REQUESTED BY: The Honorable Rod Johnson, Senator, 34th District, State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
QUESTION: May a Senator use campaign funds to pay rent for an apartment in Lincoln during the course of legislative session?
The residence of the Senator requesting the advisory opinion is Harvard, Nebraska. He advises that he has signed a six-month lease for an apartment in Lincoln to serve as a "temporary residence for him during, and only during, the legislative session."
Section 49-1446.02 provides, among other matters, that a candidate committee shall not expend or transfer funds for the payment or mortgage or rental payments for a permanent residence of a candidate.
Section 49-1446.01 specifies that a candidate committee may not expend or transfer funds except to make an expenditure as defined in Section 49-1419 and, among other matters, for obtaining public input and opinion.
Section 49-1419 provides that an expenditure is anything of value for goods, materials, services or facilities in assistance of or in opposition to the nomination or election of a candidate. . . and includes the transfer of anything of monetary value for purposes of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate . . .
Even though Section 49-1446.02 does not specifically prohibit such an expenditure if the residence in question is determined to be temporary as distinguished from permanent, nevertheless, Section 49-1446.01 requires such expenditure to be for goods, materials, services or facilities in assistance of, or in opposition to, the nomination or election of a candidate, or for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate and pursuant to subsection (1) thereof for obtaining public input and opinion.
Section 49-1409 provides that an elected officeholder shall, if eligible under law, be considered to be a candidate for reelection to the same office. This section recognizes that the nature of holding elected public office is political. And, in this sense, it could be said that he is campaigning and obtaining public input and opinion no matter where he is or stays. However, this does not change the fact that renting such an apartment is primarily a personal living expense. Therefore, we believe that Section 49-1446.01 must be construed to prohibit using campaign funds to rent an apartment in Lincoln during the legislative session.