Critics came out swinging Friday against a super PAC backing David Vitter’s campaign for governor that has billed the state for costs associated with its legal challenge of state campaign contribution limits.
U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman, of New Orleans, had agreed with the Fund for Louisiana’s Future that the state’s contribution limit for political action committees violated First Amendment rights. The decision allowed Fund to solicit and accept unlimited donations to back Vitter, a Republican U.S. senator from Metairie, and also to collect its legal fees from Louisiana taxpayers.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, also a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and the state Democratic Party blasted Vitter over the $69,336 state taxpayers reimbursed the PAC for legal fees and other costs.
“For Senator Vitter to force the state of Louisiana to pay $70,000 in legal fees to his campaign operation is shameful,” Dardenne said. “I’m not sure who is worse: Gov. Jindal sticking taxpayers with the bill while running for President or Sen. Vitter sticking taxpayers with the bill so he can raise unlimited amounts of money from out-of-state special interests.”
Dardenne earlier had called on Gov. Bobby Jindal to reimburse taxpayers for State Police security that accompanies him on campaigns around the country for president.
“Given the amount of money they have raised, they should both give taxpayers a break and pay their bills themselves,” Dardenne said.
Jindal has about $579,000 in his presidential campaign account and Super PACs have raised about $5 million.
Vitter has $5 million in cash-on-hand in his governor’s race account. The Fund for Louisiana’s Future has $4.4 million. The super PAC is supposed to operate independent of Vitter’s campaign but the two operations use the same fundraisers and Vitter has made substantial donations from his U.S. Senate campaign to the PAC.
Stephen Handwerk, the executive director for the Louisiana Democratic Party, referred to Vitter’s “obscene fund-raising totals.”
“Thanks to the efforts of his high-priced legal team and their elite corporate backers, Vitter was able to force Louisiana taxpayers to cough up nearly $70,000 toward one of his shadowy political action committees.” Handwerk said in a news release issued by the party.
Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar said the Fund operates separately from Vitter. “This is about the Fund for Louisiana’s Future and we can’t speak for them,” Bolar said in an email response.
The payment by the state of Louisiana’s risk management self-insurance program shows up on a campaign finance report filed by Fund for Louisiana’s Future.
Under federal law, those parties that win constitutional challenges such as that brought by the PAC are entitled to be reimbursed for legal fees and other court costs.
The PAC originally billed the state for almost $150,000 but the judge lowered the amount.
At the time of the legal challenge, state law capped individual contributions to political action committees at $100,000 per four-year election cycle. The Fund wanted to raise unlimited contributions. The state Ethics Board refused to lift the ban on contributions over the limit, saying it had no authority to change the law. That prompted the group to go to federal court.