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Pipeline contributions may have violated federal law

Gov. Dave Heineman has been hands-off when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming it’s a federal issue. That didn’t stop him from getting involved in the Republican-led effort to repeal federal health care reform. But there may be something to the federal issue, after all. Sierra Club Nebraska asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office last week to investigate whether campaign contributions to Heineman and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning from TransCanada — the Canadian company fighting to build the pipeline through the Nebraska Sandhills — violated federal law. The Nebraska Republicans each returned $2,500 contributions from the company last week, after they said they learned accepting foreign contributions was illegal. The Federal Election Campaign Act, enacted in 1974, prohibits foreign corporations from contributing funds to U.S. election campaigns. Heineman and Bruning could face fines up to $11,000 if the Federal Election Commission determines they knowingly accepted the contributions. The act defines “knowingly” as a person who is “aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to inquire whether the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national.” Sierra Club Nebraska lobbyist Ken Wilson feels that much was evident. “Canada is in their name,” Wilson says. “It’s not the TransAmerica pipeline, it’s the TransCanada pipeline. It certainly raises some questions.” The FEC requires a formal complaint to investigate campaign contributions. Wilson says Sierra Club Nebraska has been approached by numerous groups interested in filing one. The proposed pipeline would transport a half-million barrels of oil a day across Nebraska, including over the ecologically delicate Ogallala Aquifer.

posted at 11:14 pm
on Sunday, October 24th, 2010

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