By GRANT SCHULTE
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts defended his $100,000 donation to a group that is trying to save Nebraska’s death penalty, saying Wednesday that he may give more in the future.
Ricketts said he feels strongly that voters should decide the fate of the death penalty, which was abolished by lawmakers in May despite his veto.
“All Nebraskans, including myself, wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to have a death penalty,” Ricketts said. “But the fact of the matter is we do have dangerous criminals.”
Ricketts and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, each contributed $100,000 to the petition drive that seeks to put the death penalty question on the 2016 ballot. The Republican governor said he didn’t consider his donation inappropriate because the fate of the death penalty would rest with voters if the question makes it to the ballot.
The group, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, raised a total of nearly $244,000 in its latest reporting period, from June 2 to June 25. The group said it has spent nearly $217,600, leaving it with about $26,300 in cash on hand.
Death penalty opponents have launched their own campaign, Nebraskans for Public Safety, urging voters not to sign the petition. The group announced a $400,000 donation last month from the Proteus Action League, a Massachusetts-based group that has spent millions to finance death penalty repeal efforts.
Nebraskans for Public Safety also received about $6,000 worth of staff time, office space and legal services from the ACLU of Nebraska, according to state disclosure records. The group spent more than $50,000 on television ad buys and paid $100,000 to Fieldworks, a Washington-based consulting firm that helped with last year’s ballot campaign to increase the minimum wage.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has to gather roughly 57,000 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 27 to place the question on the ballot, and 115,000 to suspend the law before a vote. They also must gather signatures from at least 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.