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Fire union speaks with dollars, not words

You’d think with Nebraska on the precipice of becoming the next Wisconsin battlefield over unions, the Lincoln firefighters union would be an active participant in the municipal campaign now in full swing.

But they’ve been unusually quiet. No announcements of endorsements (which come with up to $15,000 campaign contributions), no reports of firefighters campaigning door-to-door for their favorite candidates. What’s up?

Certainly, the fire union’s last labor contract with the city of Lincoln — which gives some of them up to 11 percent in raises — led to a lot of raised eyebrows and unfavorable press. Perhaps they feel it’s better to lay low this election.

However, the fire union is still spending money on the campaign, although through different channels. State campaign finance reports show the Lincoln Firefighters Association PAC contributed $30,000 to the Nebraska Democratic Party in March. In other recent city elections, the fire union has donated directly to candidates. But this campaign, so far they have given their money to the state Dems — who in turn have spent money in support of Mayor Chris Beutler and Councilman Jonathan Cook. (That’s as of March 21, those numbers will undoubtedly change by Election Day.)

The only campaign money I could find from the fire union to support a candidate was $2,289 in support of Bobbi Kosmicki — who’s running against the fire union’s nemesis, Republican Jon Camp, in southeast Lincoln.

Beutler also gave the state party $12,560.

All of which indicates to me that the fire union is still very much a factor in this election, but they’re trying to keep a low profile by giving money through other conduits.

The campaign finance reports also indicate the Lancaster County Democrats are not very involved (not in receiving or spending money, anyway).

(One interesting side note: While I was trolling the spending reports, I came across a $75,000 donation the Ohio Democratic Party gave the Nebraska Democratic Party in October. )

Another curiosity: The state records indicate the Lincoln Firefighters PAC dissolved itself not long after giving that 30 grand. I’ve emailed the union head to ask why.

The reports indicate the Republican Party hasn’t spent much money on its Republican candidates for the City Council. As of April 5, the Lancaster County Republican Party had only donated $500 to Travis Nelson and $500 to Melissa Hilty. And get this, they gave a whopping $150 to Republican mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington. Go figure.

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