By MARGERY A. BECK
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - True to his word, Gov. Pete Ricketts has again donated his own money to a group trying to save Nebraska’s death penalty.
A monthly financial statement released Friday by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty shows Ricketts donated $100,000 to the group sometime in the last month. That matches his $100,000 donation to the group in June, for a total of $200,000.
In all, the group raised nearly $400,000 in cash for July. The largest donation for the month came from the conservative, Washington-based Judicial Crisis Network, which gave $200,000.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty is overseeing a petition drive to put the death penalty question on the 2016 ballot. That effort began after Nebraska lawmakers abolished the death penalty last spring despite the governor’s veto. Death penalty opponents have launched their own campaign, Nebraskans for Public Safety, urging voters not to sign.
Ricketts drew some criticism earlier this month when a June financial statement showed both he and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, had donated $100,000 to the cause. At the time, the governor said he might give more money to the death penalty cause in the future.
Joe Ricketts did not donate any more money in recent weeks, according to the financial statement.
Gov. Pete Ricketts didn’t directly address his latest donation in a written statement Friday, but stood by his support of the death penalty.
“Nebraskans, including myself, don’t want to - and wish we didn’t have to - use the death penalty,” he said. “However, I fully support giving voters the opportunity to decide whether the state of Nebraska can utilize this important tool to protect the safety of our citizens, law enforcement officers and corrections officers who deal with dangerous criminals in our correctional facilities.”
A spokesman for the petition campaign thanked the Judicial Crisis Network and others for their donations.
“We are grateful to have support from hundreds of Nebraskans who have volunteered their time and/or made a donation to support the petition drive,” spokesman Chris Peterson said. “With less than four weeks until our deadline, we continue to work hard to gather enough valid signatures to put the future of the death penalty to a vote of the people and to put the repeal on hold until the voters have spoken.”
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has to gather roughly 57,000 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 27 to place the law on the ballot, and 115,000 to suspend the law before voters decide the question. They also must gather signatures from at least 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
Phone and email messages left Friday for Nebraskans for Public Safety were not immediately returned.