Jeffrey Lane Fortenberry (born December 27, 1960) is an American politician and economist who served in the United States House of Representatives from 2005 to 2022, representing Nebraska’s 1st congressional district as a member of the Republican Party.[1]

In October 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Fortenberry on three charges of lying to investigators and concealing information about foreign campaign contributions.[2][3] He was convicted of all three counts on March 24, 2022.[4] After the convictions, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi[5] and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called upon Fortenberry to resign. He officially resigned on March 31, 2022.[6]

Early life, education and early career

Fortenberry graduated from Catholic High in his native Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Louisiana State University, a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University, and a master’s degree in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.[7][8][9]

Fortenberry previously worked as an economist, in local economic development, and as a publishing executive for Sandhills Publishing. He was also a policy analyst for the Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations.[10] Fortenberry was an at-large member of the Lincoln City Council from 1997 to 2001.[11]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2004

Fortenberry won the seven-candidate Republican primary to replace the retiring Doug Bereuter with 39% of the vote. He defeated Curt Bromm (33%), the Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, and Club for Growth-endorsed businessman Greg Ruehle (21%).[12][13] In the general election, he defeated State Senator Matt Connealy 54%–43%. He won all but two counties: Thurston and Burt.[14][15]

2004 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry143,75654.2%
DemocraticMatt Connealy113,97143.0%
GreenSteve Larrick7,3452.8%

2006

Fortenberry was reelected to a second term, defeating former Lieutenant Governor Maxine Moul, 58%–42%, winning all but Burt County.[16][17]

2006 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry121,01558.4%
DemocraticMaxine Moul86,36041.6%

2008

Fortenberry was reelected to a third term, defeating Marine veteran Max Yashirin 70–30%.[18]

2008 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry184,92370.4%
DemocraticMax Yashirin77,89729.6%

2010

Fortenberry was challenged in the Republican primary for the first time since 2004. He drew two opponents and won with 84% of the vote.[19] He was reelected to a fourth term, defeating legislative staffer Ivy Harper, 71%–29%.[20]

2010 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry116,87171.3%
DemocraticIvy Harper47,10621.7%

2012

Fortenberry drew two opponents in the Republican primary again, but won with 86% of the vote.[21]

2012 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry174,88968.3%
DemocraticKorey L. Reiman81,20631.7%

2014

Fortenberry was reelected to a sixth term, defeating the Democratic nominee, attorney Dennis Crawford.[22]

2014 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry123,21968.8%
DemocraticDennis Crawford55,83831.2%

2016

Fortenberry was reelected to a seventh term, defeating the Democratic nominee, physician Dan Wik.[23]

2016 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry189,77169.4%
DemocraticDaniel M. Wik83,46730.6%

2018

Campaigning for an eighth term in October 2018, it was reported that Fortenberry’s chief of staff threatened a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ari Kohen, who had liked a Facebook post depicting a photo of a vandalized Fortenberry campaign sign, raising the issue to Kohen’s supervisor as well as the dean and chancellor of the university. In reaction, Kohen raised a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, alleging a chilling effect on free speech.

Fortenberry defeated Democratic nominee Jessica McClure with 60% of the vote, but lost in Lancaster County.[24][25]

2018 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry141,17260.36%
DemocraticJessica McClure93,06939.64%

2020

Fortenberry defeated Democratic state Senator Kate Bolz with 59% of the vote.[26]

2020 U.S. House election in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
RepublicanJeff Fortenberry189,00659.05%
DemocraticKate Bolz119,62237.07%
LibertarianDennis B. Grace8,9382.08%

Tenure

Fortenberry speaking in January 2018

During the week of April 12, 2021, Fortenberry made two false calls for emergency service to the United States Capitol Police through the emergency duress button in his Capitol office. The calls were apparently not for a genuine emergency, but only to check the agency’s response time.[27]

Political positions

Agriculture, energy, and environment

Fortenberry served on the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. He introduced the Renewable Fuels for America’s Future Act of 2010, designed to reduce subsidies for the production of ethanol.[28] The act would result in taxpayer savings of $5.67 billion, according to economists Ernie Goss of Creighton University and Bruce Babcock of Iowa State University.[29]

