By Mike Lillis
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid almost $1 million to the Nebraska Democratic Party in the weeks immediately following Senate passage of healthcare reform — funds used largely to run ads defending Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) vote in favor of the controversial bill, the National Journal reported Wednesday.
On Jan. 11 — less than three weeks after the Christmas Eve passage of the Senate bill — the DNC transferred $809,000 to the local party chapter, the National Journal found, citing Federal Election Commission records. A month later, another $169,000 was transferred.
In turn, the Nebraska Democrats bought $779,000 in local airtime, "enough to blanket the state with pro-Nelson ads for weeks at a time," the Journal said, adding that production costs totaled another $95,000.
Nelson was a central figure through the healthcare reform debate, siding with Republicans in opposition to the bill for much of the discussion, thereby preventing the Democrats from getting the 60 votes needed to defeat a GOP filibuster.
The centrist Nebraska Democrat — formerly the head of an insurance company — changed his tune after Democratic leaders eliminated language creating a public insurance option, and tweaked another provision related to abortion coverage.
It also didn't hurt that the Senate bill included language requiring the federal government to cover 100 percent of Nebraska's Medicaid expansion — the notorious "Cornhusker Kickback" provision that was later cut from the final bill.
A Nelson spokesman told the National Journal that the Nebraska senator didn't request the DNC money.
This post was updated at 5:07 p.m.