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Ricketts shells out $3.8 million on politics in his final year as Nebraska governor

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Pete Ricketts’ time as Nebraska governor is coming to an end, but after spending over $3.8 million in the last 11 months, he will likely have an influence on the future of state leadership for years to come.

His 2022 contributions have included over a dozen six-figure donations to various campaigns and political groups both in and out of state, according to state and federal disclosure filings.

A spokesperson for Ricketts did not respond to a request for comment Friday. The two-term Republican governor and former TD Ameritrade executive, who in 2018 put his net worth at roughly $50 million, is traveling to Japan this week to receive a national recognition.

Ricketts’ largest contribution this year came just before the May primary election: a $775,000 donation to the political action committee Conservative Nebraska. In total, Ricketts gave nearly $1.28 million to the PAC.

Conservative Nebraska ran attack ads against Republican gubernatorial candidates Charles W. Herbster and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha before the primary. The two candidates were the chief opponents of the eventual winner, Jim Pillen, who Ricketts endorsed.

Ricketts, who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection, also donated $100,000 directly to Pillen’s campaign in January. Ricketts has not donated any money directly to Pillen’s campaign since his victory in the primary.

The governor’s most recent major contributions went to another newly founded PAC, the Nebraska Future Action Fund, of which Ricketts has been the only significant donor so far. He has given a total of $514,000 to the group.

Since September, the PAC has issued three attack ads, according to its website — one against Sen. Matt Williams’ campaign for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, another against Greg Gonzalez’s campaign for Douglas County sheriff and the final against Sen. Wendy DeBoer’s reelection campaign for Nebraska Legislature. Gonzalez and DeBoer are registered Democrats, while Williams is a registered Republican going up against a fellow Republican in the regents race.

Along with many other contributions made to local groups, Ricketts also recently shelled out thousands to several groups outside Nebraska, including $250,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and over $255,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Many have speculated about whether Ricketts will make a bid for federal office after his term ends in January, especially with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse’s seat set to open up following his expected appointment as the next president of the University of Florida. Ricketts has largely refrained from commenting on his future plans, saying he is focused on his job as governor.

The news outlet Politico reported Thursday that Ricketts, in an interview, expressed fondness of the U.S. Senate. He acknowledged a move from the Nebraska Governor’s Office to Washington could require a “mind frame shift,” according to Politico.

Ricketts ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2006, losing to incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson.

Another non-Nebraska contribution was $250,000 to Show Me Values, a conservative PAC based in Missouri.

One common recipient of Ricketts’ money was the Nebraska GOP, but all contributions from the Ricketts family to the party have halted since the controversial state GOP convention in July, which saw a mass exodus of party leadership that many viewed as an act of resistance against Ricketts. The lack of financial contributions from Ricketts has contributed to an overall massive decline in donations to the party.

Although Ricketts has not contributed directly to the state GOP, he did donate $20,000 to the Douglas County Republican Party in October.

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The Lincoln Journal Star reaches out to candidates in contested general election races and asks them to provide biographical information and answer questions relevant to the offices they seek.

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