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Editorial, 11/26: Group arrogantly flouts Nebraska campaign law

Editorial, 11/26: Group arrogantly flouts Nebraska campaign law

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The Virginia-based group, Americans for Prosperity, must think that Nebraskans are stupid, easy to push around or both.

After pouring thousands of dollars into attack ads in the recent election the group's attorneys have decided to flout Nebraska's laws requiring groups to report campaign expenditures.

The group says that its mailings were purely educational, and that they didn't urge a vote for or against a particular candidate.

That's preposterous.

Here's a sample. One mailer from the group said that Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln "has raised taxes on every family and business in Nebraska."

How can Americans for Prosperity possibly assert that they were not urging a vote against Conrad?

It's worth noting that the group also distorted Conrad's record. The group based its misleading mailer on Conrad's support for a 1.2-cent-per-gallon increase in the fuel tax in 2008.

The mailer totally ignored Conrad's vote in favor of the biggest tax cut in the state's history.

Nebraska's law on campaign finance reporting requires spending to be reported when it is "in assistance of, or in opposition to, the nomination of election of a candidate or the qualification, passage or defeat of a ballot question."

Clearly the mailer fits the definition.

State law also states that reporting is not required if the expenditure "does not support or oppose a ballot question or candidate by name or clear inference.

Clearly the loophole does not apply.

Americans for Prosperity was founded and funded by oil tycoon David Koch. Brad Stevens, the Nebraska director of the group, said lawyers for the national group advised him not to file reports.

That robs Nebraskans of the opportunity to find out what sort of people are trying to influence their vote. Final reports were due Nov. 10. The fine could be up to $2,000 for failing to file a report.

Jack Gould of Common Cause Nebraska has criticized the law because it permits corporations, unlike political action groups and independent campaign committees, to inject money into last-minute, hard-to-trace attack ads.

Senators ought to consider changes in the law to make campaign money easier to follow.

The main backers of Americans for Prosperity are worth billions. Perhaps the group views the fine merely as a minor business expense. There's some solace in the fact that most of its attempts to influence voters failed, as they did in Conrad's case. The group's lack of respect for Nebraska and its laws is galling.

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