Thursday, July 4, 2013

'Family values' State Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, who fast-tracked eminent domain seizure of Nebraska farm and ranch land by foreign oil company, didn't disclose luxurious TransCanada junket — a class IV felony

Sen. Jim Smith, of Papillion, sponsor of
LB1161, which helps TransCanada trample
property rights of Nebraska ranchers and
farmers through abuse of eminent domain.
Smith's law exempts oil companies that apply
during 2012 from complying with Nebraska's
new Major Oil Pipeline Siting act. Smith
claims, with a straight face, that his law
wasn't unconstitutionally written
specifically for TransCanada.
Jim Smith, Papillion's District 14 senator in the Unicameral, campaigned on a "family values" platform and won in part through the efforts of extremists like the Nebraska Advisory Group.
     He's also the Nebraska State Chairman of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by billionaire right-wing global warming deniers, the Koch Brothers.
     ALEC distributes "model" legislation, written by lobbyists, to state legislatures where it is introduced via puppet lawmakers like Smith.
     In 2012, Smith sponsored LB1161, which:
...exempted the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline from Nebraska's new Major Oil Pipeline Siting act for a year and would let the company condemn farmer and rancher land under eminent domain without a federal permit for its pipeline.
Naughty Senator Jim Smith didn't tell the Nebraska Accountability and
Disclosure commission about his fabulous, all-expense-paid visit to Ruth's
Chris steakhouse in Calgary, with its "mahogany wine towers," and "niches
throughout the restaurant" exhibiting "intriguingly illuminated glass art."
And the wine! And the brushed walnut limestone imported from Argentina!
A perfect place to reminisce about fast-track eminent-domain condemnation
legislation to make those stubborn Nebraska farmers and ranchers
snap to attention when they don't listen to the reasonable requests of
agents of a foreign oil company without a pipeline permit. Hope Senator
Smith doesn't get convicted of a Class IV felony, don't you?
     Smith couldn't answer question after question about LB1161 during its hearing, deferring to Trans­Canada's lawyer — leading some observers to suspect that he didn't write his own bill.
     The Center for Media and Democracy has now filed an official complaint against Senator Smith, alleging that he took gifts of travel expenses worth almost 30 times what Nebraska Senators are allowed to accept in a month. This doesn't include restaurant bills or lodging.
     From the complaint, filed by Brendan Fischer:
TransCanada May Have Provided Gifts in Excess of Statutory Limits, and Sen. Smith Did Not Disclose Gifts of Travel From the Government of Alberta
     Lobbying principals are prohibited from providing “gifts” to legislators, defined as anything valued at more than $50 in any calendar month (with certain exceptions). Neb. Rev. Stat. §49-1490 (1-3). It is not clear whether Sen. Smith directly or indirectly received gifts from Trans­Canada by way of the lobbying principal “sponsoring” the ALEC Oil Sands Academy,which potentially involved expenditures of $80,000.
     The Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission has previously held that when ALEC accepts funds from lobbyists or principals intended for the benefit of Nebraska legislators, ALEC“is acting on behalf of a lobbyist or principal.” Lobbying principals cannot evade the state ethics and lobbying laws by filtering gifts to legislators through ALEC; to do so would allow a principal to “accomplish indirectly that which could not be done directly.”
     Additionally, evidence indicates that Sen. Smith failed to disclose the gifts of travel he received from the Government of Alberta.
    ...In an email sent to the Center for Media and Democracy on May 29, 2013, Sen. Smith affirmed that he did participate in the trip to Canada in October 2012... In the email, Senator Jim Smith stated: “I covered the costs of my air travel to Canada and my lodging while travel to the oil sands region was provided by the Government of Alberta and the Canadian Ministry of Energy.”
     ... However, in September 2012, when ALEC invited legislators to participate in the “Oil Sands Academy,” it offered to pay for their lodging at the Westin Calgary and their airfare from the U.S. to Canada... The cost of lodging was $648.92 for two nights, according to an email ALEC sent to an Ohio legislator who participated in the “Academy.” ...A separate email apparently sent to all legislators attending the “Academy” lists Sen. Smith staying in the ALEC room block.
Click picture to enlarge so you can see the scrumptious entrees at the Calgary
Petroleum Club,
one of which Sen. Jim Smith may have enjoyed after the
hard work of betraying Nebraska farmers and ranchers and having to defer
annoying, mystifying questions about his bill, LB1161, to a TransCanada
lawyer to answer because he couldn't. Bother. Check out the wines! Lovely!
Right: perk enjoyed by Senator Jim Smith of Papillion for selling out the interests of Nebraska farmers and ranchers to a foreign oil company in a bill that may unconstitu­­tionally have been written for a single corporation: one totally free dinner at the Petroleum Club in Calgary!

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