Neb. A.G.: Finance law likely unconstitutional

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's campaign finance law appears unconstitutional in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down similar spending rules in Arizona, according to the Nebraska Attorney General's office.

State attorneys said the 15-year-old Nebraska law likely would not survive a court challenge. The legal opinion was requested by Frank Daley Jr., executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, to gauge the impact of the Arizona campaign finance decision.

The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission will meet Aug. 26 to consider the opinion and look at resolving potential issues for the upcoming election.

"That's why we asked for the opinion, so that we could address it as soon as possible if there's a need to," Daley told the Lincoln Journal Star.

The Arizona case hinged on the use of public financing in political races and the free-speech rights of privately funded candidates. The court ruled that the state's interest in equalizing electoral opportunities and combatting corruption did not outweigh the burden the law imposed on privately financed candidates.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, a vocal critic of Nebraska's law, called the state's public financing mechanism "disastrous."

"It didn't take the money away, it just diverted it from the campaign and candidate you can hold responsible, into groups you've never heard of before and never will hear of again after the election," Lautenbaugh said.

Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, who has led an effort to crack down on secretive special interest spending, said he was disappointed with the high court ruling and was looking at legislation in light of the decision.

"I'm certainly not going to throw up my hands and say, 'I give up,'" Avery said. "My commitment to reducing the influence of special interest money in campaigns has not changed."