Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority

Cortez The Killer:

New LCRM Finance Report Affirms Smear Strategy as Vitter Scandal Chokes Funds Flow

The new campaign finance report filed by the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM) confirms the organization's committment to launch smear campaigns against Democrats just prior to the October 20 primary even as the orgnization's fund-raising efforts took a hard hit from the prostitution scandal engulfing its co-founder Senator David Vitter.

The LCRM reported that it took in $301,650 from 11 contributors making 13 contributions between June 5 and September 10 — a decent number, but one evidently depressed by the eruption of the sex scandal focused on Vitter that erupted just before the July 4th holiday.

The organization spent more than it took in ($329,993.32) during the period even though it produced no materials that affected any race in the state. The LCRM also reported that it had endorsed no candidates, meaning that all of the money it spends on campaigns can be done so in the form of independent expenditures, which are not capped under Louisiana election law.

The numerically small special interest group ended the period with $731,601.91 on hand. How much of that will be able to be brought to bear in legislative races will depend in large measure on the organization's ability to reduce the rate at which it is burning through cash or find new sources of contributions — something that proved to be a formidable challenge in the wake of the Vitter sex scandal.

That challenge has not gotten any easier after the scandal was thrust back into full public view recently with the latest allegations from a New Orleans prostitute with whom Vitter had previously denied having a relationship.

One apparent impact of the Vitter scandal has been to dry up Louisiana sources for LCRM contributions. Only four of the 13 contributions reported received by the LCRM in the new report came from Louisiana residents or entities.

Shreveport pharmaceutical wholesale company Morris & Dickson was the only member of the previous core of contributors to LCRM who came through with a $25,000 contribution according to the new report. That contribution is notable, too, for the fact that it is the only Louisiana money the LCRM received after the Vitter scandal broke. The contribution was filed on July 23 and brought the cumulative total of Morris & Dickson contributions to $75,000.

Dawson Farms LLC of Delhi was matched Morris & Dickson's $25,000 contribution, although it was made on June 8, a few weeks before the Vitter scandal first broke.

New Orleans developer/investor Paul Flower contributed $10,000 on June 21.

Louisiana Tank, Incorporated, which is based in Lake Charles and headed by Steven M. Jordan, contributed $5,000, also on June 21.

In all, the $65,000 contributed by these Louisiana interests constituted only 21.5% of the contributions received by LCRM during the summer reporting period.

But, to what degree the failure of LCRM stalwarts Joseph Canizaro, Boysie Bollinger, Michael Polito, Mockler Beverage and others to contribute during this round represents diminished enthusiasm for the venture or strategy probably won't be known until reports are filed for the period that will end just days before the election.

Out-of-state contributors, however, forwarded checks to the LCRM at a prodigious clip.

Eward Watkins of Lexington, Massachusetts, joined Phyllis Taylor, his fellow member of the Forbes' magazine line of the 400 wealthiest Americans, in making a sizeable contribution to LCRM. Watkins wrote a check for $100,000 to LCRM that was deposited on June 8. Watkins had contributed to Vitters' 2004 Senate campaign and joined Bob Perry, C Logistics, and Grey and Company as the largest contributors to the LCRM.

Who knew that the northern rich and reclusive sat around fretting about the matter of who controls the Louisiana Legislature?

California horseman/rancher William Robinson contributed $50,000 which was deposited on July 23, weeks after the Vitter scandal became general public knowledge. Robinson also had donated to the 2005 Vitter senate campaign as well as numerous other Republican candidates and causes before becoming enamored with the LCRM.

Virginia attorney Ann M. Corkery matched Robinson's $50,000 with separate $25,000 contributions where were deposited on June 21 and July 23 respectively. That brought Corkery's total LCRM contributions to $75,000.

Boca Raton, Florida-based private prison company The GEO Group gave $25,000 in two contributions. The first contribution was for $10,000 on June 28 while the second was for $15,000 on August 22. That was the last contribution the LCRM reported receiving in the reporting period. The company, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections operates private prison facilities in Louisiana.

The LCRM drew some national PAC money as well in this round. The PAC of delivery company UPS contributed $5,000 on June 8, which was matched on the same day by the US Chamber of Commerce's PAC.

Down the Stretch They Come!

Whether the LCRM pulls in more money in the final stages of the campaign will only affect how heavy a smear campaign it can wage against Democrats in the various races it chooses to pursue. The fact that all the money appears to be earmarked for use as unregulated independent expenditures indicates that the LCRM's hired brain trust believes that cash flow might not improve but merely allow the organization to continue its research and polling operations at present levels before those efforts are launched.

Democrats are in no position to try to match the LCRM's spending, but could — and should — use the time between now and the final days of the campaign to warn voters about the impending smear jobs that the LCRM will launch against their candidates in the last week or so of the campaign.

That kind of pre-emptive campaign could serve to inoculate voters against the smear and in so doing reduce the effectiveness of the LCRM strategy which is based on the idea of playing the meanest game of hard ball with the deepest pockets late in the campaign when there is not enough time to respond and the media has gone into its self-imposed refusal to cover campaign tactics in the final days leading up to the election.

The LCRM is laboring under the impact of a wound inflicted upon it by its visionary and co-founder, Senator David Vitter. What must be galling to LCRM's in-state funders is that this is the kind of wound that Louisiana Democrats were not capable of inflicting on their organization. Instead it came from their leader and it could end up costing them dearly.

More to come — Soon!

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Louisiana Democrat2Democrat by Mike Stagg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.