While treasurer of Nebraska, Shane Osborn and his taxpayer-funded staff occasionally used email to conduct what looks like campaign politics, as documents provided to The Daily Caller indicate.
Osborn, a former Navy pilot famously held captive by the Chinese, is a Republican now running for the U.S. Senate. The GOP primary is Tuesday. He served as treasurer of Nebraska from 2007 to 2011.
The emails — obtained by a source through a state open records request and provided to The Daily Caller — reveal private conversations between Osborn and his staff about things like giving gifts to donors and helping a contributor with official state business.
Osborn allies deny the emails reflect anything improper. Osborn, the argument goes, didn’t run for re-election as treasurer so there was no actual campaign his aides could have been helping at the time.
But among the most questionable emails in the open records request: In 2008, Osborn emailed two taxpayer-funded aides and asked them to look into making copies of a television segment because he wanted to show it to “potential donors.”
“Please get me a file of the Fox News Sunday power player of the week dedicated to the Heroes Flights,” Osborn wrote in a July 22, 2008 email to his state government aides. “I need to be [able] to make a DVD out of it to show some potential donors! We should be able to get this through a 501C3 correct? Trent, you research that part for me.”
The email was addressed to “Don,” as in communications director Don Aguirre and “Trent,” as in executive assistant Trent Fellers.
Osborn aides point out that the Nebraska code prohibits political activity during office hours and the email was sent at 5:44 p.m. Official office hours, according to a cached version of Osborn’s official website, were from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..
But while the Nebraska code says employees are prohibited from participating in political activities “during office hours,” it also says they cannot do political work “when otherwise engaged in the performance of his or her official duties.”
After publication of this story, Osborn’s team also argued his request for his taxpayer staff to give donors a DVD was not actually political: the 501c3 mentioned in the e-mail, they said, was the Nebraska Soldiers Foundation, which Osborn set up to help military families with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.