Push for more sunshine on campaign corruption clouding over

A move to kill a bill designed to slow campaign corruption came up short in Lincoln this week but backers of the bill worry it is simply dying a slow death.

The legislation (LB166) is the latest effort to shine more light on campaign contributions in order to stop scandals before they start.

The latest scam occurred a few years ago when former Sen. Brenda Council lifted $63,000 from her campaign account and went gambling.

State Sen. Joni Craighead (R-Omaha), who made the short-lived attempt to kill the legislation,which remains bottled up in the Government Committee, tells Nebraska Watchdog, “It isn’t necessary.”

“The Government Committee is simply thumbing its nose at the public,” says Jack Gould of Common Cause. “The integrity of the entire body has been threatened but the only answer from the Unicameral is silence. One must wonder, what do they have to hide?

Following a series of reports by Nebraska Watchdog and a recent legislative public hearing, the state’s two largest newspapers endorsed the bill which prohibits candidates from loaning themselves money from their campaign accounts.

In addition, 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 Gould.

Also backing the bill is the Accountability and Disclosure Commission—aka the state ethics board—and Secretary of State John Gale, the man in charge of Nebraska elections.

Committee chairman Sen. John Murante (R-Gretna) tells Nebraska Watchdog he’s continuing to work with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sue Crawford (D-Bellevue) “to make it acceptable to a majority of the committee.”

Gould, who fears the bill will never make it out of committee for a full floor debate, says that during a public hearing on the legislation no one spoke against it.