Another record-breaking year for the Nebraska Lobby! Special interests spent $15,643,295 on influencing our state government. Lobbyist compensation was up by more than $1.4 million. Dollars spent on enter-tainment and gifts reached a new high of $396,486. The role of the lobby in raising campaign funds contin-ues to be a key factor in getting elected.
In contrast, legislative salaries remain at $12,000 per year. There are those who argue that entertainment and campaign funds compensate for low salaries. Common Cause would argue that perks and campaign contributions are simply used to buy access and influence. It is in the public’s interest to pay legislators a reasonable salary while reducing the role of lobbyists to sources of information rather than procurers of perks and dollars.
In order to reach out to elected officials should the public have to compete with professional lobbyists? Would private citizens have greater influence if they took legislators to lunch at Billy’s. Would a couple of drinks at the Nebraska Club garner a vote? How about season tickets to the Husker games? Would a prom-ise of $5,000 in campaign funds help? The answer should be no to all of the question.
Professional lobbyists should be providers of information who compete on the same level as every other citizen. Our legislators should be compensated in a manner that allows them to be independent of special interests. Our elections need to be publicly funded and free of big money influence. Our government was created to be a democracy not a plutocracy and gift givers, entertainers and those who wish to purchase elections need to be held in check.
Our 2016 Lobby Report demonstrates the growing influence of money in politics. The need for greater dis-closure is obvious. Current laws prevent the public from connecting the dots that would give full view of all perks and all campaign dollars and our legislators seem content with the current fog.
Common Cause Nebraska, Issues Chair