- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2012

Super PAC ads will remain a part of the Nebraska Senate race.

Republican Deb Fischer has turned down a challenge from her Democratic rival, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, to adopt a Massachusetts-style agreement discouraging outside groups from buying airtime in the closely watched contest to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat.

Mr. Kerrey based his proposal on a deal struck between Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown and his opponent in the Massachusetts Senate race, Democrat Elizabeth Warren. The two agreed that if either candidate was attacked by outside advertising by independent super PACs, the other would donate half the cost of the commercial to charity.

The Kerrey campaign immediately pounced on Ms. Fischer’s decision, saying it shows she remains in the pocket of big-money GOP interest groups, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which has spent more than $1 million on anti-Kerrey ads in the Nebraska.

“She realizes she owes everything to special interests. Her unwillingness to join Kerrey in keeping out super PAC dollars tells us everything we need to know about Deb Fischer,” Kerrey campaign manager Paul Johnson said Thursday. Polls say Ms. Fischer holds a sizable lead in the race.

Figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show that the Nebraska Senate race has attracted the third most out-of-state funding of any Senate contest this cycle, more than $3 million. Only the Senate races in Texas and Indiana, both of which saw fiercely contested primaries, have attracted more money from national groups.

The Kerrey campaign challenge came after Ms. Fischer recently told a Nebraska television station that she would rather see the millions of dollars in super PAC outlays spent on education, public safety or infrastructure. She did not, however, explicitly call for PACs to stay out of the race.

Ms. Fischer explained to the Omaha World-Herald that while she may not always agree with how the groups conduct themselves, she respects their constitutional right to exist, affirmed by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.

The Fischer camp is casting Mr. Kerrey’s challenge as a distraction, meant to divert attention from key issues such as the economy. It is also asserting that his proposal would simply have been lip service because organizations outside the Kerrey campaign — such as the Nebraska Democratic Party — could have continued buying airtime under the deal.

“Kerrey’s flawed proposal is just one more reason Nebraskans can’t trust Bob Kerrey and his New York-style politics,” Fischer spokesman Daniel Keylin said, taking a shot at Mr. Kerrey’s decade-long stay in New York City as head of a liberal university before returning to Nebraska to run for the Senate again.