Expanded reporting sought for certain political advertisements

Electioneering communications would be subject to increased regulation under a bill considered March 13 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Sue Crawford'>Sen. Sue Crawford</a>
Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue said she introduced LB210 to “close a loophole” in state election law by requiring that an individual who spends more than $1,000 on electioneering communications must file a report with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

The report would include the names of all individuals who contributed $250 or more to the communication.

The bill would define electioneering communications as advertisements that clearly refer to a candidate or ballot initiative, are distributed within 30 days of an election and are directed to the electorate.

“If powerful groups or organizations are pouring money into Nebraska to shape campaigns and elections, the citizens and candidates have a right to know who they are,” Crawford said.

Voter guides, news stories, government-issued communications and other communication deemed educational would be exempt from LB210.

Jack Gould of Common Cause Nebraska testified in favor of the bill. A group called Trees of Liberty produced ads opposing three Nebraska legislative candidates that aired days before the 2016 election, he said. The ads were filled with “half-truths,” he said, and the targeted candidates had no time to react.

“Then, Trees of Liberty disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared,” Gould said.

He added that a group called Alliance for Taxpayers began airing television ads opposing Medicaid expansion shortly before the 2018 election. Gould said he learned after the election that the organization was located in New Hampshire, and ran ads opposing Medicaid expansion in every state in which the issue was on the ballot.

Frank Daley, director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, also testified in support of the bill. Some ads are deceptive, Daley said, skirting the law by not explicitly favoring or opposing a candidate or cause but heavily implying how a person should vote.

“This has become a regular feature of elections,” Daley said.

No one testified against LB210 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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