So me and the guys were hunched over our coffee mugs at the local Squat-and-Chat the other morning and someone passed a little gas – which of course reminded us immediately of Earl Benjamin Nelson; you remember Ben, of Cornhusker Kickback fame … not to mention his sashay into corporate insurance payola?
Anyway, none of us seemed to have a real clear idea of Bennie’s whereabouts or activities these days. Since he gave up Senatoring for a living he’s been as hard to find out here in Huskerland as a coonhound at a coronation. So I did a little snooping around and I present below for your edification a thumb nail timeline of our erstwhile prairie plenipotentiary over the last while or two.
12/18/2009 – after weeks of doing a pretty fair imitation of a reluctant eyelash-fluttering ingénue tease, sometime in the dead of night Benjy suddenly rips off his chastity belt and announces to Dingy Harry Reid that for a significant … uhh … consideration, he’ll be more than happy to sell out his conscience and his constituents. Nelson had ginned up a fairy tale about how he’d been holding out for the right of states to refuse abortion coverage in the state insurance exchange. Sure, Ben … whatever.
The real mess o’ pottage turned out to be a provision in the Affordable (yeah, right) Care Act permanently exempting Nebraska from the increased Medicaid expenses that come from increasing the threshold for Medicaid recipients to 300 percent of the poverty level. Nelson later tried to blame this part of his scam on Governor Dave Heinemann but that effort was soon laughed out of town.
Additionally (and significantly under-reported by the MSM) Nelson extracted a sweetheart deal for some of the largest insurance companies in Nebraska, including a carve-out from the insurance fees for his state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield programs. Moreover, insurance fees for Medigap policies sold by Mutual of Omaha and other Nebraska companies were significantly reduced thanks to good ole Ben. The good news, if indeed there is any good news out of this travesty, is that the Medicaid kickback provisions were ultimately NOT included in the final bill. Nobody seems to know why ….
12/19/09 – 12/26/11 – Ben continues to muddle along through his last couple of years as the senior Senator from Nebraska. He accomplishes little, but this is not unlike all his former years as senator so no one thinks to remark on it. He manages to extract a couple more million from his cadre of clueless boosters by occasionally cooing shyly that he might run again, though anyone with an IQ above that of potato salad realizes that he could no longer garner enough ballots in Nebraska to paper the inside of a Porta-Potty.
12/27/11 – Ben is a lot of things, but stupid ain’t one of ‘em. He looks at the political landscape in Nebraska (filled with pitchfork-waving, torch-bearing peasants) and with an alacrity and sprightliness belying his 70-odd years, announces his retirement, effective at the end of his term.
12/28/11 – 1/2/13 – muddlety-muddlety, yadda-yadda
1/3/13 – retires (code for “runs bobbing and weaving from angry constituents”)
1/4/13 – 1/21/13 – whereabouts uncertain, though “Turkish baths” were mentioned.
1/22/13 – announces he has accepted not one but two jobs on K Street (also known as “Lobbyist Central”), one with Agenda Global as a “senior advisor” and still another as CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. According to Politico:
“Agenda Global is a new, self-described public affairs and advocacy firm headquartered on Capitol Hill. Former lobbyist Craig Pattee, who had founded a firm with Nelson back in 1994, launched Agenda this past summer. Pattee says Agenda doesn’t lobby per se but concentrates on “building grassroots coalitions to pressure lawmakers to support the policies that help Agenda’s clients.”(…ummm … explain again how this is different from lobbying??!! – Ed S).
“… the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, might not even exist without Obamacare. The NAIC is not an industry lobby. It is the trade group and lobbying association for state insurance regulators. Obamacare mentions the NAIC 18 times. Again and again, the law requires the secretary of health and human services to consult the NAIC in developing federal health insurance standards. Some provisions of the law basically delegate regulatory power to the NAIC. Now, with Ben Nelson on the payroll, the NAIC can be even more confident it will get its wishes. After all, Nelson put his neck on the line and cast decisive votes to pass the bill. It’s not as if the Obama administration is going to blow off Nelson when he calls.” (see above comment – Ed S)
The Daily Caller reports that E. Ben managed to quintuple his salary in one swell foop – and that’s just the NAIC gig; we don’t know what he makes from Agenda Global, but I’ll bet my front seat in Hell that he’s not doing it for good will and peanut brittle.
One should probably feel good for Ben having done so well for hizzownself– after all, this is America.
I am reminded by a thoughtful reader that I have only covered one half of Ben’s “employment” portfolio. Seems that back in early March, Ben and a couple of cronies … err … associates formed a local (Nebraska) consulting firm called Heartland Strategy Group, LLC, which will “focus on government relations and public affairs, with clients from across a spectrum of business and nonprofit interests.” (cough-cough) Additionally, human dynamo Ben has accepted an appointment from the UNO Political Science Department as a “Politician-in-Residence,” where he will be involved in “team-teaching an upper-division course each semester”. Go, Ben, go.