Nebraska Narcissist, Part Deux
Maybe I owe Warren Buffett an apology.
Yesterday I chastised Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson for being the sole member of his party to side with Republicans to block debate on the financial reform bill. (Since then, Nelson voted twice with Republicans to keep blocking the bill, though Republicans have now agreed to let the bill come to the Senate floor.)
I noted that Nelson was peeved after Democrats struck a provision that would have protected the Nebraska-based investment company Berkshire Hathaway, headed by the legendary Buffett, from having to pay fees on its current derivative holdings. And, rashly perhaps, I accused Nelson of yet another “classic bit of special interest particularism,” coming on the heels of his celebrated “Cornhusker Kickback.”
But Nelson, it turns out, wasn’t simply looking out for Buffett -- by every measure the most special interest in his state. He was looking out for himself.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Nelson is Congress’ single largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway. Nelson’s most recent financial filings indicate that he held between $500,000 and $1 million in Berkshire stock in 2008, and that his wife held between $1 million and $5 million. Today, Nelson denied that this had any effect on his support for the Republican filibuster.
“I did not vote no because of Berkshire Hathaway,” he said. “Nor did the fact that I and my wife have owned Berkshire stock for 30+ years have anything to do with my vote. It has never been an issue. It isn't now."
Well that’s reassuring.
Nelson is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and he has publicly complained that the proposed financial consumer protection legislation might create trouble for Nebraska’s dentists. Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, the bill’s author, however, has said that Nelson raised no dental issues in their private discussions – just his concern over the Berkshire provision.
So which is it? Ben Nelson, pillar of conservatism? Or Ben Nelson, cesspool of sleaze? The two are not mutually exclusive.
| April 28, 2010; 8:33 PM ET
Categories: Meyerson | Tags: Harold Meyerson
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