In 2020, Fortenberry signed a forest management agreement and gathered producers across Nebraska to discuss growing the agriculture family through integrating big data, precision farming, and value-adds to maximize incomes of farms of all sizes.[30] On August 4, 2020, a bipartisan initiative supported by Fortenberry, the Great American Outdoors Act, was signed into law by President Donald Trump.[31] In September 2020, Fortenberry sponsored H.R. 3651, which serves to facilitate the use of certain land in Nebraska for public outdoor recreational opportunities and for other purposes.[32]

Healthcare

Fortenberry voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but said in 2010 that he supported “the right type of [health care] reform“, incorporating measures to reduce costs, improve outcomes and protect vulnerable people.[33] He introduced H.R. 321, the SCHIP Plus Act of 2009, to offer eligible families the choice to retain coverage for their children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or using program funds to help pay for family insurance plans.[34] He introduced H.R. 5479, aimed at protecting people with preexisting conditions.[35]

In 2020, Fortenberry introduced Matt’s Act, named in honor of one of his constituents who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13. The legislation would allow prescription drug manufacturers to sell insulin directly to patients. Fortenberry claimed it would reduce the price of insulin by two-thirds.[36]

Fortenberry introduced ACT for ALS to help people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) gain access to new treatments. The act would have the Department of Health and Human Services guide a new public-private partnership for streamlined research and drug approval for ALS. As of late December 2020, over 270 members of Congress co-signed the legislation.[37]

Foreign and military affairs

In 2010, Foreign Policy magazine listed Fortenberry as a “new Republican powerbroker” on nuclear security issues.[38] In an October 2010 endorsement, the Lincoln Journal Star called Fortenberry “uncommonly well-informed on international issues”.[39]

Fortenberry, and then-Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey co-sponsored the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA), which aims to ease tensions between Israelis and Palestinians by giving grants and loans to startup businesses.[40]

In his role on the Appropriations Committee, Fortenberry advocated for funding to enhance Offutt Air Force Base facilities, STRATCOM facilities, and to provide a new runway.[41]

Abortion

Fortenberry received a 100% anti-abortion score from the National Right to Life Committee in a ranking of members of the 111th Congress (2009–2011).[42] He spoke annually at the March for Life.[43][44]

COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fortenberry supported the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), providing small businesses with financial support throughout the pandemic. The program is estimated to have saved over 300,000 jobs in Nebraska.[citation needed] The state led the nation in PPP loans approved per capita.[45]

Texas v. Pennsylvania

In December 2020, Fortenberry was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives to sign an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden defeated[46] incumbent Donald Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of an election held by another state.[47][48][49]

Following the Supreme Court’s decision not to take up Texas v. Pennsylvania, and the Electoral College‘s certification of the election results, Fortenberry recognized Joe Biden as President-elect and congratulated him on his victory.[50] He voted against invalidating the election results on January 6, 2021, saying, “As much as I supported President Trump to win, I believe the proposed remedy to election irregularities is inconsistent with my legal obligation and the guidance of my conscience. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. My decision is consistent with that oath. I will vote to certify the election.”[51]

January 6 commission

On May 19, 2021, Fortenberry was one of 35 Republicans who joined all Democrats in voting to approve legislation to establish the January 6 commission meant to investigate the storming of the U.S. Capitol.[52]

Immigration

Fortenberry voted for the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to nearly double the available H-2B visas for the remainder of FY 2020.[53][54]

Fortenberry voted for the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1158), which effectively prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement from cooperating with the Department of Health and Human Services to detain or remove illegal alien sponsors of Unaccompanied Alien Children.[55]

Committee assignments

Fortenberry previously served on the Committee on Appropriations during the 117th Congress, but stepped down from all of his committee assignments on October 20, 2021, after being indicted for allegedly concealing information and lying to the FBI about illegal contributions to his campaign.[56][57] His last committee assignments were:

Caucus memberships

Fortenberry was known to serve on the below congressional caucuses.[58]

