A political action committee created by conservative Lincoln Republicans eight years ago has bankrolled the city's term limits petition campaign.
That proposed term limit amendment, now on the Nov. 6 ballot, would effectively keep Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, a Democrat, from running for re-election.
Opponents to the term limit proposal have pointed out that several well-known Republicans led the petition drive. They believe it is a Republican attempt to keep Beutler from running for re-election to a fourth term, making it easier for a Republican candidate to win the mayor's race next year.
Funding by Citizens for a Better Lincoln, a group started by local conservative Republicans, is more proof, they say.
Citizens for a Better Lincoln provided $16,643 to the term limit proponent group, called the Political Renewal Association.
That donation made up about 77 percent of the total contributions to Political Renewal Association, based on a financial report to the state.
The Political Renewal Association spent about $19,000 on the successful petition drive and it plans to have an advertising campaign supporting the ballot question.
Another group formed recently to oppose the term limits ballot issue, called Fair Elections Lincoln, has raised more than $56,000, including major donations from a number of local unions.
The local firefighters association donated $20,000; the Nebraska State Education Association donated $5,000 and the steamfitters and plumbers PAC fund donated $7,500.
Citizens for a Better Lincoln gave its remaining money to the pro term limits group and will be disbanding, according to Matt Innis, spokesperson for the Political Renewal Association.
Perry Pirsch, spokesman for the group, confirmed that in an email.
"Citizens for a Better Lincoln hasn’t been active and hasn’t raised money during the past couple of years. A decision was made to wind up the committee and we felt contributing to limiting Lincoln's chief executive to three terms was a good idea as we utilize our remaining funds."
Citizens for a Better Lincoln spent more than $40,000 in 2013 helping unseat City Council incumbent Gene Carroll.
Since then it has supported several Republican council candidates and mayoral candidate Andy Stebbing, who ran unsuccessfully against Beutler in 2015. It has also spent money opposing Democratic City Council and legislative candidates.
"I think it just shows exactly what it (pro-term-limit campaign) is. It is a partisan effort," said Brandon Bayer, treasurer of Fair Elections Lincoln, and manager for Beutler's re-election campaign.
Both the term limits proponents and opponents say they have campaigns starting soon.
The proponent group is "not going to have as much money as the mayor does, because we can’t shake the money down like the mayor," Innis said.
The term limits campaign is not about Beutler, he said. It's about the office and because it is so powerful, the mayor should be limited to three terms, he said.
The next campaign report for the group opposing term limits will show donations from a broad group of Republicans and Democrats, from labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce, which have come together to say vote against the charter amendment because it targets a single individual, Bayer said.