Where the late U.S. Sen. J.J. Exon molded, built and led the Democratic Party in Nebraska for a quarter century, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel now is searing his brand on the state GOP.
Hagel, Nebraska's senior elected Republican, is focused on this fall's elections and has pumped $127,000 into state GOP efforts. That's nearly double his 2004 campaign contributions in Nebraska.
GOP candidates for the Nebraska Legislature have received the bulk of the money. But Hagel also has given to Republican Party committees and Nebraska Republicans running for the U.S. House, Senate and governor.
Hagel said he knew four years ago that 2006 would be a big year. In a sense, he's been gearing up since he was elected to the Senate in 1996.
"One of the legacies I want whenever I leave Nebraska politics is that 'Hagel left the party better than he found it.'"
His interest was sparked in the early 1970s, when he says he watched Nebraska Republican politicians pay too little attention to bringing new blood and fresh ideas to the state party.
Over the last decade, Hagel has helped state Republicans raise money and recruit candidates. He worked closely with state GOP chairmen and Republican Govs. Mike Johanns and Dave Heineman.
Through his Senate campaign fund and his political action committee, the Sandhills PAC, Hagel donated $47,250 to Nebraska GOP candidates and party committees for the 2002 elections. That rose to $73,750 in 2004.
He's given $127,000 so far this year. Of that, $53,000 has gone to candidates for Nebraska state offices and $40,000 to Nebraska candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, according to his office and reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Hagel's roll-up-the-sleeves work now could help him by tamping down frustrations some Republicans have voiced over Hagel's criticism of the Bush administration handling of the Iraq war, Hibbing said.
Hagel, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, also has continued his practice of donating to national Republican candidates.
He's donated about $130,000 to GOP candidates across the country via the Sandhills PAC for the 2006 elections.
Other possible presidential candidates have done more. The political committees of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, have donated about $200,000 each to candidates of their parties.
Hagel said his first priority is Nebraska. "I'm playing where I think my responsibilities are most significant," he said.
Still, he recently traveled to Michigan to campaign for a Republican candidate. Earlier in the year he donated $5,000, through his PAC, to GOP efforts in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
"I haven't taken my eye off the ball on my own interests for 2008 either," he said.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
"Hagel brings a lot to the party for '06"
There's a good story in the World-Herald titled "Hagel brings a lot to the party for '06" by Jake Thompson about how Senator Hagel has been working hard to raise money for GOP candidates in Nebraska as well as all over the country for the 2006 election. Here are some excerpts from it: