Repeal of campaign finance law discussed

Lawmakers began discussion May 3 on a bill that would repeal Nebraska’s Campaign Finance Limitation Act (CFLA) and amend the Accountability and Disclosure Act.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh said he introduced LB142 because the CFLA has not limited the influence of money on politics in Nebraska as intended. He said the current system forces special interest money “underground” and sets arbitrary constraints on what candidates should spend to seek elective office.

“The CFLA is transparent and good government only in the most Orwellian sense,” he said.

Lautenbaugh said the CFLA limits contribution amounts that candidates can accept from nonindividual donors, but independent expenditure groups face virtually no limits.

He added that the complex structure of campaign finance law in Nebraska is a “huge disincentive” to the average citizen seeking political office.

“I believe the CFLA drives candidates away from the political process,” he said.

But Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar said the “fair fight” funds available to a candidate whose opponent does not abide by spending limits allowed him to carry on a campaign for a seat in the Legislature. The system helps level the playing field among candidates, Haar said.

“Most of us aren’t millionaires,” he said. “The CFLA isn’t perfect, but it’s a good starting point.”

As introduced, LB142 would require disclosure of campaign expenditures and contributions of more than $50. The current requirement is $250.

Electronic filing of certain reports and statements regarding expenditures and contributions would be required within five days. The bill also would require daily electronic filing of contributions and expenditures by corporations, labor or professional organizations starting voluntarily in 2012 and becoming mandatory by 2014.

The Accountability and Disclosure Commission would be required by Jan. 1, 2014, to make campaign statements available on or before the next business day after receipt.

A pending Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment would remove all new reporting requirements outlined in the bill, including lowering reporting thresholds and requiring electronic filing of reports and statements.

Repeal of the Campaign Finance Limitation Act would remain under the amendment.

The Legislature adjourned for the day before taking any action on LB142.

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