May 21, 2020 11:56 AM

OPINION Shucking the bucks, another record breaking harvest for Nebraska lobbyists

Posted May 21, 2020 11:56 AM

From Common Cause Nebraska

Common Cause Nebraska Releases Annual ReportLINCOLN, Neb. – May 21, 2020. Lobbyists hired to buy influence with Nebraska state lawmakers set a record year of earnings, according to a new report examining public records by Common Cause Nebraska.

Last year, special interest groups hired lobbyists to work the capital for $17.9 million while lobby expenditures reached $19.3 million, an increase by more than $1.5 million from the previous year, states the 2020 report “Shucking the Bucks: Another Record Harvest for Nebraska Lobbyists.” 

“In Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, special interest groups and other entities called “principals” pay lobbyists to advance their agendas,” said Jack Gould, issues chair of the Common Cause Nebraska board and author of the annual lobbyist report. “Buying influence with our 49 senators costs money and lobbyists who spend the most on entertainment, gifts and tickets have better access to lawmakers than everyday voters. Their voices are eclipsed by lobbyists wining and dining our policymakers.”

The report identifies the top 10 spenders on lobbyists. At the top of the 2019 list is Altria Client Services, the parent company for Philip Morris, one of the world’s largest producers of tobacco products, which spent $267,287 to influence lawmakers. Some of that money went straight to political campaigns including $20,000 each to the Nebraska Republican Party and the Committee to Elect Pete Rickets for Governor. 

The report also identified the top 10 compensated lobbyist firms in the state. At the top for the sixth consecutive year was Mueller Robak, which reported $1.43 million in earnings in 2019 and $7.3 million over five years. Their clients include American Express Travel, GlaxoSmithKline, Google and Uber according to their website.

“Over the years, Nebraska’s unicameral has given lobbyers a great deal of freedom and limited disclosure,’ states the report. “Our senators earn $12,000 per year in office and then swing through a revolving door and earn $100,000 the next year as lobbyists. Forty-four states have limits on the transition from public servant to lobbyist. Nebraska does not.” 

“During the legislative session, lobbyists hold breakfast fundraisers in restaurants around the capitol hours before a bill is voted on. Fifteen states have prohibitions or restrictions on lobbyist contributions during the year, and 14 states restrict lobbyists’ contributions during legislative sessions. Nebraska has zero restrictions.”

For nine years, Common Cause Nebraska has compiled public records to document the growing wealth of the lobby and expose the influence of special interest money in politics. We continue to advocate for a two-year break before legislators can become lobbyists, ending in-session fundraisers and more transparency from both lobbyists and the special interest groups on how they influence lawmakers.

Common Cause Nebraska continues to be a nonpartisan nonprofit government watchdog, but it is the people of Nebraska who must hold our public officials accountable.

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May 21, 2020 11:56 AM
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