LINCOLN — Nebraska voters could learn more about the money behind candidates and ballot issues under a bill heard by a legislative committee Friday.
Legislative Bill 79 would lower the threshold for reporting campaign donations and spending to $100, down from $250.
The bill also would require the state to set up an electronic filing system so campaign finance reports could be made public more quickly.
Jack Gould, representing the watchdog group Common Cause Nebraska, praised both of the ideas.
“There’s a lot of cash floating around and it’s hard to keep track of it,” he said.
He also supported a provision that would require campaigns to file account statements at least once a year with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.
That requirement would have made it possible to uncover the withdrawals of campaign funds that former State Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha made at casinos.
An investigation by Attorney General Jon Bruning last year revealed that Council had spent more than $63,000 of campaign money at casinos over a 2½-year period. Council pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to the spending and paid $500 in fines.
The bill also would repeal Nebraska’s Campaign Finance Limitation Act, which the Nebraska Supreme Court found unconstitutional last year.
The law had attempted to rein in campaign spending on state races by asking candidates to abide by voluntary spending limits. The law used public funds to encourage candidates to stick with the limits.
The public funds came from fines paid for violating campaign finance laws and from income tax checkoffs and were collected in the Campaign Finance Limitation Act Fund.
Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, who introduced the bill, proposed using the $911,000 in the fund to pay for the electronic filing system.
He noted that opponents of the Campaign Finance Limitation Act had argued for full disclosure of fundraising and spending instead of the voluntary limits.
The Government Committee took no immediate action on LB 79 Friday.
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