Compared to many campaigns, running for the Public Service Commission (PSC) is relatively inexpensive: a total of just $173,000 was raised over the past decade (by comparison, Unicameral candidates raised an average of $39,831 per person during 2009-2010). What’s troubling is not the total spending, but its sources. Of the total, $134,000 came from within regulated industries.

While 45% of all PSC campaign donors were not associated with regulated industries, regulated companies and connected individuals gave larger amounts. The largest industry donor gave more than the top 20 non-industry donors combined. (NE State Transportation Political UTU PAC at $29,626 to $22,630). Further, the top non-industry donor gave less than the tenth largest industry donor. (Building America’s Conscience and Kids PAC at $2,500 versus Rob Logsdon, Director of Cox Communications, at $2,998).

Of the industry-related donors, those in the telecommunications industry give the most—more than 50% of industry giving. Donors in the transportation, construction, and energy industries followed.

Who does the Public Service Commission really serve: Nebraska’s citizens or the industries the PSC regulates? Would these companies continue to invest in Public Service Commission campaigns if there weren’t something to be gained?

Last session, the Legislature put pipeline routing under the Public Service Commission’s regulatory purview. While TransCanada, the builder of the Keystone XL pipeline, is prohibited as a foreign company from contributing directly to election campaigns, US companies are not so constrained. And we have seen that the oil industry wields a lot of financial clout: TransCanada, though restricted from contributing to campaigns, has been the top spender on lobbying in the state.

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