Terry-White spar over lobbyists

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Wednesday, October 20, 2010: By Robynn M. Tysver, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD

Republican Lee Terry accused his opponent, Democrat Tom White, of engaging in “gutter” politics Tuesday, and going after his family by raising the issue of whether or not Terry had drinks with a “comely lobbyist.”

White fired back that Terry was “hiding” behind his family, and that the congressman's “close” relationship with lobbyists in Washington, D.C. was the real issue in the dispute.

The tit-for-tat over lobbyists was just one of a slew of verbal volleys the two congressional candidates hurled in their third and final debate at Bellevue University. It was a spirited debate that underscored the nearness of the Nov. 2 election.

In less than two weeks, voters will decide whether to give Terry a seventh term in Congress or give the title of freshman representative to White.

The two men returned to familiar themes in the debate, with White hammering Terry for being the incumbent, and Terry taking aim at White's Democratic ties.

White continued to argue that after 12 years in Congress, Terry needed to shoulder responsibility for the nation's deficit, for its illegal immigration woes and for the economic crisis. “You can't pretend for 12 years you haven't been in Washington,” said White.

Terry continued to argue that White would go to Washington and embrace a Democratic agenda, noting that White supported President Obama's health care bill and he also supported Obama's stimulus package.

“If you want to be a fiscal hawk and fly with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid, then go for it Tom. Soar,” said Terry.

The lobbyist dispute was the first spark in the debate. It revolves around a story this summer in the New York Post in which a journalist reported witnessing Terry in a conversation with a “comely lobbyist” at the Capitol Hill Club. The story went on to allege that House Minority Leader John Boehner had warned several GOP congressmen to quit socializing with female lobbyists.

Terry has unequivocally denied the story, calling it “completely false” and saying he does not socialize with female lobbyists.

White earned Terry's ire when he released a television advertisement raising lobbyist story, alleging Terry was too “cozy” with Washinton lobbyists.

Terry took deep offense to the commercial.

“It's an attack against my family and myself. You may say, ‘man up,' like you did the other day, but the fact is that's in the gutter,” said Terry.

White responded that they based the commercial on press reports, and nothing was directed at Terry's family. “You're too close to professional lobbyists. You've been in Washington too long,” White told Terry.

Terry then accused White of flying lobbyists on his personal airplane to Scottsbluff, and playing golf.

White later confirmed that he took a lobbyist, who is also a “personal friend,” to a public hearing in Scottsbluff but he denied that they played golf.

The two also traded blows over Offutt Air Force Base. The base lost its bid to be the site of a new nuclear warfare command. The U.S. Air Force chose a base in Bossier City, La., instead.

White placed the blame for Offutt's loss on Terry, saying he was an “ineffective” leader who failed to protect Nebraska's interests.

Terry responded that the entire congressional delegation, including Democrat U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, worked on the project.

“It was a team effort. And, I think it's a little disingenuous that you pick one member of the team (to criticize),” said Terry.


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