Flood’s fundraising surges, Fortenberry’s sputters

By: - January 31, 2022 2:17 pm
Sen. Mike Flood announces for Congress

State Sen. Mike Flood at a January press conference. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:30 p.m. Monday.

LINCOLN — U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s campaign fundraising took a hit after he was indicted last October, accused of lying to federal investigators.

Fortenberry, a nine-term Republican, raised just $70,000 from donors during the last three months of 2021. 

By comparison, he raised more than $100,000 in each in the first three quarters of the year. During his two decades representing Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, he has raised an average of $90,000 per quarter. The incumbent still retained a war chest at year’s end of nearly $900,000.

His primary opponent, however, needed just two weeks to raise $400,000. Former Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood entered the race Jan. 16.

His two-week tally nearly matched what Fortenberry raised in the first three quarters of 2021 combined. Flood said he was “overwhelmed” by the support.

State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, the top Democrat running in the 1st District, raised $210,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021. She has $160,000 cash on hand.

Fortenberry was indicted Oct. 19, accused of lying to the FBI about foreign funds being raised for his campaign, which is illegal. Court documents show he was recorded by a federal informant and told the FBI something different than the recordings showed.

Fortenberry has argued that the charges are unfair and politically motivated. He said he cooperated with federal investigators and was misled.

His campaign finance forms show he spent $50,000 in 2021 on legal fees to the California law firm defending him against the charges. 

Flood’s campaign has drawn endorsements from many in Nebraska’s GOP establishment, including Gov. Pete Ricketts and his predecessor, Gov. Dave Heineman.

On Monday, Fortenberry’s campaign emphasized some endorsements of his own, including Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and two former Fortenberry staffers, State Sen. Rita Sanders of Bellevue and Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning.

“Nebraskans know Jeff,” Foley said in a campaign statement. “They trust him. He’s worked hard for our state.”

Flood’s campaign said nearly 100% of his contributions have come from Nebraskans, “and none are from foreign nationals.”

Fortenberry’s campaign fired back with a statement saying, “Omaha money can’t change Flood’s voting record.” 

This week, Fortenberry began airing TV ads attacking Flood on immigration. The ads attack Flood’s legislative votes to fund prenatal care for immigrant mothers giving birth to Americans.

Without offering evidence Monday, Fortenberry’s campaign said the bills Flood supported had increased illegal immigration.

The congressman has long had a strong base of support in the Lincoln area, where he lives. He and Flood are both widely known to Catholic voters in the 1st District, which includes Lincoln, Bellevue and Norfolk.

Flood retains strong ties to the business communities in Omaha and Lincoln from his time in the Legislature. The senator from Norfolk has a reliable base of support in Republican-rich northeast Nebraska. 

Both GOP candidates are staunchly anti-abortion.

The GOP primary election is May 10. Early voting starts in April.

 

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

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