The Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority:

The Cabal: 25 People and Companies Trying to Buy Control of the Louisiana Legislature

cabal — Pronunciation: k&-'bäl, -'bal Function: noun. 1 : the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also : a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues.

Sometime in late 2005 and early 2006 — when just about everyone else in Louisiana was working to recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita — Senator David Vitter and his wife Wendy gathered some of his strongest financial backers and laid out a plan to use the backers' deep pockets to fund a Republican takeover the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2007.

The Vitters' plan was not original. It was modeled after an organization that former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had built in Texas. Texans for A Republican Majority had successfully financed the election of a Republican majority to the Texas House of Representatives in 2003. In 2004, the group rammed through a mid-decade congressional reapportionment that at least temporarily further depleted the number of Democrats in the Texas Congressional delegation in beginning that year. Because the Texas organization violated that state's campaign finance laws, DeLay ended up in legal trouble that ultimately cost him his seat in Congress.

The Vitters' plan is based on the idea that term limits (which David Vitter helped pass as a member of the Louisiana House) would create opportunities for big Republican gains. The Louisiana Committee for A Republican Majority, as the new organization was called, would provide the financial muscle to ensure that the resources were available to the candidates that the group would help recruit.

On January 20, 2006, William J. Vanderbrook deposited $50 in a new account at First Bank & Trust Company in New Orleans in the name of the Louisiana Committee for A Republican Majority. Vanderbrook, a CPA, was the treasurer of the organization. The Chairman of the Board of First Bank & Trust, Joseph C. Canizaro, became chairman of the Louisiana Committee for A Republican Majority. It recruited Courtney Gaustella as its chief fundraiser. John Diez was hired as its CEO.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the State of Louisiana through the period ending June 4 of this year, a group of 25 people and/or companies have contributed more than $1.3 million dollars to make The Vitters' effort succeed.

These individuals have great personal wealth and have long histories of contributing to Republican candidates at the state and national levels. What's different about the LCRM is that the group is so small and its ambition is so large. Nothing like it has ever been seen in Lousiana politics.

The LCRM's 98-Percenters

The LCRM has raised large amounts of money in spurts over the last two years, with 98.3 percent of the $1,323,152 it reports having raised coming from a group of 25 individuals and companies. Most of those contributors are from Louisiana, although there are a couple of notable exceptions. Most run privately held corporations.

On March 8, 2006, the LCRM raised $175,000 in the form of seven $25,000 checks from five individuals and two companies. The individuals were: Edward Diefenthal; Joseph Canizaro; Deiter M. Hugel; Joseph T. Spinosa (all of New Orleans) and Michael Polito of MAPP Construction in Baton Rouge. The companies writing checks were Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport and Morris & Dickson Company of Shreveport.

On March 24, 2006, Phyllis Taylor (widow of Pat Taylor and head of Taylor Energy) contributed $25,000, as did Otto Candies LLC, an oilfield shipping company based in Des Allmonds.

On May 15, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Georges' Dolphin Marine International made the first of its $25,000 contributions to LCRM. On May 29, The Shaw Group contributed $50,000.

In June 2006, Thomas Turner (Turner Industries) contributed $25,000, as did Mockler Beverages. Yes, if you drink an Anheuser Busch product in the Baton Rouge area, you're supporting the LCRM. Maybe there's more to this "Drink Responsibly" movement than meets the eye?

Norman Kinsey and his son Christopher (both of Shreveport) ponied up $5,000 each in July,

Then, the pattern of giving emerged. A number of those who'd contributed $25,000 earlier in 2006, contributed similar amounts in August. Those joining the $50,000 club on August 21 were: Canizaro, Mockler Beverage, Thomas Turner, Michael Polito, Joseph Spinosa, Phyllis Taylor and Dieter M. Hugel. Five days later, they were joined by Bollinger Shipyards and Otto Candies LLC. In all, the LCRM raised $250,000 in August 2006.

Edward Diefenthal and Dolphin Marine International (Georges again) joined the $50,000 club in September. D & J Construction of West Monroe contributed $10,000 on September 15. Robert Rose Consulting of Baton Rouge contributed $5,000 on September 20.

In November, the LCRM received a pair of $100,000 checks; one from C-Logistics (owned by Edison Chouest head and minority stakeholder in the New Orleans Hornets Gary Chouest); the other from politically active Texas homebuilder Bob Perry. Richard Gardner of New Orleans contributed $10,000 on November 3, the same day that the checks from C-Logistics and Perry were recorded.

In all, LCRM raised $877,502 in 2006; $865,000 of it was from members of the cabal.

Since January 1 of this year, the following members of the cabal have contributed at least $25,000 to the LCRM: Joseph Canizaro; Phyllis Taylor; Dieter M. Hugel; Edward Diefenthal; Joseph T. Spinosa. In addition, Michael Polito's campany, MAPP Construction, contributed $25,000. Companies re-upping for $25,000 were Mockler Beverages; Otto Candies LLC; Morris & Dickson Company; Bollinger Shipyards; Dolphin Marine International.

In addition, $25,000 contributions came in from first-time contributors Gary L. Laborde of New Orleans and Ann M. Corkery of Manassas, Virginia. Former Mayor/President of East Baton Rouge Parish Bobby Simpson contributed $5,000, as did Charles Lamar.

The largest contribution to LCRM coffers this year came from Metairie-based Gray & Company, a family-owned company that has its roots in the insurance business.

Through early June of this year, LCRM has raised $445,650. Of that total, $436,000 came from 16 contributors. These wealthy individuals and companies are working to give Louisiana the best Republican Legislature money can buy.

It's almost enough to make Tom DeLay's roach-killing heart swell with pride.

More to come — Soon!

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