Vitter Hasn’t Forgotten Senate

Jeremy Alford Monday, November 10, 2014 0
Vitter Hasn’t Forgotten Senate

While he may be focused on running for governor in 2015, U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Metairie hasn’t lost sight of his gig in D.C., which includes a possible chairmanship in the near future, and the process of raising money for his federal accounts.

As the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, sources close to Vitter say he could be in line for its chairmanship, should Republicans take control of the upper chamber following the current election cycle.

“But depending on how things shake out, like how people get moved around and seniority, he could end up as chair of another committee,” said the Washington source.

That could create an interesting argument against Vitter as he runs for governor — one that would work like the claims that senior Sen. Mary Landrieu should remain in the Senate due to her chairmanship of the Energy Committee.

Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, is running for re-election this fall, and is being challenged by leading Republicans Congressman Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness.

While his naysayers could argue that Vitter should stay in D.C., either to complement Landrieu’s gavel or to make up for her loss, Vitter could counter that he wants to parlay that D.C. influence into a governorship, or that it’s an example of his effectiveness.

Right now, Vitter is continuing to raise money for his federal accounts, beginning with his Louisiana Reform PAC, which is a leadership committee.

He has a Disney World event scheduled for November to benefit the PAC. At $3,000 per head, participants get to schmooze with Mickey and Goofy at the Four Seasons Resort. Golf with the senator is included, as is a Saturday night “Hoop-Dee-Doo Barbecue and Musical Revue.”

The PAC had about $17,000 in cash on hand at the end of the second quarter, during which $56,500 was raised.

As for his own federal campaign finance account, it collected $31,000 in the second quarter, and reported nearly $810,000 in the bank.

Charles R. Spies, director of the Fund for Louisiana’s Future super PAC, which is supporting Vitter’s run for governor but is prohibited from interacting with the campaign, said recently that the super PAC has $1.7 million in the bank, and raised $624,000 last quarter.

Vitter has not yet filed a campaign finance report on the state level this year.


Dems To Ignore Edwards

Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats aren’t expected to follow suit.

The state party offered its endorsement following a vote of its central committee. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps fund and promote House races around the country, follows a different set of guidelines.

And it appears the DCCC is steering clear of the 6th Congressional District, a national party source has told LaPolitics.

While Edwards’ campaign has enjoyed wide and far recognition, from New Yorker magazine to CNN, it doesn’t fall into any of the categories that draw the DCCC into a state with money in hand.

“There’s a three-tier system in determining which races to back,” the source said. “The first, known as ‘Frontline,’ focuses on incumbents. Then, it’s whether the seat could flip from red to blue. Finally, it needs to be an emerging race. It’s a steep uphill climb in the 6th, where Mitt Romney won 66 percent in 2012, and John McCain won 68 percent in 2008.”

That means Edwards will have to largely run on his own dime, with a small assist from the state party. As of early August, Edwards had raised $255,000 and spent $109,000. There was $145,000 remaining in his campaign finance account.

There’s been some pushback to the state party for endorsing Edwards, who spent eight years in federal prison for racketeering and other charges.

Times-Picayune columnist and former Democratic operative Bob Mann reacted by changing his party registration to “none.”

In a blog post, Mann wrote, “As someone who believes Louisiana needs two strong political parties, so as to function like a representative democracy, (the) endorsement further drove the Louisiana Democratic Party into irrelevance. In announcing the endorsement, the state Democratic Party chair, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, didn’t mention Edwards by name.”

Not to be outdone, 6th District candidate Cassie Felder, a Republican attorney from Baton Rouge, protested by printing yard signs that told voters “Don’t Vote For The Crook — It’s Important!” It’s a play on the slogan — “Vote for the crook. It’s important.” — from Edwards’ 1991 run for governor against Klansman David Duke.

“They passed over two other Democrats who qualified for this election, Richard Lieberman and Peter Williams, to support an unrepentant convicted felon,” Felder said. “Amazing.”


Firm Questions AG’s Rejection 

A letter signed by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell rejecting outside counsel for the Cameron Parish Police Jury in its efforts to sue oil and gas companies wasn’t made known to the law firm in question until it was entered as supplemental evidence in similar proceedings.

The Baton Rouge law firm of Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello is also the lead in nearly identical suits filed by the parish councils in Jefferson and Plaquemines. They’re seeking judgments for coastal damages brought about by alleged violations of the state’s coastal zone act.

“I find it very, very strange that a letter written to me was received via a filing by oil companies in the Plaquemines case, which is unrelated to the Cameron case,” said attorney Vic Marcello. “They had it before I did. This needs to be investigated.”

Laura Gerdes Colligan, Caldwell’s spokesperson, said, “We are going to have to let the rejection letter serve as our comment.”

In his letter, Caldwell claimed that the law firm in the Plaquemines case claimed to represent the state as well as the parish, and had no standing to do so. Marcello said his firm is preparing a more thorough response, but feels confident it was justified in the statements made in that case, as well as the one involving Jefferson.

