Nebraska's Democratic Party on Monday raised questions about Attorney General Jon Bruning's ethical behavior and a possible conflict of interest in his purchase of a vacation home in partnership with two Nelnet executives.
The party filed an ethics complaint with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission alleging that Bruning failed to disclose co-ownership of the lakeside home on financial reporting forms for three years.
Bruning, a 2012 Republican Senate candidate, disputed the allegation. By identifying an interest in the partnership that owns the property, Bruning's disclosure statements are "flat listed exactly as they're supposed to be" every year, said Trent Fellers, his campaign manager.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson is just trying to "change the conversation from his votes for big government and Obamacare," Fellers said.
The Democratic complaint argues that a personal vacation home does not qualify as income-producing property and must be disclosed specifically.
Monday's dust-up appeared largely designed by Democrats to focus public attention on Bruning's purchase of the lake house near the Platte River with two Nelnet executives a year after allegedly acting favorably toward the student loan company when it was under fire for questionable business practices.
"Nebraska deserves an attorney general who avoids conflicts of interest rather than one who buys cabins with campaign donors, but can't be bothered to fill out his ethics forms properly," said Democratic state executive director Jim Rogers.
Brandon Lorenz, the party's communications director, said failure to specifically report joint ownership of the vacation home represented an effort to "cover up that purchase."
Lorenz said most Nebraskans would consider joint purchase of a $675,000 vacation home with two Nelnet officials a year after Bruning attempted to waive a $1 million settlement with the company for allegedly improper business practices "a clear conflict of interest."
Bruning later reversed that 2007 decision, which he said had been based on his belief that the Lincoln-based company's $2 million settlement with the state of New York was sufficient.