Washington — Louisiana boatbuilder Gary Chouest contributed $1 million to an outside group backing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, a federal fundraising report filed Friday shows.
That helped boost the total received by the Believe Again political action committee, a single-candidate super PAC, to nearly $3.7 million in the first half of the year.
Although easily the largest single donation to the super PAC, the Chouest contribution is dwarfed by individual donations to other Republican candidates, as the Believe Again total is easily outstripped by amounts raised by super PACs dedicated to Jindal’s rivals. Jindal consistently ranks in the low single digits in national polls, near the back of the pack of 17 significant Republican contenders.
Another pro-Jindal group, American Future Project, reported to the Internal Revenue Service Friday that it raised more than $900,000 in the January-June period.
Jindal’s official campaign committee earlier reported taking in nearly $580,000 through June 30 after his campaign began accepting FEC-reportable donations in May. Another pro-Jindal group, the America Next nonprofit, has received $4 million in donations since it was formed in 2013, according to Brad Todd, who works with the outside efforts. A “dark money” social welfare organization, America Next files only summary reports on a different schedule than the other groups.
Altogether, the effort to elect Jindal has amassed more than $9 million, according to the official filings and other announcements.
That overall figure was publicized two weeks ago, but the Friday filings provide details about specific donations and expenditures for the two independent political groups: the Believe Again super PAC and American Future Project. They may accept unlimited donations from almost any source, but they cannot coordinate directly with the Jindal campaign on spending. Staffing for the groups is provided in part by longtime Jindal associates and former employees of his state office.
Chouest, of Galliano, has been a consistent supporter of Jindal’s political career. He is the president of Edison Chouest Offshore on Bayou Lafourche, which builds and operates boats for the offshore oil industry.
The Believe Again super PAC received donations from dozens of contributors, most of them from Louisiana. But several six-figure donors live in other states, including Tracy Krohn, of Houston, CEO of the W&T Offshore oil company, who gave $250,000; investor Robert Mercer, of East Setauket, New York, the CEO of Renaissance Technologies, who contributed $250,000; Paul Isaac, of Larchmont, New York, and Arbiter Partners Capital Management, who gave $100,000; the investment firm ETC Capital, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, which contributed $100,000; and Willis Johnson, of Franklin, Tennessee, chairman of the online automobile auction company Copart, who donated $100,000, as did the company itself, from a Fairfield, California address.
Louisiana donors in that class include another Bayou Lafourche boatbuilder, Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, of Houma, the former CEO of Bollinger Shipyards and a Louisiana Republican Party stalwart, who gave $100,000, and a third boatbuilder, Otto Candies, Jr., of Des Allemands, and the company that bears his name, who also gave $100,000.
Believe Again reported spending $1.1 million, with $461,000 of that going to OnMessage, with a listed address in Annapolis, Maryland, which was paid $507,000 for media sevices. OnMessage is Jindal’s longtime go-to firm for political work.
American Future Project reported raising $951,000 from 42 contributors and spending $935,888 from March 11 through July 31.
Almost all its contributors live in Louisiana, and almost all gave $5,000 or less. But some of the biggest individual contributors are from outside the state: USAA, of San Antonio, an insurance and financial services company that caters to current and former members of the military, donated $100,000; Carl Allen, of Roanoke, Texas, an executive with Heritage Bag Co., donated $50,000; and Robert Ludley, of Raleigh, North Carolina, the CEO of CaptiveAire Systems, donated $25,000.
The largest Louisiana contributors were Marsh Yarborough, of Baton Rouge; Jon Gonsoulin, of Houma, the president of Leboeuf Bros. Towing; and David Roberts, of Baton Rouge, the CEO of Excel Corp., each of whom gave $100,000. Florida Marine, of Mandeville, and Best Buy Industries, of the town of Iowa, each gave $25,000.
Most of the spending went for political and media consulting. The single largest recipient was OnMessage, which was paid $507,000.
A third Jindal vehicle, a PAC also known as Believe Again and originally organized in Louisiana as Stand Up to Washington in March 2014, reported raising and spending about $45,000 in the first half of 2015.