Card Trick

Former Nebraska senator David Karnes may have been out of the game for nine years, but as a corporate lobbyist, he still wants to deal.


For former Sen. David Karnes, giving up the perks of office must have been hard — maybe too hard. The Nebraska Republican lost to Democrat Bob Kerrey back in 1988, after serving a one-and-a-half-year term when Sen. Edward Zorinsky died. But Karnes, now a lobbyist for the Omaha-based Kutak Rock lobbying firm, still has a perhaps unhealthy attachment to his gold-embossed Senate business cards.

Recently, before handing the above card to a congressional staffer, Karnes took the time to scribble down his Kutak Rock office number. It was a good thing, too, because the phone number printed on the card actually rings Bob Kerrey’s office.

When we asked Kerrey’s receptionist if she knew who David Karnes was, she said no. She did say, however, that Kerrey receives calls for a man by that name “about once a week.”

Karnes denies that he regularly distributes his expired senatorial card. He told Mother Jones: “I have signed cards when people want autographs, as collector’s items.” He says his current business cards, for Kutak Rock, don’t mention his Senate tenure, but that his office stationery does describe him as a retired lawmaker.

But while using his old card might open a few doors (after all, how many people can name the second senator from Nebraska?), it could get him into trouble. Senate ethics rules and federal statutes prohibit the unauthorized use of U.S. Senate letterhead or the Great Seal of the United States.