AG Doug Peterson’s Message: Nebraska — It’s Not For Everyone

Doug Peterson was a successful trial attorney in private practice before he ran for Attorney General in 2014. Peterson’s victory in the 2014 GOP primary was a bit of a surprise since he defeated an Omaha attorney who had been endorsed by Dave Heineman. Support from the Christian right and former Governor Kay Orr were instrumental to Peterson’s triumph in the 2014 primary. Peterson won the primary in a crowded field with 36% of the vote.

Since Peterson has been Attorney General, he has politicized the office for partisan political purposes and governed as an extremist committed to advancing the rump faction that won him the crucial 2014 GOP primary. At the same time, Peterson has essentially ignored everyone else in Nebraska.

As Attorney General, Peterson has gotten the state of Nebraska involved in several partisan right wing lawsuits. Perhaps the most partisan lawsuit he filed on behalf of his fellow citizens is the Trump/Ricketts lawsuit aimed at invalidating the entire Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan. Apparently, Peterson would like un-elected judges with taxpayer funded health insurance to take away insurance coverage from 20 million Americans and end pre-existing condition protections.

Another ideologically driven lawsuit that was filed by Nebraska’s Attorney General was one filed by 13 red states aimed at terminating the DACA program. Peterson and his fellow right wing Attorney Generals have taken this case to the Supreme Court and have argued that DACA was “unlawfully created by executive fiat.” (I suppose these same attorney generals believe it was lawful for Trump to fund his wall by executive fiat after said appropriation was rejected by Congress.) The Supreme Court is expected to decide this case in 2020.

Peterson doesn’t only want to punish DACA recipients, he also has launched an attack on the LGBT community. In another case, Peterson has filed a brief taking the position that LGBT citizens aren’t protected from discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Already, several lower federal courts have held that LGBT citizens are protected by this landmark civil rights act. Peterson would like to see those lower court rulings overturned.

“Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s decision to lead the charge in support of discrimination is out-of-touch with the majority of fair minded Nebraskans and Nebraska business leaders who believe no one should be fired because of who they are. This cruel and divisive decision does nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or grow our workforce. The ACLU is proud to stand in solidarity with our transgender Nebraska neighbors who seek nothing more than fair treatment,” Danielle Conrad, Executive Director, ACLU of Nebraska stated in response to Peterson’s intervention in this case.

The overly litigious Nebraska Attorney General has recently threatened to file yet another partisan lawsuit — this time over the medical marijuana petition. Peterson made the specious claim that proposed bills allowing medical marijuana would be unconstitutional. State Senator Anna Wishart contended that Peterson’s interpretation of the Constitution was “wrong” and “politically motivated.”

In opposing the medical marijuana petition, Peterson alleged that State Senators Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld were being motivated by a profitable marijuana industry. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Morfeld “(I)nvited Peterson to his home or office to introduce him to his motivation: Veterans who suffer from PTSD, mothers of children with life-threatening daily seizures, cancer patients with chronic pain and loss of appetite, and Nebraskans addicted to opioids or family members who lost loved ones because of opioid addiction.(They are) all people your positions and policies would have left suffering or in prison,” he said.

Perhaps the Nebraska press should investigate Peterson’s motivation in opposing medical marijuana. The Nebraska Attorney General has accepted significant contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, including Eli Lily and Pfizer. As a matter of fact, the drug companies are among his most generous donors. (Interestingly enough, Nebraska is the only state that isn’t pursuing a lawsuit against any opioid manufacturer, distributor or pharmaceutical company who could be held accountable in court.)

Peterson is an extremist who is harming the state. His reactionary lawsuits are discouraging workers from locating to Nebraska and encouraging young people to leave the state. As a candidate and an activist, I have talked to a lot of young people. The perception they get from the likes of Peterson and Ricketts is that Nebraska is a reactionary state that simply isn’t very welcoming.

According to both business and academic leaders in Nebraska, our state’s biggest problem is a shortage of skilled workers. It’s not income taxes or property taxes. “We have a workforce crisis in this state,” said University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds. “This is now the most pressing economic issue in the state,” agreed Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It doesn’t get a lot of attention, but we are on the cusp of this becoming the 1,000-pound gorilla.”

If Nebraska is to move forward and retain young people, we need to reject this ideological right wing strait jacket imposed on us by radical Republicans like Ricketts and Peterson. These so-called leaders have made it clear that our state’s tourism slogan also applies to our citizens — it’s not for everyone. The Governor and Attorney General are chasing people out of Nebraska who don’t agree with their reactionary world view. Thanks to them, Nebraska is slipping backwards.

This state needs major structural change. We need to create new tax revenue streams by legalizing gambling and marijuana. We also need to welcome immigrants and LGBT citizens. That is the only way Nebraska will move forward as a state. We’ve tried the GOP right wing policies of lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations for the last twenty years. Those policies have failed. It’s time for something new. Now let’s get it done!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.