Federal conviction and resignation

On October 19, 2021, it was announced that Fortenberry was being investigated for about $30,000 in illegal campaign contributions,[63] funneled through three strawmen at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles,[64] that his 2016 campaign received from the Nigerian-born, Paris-based billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, who also made contributions to three other American political candidates.[65] A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted him on one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.[2][3] On March 24, 2022, Fortenberry was convicted of all three felony counts of making false statements to the FBI and concealing information about his campaign donations.[4][63]

Fortenberry was quoted as saying after the trial, “We always felt like it was going to be hard to have a fair process here, so this appeal starts immediately”,[66] but he could not appeal until after sentencing. Fortenberry faced up to five years in prison on each of the three felony counts, as well as fines.[5] He is the first member of Congress convicted while in office since Chaka Fattah in 2016.[5]

Within days of Fortenberry’s conviction, lawmakers from both parties called on him to resign from Congress. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on March 25, “I think he had his day in court… I think if he wants to appeal, he could go do that as a private citizen… But I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign.”[67] On March 26, Fortenberry issued a written statement to his colleagues in the House that said, “Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve. I will resign from Congress effective March 31, 2022.”[68][69]

On June 28, 2022, federal judge Stanley Blumenfeld sentenced Fortenberry to two years’ probation, 320 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine.[70]

