David Karnes

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David K. Karnes
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
March 11, 1987 – January 3, 1989[1]
Appointed by Kay A. Orr
Preceded by Edward Zorinsky
Succeeded by Bob Kerrey
Personal details
Born (1948-12-12) December 12, 1948 (age 68)
Omaha, Nebraska
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dr. Elizabeth Karnes (deceased)
Kristine Dorn Karnes
Children Korey Karnes
Kalen Karnes
Kara Karnes
Laurel Karnes
Katherine Karnes
Alexandra Karnes
Alma mater University of Nebraska

David Kemp Karnes (born December 12, 1948) is a former United States Senator from Nebraska. He is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Fairmont Group Incorporated, a merchant banking/consulting company with offices in Omaha and Washington. Karnes also serves in an "of counsel" capacity to the national law firm of Kutak Rock and practices out of the firm's Omaha and Washington offices. He joined the firm in 1989 following his tenure as a United States Senator. He is currently involved in numerous civic, educational and charitable organizations in Nebraska and nationally.

Early life[edit]

Karnes was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln for his undergraduate education graduating in 1971. As an undergrad he joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity, serving one term as chapter president. He remained in Lincoln to attend law school. In 1981, Karnes was selected and served as a White House Fellow. Following his tenure at the White House, in 1982 Karnes became executive assistant to the Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Ronald Reagan and subsequently served as special counsel for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. In 1983 he became chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka Board of Directors, serving in that capacity from 1983-1987. During that time he also served as general counsel for an agribusiness and merchandising firm.

U.S. Senate[edit]


On March 11, 1987, Governor Kay A. Orr unexpectedly appointed him as a Republican to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy in the Senate term ending January 3, 1989, caused by the death of Edward Zorinsky.


While in the Senate, Karnes served on the Banking Committee, including its Securities and Consumer Credit subcommittees, as well as the Agriculture Committee and Small Business Committees. Karnes's areas of principal activity include federal, state and international relations, corporate law, real estate and financial institutions. His governmental and business experience involves many areas of Kutak Rock's finance and structured transaction practices, as well as a very broad range of clients and special issues. He also is one of the principals of the firm's technology, venture capital, and emerging companies national practice group. He has served in senior executive positions in federal executive, regulatory and legislative bodies and has broad expertise and familiarity with state and federal agency operations, including the White House, HUD, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. At the state level, Karnes served as the attorney in charge of the firm's engagement as special tax counsel to the Nebraska Legislature as it revised the state's personal property tax system and, more recently, served as counsel to the State in the development and implementation of Nebraska's award winning Section 529 College Savings Plan. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the $35 billion Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, a principal secured credit source for saving and loans, savings banks, commercial banks, credit unions and insurance companies in Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Running in his own right in 1988, Karnes successfully captured the Republican nomination against Congressman Hal Daub, but lost to former Governor Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, in the general election. Kerrey took 57% to Karnes's 42%. Karnes made a memorable faux pas when, during a campaign stop at the State Fair, he said, "What this nation needs is fewer farmers."

Post political career[edit]

Karnes has also served on the boards of, or acts as an advisor to, publicly traded U.S. companies, including Fannie Mae and Data Transmission Network Corporation and RJT Securities, Inc.

Currently he serves as a director of several private companies including Frontier Bank, FSB of Park City, Utah, El Paseo Bank of Palm Desert, California, Orion Healthcare Corporation (healthcare technology), Waitt Media, Inc. (broadcasting, commercial advertising and entertainment), Tri Med Research, Inc. (medical technology), Farnam Group, Inc. (multifamily real estate development), Regency Court, L.L.C. (retail real estate), and Big Red Companies, Inc. (gaming and technology).

Recent additional affiliations include the Advisory Board of Financial Institutions Partners II ($100 million financial services hedge fund), the University of Nebraska Technology Park L.L.C.[2] (Director and Executive Committee), eOne Group, Inc. (web development and systems integration) (Director) and Solutionary, Inc. (data, internet and systems security) (Director).

Karnes has served as a member of the United States Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. This committee is appointed by the President and is composed of chief executive officers of 40 of America's largest corporations as well as presidents of key agriculture and labor organizations. The Committee, established by Congress in 1974, is the principal trade advisory group representing America's private sector to the President and Congress on all trade issues such as the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Dr. Elizabeth Karnes (deceased) and has four daughters Korey, Kalen, Kara and Laurel. He went to Benson High School, and Liz graduated from Westside High School, both in Omaha. On June 14, 2008, Karnes married Kristine Dorn, 35, a partner at Kutak Rock and 1998 Graduate of Creighton University School of Law. They have two children together, Katherine and Alexandra. Alexandra was born in May 2013.[3][4]

2016 Presidential election[edit]

In January 2016, Karnes endorsed New Jersey governor Chris Christie for President in that year's election.[5]


External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Edward Zorinsky
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Nebraska
March 11, 1987 – January 3, 1989
Served alongside: J. James Exon
Succeeded by
Bob Kerrey