Papillion State Sen. Jim Smith faces ethics complaint over trip to Canada -
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 10:24 am
Papillion State Sen. Jim Smith faces ethics complaint over trip to Canada

LINCOLN — A Wisconsin watchdog group filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against a Papillion state senator, alleging that he failed to disclose gifts he received on a trip to the tar-sands oil region of Canada.

State Sen. Jim Smith said he expected scrutiny of the trip and had sought, and followed, the advice of Nebraska officials in reporting his expenses.

“It was my understanding we followed that and reported everything properly,” Smith said.

The complaint, filed by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal organization, focuses on an October 2012 trip that Smith and eight other American state legislators took to Alberta. The legislators visited tar-sands oil facilities and talked to oil industry officials, including officials of TransCanada Inc., the developer of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The trip was sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization of state legislators and corporate members.

The Center for Media and Democracy recently reported on the ALEC “Oil Sands Academy” as part of a series of stories critical of the organization, its ties to corporations such as TransCanada and its influence on legislation introduced across the country.

Smith, who is ALEC’s public sector chairman in Nebraska, failed to disclose $1,447 in expenses for an airplane ride from Calgary to the tar-sands oil facilities provided by the Alberta government and an unknown second sponsor, according to the complaint filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

“It seems like there was limited disclosure and transparency,” said Brendan Fischer, legal counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy.

Smith said he had receipts showing that he paid for the airplane flight to Calgary and for hotel accommodations.

He said he was informed by officials with the accountability commission that any flights within Canada during the trip were “incidental” and did not have to be disclosed.

He said he planned to double-check today, in case that was not correct.

Smith’s annual report did not include any expenses related to the trip.

Frank Daley, executive director of the accountability commission, said he could not comment directly on a complaint. But he said a violation of state ethics laws could result in a civil fine of up to $2,000, an order to cease and desist or an order to amend a gift disclosure document.

Lobbying interests, such as TransCanada, are barred by state law from providing gifts, such as plane trips, of more than $50 per month to a state lawmaker.

Smith, who has been a leading supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline, said he backs the “free market” ideals promoted by ALEC.

The proposed Keystone XL, which would travel through Nebraska, would carry oil extracted from tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas.

Contact the writer: Paul Hammel    |   402-473-9584    |  

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues and helps coordinate the same.

Read more related stories
Teen who worked as a cook is killed in shooting at Benson's Gallagher Park
Sweet deal on suite use has MECA board looking at written rules
Finally. Spring expected to return, stick around. No, really: Warmer-than-average weather in forecast
Home alone: When burglar broke in, 12-year-old locked herself in bathroom, called 911
City Council OKs redevelopment plan for north downtown project
Inmate accused of partially tearing off another's testicles charged with assault
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
Lawyer: Man had right to hand out religious fliers outside Pinnacle Bank Arena
Firefighters put out duplex blaze in N.W. Omaha
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
Coffee with a Cop set for Thursday in Benson
In TV ad, Shane Osborn says Ben Sasse 'beholden to Washington'
Douglas County offices accepting credit, debit cards
Ben Sasse raises more money than U.S. Senate foes Shane Osborn and Sid Dinsdale
Parched Omaha soil soaks up record precipitation
Engineering student harnesses girl power, starts engineering-science club at Gomez Elementary
WB Dodge Street lane closed
Ex-Omaha Mayor Hal Daub endorses Shane Osborn for U.S. Senate seat
New Doane College program promises free tuition for first class
No more last-minute hiring of Omaha Public Schools teachers
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Lunar eclipse was visible in the Omaha area
2 arrested in west Omaha hotel TV thefts
You can tape a cable TV access show at new city-built studio in Omaha
< >
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Breaking Brad: Hey, Republicans, are you ready to be audited?
A quick list of audit red flags: 3) You fail to sign your return. 2) You fail to report income. 1) You are a registered Republican.
Breaking Brad: Next year, Bo Pelini brings a mountain lion to the spring game
Before the spring game, Bo Pelini carried a cat onto the field. With Bo's personality, it'd have been more appropriate for him to carry a mountain lion.
Breaking Brad: Bo Pelini's cat lets spring game intro go to its head
Coach Bo Pelini took the field before the spring game holding a cat aloft. Typical cat. He was undoubtedly thinking, “Sixty thousand people, all cheering for me!”
Kelly: 3 former Nebraskans all take seats at the table of international diplomacy
Three former residents of the Cornhusker State are working together at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and one took part in a recent high-level meeting about Ukraine.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »