A Louisiana-based Super PAC supporting the candidacy of John N. Kennedy disbanded and donated its leftovers to an influential national group while the candidate himself kicked in "a substantial amount" more to ESAfund, which is backing his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Make Louisiana Proud PAC filed “termination” papers with the Federal Election Commission late last week – the documents were made public Monday – and its Facebook page was taken down. Jason Redmond, Kennedy’s closest political adviser, ran the Baton Rouge-based PAC and would not comment Monday.
After paying its bills, Make Louisiana Proud PAC gave ESAFund $119,964 in contributions and services, such as video production, candidate research and polling data.
In addition to what Make Louisiana Proud PAC donated, Kennedy gave “a substantial amount” of the war chest he used to run for statewide office to the same conservative political action committee, once called Ending Spending Action Fund, said Charlie Spies, who is counsel for the state treasurer’s campaign.
Spies wouldn’t say how much was given to ESAFund, but Kennedy’s state account had $2.8 million of cash on hand on Dec. 31, 2015.
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Campaign finance lawyers circulated memos earlier this year arguing about whether Treasurer Kennedy could legally transfer the money raised for state campaigns to the Make Louisiana Proud PAC, whose avowed goal was to help elect Kennedy to the U.S. Senate.
While the law is clear that the money raised for state campaigns cannot be used directly to run for a federal post, Kennedy’s allies contended that federal law would allow the state money to flow to a Super PAC. His opponents countered that was not the case.
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The Federal Elections Commission examines 10 factors listed in federal regulations to determine whether the Super PAC was indirectly established, financed or controlled by the candidate. Factors include whether the candidate or his agent played a significant role in forming the Super PAC and whether the candidate has control over the hiring and firing of the Super PAC personnel, according to one of the memos.
Make Louisiana Proud had raised $434,787, mostly in big checks from Republican donors and past funders of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who is stepping down at the end of his term.
The PAC received at least six $50,000 contributions from Louisiana GOP heavyweight donors, including James Davison, of Davison Transport in Monroe; Lane Grigsby, Cajun Industries in Baton Rouge; Shane Guidry, of Harvey Gulf Marine; and GMAA LLC, a New Orleans medical business operated by Keith Van Meter, a doctor and his wife.
Kennedy, of Madisonville, is among a dozen candidates who have announced their intentions to run for Vitter's seat, including two GOP congressmen – Charles Boustany, of Lafayette, and John Fleming, of Minden – and the tea party Republican who came in third in the 2014 Senate election, Rob Maness, of Madisonville.
Qualifying for the Nov. 8 election begins Wednesday. If no one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the ballots, the top two vote-getters will face off in a Dec. 10 runoff.
ESAFund reported raising $3.1 million in contributions between Jan. 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, spending $2.8 million. The PAC began the 2016 campaign season with $251,102 of cash on hand. The activity involving Kennedy’s statewide campaign and Make Louisiana Proud PAC took place in July and isn't reflected in the latest ESAFund reports available.
ESAFund officials didn’t respond Monday to a phone call and an email seeking comment.
ESAFund’s biggest contributors include Paul Singer, a New York hedge fund manager who donated $1 million in 2015, and Marlene Ricketts, the wife of billionaire T.D. Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts. She gave ESAFund $850,000 in 2015.
Kennedy is among the 13 candidates ESAFund is backing, according to its website. All those endorsed are Republicans running for the U.S. Senate. Kennedy is one of three who are not incumbents and the only candidate endorsed running from a state office.
ESAFund ran the “Time to Geaux” commercial in the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign that criticized incumbent Mary Landrieu for owning a home in Washington and calling her corrupt.