LINCOLN — The Nebraska Democratic Party filed a complaint Tuesday against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Deb Fischer, alleging she failed to disclose a potential financial stake in a bill she introduced as a member of the state Legislature.
The Democrats have asked the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission in Lincoln to investigate the matter. If the commission finds the complaint has merit, Fischer could face civil penalties of up to $2,000 for each violation of the disclosure law.
The Fischer campaign, meanwhile, called the complaint “shameful.”
The dispute involves a bill Fischer sponsored in 2011 that sought to remove about half of the annual funds in the Nebraska Environmental Trust, spending the money instead on the Platte River.
Patricia Zieg of Omaha, Democratic National Committeewoman, said Tuesday that Fisher's motive was to thwart the sale of the Snake Falls Ranch to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Fischer and her husband, Bruce Fischer, owned neighboring property that could have lost value if the Snake Falls Ranch became public, Zieg said.
As proposed, Fischer's bill could have prevented Game and Parks from obtaining enough funds to buy a part of the ranch that includes the state's largest waterfalls.
“It's about judgment and integrity, and it's about being able to tell the difference between your own interests and the larger community,” Zieg said.
Daniel Keylin, Fischer's spokesman, defended the legislation that diverted trust funds to help pay for water management on the Platte.
“With Nebraska facing one of the worst droughts in recent memory, it's shameful that the Democrats would attack Deb Fischer for successfully passing a bipartisan water conservation bill that helps fund the Platte River Recovery Program and protects the environment,” Keylin said.
Fischer, who served eight years in the Legislature, is running against Democrat Bob Kerrey for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.
The bill that eventually passed diverted significantly less money from the Environmental Trust than Fischer's proposal. Later on, a private fishing club that had been a longtime leaseholder on the Snake Falls property opted against working with the state and bought the ranch on its own.
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