References

  1. ^ Morton, Joseph (November 8, 2016). “Incumbents Jeff Fortenberry, Adrian Smith easily win re-election in Nebraska House races”. Omaha World-Herald.
  2. ^ a b Schulte, Grant (October 19, 2021). “Indictment accuses Nebraska congressman of lying to FBI”. Associated Press. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Benen, Steve (October 20, 2021). “Republican congressman faces multiple federal criminal charges”. The Rachel Maddow Show. MSNBC. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Earl, David (March 24, 2022). “Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry convicted for lying to FBI about foreign campaign contribution”. KETV. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Beavers, Olivia (March 26, 2022). “Fortenberry resigns from Congress after felony convictions”. Politico. Retrieved March 27, 2022.
  6. ^ “Date for special election to replace Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry announced”. KETV. April 1, 2022. Retrieved April 2, 2022.
  7. ^ “Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress – Retro Member details”. bioguideretro.congress.gov. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  8. ^ “28 Georgetown Alumni Serving in the 116th Congress”. Georgetown University. January 3, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  9. ^ “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry”. Catholic Answers. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  10. ^ “Jeff Fortenberry – Early Career – Analyst”. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014.
  11. ^ “National Officials”. Custer County, Nebraska Republican Party. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  12. ^ “Member of the U.S. House of Representatives”.
  13. ^ “Our Campaigns – NE – District 01 – R Primary Race – May 11, 2004”. Our Campaigns.
  14. ^ “Our Campaigns – NE – District 01 Race – Nov 02, 2004”. Our Campaigns.
  15. ^ “Member of the U.S. House of Representatives”.
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  17. ^ “2006 Unofficial Election Results as of 09:58 AM”. Archived from the original on November 8, 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2006.
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  27. ^ Bendery, Jennifer (April 20, 2021). “GOP Congressman Made Emergency Calls to Police Just to See How Quickly They’d Come”. HuffPost. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  28. ^ “Editorial, 7/28: Jeff Fortenberry’s ethanol plan has merit”. Lincoln Journal Star. July 28, 2010.
  29. ^ “Bill calls for VEETC on amount above mandate | EthanolProducer.com”. ethanolproducer.com.
  30. ^ “In visits with elected leaders, USDA secretary Perdue defines sustainable agriculture”. netnebraska.org. September 4, 2020.
  31. ^ “Fortenberry included as Trump signs conservation bill”. Lincoln Journal Star. August 5, 2020.
  32. ^ “Fortenberry Legislation To Save Lewis And Clark Center In Nebraska City Passes Key House Committee”. kfornow.com. October 1, 2020.
  33. ^ Walton, Don (October 28, 2010). “Fortenberry faces newcomer Harper in 1st District”. Fremont Tribune.
  34. ^ “Fortenberry Offers Plan for Responsible Expansion of SCHIP”. Archived from the original on November 3, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  35. ^ “H.R.5479 – To protect Americans with pre-existing conditions”. congress.gov. December 19, 2019.
  36. ^ “High cost of insulin: Son’s diabetes diagnosis prompts Nebraska father to fight back”. omaha.com. July 26, 2020. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  37. ^ “Fortenberry gathers 240 co-sponsors for bill to combat ALS”. Lincoln Journal Star. December 8, 2020.
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  39. ^ “Editorial, 10/15: Lincoln Journal Star endorses Jeff Fortenberry”. Lincoln Journal Star. October 15, 2010.
  40. ^ “Congress enacts historic funding for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding”. allmep.org. December 21, 2020.
  41. ^ “Offutt runway construction moves ahead”. Lincoln Journal Star. July 2, 2020.
  42. ^ “Action Center”. www.votervoice.net.
  43. ^ “Fortenberry Speaks at March for Life”. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. January 23, 2012.
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  45. ^ Cordes, Henry J. (July 8, 2020). “Nebraska is one of biggest recipients of this federal loan program. But who’s getting the money?”. omaha.com.
  46. ^ Blood, Michael R.; Riccardi, Nicholas (December 5, 2020). “Biden officially secures enough electors to become president”. AP News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
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  49. ^ Diaz, Daniella. “Brief from 126 Republicans supporting Texas lawsuit in Supreme Court”. CNN. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  50. ^ “Fortenberry Statement on 2020 Election”. fortenberry.house.gov. December 14, 2020.
  51. ^ “Fortenberry Statement on Electoral College Vote Certification”. fortenberry.house.gov. January 6, 2021.
  52. ^ LeBlanc, Paul (May 19, 2021). “Here are the 35 House Republicans who voted for the January 6 commission”. CNN. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  53. ^ “Text – H.R.1865 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020”. December 20, 2019.
  54. ^ “Roll Call 689 Roll Call 689, Bill Number: H. R. 1865, 116th Congress, 1st Session”. December 17, 2019.
  55. ^ “H.R. 1158: DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act … — House Vote #690 — Dec 17, 2019”.
  56. ^ “Committee Information”. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. December 13, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  57. ^ Zanona, Melanie; Carrega, Christina. “GOP rep pleads not guilty to federal charges and steps down from committee assignments”. CNN. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  58. ^ “Caucus Membership”. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. December 9, 2014. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  59. ^ “MEMBERS”. RMSP. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  60. ^ Kuznicki, Jen (April 25, 2017). “Who are the members of the Tuesday Group?”. Jen Kuznicki. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  61. ^ “Our Members”. U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  62. ^ “Membership”. Republican Study Committee. December 6, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  63. ^ a b “GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry convicted of lying to FBI”. Politico. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  64. ^ “Nebraska Rep. Fortenberry says he will resign following conviction for lying to FBI”. NPR. The Associated Press. March 26, 2022. Retrieved March 27, 2022.
  65. ^ “US congressman Jeff Fortenberry resigns after conviction for lying to FBI”. the Guardian. March 27, 2022. Retrieved March 27, 2022.
  66. ^ Earl, David (March 26, 2022). ‘This appeal starts immediately’: Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has a lot at stake after conviction”. KETV. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  67. ^ Shabad, Rebecca (March 25, 2022). “McCarthy says convicted Rep. Fortenberry should resign”. NBC News. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  68. ^ Cochrane, Emily (March 26, 2022). “Nebraska Congressman to Resign After Being Found Guilty of Lying to F.B.I.” The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2022.
  69. ^ Fortenberry, Jeff. “letter to colleagues” (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2022.
  70. ^ Schulte, Grant; Melley, Brian (June 28, 2022). “Ex-GOP Representative Fortenberry gets probation for lying to feds”. The Boston Globe. Associated Press. Retrieved June 28, 2022.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Nebraska’s 1st congressional district

2005–2022
Succeeded by

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by

as Former US Representative

Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded by

as Former US Representative