Dave Heineman, Mike Foley feud may impact governor's race - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 8:42 pm
Dave Heineman, Mike Foley feud may impact governor's race

It's no secret in the Nebraska State Capitol that two of the state's most powerful elected Republicans have a history of bad blood.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and State Auditor Mike Foley have clashed numerous times in the past over audits performed by Foley's office on state agencies overseen by the governor.

The clashes between Heineman and Foley date back several years, but now their history of strife may have an impact on the governor's race as Foley makes a bid to succeed Heineman in the Governor's Office.

Heineman has not taken sides in the five-way GOP race, but one thing is for sure: He is no Foley supporter, said more than a half-dozen lawmakers and political observers who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Foley can expect neither kind words from Heineman on the campaign trail, nor advice from the governor on how to run his campaign.

Both Heineman and Foley declined comment for this story. Neither would discuss what numerous people said was the origin of the dispute: a performance audit that Foley's office conducted on the state health insurance program.

Exactly how — or if — the dispute between the two Republicans will have a role in the governor's race remains to be seen. But it's clear that it will make it more difficult for Foley, said John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“It's going to make it tougher. Heineman is a major figure in the Republican Party. All things being equal, you'd like to have someone like the governor on your side,” Hibbing said.

“On the other hand, does it mean his campaign is dead in the water? That's not the case. You don't get to pick your successor in American politics,” he added.

The animosity between the Heineman and Foley goes back to 2010 when Foley was given permission by state lawmakers to conduct a performance audit of the state's health insurance program. A performance audit is more than a review of an office's accounting practices; it looks at the overall cost effectiveness of the program.

At the time, some lawmakers were concerned that the state was spending too much for its employee health insurance: $1,861 per month for a family. The state maintains its own insurance program.

As part of that audit, Foley asked to see personal health care records of state employees in an attempt to see where the state's money was being spent. Heineman opposed Foley's request.

“The governor strenuously objected to the auditor having any information identifiable by employee,” former Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood said. “It was very, very heated.”

Since then, Heineman and Foley have sparred repeatedly.

In 2011, Heineman publicly chastised Foley for going public with an audit of a Nebraska child welfare program without talking to him first. (It was later determined that Foley had sent an advance copy of the audit, which highlighted overpayments and lost records, to Kerry Winterer, the CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.)

Eventually, the dispute hit Foley's budget.

Earlier this spring, Heineman slashed Foley's budget in a veto upheld by state lawmakers, rolling Foley's budget back to 2005 levels. Heineman did so with little explanation.

Last month, Foley asked that the money be returned to his budget. That prompted Heineman to question whether Foley was a “fiscal conservative,” and said he would fight the request.

Others rode to Foley's defense, including State Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat. “In comparison to the amount of money he's saved the state, this is a drop in the bucket,” Mello said.

Other Democrats have backed Heineman in his fight with Foley. State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln said he believes Heineman was right in not giving Foley complete access to state employees' medical records. Avery has introduced a bill in the Nebraska Legislature that would define Foley's authority.

“I also thought that the auditor's definition of the scope of his authority was excessively broad,” Avery said.

Contact the writer: Robynn Tysver

robynn.tysver@owh.com    |   402-444-1309    |  

Robynn is Omaha.com's elections writer. She's covered presidential politics in Iowa's caucuses, and gubernatorial and Senate races in Nebraska.

High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
State Department moves to delay Keystone XL pipeline decision
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »