LINCOLN, Neb. — Gov. Pete Ricketts has given another $100,000 to a ballot campaign seeking to reinstate the death penalty in Nebraska after lawmakers abolished the punishment over his veto last year, according to fundraising numbers released Tuesday.
The contribution brings the governor’s total donation to $300,000 since Nebraskans for the Death Penalty launched a statewide ballot drive to overturn the Legislature’s decision.
The campaign had raised more than $1.2 million as of last week, according to its filing with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. A group working to keep the death penalty off the books collected more than twice as much, with nearly $2.7 million.
Ricketts’ father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, contributed $100,000 to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty last year but has not given since Jan. 1.
“The death penalty remains a critical tool to protect public safety, and this will help raise awareness that Nebraskans who support the death penalty will need to vote to repeal (the repeal law) to keep the death penalty,” the governor said in a statement.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty also reported another $100,000 donation from the Judicial Crisis Network, a Washington-based conservative group focused on the judiciary. Last year, the group contributed $300,000. The Denver-based group Citizens for a Sound Government gave another $50,000 on top of the $125,000 it contributed last year.
The death penalty opposition group Retain a Just Nebraska reported donations from more than 2,600 people, including $10,000 from the late Democratic philanthropist Dick Holland and $500 from actress Susan Sarandon.
“After blanketing the state the past few months, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on statewide television, radio and digital advertising, we are confident Nebraskans are understanding the same issues their elected representatives did when they voted to end a failed and costly government program,” said Dan Parsons, spokesman for Retain a Just Nebraska.
Nebraska hasn’t executed an inmate since 1997, using the electric chair, and has never carried one out using its current lethal injection protocol. Opponents argue that the punishment wastes tax dollars because of seemingly endless legal and logistical challenges that have kept the state from imposing it.
Supporters say the punishment is used judiciously and can be restored once state officials obtain the necessary drugs. State officials have floated other options, such as changing the state’s three-drug protocol to gain access to drugs that are easier to obtain.
Ricketts announced last year that his administration would not move forward with any executions until voters have decided whether to overturn the Legislature’s decision and reinstate the death penalty. Nebraska currently has 10 men on death row.