Bill would require reporting of electioneering communication

Additional reporting for certain types of political expenditures would be required under a bill considered March 4 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Carol Blood
Sen. Carol Blood

Under LB8, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, any individual who makes an independent expenditure for an electioneering communication of more than $250 would be required to file a report with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The bill defines an electioneering communication as one that clearly refers to a political candidate or ballot question, is directed to the electorate and is released within 30 days of an election involving the candidates or ballot measures mentioned.

An electioneering contribution of more than $1,000 would require a report with within two days. Failure to do so would be a Class IV misdemeanor and would incur a fine of $25 a day, not to exceed $750.

Blood said gaps in current election law enable individuals and groups to secretly fund advertisements by claiming they are educational — a practice that is legal as long as the advertisement doesn’t ask a voter to vote for or against a candidate or a ballot question. She said both parties engage in the practice and will continue to do so unless the law requires greater transparency.

“We’re asking a very simple question — who are you and how much are you spending?” Blood said.

Frank Daley, executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, testified in support of LB8. He said electioneering advertisements are similar to advertisements for products. Such ads don’t explicitly ask the viewer to buy a product, he said, but imply that they should.

“What they do is create images. Often it’s happy people, smiling people, using the product. Through these images they are attempting to affect your buying decisions. Candidates will often do the same thing with their advertising,” Daley said. “They’re attempting to affect your voting decisions.”

Linda Duckworth, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, testified in support of the bill. She said LB8 would shine a light on dark money in campaigns and require reporting on all campaign material.

“If candidates and political action committees are required to disclose, to a point, who their donors are and how much money is spent, it is only right that some accountability and transparency be required of the so-called educational [material],” Duckworth said.

Spike Eickholt of the ACLU of Nebraska testified in opposition. In written testimony, he said LB8 would place arbitrary limits on the protected exercise of political speech and that the “swift reporting requirements, broad definitions and criminal penalties” outlined in the bill could hinder freedom of expression and association.

The committee took no immediate action on LB8.

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