In an October 16 article in New Orleans' Gambit Weekly, John Diez, the man who fronts the company that is paid to operate the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM), proclaimed that the LCRM was doing something new and innovative in Louisiana politics; that, through a combination of polling and software development they were on the verge of transforming Louisiana politics.
Diez told Gambit Weekly that people should watch the LCRM post-primary campaign finance report to see just how active they were. Well, the post-primary report is in and, so too, is an assessment of the LCRM's handy work.
A thread connects the LCRM's in-kind contributions October 3rd report, in-kind contributions and direct contributions in the October 6th report, to details contained in the November 6th report's schedules on expenditures and direct contributions to candidates. Taken together, these elements suggest that LCRM has violated campaign finance laws in its coordination of expenditures with 11 Republican House campaigns leading up to the October 20th primary.
The November 6th Report
Let's begin at the end.
The November 6th LCRM campaign finance report indicates that they spent $565,738.07 in October. It's a pretty impressive number, but what's striking is how little of that money made its way into campaigns. Only $42,100 went directly to candidates; $522,638.07 went to other expenses, some of which went to attack ads, mailers and phone banking operations against 13 candidates that the LCRM targeted for defeat.
Of that $500,000-plus in expenditures, $271,684.10 was spent on direct mail, radio, phone banking, and (in two races) cable advertising by the LCRM. The detailed schedule of the LCRM's expenditures shows that the organization was active in other races beyond the 13 targeted races listed on the main page of the November 6th report (see "Targeted by the LCRM" graphic).
The LCRM November 6th expenditure schedule shows that the group was active in 19 House races and one Senate race. The schedule for contributions made directly to candidates shows that the $42,100 LCRM contributed went to 12 campaigns.
The October 9th Report
The LCRM's October 9th campaign finance report documents the close association between the organization and certain House Republican campaigns.
Schedule E-2 in that report lists three in-kind contributions, including two campaigns that would later be among the 19 beneficiaries of the LCRM's supposedly "independent" expenditures. The three campaigns listed as in-kind beneficiaries are: Anthony Ligi, HD 79 (software); Joe Harrison, HD 51 (polling data); and Jonathan Perry, HD 47 (polling data). A number of campaigns received software from the LCRM, dating back to the September report. However, sharing polling data with campaigns as was done with the campaigns of Harrison and Perry represents a higher level of engagement with those campaigns than had not been seen up to that point.
Schedule E-4 in that report shows direct contributions to four campaigns: J.C. Warren, HD 37 ($570); Michael McMyne, HD 92 ($3,500); Al Carter HD 55 ($5,000); and Kirby Roy III, HD 28 ($3,400). Of these four campaigns, the LCRM spent media money on its so-called independent media campaign only on Roy in HD 28.
The September 20th Report (version 3)
The LCRM filed three versions of the report due on September 20th. It is only in the final version that the LCRM's in-kind contributions to campaigns came into public view. There were 28 campaigns and one PAC on that list (see graphic). Mitch Theriot's HD 54 campaign was the only one listed as receiving money directly from the LCRM.
Interestingly, it took the LCRM's professional accountant three tries to get the list of the in-kind recipients into the report. The fact that this 'difficulty' kept the names of LCRM-affiliated campaigns concealed for an additional two weeks past the required reporting date would only be considered a happy coincidence by LCRM supporters, but two weeks is a hell of a long time in the final month of a campaign. If you believe this was an accident or coincidence, I've got some beachfront property in Cameron that didn't get flooded by Rita to sell you.
Those 28 candidates/campaigns won the LCRM in-kind contribution of a campaign handbook by attending the candidate workshop the organization held in Alexandria in late July or early August. But, the campaigns at that workshop which grabbed the full attention of the LCRM got access to the software program the organization had paid GCR & Associates to write.
There were 14 of those lucky campaigns: Theriot in HD 54; McMyme in HD 92; Kirby Roy, HD 28; Gerald Long, SD 31; Nickie Monica, HD 57; Chris Hazel, HD 27; Danyelle Taylor, HD 83; Frank Howard, HD 24; Jack Causey, HD 30; Rick Nowlin, HD 23; Patrick Connick, HD 84; Raymond LaLonde, HD 39; Ronnie Broughton, HD 10; and Jonathan Perry, HD 47. Connick got elected without opposition.
