Omaha, NE.—”I don’t know what dark money means.”
That from a veteran political insider who is fighting amped up health care coverage in Nebraska and insisting that their operation is completely above board when it comes to unveiling their so-far secret list of contributors.
It’s all part of the growing list of questions facing both sides in next month’s up or down vote on Medicaid expansion, Initiative 427.
On one side is Alliance for Taxpayers, a national organization led in Nebraska by former North Platte Mayor Marc Kaschke who now lives in Elkhorn. The Alliance has bought a reported $50,000 in statewide TV time, which puts the group over the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission’s $5,000 threshold requiring a public filing of contributions.
But because the ad does not urge voters to vote against the initiative, campaign finance experts say disclosure laws do not apply. Jack Gould of Common Cause Nebraska, a government watchdog group, tells News Channel Nebraska “It’s frustrating.”
Alliance for Taxpayers national spokeswoman Gail Gitcho—former press secretary for the Republican National Committee as well as Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign— tells News Channel Nebraska everything is above board.
Joe Jordan, NCN: Will the Alliance be filing campaign statements (including contribution information) with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission?
Gail Gitcho, Alliance for Taxpayers: The Alliance for Taxpayers operates in full compliance with the law, and it will file all disclosures as mandated by law.
Joe Jordan, NCN: Does the Alliance file campaign committee reports with the FEC or with any similar state related commissions?
Gail Gitcho, Alliance for Taxpayers: Based on the organization’s purpose and activities to date, the Alliance for Taxpayers is not required to file campaign committee reports with the FEC or any similar state related commissions. If the organization’s purpose or mission changes in a way that requires Alliance for Taxpayers to file campaign committee reports with the FEC or any similar state related commissions, then it will file all disclosures as mandated by law.
Joe Jordan, NCN: Are the Alliance’s donors public information in some other reporting resource.
Gail Gitcho, Alliance for Taxpayers: All donors to the Alliance for Taxpayers will be disclosed as mandated by law.
Joe Jordan, NCN: Your answers seem to indicate that your organization is currently funded by what is commonly known as “Dark Money.”
Gail Gitcho, Alliance for Taxpayers: I don’t know what dark money means—except that it’s a term used by people who want to see their taxes raised in order to afford Medicaid expansion. Dark money would suggest that there are no disclosures—when in fact the Alliance for Taxpayers will disclose as necessary and required by law.
On the other side—those favoring the expansion to an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans—is Insure the Good Life, which drove the issue to the ballot with a successful statewide petition drive that relied heavily on paid petition gatherers.
Those petitioners were paid largely through checks written by The Fairness Project, described by Insure’s Meg Mandy during an interview with News Channel Nebraska earlier this year as a “national non-profit that works with grass roots organizations all over the country.”
To date The Fairness Project has doled out nearly $1.2 million dollars, $112,000 since the petition drive ended and the TV campaign began. So far Insure the Good Life has shelled out nearly $300,000 for TV ads in Omaha alone.
NCN’s Joe Jordan: (Insure the Good Life’s ) critics argue that because the money is coming from outside Nebraska that this isn’t a local push by Nebraskans.
Meg Mandy: This is something Nebraskans do want and I think we’ll see that in November…we know that we have at least 85,000 Nebraskans that want it because they signed the petition (in the end the Secretary of State certified nearly 105,000 names).