A new report says special interests spent a record-high $16.7 million last year on lobbyists, gifts, travel, and other efforts to influence legislators at the Capitol.
Common Cause Nebraska spokesman Jack Gould says money gives lobbyists an advantage over average citizens.
“Some of the special interests that hire lobbyists have the best interest of the public at heart and a lot of them don’t,” Gould tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “The lobbyist works for the person who pays them and our concern is that the lobbyist has a lot more tools to work with than the average citizen.”
The Common Cause reports discloses the biggest spenders at the Capitol are the League of Nebraska Municipalities; Altria Client Services, the corporate parent of tobacco company Philip Morris; and the group Renewable Fuels Nebraska.
The money pays for lobbyists who work the Unicameral during the legislative session, gifts to legislators, entertainment for legislators, and meals provided to lawmakers.
Gould says the Unicameral needs to act to end such influence peddling.
“We would encourage legislation that would limit the gift-giving and the entertainment and those things and when the average person goes in to speak at the Capitol, they shouldn’t feel they’re competing with big money,” Gould says.
The long-time practice of lobbyists paying for meals during late night sessions at the Capitol has been ended by Speaker Jim Scheer. Scheer, a state senator from Norfolk, says the Speaker’s office will coordinate meals provided to senators. He has suggested senators help offset the costs of the meals.
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this article.