Every candidate who received software from the LCRM, also got money, polling data, and/or was a beneficiary of the LCRM's "independent" expenditures.
Hiding Between the Reporting Periods
In the final two weeks before the primary, immediately in the wake of filing the October 9th report (which covered the period from September 11 through September 30), the LCRM rolled into action.
According to the November 6th report, on October 3 the LCRM distributed $42,100 in direct contributions to candidates. The 12 getting that money were: Danyelle Taylor; Frank Howard; Gerald Long; Jack Causey; Chris Hazel; Lance Maxwell; Stan Neatherly (HD 14); Raymond LaLonde; Richard Burford; Rick Nowlin; Ronnie Broughton; and Sam Little. Of those 12, ten were among the 19 beneficiaries of LCRM's 'independent' expenditures. Long and Neatherly were left out. Long won his head-up race outright. Neatherly missed the runoff in a three-man race.
The direct contributions from LCRM came in addition to the individual and LLC-based contributions being made by LCRM members to some of these same campaigns.
It's the Cash and In-Kinds, Stupid!
What is at issue here is not necessarily the amounts of the independent expenditures, but the depth of the relationship between the LCRM and the individual campaigns.
For instance, LCRM spent $15,633.68 on independent expenditures in support of Mike Walsworth's District 33 Senate campaign. There are no other reported contributions from LCRM to Walsworth's campaign; in this case, the independent contributions appear to be just that. They spent $19,237.08 for direct mail in Don Trahan's race in HD 31; but there is no indication of other LCRM involvement in that campaign in the reports submitted by the organization.
But, the in-kind contributions made to the 11 campaigns named here in particularly, the gifts of the software indicate a deeper entanglement of those campaigns with the LCRM. Was training necessary to use this software? If so, who provided it? Who paid for the training? Where did it take place?
The fact that the LCRM provided at least two campaigns with the results of polls conducted in the respective districts (which, no doubt, must have also formed the basis of the advertising the LCRM ran in conjunction with those campaigns) indicates a still-deeper entanglement.
So, it is the combination of sophisticated in-kind contributions with direct contributions to a select number of campaigns that call into question whether the LCRM's supposed "independent expenditures" in fact meet the standard set by Louisiana campaign finance law and the State Board of Ethics.
As a large PAC, LCRM would be limited to $5,000 in contributions to campaigns. The cash contributions made on October 3 all fall under that threshold. However, the deeper LCRM connections signified by the in-kind gifts indicate more extensive coordination of effort between those campaigns and the LCRM. And it is the depth and extent of that coordination that calls into question the legality of the money LCRM spent on behalf of these campaigns.
There is a possibly telling error in the LCRM report filed on November 6. On the main page of the report, the LCRM lists the campaigns and candidates they oppose (see "Targeted by LCRM"). The report does not indicate that the LCRM is supporting any candidate, only opposing Democrats and others running against Republican candidates.
On the schedule of expenditures, the direct mail, radio, phone bank and cable spending is not allocated according to the supposedly targeted opponents. Instead, the spending was allocated to the Republican candidates on whose behalf the spending was being done. A small thing, but yet another indication of the way the LCRM viewed their work.
The LCRM media spending was an extension of their work for the Republican campaigns campaigns for which they had provided training for the candidates and staffs; provided resources and tools; provided intelligence in the form of polling data. These were also the campaigns that LCRM members had backed with their personal and corporate dollars. The direct mail, radio, phone banks and cable were coordinated with the campaigns just as the other help the LCRM and its members had provided them had been.
The bulk of the $271,684.10 the LCRM spent on indirect expenditures in the last two weeks leading up to the October 20 election was on behalf of those 11 campaigns with which the organization had the deepest operational ties. It appears that they crossed a legal limit with the contributions to those campaigns.
The graphic at the top of this page shows the 11 campaigns in question with the contributions entangling them with the LCRM.
Governor-elect Jindal has said repeatedly that Louisiana needs to rid itself of even the hint of ethical impropriety.
Looks like he needs to talk to his friends at the LCRM about reining in their activities. He'll probably get around to it shortly after this weekend's run-off election. After all, he's hard at work on that ethics agenda.