Which regent did we elect?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

After seeing the Thursday editorial cartoon in the Lincoln Journal Star, Dave Hergert should be embarrassed to show his face Saturday at his first meeting as a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

With pictures showing Hergert wearing a mask and a dunce cap, the Journal Star's cartoonist asks, "Which Dave Hergert Gets To Help Shape The Future Of The University?

Although the election was Nov. 2, the cartoonist says now is the time for Dave Hergert supporters to decide:

"Did they elect a regent who willfully violated the law in order to cheat his opponent and steal an election and proceed to lie about it?

"Or did they elect a regent who is so out of it he could unknowingly violate all sorts of campaign finance laws and somehow manage to overspend by $50,000 and not even realize it?"

The cartoonist, Neal Bermeyer, lashed out at Hergert after it was revealed that Hergert spent $87,923 to defeat incumbent Don Blank of McCook after estimating in a state affidavit he would spend $40,000.

By so doing, Hergert deprived Blank of a minimum of $15,000 in state funds to use for his campaign, and probably much more than that. According to Bill Hord in an article in the Omaha World-Herald, the reason is that had Hergert estimated his spending closer to the actual amount, Blank could have received more than $50,000 in state funds.

The law requires that candidates hold their actual spending to within 5 percent of their estimates. But the penalties are not severe. For his apparent violation, Hergert could be fined $1,000 and charged with a misdemeanor.

This is not an adequate penalty for the shamefulness of the episode. In his ruthless pursuit of the regent's position, Hergert made a mockery of the campaign finance law and cast a cloud of suspicion over his entire tenure on the board.

Even that does not cover the full scope of Hergert's campaign tactics. In the final stages of the campaign, he raised bogus issues about football tickets and misrepresented Blank's stand on embryonic stem cell research.

Which Dave Hergert do voters want as a regent: the one in the mask, or the one in the dunce cap? If they had it to do over, we're betting the answer would be neither.

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