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Exclusive: Pipeline Contributions Raise More Questions

By   /   October 8, 2010  /   News  /   6 Comments

An investigation by Nebraska Watchdog has uncovered more questions surrounding a pair of $2,500 campaign contributions, one to Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) the other to Attorney General Jon Bruning (R).

The contributions were made by Canadian oil giant TransCanada, which is in the process of trying to build a controversial oil pipeline across several states including Nebraska.

Earlier this week Heineman and Bruning returned the money, after the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC) notified them that there could be legal questions surrounding the TransCanada contributions. According to the Federal Election Commission foreign nationals are prohibited “from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly.”

NADC Executive Director, Frank Daley, says it would be up to the federal government to decide if any laws were broken.

TransCanada’s lobbyist at  the State Capitol in Lincoln, Gordon Kissel, tells Nebraska Watchdog the contributions were legal because the company, which has an office in Omaha, is incorporated in Delaware.

According to Nebraska Watchdog’s investigation, the questionable donations were first discovered when an NADC auditor noticed Bruning’s campaign filing only carried the name TransCanada and a street address. There was no city or state listed. According to Daley the report simply said “TransCanada, 450 1st Street S. W.”  When NADC checked further it realized that “450 1st Street S.W.” is TransCanada’s address in Calgary, Alberta.

Heineman’s filing listed the contribution from TransCanada as “Trans Canada Keystone Pipeline 450 1st Street Omaha, NE 68104.”

Nebraska Watchdog asked Daley if his office would have found the questionable contributions if Bruning’s report had added the words “Omaha, Nebraska” as Heineman’s report had. Daley replied, “Probably not.”

Daley says it’s not clear why the campaigns made the incorrect entries.

Dean Dennhardt, the Heineman campaign’s finance director, tells Nebraska Watchdog it was an “honest mistake.”  

Kissel, the lobbyist for TransCanada who insists the contributions were legal, tells Nebraska Watchdog he has “no idea” why Heineman and Bruning returned the donations.

Dennhardt says it was in the Heineman campaign’s “best interests to return the money.” Dennhardt then added, “The last thing you want to do as a fundraiser is give the money back.” The Lincoln Journal Star reported that Dennhardt said Heineman would have “absolutely no comment” on the contribution.

Heineman, who is running for re-election against Democrat Mike Meister, has raised nearly $2 million compared to Meister’s $83,000.

In late August during an exclusive interview with Nebraska Watchdog, Heineman took a hands off approach to TransCanada’s proposed XL Keystone Pipeline. Heineman said, “I just haven’t focused on that issue to any great extent because it’s a federal regulatory issue. So I’ve let our congressional delegation deal with that.”

Nebraska Watchdog has been unable to reach Bruning for comment. Bruning who is running unopposed for re-election has raised just over $900,000.

The Sierra Club of Nebraska, which opposes the pipeline, is asking the U.S. Attorney to investigate the TransCanada contributions. It’s not clear if an investigation will be launched.

Reported by Joe Jordan, joed@nebraskawatchdog.org

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here


Joe formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • GeosUser

    Blah, blah, blah…more Joe Jordan trying to inject so life into the governors race. I’m sure Heineman and Bruning returned the donations solely to avoid appearance of any conflicts of interest. Not because it was “Canadian” money since the subsidiary of TransCanada that made the donations is a US corporation. BTW, how is TransCanada an “oil giant”??? They are primarily a pipeline company not a crude oil exploration or production company. They have an outstanding safety record in their pipeline operations both in Canada and the US for decades.

    Why don’t you investigate Tom White’s campaign using broadcast news footage from your old employer, channel third, in a campaign ad and if his campaign had permission to use that copyrighted material???

  • Dave

    Appears this is another attempt to help out the poor Democrats in this State, by pushing this story further and further. Give it a break, the money has been returned.

  • HuskerGurl

    I cannot believe that Bruning and Heineman are so scared of the likes of Jane Kleeb that they would return a perfectly LEGAL campaign donation. C’mon boys! She just a shrill hyperbolic shriek in the wind. Stand up for your rights like men, for Pete’s sake!

    What Jane Kleeb and Bold Nebraska have done to the political climate in Nebraska is atrocious! Fear-mongering, lies and threats. Even the unions have turned against her – and she a SEIU employee (former? who knows?)

    Please, fellow Nebraskans – wake up! Lets clean this cess pool up. Stop listening to half-lies and innuendos. That campaign money was perfectly legal and everybody knows it. Shame on you Joe Jordan for buying into and spreading Jane’s rotten lies. You have become nothing more than a voice for the far-left fringe.

  • Top Dog

    Go figure the whimpublicans justify fatcat corporate donations. If the shoe were on the other foot they’d be flipping out like a teabagger that couldn’t use an expire coupon. The Grand Old Phonies!!!

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