Jeremy Alford Thursday, April 30, 2015 0

Since his showing last year in the 5th Congressional District race, when he was barely edged out of the runoff, Duck Dynasty cousin Zach Dasher’s political future has been wide open.

Now it includes speculation about his running for the second highest statewide Louisiana office.

“He has mounting pressure to run for lieutenant governor,” said a source close to the Republican. “He has been approached by numerous people.”

Supporters were impressed by Dasher’s performance in the Florida Parishes. They see his base in north Louisiana as an advantage in a contest with contenders from below I-10.

“He’s still considering it,” said the source. “He’s nowhere near a decision right now, but he’s taking a serious look at it.”

Already declared for the race are Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Jefferson Parish President John Young.

Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas has said repeatedly he will be on the ballot, but backers are still looking for him to raise more money and have a better presence on the campaign trail. Guillory said that will happen after the legislative session adjourns.


Will Settlements Bring Much-Needed Cash?

Last year, lawmakers received a financial bounce from a pharmaceutical settlement that took place during the regular session. It made the 2014 budget crunch hurt a little less.

With a $1.6 billion shortfall to tackle in the session, officials are looking for something a bit more miraculous. But they’re not really expecting much.

On that front, few lawmakers know of any pending settlements that could surface before or during this year’s session.

Asked about the matter, Laura Gerdes Colligan, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office, could only offer the following message via email: “As to pending settlements/cases, we do have several ongoing matters (investigations, negotiations and/or lawsuits) which could result in recoveries for Louisiana, but we aren’t able to make those types of predictions at this time.”


Dems Build Grassroots Legislative PAC

Ravi Sangesetti, a former congressional candidate and an attorney practicing in New Orleans and Houma, is launching a political action committee this spring to target seats in the Legislature. His efforts will take a slight Democratic bent.

It will be called the Bayou Blue PAC, he said. It’s initial goal will be to raise $250,000.

“We’re definitely going to be recruiting new candidates. We want new blood, regardless of party,” said Sangesetti. “But we’ll be coordinating with campaigns too.”

He said he’s already working with consultant Chris Bender to get the PAC up and running.


Form Letter Endorsements

In an early sign that U.S. Sen. David Vitter may be preparing to release a monster list of endorsements from elected officials in every corner of Louisiana government, sources are reporting the receipt of a form letter from Vitter asking for a signature.

It reads: “Your support is critical to our success, and I would be honored to earn your endorsement.”

In the letter, Vitter asks elected officials to detach and fill out a card with all their pertinent information. As he usually does, Vitter provides his personal cell phone number.

Campaign spokesperson Luke Bolar said it’s too early to fully gauge the response, but he noted, “It’s been pretty solid so far.”


Lawmakers Strap On Helmets

Considering the injuries that can occur in casual football, you’d think lawmakers might think twice about a flag football game — even if it is for charity.

“It’s not fiscally or physically wise,” said Rep. Chris Leopold, R-Belle Chasse, one of the many organizers. “I caught a touchdown pass the last time we did this and it was quite a catch. When I caught the ball, I was so happy and so surprised that when I went to spike it I fell down.”

The “Truce for Troops Bowl” is being put together for the families of the Louisiana National Guardsmen who were killed in March following a tragic helicopter crash. Rep. Nick Lorusso said it’s a way to honor their lives and help their families.

It’s being hosted by the House Special Committee on Military and Veteran Affairs. The group is looking for sponsors. Tickets are available: $50 for adults, $10 for students and free to children 12 and younger.

Kickoff is at 4 pm on April 19 in Tiger Stadium, with gates opening at 2 pm. A reception will take place afterwards.

To get involved, call (504) 483-4711 or send an email to larep094@legis.la.gov.


New Super PAC In Governor’s Race

In another move that suggests this year’s race for governor could become the most expensive ever waged in the state’s history, another super PAC has announced its intentions to pour money into the election.

The Louisiana Rising PAC has been registered with the Secretary of State. Its handlers say it will soon begin raising money and spending it on candidates, with a special focus on Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle’s bid for governor.

These kinds of political action committees are a special breed, since they can raise unlimited amounts of cash. They’re new to Louisiana on the state level.

