturday after the Primary was the Nebraska Democratic Morrison-Exon Dinner in Omaha. I was especially excited about that night because it marked the beginning of Rebekah Davis and my “Congressional Caravan” wherein the two of us planned to travel up and down – and around – the 1st & 3rd borders that we shared and campaign with – and for – each other. Since I grew up in Grand Island, I was eager to spend time in Rebekah’s political stomping grounds, and Rebekah’s got a huge fan club in Lincoln. Win-win, we thought.

So, the two of us set out Sunday morning in my trusty Honda CRV. And it was a blast. We began in Surprise, Nebraska, where – honestly – we couldn’t find even one voter to press the flesh with. Not one. But of course, there was a church and the two of us took turns standing in front of the Surprise sign. We laughed a lot.
A few days later, we ended up in Grand Island where – finally – we got some press from the great George Ayoub at the (G.I.) Independent.

Then, the telephone calls started coming from Joe Morton. First, Rebekah. Then me. My first thought was, “This is cool. The Omaha World-Herald has heard about our criss-crossing CD Caravan and wants to learn more about it.”

Ummmmm. That would be no. Nope, Joe Morton had one question and one question only. That he must have asked me ten times.

I’m doing a story on “the assets” of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation and the 2010 candidates and I want to know how much money you have.

I balked. Harper: Can we talk about issues? Joe Morton: How much money do you have?
Harper: Do you realize that Rebekah Davis is a Nebraska treasure at the tender age of 27?
Joe Morton: How much money does she have?
Harper: The two of us are campaigning together from the very tip of the top of the state down to the Kansas border. Do you want to know what subjects Cornhuskers are raising?
Joe Morton: My story is about “assets.” How much money do you have?”
Harper: Would you like to hear how happy Nebraskans are that there are two women running for Congress?
Joe Morton: How much money do you have?

The OWH published their “money” story on Page One. Senator Ben Nelson: assets, a gazillion dollars; ditto for Tom White; Senator Mike Johanns’ portfolio was none too shabby; Rep. Fortenberry, somewhere around a million; same with Rep. Adrian Smith.

Then, there was Rebekah Davis & Ivy Harper’s “assets.” Well, let’s just say the two of us might as well be “paupers” compared to the Big Battalions.

But I will tell you one thing: there isn’t a single politician in the state of Nebraska – in either party – who has more gravitas than Rebekah Davis and anyone who heard her speech at the July Nebraska Democratic Party Convention in Columbus knows what I’m talking about. Rebekah’s the real deal.

But how much money does she have?

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