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Pipeline contributions may have violated federal law Gov. Dave Heineman has been hands-off when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming it’s a federal issue. That didn’t stop him from getting involved in the Republican-led effort to repeal federal health care reform. But there may be something to the federal issue, after all. Sierra Club Nebraska asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office last week to investigate whether campaign contributions to Heineman and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning from TransCanada — the Canadian company fighting to build the pipeline through the Nebraska Sandhills — violated federal law. The Nebraska Republicans each returned $2,500 contributions from the company last week, after they said they learned accepting foreign contributions was illegal. The Federal Election Campaign Act, enacted in 1974, prohibits foreign corporations from contributing funds to U.S. election campaigns. Heineman and Bruning could face fines up to $11,000 if the Federal Election Commission determines they knowingly accepted the contributions. The act defines “knowingly” as a person who is “aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to inquire whether the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national.” Sierra Club Nebraska lobbyist Ken Wilson feels that much was evident. “Canada is in their name,” Wilson says. “It’s not the TransAmerica pipeline, it’s the TransCanada pipeline. It certainly raises some questions.” The FEC requires a formal complaint to investigate campaign contributions. Wilson says Sierra Club Nebraska has been approached by numerous groups interested in filing one. The proposed pipeline would transport a half-million barrels of oil a day across Nebraska, including over the ecologically delicate Ogallala Aquifer. Report: Immigration detention system still needs work A group of more than 50 Midwest human rights organizations say human rights violations, limited legal counsel and inadequate medical care still plague immigrant detention facilities one year after President Barack Obama pledged to improve the system. In a report released Oct. 6, the coalition graded Obama’s administration below average on facility oversight, development of detention alternatives and reporting practices. “As we hear about increasing immigration enforcement, we have many clear indications that this is a system that no longer lives up to our values,” says Darcy Tromanhauser, director of Nebraska Appleseed’s Immigrant Integration and Civic Participation Program. According to the report, about 32,000 immigrants are detained each day in the U.S. Suburbs hope to put the brakes on wheel tax A group of Sarpy County leaders asked Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning last week to help them investigate the legality of Omaha’s new commuter wheel tax. Bellevue City Council president Carol Blood says there are state and federal laws that could prohibit the fee. The city is asking employers to collect the annual $50 fee from employees commuting to Omaha, but Blood believes Nebraska law prohibits employers from deducting wages without a state or federal court order. Iowa commuters could be protected under the Interstate Commerce Act. The Attorney General’s office is still reviewing the issue. The city says the tax would generate $2.8 million dollars annually for street repair. Eight robberies in 13 hours Police say John Passarelli, 26, went on a 13-hour robbery spree though midtown Omaha Saturday, holding up eight different stores before being arrested near 27th and Hamilton Sunday morning. Passarelli was booked on seven counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery. Police recovered no money at the time of arrest. Suttle supporters asked to open their checkbooks Mayor Jim Suttle blew the dust off his campaign website last week, adding a link for supporters to contribute money to fight a recall effort. Earlier this month, Suttle called the efforts of the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee “expensive, divisive, and reckless” in a statement that will appear on recall petitions. The Committee announced it would begin collecting on Oct. 21 the nearly 27,000 signatures needed to force a revote. Suttle says a recall election would cost the city up to $900,000. Shooting Rounds Investigators found a mound of shell casings and some bullet-ridden cars and homes, but no suspects near 16th and Laird on Oct. 7 after neighbors reported hearing nearly 50 shots fired. Jaron Grayer, 24, was later treated for a gunshot wound at Creighton University Medical Center. Police have made no arrests. Police arrested three teens Saturday morning after a shooting outside Cubby’s Convenience Store, 601 S. 13th St. Cody Johns, 19, was booked on suspicion of felony assault and gun-related charges. Katie Weithoner, 19, and another 17-year-old male were arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting a felony. Police reported no injuries.


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