They’ve been players on the national level for years, their way paved by a Supreme Court decision likening fundraising to free speech.

The most important prohibition on super PACs is that they cannot coordinate with the candidates and campaigns on which they are spending money.

The registered agent for the pro-Angelle Louisiana Rising PAC is Allan L. Durand of Lafayette, who said the super PAC will file its first report with the state Ethics Administration Board soon.

He said Bill Skelly, a former data guru for the Republican National Committee, will serve as the PAC’s director. Skelly is now a partner at Causeway Solutions, along with Chris McNulty, formerly the RNC’s political director.

McNulty was replaced at the RNC by Chris Carr, a general consultant with some roots in Louisiana. LaPolitics reported in February that Carr was originally interviewing to lead the pro-Angelle super PAC before he got the RNC gig to replace McNulty.

So far, there are also super PACs supporting Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and U.S. Sen. David Vitter. The odd man out is state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Can news of a super PAC supporting his bid be far behind?

The operatives and accountants behind Louisiana’s growing number of super PACs may want to avoid supporting only one candidate in the upcoming elections unless they’re ready to file paperwork with the candidate’s signature disavowing any connection.

There are no laws whatsoever to guide super PACs in Louisiana. There is case law, however, allowing them to receive unlimited donations. But that case law relates only to the Fund For Louisiana’s Future.

Technically, under state law, there are no super PACs — just independent political action committees.

As such, according to Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen, they must adhere to a 1994 Ethics Board opinion that was sought by supporters of former Gov. Buddy Roemer, who were hoping to get him back in the game at the time. The opinion states that if an independent PAC supports only one candidate, it would then become a subsidiary of the candidate or the candidate’s committee. It would also be subjected to the current $100,000 giving cap. But if the candidate disavows the independent PAC, they’re back in action.

The Fund For Louisiana’s Future, for example, is supporting U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s run for governor. But it also sponsored a small media buy last year in support of Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.

That brings up another point. Can a super PAC operate in Louisiana under the court decision handed down specifically for the Fund For Louisiana’s Future? “If they are similarly situated, then they can probably argue that,” Allen said.

Asked if super PACs were operating in a gray area, she replied, “Yes and no.”

The true litmus test of what can or cannot be done will come with litigation or future opinions; that will be the case unless lawmakers decide to create perimeters for super PACs.

As of now, Allen said the Ethics Board has made no recommendations to the Legislature for a review of super PACs. Several lawmakers interviewed say they’ve yet to hear any ideas from inside the rails either.


Vitter Spotlights Tort Reform

If you back out the budget issue as well as education and Common Core, U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s most significant campaign plank in this year’s race for governor may very well be tort reform. At the least, it will become a serious talking point for the senior senator.

At a forum hosted recently by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Assoc., Vitter said he would be talking about his efforts in front of practically every group he sees between now and October. He also promised a very personal touch if elected.

“I’ll take a leadership role on the issue, including making sure every (related) committee has the right kind of members on it,” said Vitter.

It played well with the energy crowd, and he undoubtedly hopes it goes over big with business and industry. If the issue creates a large splash, it may be enough to make business and industry forget Vitter is on the opposite side of Common Core; that is, he’s against it.

He hasn’t yet released specifics, but he has said the “regular threat of frivolous and harassing lawsuits” has brought him to the point of emphasizing the issue.

“We absolutely need to fix this, and I’m the only candidate for governor who will take this on and get it done,” he said.


Privatization Push Slows

So far, there’s only one new privatization push this session coming from the administration: a solicitation for a third party to provide services for daily operations and management of the chilled water plants in Baton Rouge.

“There’s nothing else that I know of,” said Gregory Dupuis, a spokesperson for the Division of Administration.

The administration was unable to immediately provide an annual amount of savings. But when the savings are coupled with surplus property sales in the coming fiscal year — which is how the privatization was pitched to lawmakers a few weeks ago — combined savings come to $17 million.

Dupuis said the state will purchase chilled water back from the provider at a competitive or even a discounted rate. The provider selected will in turn leverage the plants by selling the same services to other customers. The provider will also be on the hook for maintenance, improvements and equipment.

The state will still maintain ownership of the plants throughout the term that’s negotiated.

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