U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry announced Monday that he will seek a 10th term representing Nebraska's 1st District in Congress this year, despite his legal troubles.
The Lincoln Republican shot his announcement video in the cab of his 1963 Ford 100 pickup, with his wife, Celeste, and dog, Pippin, next to him. A wintry, rural Nebraska landscape can be seen in the background.
"It’s been an extraordinary privilege for me and our family to serve you in one of the highest bodies of the land, and, in spite of the difficulties of the past year, we’ve been able to achieve some major accomplishments," Fortenberry said in the video.
Those difficulties include being charged with three felonies in federal court — two counts of making false statements to federal agents and one count of seeking to conceal the source of $30,000 in “conduit” political contributions from a 2016 California fundraiser.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Last week, a federal judge rejected five defense motions seeking to dismiss the charges and to disqualify one of the prosecuting attorneys. A key hearing in the case is set for Tuesday.
Fortenberry memorably appeared in another video shot in his truck in October to announce that he expected the federal government to file charges connected to its investigation of campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire.
The funds originated with Gilbert Chagoury, a Paris-based Nigerian of Lebanese descent, who purportedly directed the donations to Fortenberry because of a shared interest in protecting Christians from persecution in the Middle East. It is illegal for foreigners to donate to U.S. political campaigns.
In his reelection announcement, Fortenberry pointed to his legislation called Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act (ACT for ALS) that was recently signed into law. He also highlighted key GOP issues.
"I believe that as Americans, we can seek what is good, what is whole and what is great," he said. "We don’t have to give in to the most divisive voices. We also don’t have to accept overrun borders, incoherent foreign policy and a careening economy that is hurting so many people because of the pressures of inflation.
"What we can do is safely and securely protect our borders, rebuild our country with things made in America and reject the voices that want to sort us out into tribes. That’s a vision for consensus and goodness. That’s what I’ll fight for, and I ask you to stand with me."
Fortenberry, who has represented the eastern Nebraska district since 2005, has been required to temporarily step down, because of the indictment, from congressional committee work. That work includes a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and his position as a ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee that deals with spending on agriculture programs.
State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, a Democrat, announced her bid for the seat last fall.
In response to Fortenberry’s announcement, Chris Triebsch, a spokesman for Pansing Brooks’ campaign, said: “Jeff Fortenberry has been in Congress 17 years, and it’s clear he’s not been a leader. He’s even had to step down from his committee assignments. He’s squandered his chance to represent this district’s crucial interests. It’s time for a change.”