TD Ameritrade scion Pete Ricketts, now Nebraska's GOP governor, didn't like the fact that the Nebraska Unicameral overrode his veto of its removal of the state's death penalty, so he spent $200,000 (and his father kicked in another $100,000) to a paid petition drive to put the law on hold and reinstate Nebraska's death penalty on the next election's ballot as a constitutional amendment.
Now his organization, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, faces a lawsuit seeking to negate the signature drive because the organization played fast and loose with requirements of Nebraska's initiative statute, which requires that there be a sworn list of every sponsor.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty calls the just-filed lawsuit by Nebraskans for Public Safety (a opposing group) over the violation "frivolous" and a "technicality," despite the fact that in 2003 the Nebraska Supreme Court quashed an initiative which would have legalized video keno games for exactly such "frivolous" reasons.
The World-Herald notes that Ricketts is also alleged in the lawsuit to have violated his oath of office by seeking to overturn a state law, rather than working to uphold it.
“The governor’s sponsorship of the referendum would show formally that rather than prepare to support, enforce and execute this duly passed law, he has instead aligned himself, his political allies and persons directly controlled and organized by him and sponsored this referendum,” stated the lawsuit, filed in Lancaster County District Court.Ricketts was unavailable for comment as he is absent from the state again on a "trade mission" to China and Japan, shortly after returning from a similar jaunt through Europe.
“He has with his personal and family fortune largely financed the attempt to do away with a law he disfavors.”
The lawsuit said the governor told state lawmakers that if they didn’t uphold his veto of the death penalty repeal, a referendum would be launched.
Here's the press release from Nebraskans For Public Safety:
Nebraskans for Public Safety files lawsuit challenging death penalty referendumSeptember 17, 2015 - For Immediate Release
Contact: Alan Peterson, General Counsel, Nebraskans for Public Safety, 402-416-3633 firstname.lastname@example.org NEBRASKANS FOR PUBLIC SAFETY FILES LAWSUIT CHALLENGING DEATH PENALTY REFERENDUM
LINCOLN, Neb – Nebraskans for Public Safety filed suit in Lancaster County District Court today challenging the legal sufficiency of the death penalty referendum petition. The suit was filed on behalf of Lincoln residents and longtime death penalty opponents Christy and Richard Hargesheimer who are taxpayers concerned about the petition process. The named defendants are Secretary of State John Gale in his official capacity, Aimee Melton, Bob Evnen, Judy Glasburner, and Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Inc. Click here to view a copy of the initial filing: http://nebraskansforpublicsafety.org/uploads/Complaint_FILE_STAMPED.pdf
The legal team representing the Hargesheimers include some of Nebraska’s leading and experienced attorneys: Alan Peterson, Jerry Soucie, Amy Miller, and Christopher Eickholt.
“All Nebraskans support our robust tradition of direct democracy-including referendum campaigns. However, all Nebraskans also want a fair process where everyone plays by the rules. In the case of the death penalty referendum it is clear that Governor Ricketts and his supporters failed to do their due diligence and appeared to have cut corners. That undermines the integrity of the referendum process and that has legal consequences,” said Alan Peterson, lead counsel.
“We look forward to having our day in court and defending a fair process for everyone. Nebraskans know the death penalty is broken beyond repair and belongs in our past. Powerful interests like the Governor are not entitled to their own set of rules to pursue their own political objectives. We are looking forward to having these issues decided outside of the political arena and before an impartial judiciary,” said Christy Hargesheimer.
Nebraskans for Public Safety is a campaign committee organized to oppose the death penalty referendum. It is a statewide coalition conducting public education on smart alternatives to the death penalty -- such as life in prison without parole -- that put public safety first. Members include fiscal conservatives, faith leaders, victims’ families, and traditional death penalty opponents. Visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.