Republican mayoral candidate Jean Stothert decided Saturday to contribute $1,275 to an Omaha charity after questions were raised by a rival about a 2008 donation she received from a firefighters union.
Dan Welch, also a GOP candidate for mayor, said it appeared the money was “laundered” through a Missouri firefighters union to hide the fact that the donation to Stothert came from the Omaha firefighters union.
The Stothert campaign rejected that claim, but said since Stothert has no recollection of the donation, it will give the exact amount received in 2008 to Bethlehem House in Omaha, a home for pregnant women.
The issue arose, in large part, because Stothert has consistently said she has not accepted money from public employees unions.
She stood by that Saturday, noting the donation in question was given to her failed 2006 legislative campaign.
Stothert and Welch are among five candidates running for Omaha mayor in Tuesday’s primary.
Click here to view The World-Herald's mayor guide.
The issue of the donation arose last Thursday when Welch asked Stothert about it at a forum.
The controversy dates to the spring of 2008, when the Omaha firefighters union gave $1,275 to an out-of-state group, according to reports filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.
The out-of-state group was Taxpayers Unlimited Inc., political arm of a Kansas City, Mo., firefighters union, according to Steve LeClair, president of the Omaha union.
The Missouri group then gave the money to Stothert’s legislative committee.
Stothert’s committee remained active because it was in debt. The contribution from the firefighters helped pay off that debt.
In the fall of 2008, Stothert opened her bid for Omaha City Council. At the time, she said she would not accept money from any public employee unions. She said it’s wrong for city officials to accept money from unions whose contracts come before the City Council.
She has stood by that promise, said Ryan Horn, Stothert campaign manager.
Horn said Stothert did not have any recollection of the Missouri donation, noting it happened five years ago.
Welch said he found it hard to believe Stothert could not recall a donation from an out-of-state group.
“I’m very surprised she doesn’t remember that,’’ he said. “It doesn’t make sense. I guess we’ll take her at her word.”
Contact the writer: 402-444-1309, email@example.com