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Pete and Joe Ricketts have contributed $200,000 to pro-death penalty group

Pete and Joe Ricketts have contributed $200,000 to pro-death penalty group

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LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts and his father, T.D. Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, have contributed a total of $200,000 of the $244,000 raised so far by a group seeking a referendum to retain Nebraska’s death penalty.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty released some preliminary figures Friday on contributions and expenditures, ahead of a Tuesday deadline to report its financials to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

Chris Peterson, a spokesman for the referendum group, said that while the organization is grateful for the support from the governor and his father, more donations are needed.

“We’re hoping that more Nebraskans step forward and lend a hand to help save the death penalty,” Peterson said.

The preliminary figures showed that Nebraskans for the Death Penalty spent $217,537 so far this month, with $192,129 of it paid to an Arizona firm that has hired dozens of paid petition circulators.

Peterson, a former spokesman for Republican Gov. Mike Johanns, was paid $5,000 for his work this month, with $7,000 paid to Jessica Moenning, a political consultant on the private payroll of Gov. Ricketts. She is helping manage the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty campaign.

Pete and Joe Ricketts have been generous donors to political campaigns in the past and were among 12 donors who gave more than $250 each to the referendum. Two other large donors were Omaha business executive Michael Cassling, who gave $25,000, and the Omaha Police Union, which contributed $10,000.

The release comes a week after an anti-death penalty coalition called Nebraskans for Public Safety reported receiving a $400,000 donation from a Massachusetts-based social justice group called Proteus Action League.

The pro-death penalty group formed after the Nebraska Legislature overrode a veto last month by the Republican governor to repeal capital punishment.

The group faces an Aug. 27 deadline to gather at least 57,500 valid signatures of registered voters to force a referendum on the issue during the 2016 general election.

If the group can gather 115,000 signatures, it would place the repeal law on hold until the referendum is held.

The group has projected that it might have to spend $900,000 or more to get the issue on the ballot.

A similar amount of money was spent in 2014 to qualify an initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Peterson said that even though the governor and his father have given more than 80 percent of the funds raised so far, the group has widespread support.

He said the group would have paid circulators at several events across the state this weekend, including Old Settlers Day in North Bend and the Diller Picnic in Diller.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9584, paul.hammel@owh.com

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