I must admit that until just recently Governor Dave Heineman’s position on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline baffled me.  He repeatedly said that he’s not taking a position on the pipeline because it’s a “federal regulatory” issue.  That left me scratching my head.  Since when has something being a federal issue stopped the Governor from taking a position?

Let’s take immigration for example.  Immigration is a federal issue.  Yet, Governor Heineman has not only made his strong opinions on immigration known, he effectively used the issue in the 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

Now in 2008, we see another campaign and more immigration rhetoric.  In fact, Governor Heineman’s position on immigration is so notorious that the New York Times addressed it in their weekend edition.

Healthcare is another federal issue that seems to be near and dear to the Governor’s heart. Does anyone in this state not know where Governor Heineman stands on that issue – or Medicaid – or taxes – or economic stimulus – or Wall Street reform?  So why should the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline be different?

Since the Governor’s rationale for not taking a position on the pipeline was so obviously disingenuous, it left me to wonder why he refused to take a position or to advocate with federal authorities on this issue as he does on others.  I couldn’t help but believe there was a political motive.

Though relatively unknown in the public sector for much of his life, the Governor was certainly no stranger to folks actively involved in the Nebraska Republican Party and was himself a staff member of the Republican Party.  He paid his “dues” over the years and earned the position he now holds.

An election is approaching.  So I wondered.  The people of the third district are the most responsible for putting David Heineman in the office of the Governor in 2004.  Could it be that the Governor remained ambivalent on the pipeline issue because there is no clear consensus in that district regarding the pipeline?  Could it be that taking a position on the pipeline would be viewed as siding with such progressive entities as the Sierra Club and Bold Nebraska?  Could it be that taking a position on the pipeline would upset those in the Republican Party who serve the gods of free enterprise and oil dependency?

But now we know the rest of the story.  The Governor’s motivation on this issue was indeed political, but not in any of the ways I thought.  Rather, the Governor had received a  $2,500 illegal contribution from Transcanada in support of his reelection campaign.  His ambivalence was bought and paid for – fair and square.

Well maybe not so “fair” since accepting the donation violated federal campaign laws.  When he got caught, he quickly returned the money.  But the question remains: How can this man who claims to love Nebraska and, in particular, the third congressional district so much sell out one of its most valuable and important natural resources, the Ogallala Aquifer, for a mere $2,500?  

While the whole episode leaves me with a really bad taste in my mouth, I can’t help but think that it isn’t too late.  The money has been returned.  The Governor is no longer obligated to Transcanada.

So c’mon Mr. Governor, what will it be?  Will you join fellow conservatives in our state like State Senators Tony Fulton and Cap Dierks and US Senator Johanns in questioning the veracity and integrity of Transcanada?  Will you take a serious look at what promises to be a disaster in the making?  Or will you continue to support your new friends and supporters at Transcanada?  What will it be, Mr. Governor: Transcanada or Nebraska?