Radio ads advocating for the extension of the current limit on Nebraska State Senators’ terms have been playing on Nebraska airwaves for the past couple of days[1. The airing of the ads was first reported by Linda and later confirmed by my husband and a number of the attendees at our Thursday, November 1 Election Presentation. The general consensus was that the ads had begun playing on Thursday, and that they were being played frequently. Apparently, there are two different versions of the ads, once of which includes the following statement, nearly verbatim, which Linda found in a Kearney newspaper editorial written by Tom Carlson: “When appreciating a legendary coach, an outstanding teacher, a capable doctor, nurse or a variety of other individuals who provide services, we would not think it wise to limit the time that they could serve our communities or state to eight years.” Linda found the ad bordering on deceptive in its content, and explicitly so in the name of the entity responsibility. My husband reported the version he heard advocated for the extension of term limits, because “we (State Senators) have to leave office just as we’re getting warmed up”.] Proposed Amendment No. 3 legislative sponsor State Senator Tom Carlson, is the “star” of the ads.
“Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits” is noted as the sponsor at the conclusion.
There are so many problems with this ad campaign and the funding source for it, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. But, I’ll give it a try.
First things first: Just what is “Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits”?
State Senator Tom Carlson is the Assistant Treasurer of record for “Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits”, which is officially categorized under Nebraska law as a Ballot Question Political Committee. The official Statement of Organization was filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC) on October 25, 2012.
In other words, Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits didn’t exist, officially, until that date.
The document filed with the NADC has numerous fields with no information reported – no controlling individuals are listed, for instance – and has at least one error: the date line, Item 7, on which the Committee received $5,000 or more, states “01/01/1900”.
Next: WHERE did Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits get its $5,000 or more?
Voters would normally not find out this information until after the election under Nebraska law.
- Filing dates for General Elections are October 9 and 29, and then January 2013.
- Since the Ballot Question Committee was not officially formed until October 25, contributor information will not be available until the required reporting date in January.
Anyone else see a problem with this setup?
But, NEXT UP…
** Spoiler Alert **
(This is only a spoiler of course, if you’re one of the individuals who engaged in the scheme.)
The Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA)
a.k.a. the NE teacher’s union
a.k.a. the most powerful taxpayer-funded special interest lobbying entity in the state of Nebraska…
gave Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits a.k.a. Senator Tom Carlson $5,000 on October 13, 2012.
From the Nebraska State Education Association Board of Directors Meeting Minutes, October 13, 2012 (click here for the complete PDF):
I’m not tooting my own horn here, but understand that this information was brought to light only because I have spent no small amount of time learning how to recognize patterns in Nebraska campaign finance and how to find obscure information related to it[2. In addition to applying regular persistence to trolling through reports at the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission website, I’ve also dug around frequently on FollowTheMoney.org.]. BUT, before I could find the answer, I had to ask the question: WHO paid for the radio ads? I humbly suggest, Nebraskans, there aren’t enough of us who even think to ask.
If you want to know why government is a mess – you’re looking at a prime example of one key cause.
Understand that while I *do* have questions about a number of things, it’s too early to say if any laws have actually been violated. Likely, the whole affair lies just inside a very fine line. The letter of the law may have been followed – even if the spirit has been battered beyond recognition.
Politicians (who are responsible for writing the laws which created the regulatory scheme), unions, lobbyists, etc., COUNT ON the following aspects (among others) of that scheme:
- Vague, innocuous or deceptive names chosen for political action and ballot question committees, which obscure their purpose, provide political cover for the individuals who create them, blur funding trails, and even enable contributors to get around limits
- Filing deadlines which allow gaming of the system and avoid full disclosure
- A ridiculously designed government website (NADC), which is the only official online source for financial filings – it is so difficult to use it’s difficult to connect important dots about political spending, potential ethical violations by elected officials, etc.
- Broken software AND/OR purposeful failure by individuals and special interests to fill out forms completely – until after elections are over…or perhaps never
QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE ASKED AND ANSWERED:
- Why does the Nebraska State Education Association support the idea of extending Nebraska State Senators’ terms? Of what potential benefit is this to their very particular interests?
- Why the creation of a brand new Political Committee to spend the money on this effort? Why not just let the NSEA spend their money on the ads and include that organization’s name on them?
- Could it be that the whole enterprise was designed to cover over the source of funds until after it was too late for voters to know that a public employee union – a taxpayer-funded lobby[2. Taxpayer-funded lobby: As the officially recognized bargaining agent for government-run school teachers and related employees, all of NSEA’s funds come from dues paid via employees’ payroll withholdings. Government-run schools – and therefore the salary checks from which union dues are withheld – are funded entirely by taxes, including: local property, state and federal income tax -and borrowed dollars.] – was behind the effort?
- Did Tom Carlson and members of the NSEA purposefully time the contribution to occur after the October 9 filing deadline?
- Are the empty lines on Tom Carlson’s filing form due to errors by the NADC, or did he, like other politicians before him, leave some items purposefully blank, so it can all be sorted out later, and therefore after the election?
- Why choose the name Nebraskans to Preserve Term Limits? Is that a credible name? Is that honest? Does Proposed Amendment No. 3 actually “preserve” term limits? I’m going to jump start this answer…
A read of Amendment No. 3 unambiguously proves that the measure EXTENDS term limits – which in and of itself is the opposite of PRESERVING current law. Also, it is not an up or down vote to keep term limits, which is what the name suggests. Why engage in such subterfuge? Can’t make a convincing, honest argument?
- Is Tom Carlson’s conduct that which we expect to see and are willing to accept from someone with the power to write and vote on legislation affecting our lives, liberties, and property?
- Did Tom Carlson act entirely on his own in putting forward the term limit extension proposal and in designing the campaign funded by the NSEA, or are there other State Senators, elected officials, Republican Party decision makers, and supporting organizations involved behind the scenes?
If Senator Tom Carlson did act entirely alone will anyone come forward to condemn his actions, now that they have been brought to light?
RECOMMENDED ACTION ITEMS:
If you are Nebraska voter:
If you need further inspiration…watch the video, below.
- Fill in the “AGAINST” box on Proposed Amendment No. 3 AND No. 4 on your ballot this Tuesday. I’ll fall off my chair if cries of condemnation come from anyone but “we little people”. No. 3 should now get a no vote based on the conduct of the legislative sponsor, alone.
- Demand an explanation from Tom Carlson. His contact information can be found on the top right side bar of this page.
- If you live in a legislative district where the seat is on the ballot, contact your preferred candidate and ask them if they will introduce legislation to address public employee collective bargaining, campaign finance, and other relevant statutes.
- Share this information with other interested voters (there are share buttons at the bottom of this article!).
If you are a State Senator, other elected official, an NEGOP decision maker, or a group / organization that works to support GOP elected officials:
I highly encourage you to leave comment so Nebraskans can see who goes on the record, or whether my request will result in silence.
If you have additional information about this matter, we urge you to use The Tip Jar.
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