Major GOP donor Tom Peed hosts House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Lincoln at dinner
Nebraskans are among top donors to fund millions of outside spending in competitive races
LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) - U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a trip this week to Nebraska for steak, not Bacon or a Flood.
McCarthy dined Monday with Nebraska conservative donor Tom Peed, who owns Sandhills Global, at the Casa Bovina steakhouse, which Peed’s son Shane owns in northeast Lincoln. A handful of protesters showed up.
Though McCarthy’s political and committee staff wouldn’t share his reason for coming, several political observers with GOP connections said the California Republican was in town raising money for the Congressional Leadership Fund, which he leads.
Federal fundraising records show the Peed family has given more than $10 million to the fund over the past two election cycles, in 2020 and 2022. Sandhills gave the fund another $6.5 million over the same span. The 2022 data showed both Tom Peed and his wife, Rhonda, among the group’s top 20 national donors.
How the fund plays in races
The fund raises money outside of GOP House candidates’ campaigns and spends it independently on House races. The fund has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Omaha area’s 2nd Congressional District, Nebraska’s most competitive.
U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a McCarthy ally running for a fifth term in 2024, has benefited from Congressional Leadership Fund spending on ads — some supporting Bacon and others against his opponents.
One example: The Congressional Leadership Fund spent $2.85 million on Bacon’s 2022 race, the most spent by any outside group in NE-02, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonprofit that monitors campaign spending. Much of that was spent on TV ads and mailers for Bacon and against State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, Bacon’s Democratic opponent. Vargas recently announced he will run for the seat again in 2024.
Under federal campaign finance law, Bacon’s campaign cannot legally coordinate or control what messages the fund chooses to highlight. The involvement of local and national GOP consultants standardizes a lot of the messaging.
It’s why so many outside advertisements in competitive congressional districts seem to use similar messaging. Outside groups often run more negative advertisements than positive. In 2022, for example, the fund spent more running ads against Vargas than supporting Bacon.
Big givers to GOP causes
The Peeds have emerged in recent years as a financial force in Nebraska politics, joining the rarified air of Nebraska’s first family of conservative political giving, that of U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts, R-Neb., and his parents, Joe and Marlene Ricketts.
The Peeds helped make the 2023 Lincoln mayor’s race the city’s most expensive, plowing about $2 million into State Sen. Suzanne Geist’s second-place finish to Nebraska’s most prominent Democratic officeholder, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird.
They have donated over the years to help Lincoln-area House candidates. Tom and Rhonda gave to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who served nine terms before resigning in 2022 after being convicted of three fundraising-related felonies. Their son has given to Rep. Mike Flood, R-Neb., who was elected last year to replace Fortenberry.
Tom Peed did not immediately return calls seeking comment about McCarthy’s visit. The Congressional Leadership Fund also declined to comment. Flood and Bacon were in Washington, D.C., this week and did not attend the dinner, staffers said.
McCarthy has come to Nebraska separately to raise funds for all three of Nebraska’s House members: Bacon, Flood and Rep. Adrian Smith, a Republican who represents the state’s sprawling, largely rural 3rd Congressional District.
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