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Archive for Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Regent faces campaign finance accusation

October 25, 2006

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— Speaker of the Legislature Kermit Brashear accused University of Nebraska Board of Regents candidate Carol Russell on Tuesday of breaking campaign finance laws.

In a letter to the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission, Brashear said Russell appears to have broken some of the same laws that resulted in the impeachment of Regent David Hergert earlier this year.

Among other things, Brashear alleged that Russell, like Hergert, failed to make timely filings about her campaign spending.

Russell said: "If there were any inaccuracies in our report, it was certainly not done in an effort to benefit our campaign.

Brashear said he wrote the letter to illustrate what he called inequities in how the Campaign Finance Limitation Act is enforced. He said Regents Drew Miller and Don Blank committed similar offenses during their campaigns and received small fines but never faced impeachment.

The Campaign Finance Limitation Act of 1992 was created to help level the playing field in campaigns and encourage voluntary compliance with campaign finance limits.

Under the law, candidates for state offices have varying spending limits for primary and general elections.

Candidates who agree to abide by the spending limits can qualify for public funds if their opponents exceed the cap.

Russell did not agree to abide by the cap; her opponent Randy Ferlic did.

Under state law, once a so-called nonabiding candidate spends 40 percent of their estimate, their abiding opponent can request matching state funds.

According to Brashear's study of Russell's campaign reports:

¢ Russell reported having spent no money and $2,180 in unpaid expenses on April 24 - some two weeks before the May primary. Of those unpaid expenses, $2,000 was reported as owed to Zaiss & Co. for marketing.

¢ Russell reported having $8,850 cash on hand as of April 24 and raising only $250 in contributions between then and the May 9 primary - for a total of $9,100.

¢ But she reported on June 19 that she has spent more than $15,000 on her primary campaign

"Therefore, it was not possible for Russell to spend more than her $9,100 cash prior to May 9 unless she had a source of funds for such additional expenses," Brashear wrote.

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