Common Cause NE Testimony In Support of LB737
“Common Cause Nebraska supports LB737 because we believe it is an important step toward creating a better campaign finance landscape in Nebraska. The last two decades have shown that, without limits, the wealthiest donors will happily keep spending in our state’s elections to ensure the candidates and policies they support gain traction. And ultimately it is average Nebraskans who are sidelined.
Last year was the most expensive election cycle in our state’s history, with over $50 million spent by candidates for office. That price is more than double the previous high of $23 million set in 2020. The governor’s race alone accounted for $29 million, and legislative races routinely exceeded $100,000. Spending like this guarantees that money is at the heart of running for office and that the wealthy and well-connected are integral to winning elections.
Major contributions from large donors fueled much of this spending and led to increased campaign costs for candidates everywhere. Contributors included individuals, businesses, PACs and unions from across the political spectrum; from environmental groups to school choice advocates. While we can’t pin this spending on any one party or cause, we can clearly say that wealthy interests are dominating funding campaigns and average people are all but left out of the process.
Nebraska currently has no limits on donations to candidates. In fact, our state is one of just a handful that does not have any restrictions on how our campaigns are funded. 38 states place some limit on how much individuals can contribute, 43 limit donations from PACs, and 45 limit contributions from corporations. While how other states govern shouldn’t be the only factor in determining the best policy for Nebraskans, I believe most people would agree that our current hands-off system isn’t working.
A lack of contribution limits has affected the overall costs of running for office and diminishes the impact average people can have in supporting candidates. When big money is dumped into elections from one spender, it spurs their opponents to seek out similar funding from opposing donors. Ultimately, this is driving up the costs of running for office for every Nebraskan and the only people who benefit are wealthy special interests.
With the largest donors regularly giving between $10,000-$100,000, the contributions of regular Nebraskans have been made irrelevant. While every one of us has an equal vote at the ballot box, the power to financially support candidates we believe in can be quickly overwhelmed by contributions from well-funded backers. This reliance on big donors can lead candidates to align their platforms with the interests of the wealthy rather than everyday people in the hope of securing the money they need to run a campaign. That means less focus on the issues impacting the majority of us and an overrepresentation of the concerns of a few.
In conclusion, allowing donors to give unlimited sums to campaigns has led to moneyed interests having an oversized role in determining who runs for office, who wins, and what policies they pursue while in office. While we may hope that this spending will eventually level off, time has shown that contributions are only increasing, and wealthy spenders are playing an ever-larger role in our elections. Continuing down the path we’re on will only lead to more expensive elections and greater reliance on big donors over average Nebraskans.
For those reasons, we urge you to vote in favor of LB737 and pass it to the floor for full debate.“
Common Cause Nebraska, Executive Director
402-710-0583 / firstname.lastname@example.org