The 2014 U.S Senate race in Louisiana is expected to easily become the most expensive political campaign in the state’s history.
In her re-election bid, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., already has a war chest of $5.78 million and the election is a year away. