State Senators React to Lobbying in 2021 Report

May 2, 2022, 6 a.m. ·

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (File photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

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The University of Nebraska spent the most money of any organization lobbying the state government last year– more than 180-thousand dollars, according to a recent report released by government watchdog group Common Cause Nebraska. Here's what some senators have to say about the report.

Lobbyists educate and try to influence legislators on key subjects and issues that affect the organizations they represent, but some of them also offer gifts like Husker season tickets. More than a $20 million was spent last year lobbying state government.

The report shows University of Nebraska football tickets were given to Sen. Dave Murman for $120, but it was not reported. Murman clarifies he had already bought season tickets, so "it would have been like buying an extra ticket to reimburse for that ticket."

"As a state senator, we do need to know their [lobbyists'] opinion, but as far as actual gifts to senators, I wouldn't agree with that," he said.

According to the report, people and organizations with paid lobbyists have an advantage over ordinary citizens when it comes to influencing officials. Sen. John Stinner disagrees. He said legislators look to lobbyists for information on an issue, but they shouldn't forget the constituents they represent.

"You have to be active within your district to continually understand what the challenges and what the issues are as well," he said.

The League of Municipalities and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators were the second- and third-highest spenders on lobbying last year, according to the report. Sen. Lou Ann Linehan said she’s frustrated to see so much spending on lobbyists for public schools.

"I think that money should come from private donations," she said. "I do not think taxpayer dollars should pay for lobbyists to get more money."

Linehan supported a bill in 2018 that would have not allowed entities to use tax dollars to pay for lobbyists, but that didn’t pass. Now that the state received more money from the federal government, Linehan said she hopes the lobbying report could start that conversation again.

Editor's Note: By way of full disclosure, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents holds the license to Nebraska Public Media’s KUON Television station and some of our staff are University of Nebraska-Lincoln employees.