Will a push to slow campaign corruption in Nebraska come up short and put a largely “toothless” bill on the books?
That’s the fear of those backing the latest effort to shine more light on campaign contributions in order to stop scandals before they start.
Following a series of reports by Nebraska Watchdog and a recent legislative public hearing, the state’s two largest newspapers have endorsed a bill (LB166) aimed at stopping outright fraud.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, “The most important provision…is a requirement that campaign committees submit an end-of-year bank statement” to the state agency in charge of campaign accounts.
Without that cross-check, “It is nearly impossible to detect fraudulent withdrawals from campaign accounts,” warns Jack Gould of Common Cause Nebraska. At the same time Gould tells Nebraska Watchdog he’s worried the bill will come out of the Government Committee with that cross-check crossed out.
Gould is optimistic another important provision of the bill will make it to the floor of the legislature: Prohibiting candidates from loaning themselves money from their campaign accounts.
The most glaring scam occurred when former Sen. Brenda Council lifted $63,000 from her campaign account and went gambling.
State Sen. Sue Crawford, a Bellevue Democrat, who is looking to stop future cash-and-carry shenanigans, says campaign loans are “not acceptable.”
“The public expects campaign contributions to be used for campaigning and not personal use,” says Gould.
As for Gould’s all important banking cross-check it’s been backed, by among others, the Accountability and Disclosure Commission—aka the state ethics board—and Secretary of State John Gale, the man in charge of Nebraska elections.
Office: Common Cause Nebraska