Nebraska government sector lobbying
This practice is controversial because public funds are spent to lobby for an agenda not subject to direct approval by voters, and outcomes may be contrary to taxpayers' benefit.
In December 2010, a Nebraska Watchdog investigation reported that during 2008-2010, a dozen Nebraska school districts, half a dozen cities, 3 counties, and a handful of other public operations (such as Omaha’s Metro Area Transit) shelled out nearly $3 million tax dollars for lobbyists.
Lincoln lobbyist Walt Radcliffe is getting over 15% of his million dollar lobbying income from the taxpayers in 2010 alone.
Radcliffe is getting:
- $60,000 from Bellevue Public Schools,
- $60,000 from Metro Community College,
- $36,000 from the State Fair Board, and
- $30,000 from Lincoln Public Schools, a total of $186,000.
Radcliffe agreed in late 2010 to help Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle fight a controversial piece of legislation for $5,000 a week. According to a document Radcliffe filed with the State of Nebraska, Radcliffe’s deal with the City of Omaha is for “$5,000 per week, not to exceed $50,000” for the 2010 session.
This is in addition to the city of Omaha's full-time lobbyist Jack Cheloha, who was paid $116,727 in 2009.
At least one county discloses its lobbying activities online. Scotts Bluff County explicitly states that it does not have contract lobbyists and does not belong to lobbying associations. According to Sunshine Review, this is the only county to do so.
Nebraska Watchdog asked for a copy of the contract between the City of Omaha and lobbyist Walt Radcliffe. Omaha Mayor Suttle’s spokesman stated “There’s no contract with Radcliffe, it’s a weekly agreement which is going to be re-assessed at the end of every week going forward.”
Necessity of lobbying
Lobbyist Walt Radcliffe argues that, although he’s paid with tax dollars, cities and schools need lobbyists: “Most of the state budget goes to government entities so their input is necessary. We can be there (the State Capitol) 24-7 and they can’t.”
Legislation against government sector lobbying
Earlier this month lawmakers held a public hearing on a bill that would prohibit state tax dollars that go to schools from winding up in the pockets of lobbyists. The bill (LB741) which was introduced by State Senator Bill Avery of Lincoln is still in committee and may not make it to the floor of the legislature for debate or a vote this session. Avery’s bill would not affect lobbyists who are paid by cities and counties.
Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle is using taxpayer-money to fight a bill introduced by State Senator Tom White (of Omaha). White wants to prevent the city from collecting sales taxes tied to a multibillion dollar overhaul of the city’s sewer system. Suttle hired lobbyist Walt Radcliffe (see "Lobbyists") to help fight the bill. The City of Omaha’s full time lobbyist Jack Cheloha is also out to derail the legislation.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations
- Nebraska County Attorneys Association
- Nebraska County Court Association
- Nebraska County Judges Association
- Nebraska District Court Judges Association
- Nebraska State Bar Association
- Nebraska Association of School Boards
- Nebraska Community College Association
- Nebraska Council of School Administrators
- Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association
- Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Nebraska
- Coalition of Rural Water Districts
- Nebraska Association of Area Agencies on Aging
- Nebraska Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus
- Nebraska Association of Regional Administrators
- Nebraska Association of Resources Districts
- Nebraska Collectors Association
- "Suttle’s New Lobbyist No Stranger to Public’s Cash ," Nebraska Watchdog, March 1, 2010
- League of Nebraska Municipalities Membership Information
- Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission - League of Nebraska Municipalities
- Scotts Bluff County - County Clerk Lobbying Info
- Evaluation of Nebraska county websites