Another Cornhusker Kickback?

ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: The timing doesn't look good. Four days after Sen. Ben Nelson voted in favor of the Senate health care reform bill, the Democratic National Committee cut a $459,000 check to the Nebraska Democratic Party, which was promptly used to tout Nelson’s "courageous" vote. Three days later, the DNC sent the Nebraska party another $20,000.

The transfer is noted in the last FEC filings and was first noticed by the left-leaning Americablog, which says the payment looks like a "payoff": “I'm sure a lot of Democratic candidates running in 2010 would appreciate that kind of spending on their behalf, too. Nelson, however, isn't up for reelection until 2012, so why get the money now, only four days after Nelson voted for the weakened health care bill?”

The DNC says this was not a payoff; it was an effort to defend Nelson in the face of unrelenting attacks by critics of health care reform.

“We, the Democratic Party, were defending a Democratic senator from attacks from the health insurance industry and other special interests for his support of reform. Senator Nelson is not the first Democrat we have defended from these attacks and he will not be the last. We've spent money directly in support of House Democrats who have supported reform in the form of TV and radio ads and we've also worked with state parties to defend Democrats like Senators Nelson, Lincoln and Dorgan who have stood up to the insurance industry in support of reform,” said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan.

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