The Nebraska Democratic Party launched a new TV ad campaign Monday accusing Republican Senate nominee Deb Fischer of accepting millions of dollars in "taxpayer subsidies" at the same time she calls for reduced federal spending.
"Think you know Deb Fischer?" the attack ad asks. "Well, behind her rhetoric is a lot of bull.
"Tell welfare rancher Deb Fischer to cut wasteful spending, not profit from it."
Democrats clearly have decided Fischer's participation in a federal livestock grazing rights program that benefits her own family ranch may be a chink in her conservative, cost-cutting armor they might be able to exploit.
Sen. Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey, her Democratic Senate opponent, already have questioned Fischer's acceptance of what they describe as federal subsidies that result from charging below-market fees for cattle grazing rights on U.S. Forest Service land.
"Ranchers are required to pay for additional maintenance costs and abide by strict federal regulations in exchange for leasing the land," Fischer campaign spokesman Daniel Keylin said.
Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture, already has said it was misleading to describe the program as a subsidy, Keylin pointed out. Johanns said the lease requires substantial activity by a rancher in return for limited use of the land.
Republican state Chairman Mark Fahleson branded the ads an act of desperation.
"Bob Kerrey has been out of the game so long that these misleading and offensive ads are his only chance to make things competitive," Fahleson said.
The ads, which are airing statewide, describe Fischer as "a millionaire rancher collecting special subsidies from the federal government (in) a sweetheart deal that only a handful of ranchers get."
Fischer's Sunny Slope Ranch in Cherry County has paid $244,077 for grazing rights on federal land that would cost approximately $2.9 million on private land, the Nebraska Democratic Party said in a news release accompanying airing of the ads.
Last month, Nelson attempted to amend the 2012 farm bill to require fees for grazing private livestock on public rangeland within the national forest system be set at a rate comparable to private grazing land rates within the region.