Ex-lawmaker’s gambling focus of new campaign ethics bill

Former State Sen.Brenda Council

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

An ex-lawmaker’s gambling related crimes are now the subject of a new ethics push at the state capitol.

Call it the “Council bill.”

Former State Sen.Brenda Council

It follows former State Sen. Brenda Council’s criminal convictions, two state misdemeanors and a federal felony, for misusing—gambling—$63,000 in campaign funds.

Looking to stop similar abuses in the future, Sen. Ernie Chambers is expected to introduce legislation in the next few days keeping those campaign dollars in check.

For starters Chambers’ bill would make it illegal for candidates to loan themselves money from their campaign accounts.

Jack Gould of Common Cause Nebraska says when Council did that, even if she planned to repay the money, she went too far.

“The public expects campaign contributions to be used for campaigning and not personal use,” Gould tells Nebraska Watchdog.

Another provision, which Common Cause supported in 2013 only to see it die, would require candidates to provide the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission with an annual campaign bank statement.

It’s believed that had Council been forced to report her campaign bank transactions, NADC auditors would have been on to her scheme.

“Currently no one knows if similar abuses have taken place in the past or whether they could take place in the future,” said Gould.

Chambers’ bill would also increase fines for violating campaign laws from $2,000 to $5,000.

The legislature goes back into session Wednesday.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org and listen to Joe every Monday morning at 7:40 on KFAB radio in Omaha.

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