It’s a change of pace for Caldwell, who’s approved other resolutions for outside counsel involving coastal litigation that pulls in energy companies. For those decisions, Caldwell took a great deal of heat from the business community, lawmakers and the Jindal administration.

From a political perspective, rejecting the resolution from the Cameron Parish Police Jury for a legal contract may provide Caldwell a small amount of cover as he enters the 2015 election cycle.

So far, Caldwell has fielded two challengers: those of former Congressman Jeff Landry and prosecutor Marty Maley. Both have been fundraising most of the year.

Melissa Landry, the executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, cheered the move by Caldwell. “I think this letter highlights the questionable tactics that are being used by the lawyers driving this massive litigation scheme,” she said. “According to the hearing transcript referenced in the AG’s letter, the lead attorney made statements which were misleading, at best, to a judge in formal legal proceedings. He either did this knowingly, which is troubling, or was mistaken about who he was representing in court, which is even more troubling. Either way, I would imagine that this revelation would force the parishes to reconsider how they are being represented in these coastal lawsuits.”

Marcello said Landry’s interpretation is inaccurate.

What remains to be seen is how the Cameron Parish Police Jury will react, and whether a new resolution will be submitted.

The original resolution also called for the hiring of the Mudd and Bruchhaus law firm in addition to Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello.


The Saints And Taxes

What do Russell Long, Hale Boggs and the New Orleans Saints have to do with the NFL’s comfortable federal tax status? Based on a bit of research conducted by CNN last month, quite a bit.

According to the cable network’s story, the National Football League, headquartered in Manhattan, doesn’t directly pay taxes, although it does cough up money for taxes on its properties and offshoot ventures.

That equates to a tax-free status, granted in 1942 due to the NFL’s classification as a nonprofit trade association. That association is the parent company that pays embattled chief executive Roger Goodell.

When it appeared like the tide might turn in 1966, when the NFL was preparing to merge with the American Football League, a deal was cut. Here’s how CNN broke it down: “Two powerful Louisiana politicians, Sen. Russell Long and Rep. Hale Boggs, wanted a football team in New Orleans. Then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted antitrust protection and confirmed tax-exempted status for the league office. The Saints were born in New Orleans, and in exchange, Rozelle got his wish slipped into an unrelated federal bill on investments and depreciation.”


Palin, Matalin Seek To Influence La. Races

Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.

Palin, the former governor of Alaska and one-time vice presidential candidate, was recently in Crown Point attending a campaign event for retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate. She has endorsed his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat.

While Palin hasn’t gotten involved in the 6th Congressional District, state Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma, a candidate in that race, did attend the Maness event in Jefferson Parish.

So far, the former governor has been drawn to candidates in Louisiana who are running with strong Tea Party support. For instance, Palin’s waded into north Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District race, and is backing Zach Dasher, who is running in a crowded field to topple incumbent Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz.

Dasher is a Republican from Calhoun who is related to, and receiving support from, the Duck Dynasty family.

Meanwhile, Matalin, a GOP consultant who served in several senior positions for former President George H.W. Bush, is helping Monroe businessman Harris Brown in the 5th District.

In a press release, Matalin called Brown, a Republican, “one of the brightest, most ethical and energetic public servants I’ve had the pleasure to meet.” She hosted a fundraiser for him in August.

In the 6th Congressional District, Matalin is helping Garret Graves raise money. Graves is a Republican from Baton Rouge and former coastal advisor to Gov. Bobby Jindal. She held a fundraiser for him in her home in New Orleans in April and appeared at another this month.


Eyeing Garofalo’s Seat 

Unhappy with his push to lower the state’s highest-in-the-nation jury threshold, trial lawyers are said to be actively recruiting candidates to run against Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, next year in House District 103. “I can see the trial lawyers absolutely getting involved in this race and some already are,” said a local politico.

So far the potential candidates are coming from the St. Bernard Parish Council; for instance, at-large Councilmen George Cavignac, a Republican.

Cavignac is in strong opposition to diversion projects, which are unpopular in some St. Bernard circles. Garofalo has been criticized back at home for supporting the coastal master plan, which includes diversion projects.

But it’s lost on some critics that the master plan only offers lawmakers an up or down vote and no opportunity for amendments.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of encouragement to get in the race,” said Cavignac.

St. Bernard Councilman Casey Hunnicutt is looking to run as well.

Elsewhere, with Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, who is term-limited, politicos in the Washington Parish region are eyeing the seat.

Beth Mizell, a Republican from Franklinton who ran against Nevers last cycle, should be on the ballot next year.

“I am definitely running,” said Mizell, a Tea Party enthusiast with a background in preschool education.

Asked if he’s thinking about the race, Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, laughed and said, “Yeah. Every day.” He said he received a magnet in the mail with Mizell’s name on it. It’s still on his fridge. “I look at that magnet every day to keep me motivated,” he said.


For more Louisiana political news, visit or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.