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Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No charges will be filed against regent

March 21, 2006

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— Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning on Monday released the investigatory report into University of Nebraska Regent David Hergert, adding that his office will not pursue criminal charges in the case.

Of particular note in the report is a State Patrol interview with Mike Jacobson, who was treasurer for Hergert's campaign.

In the interview, Jacobson tells how he voiced concerns to Hergert about how the campaign was reporting its finances but that Hergert knew "how to play it to the edge."

Hergert did not immediately return a call to his office seeking comment.

The state Supreme Court earlier this month rejected Bruning's request that it reverse a judge's order that scuttled a grand jury probe of Hergert.

In the agreement with the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission last year, Hergert admitted exceeding the limit for personal loans to his campaign and failing to report a late contribution and file two affidavits on time in his 2004 campaign. He agreed to pay $33,512 in fines but not face any criminal charges.

The State Patrol investigated whether Hergert purposely withheld information about his campaign to keep his opponent, Regent Don Blank, from qualifying for matching state campaign funds just before the election.

Under the law, candidates for state offices have voluntary spending caps. For regents races, the cap is $25,000 for the primary and $50,000 overall. Those who agree to abide by the limits qualify for public funds if their opponents exceed the cap.

Hergert did not agree to the cap and spent $65,000 in the primary, thus qualifying Blank for $40,000 in public funds.

Hergert, an agribusinessman from Mitchell, then estimated that he would spend $40,000 for the general election.

Hergert exceeded the cap but did not notify the accountability commission by the deadline, thus depriving Blank of $15,000 in matching funds in the closing days of the campaign. Hergert defeated Blank by 11 percentage points.

After the election, Hergert reported spending nearly $90,000 on the campaign - nearly twice his estimate.

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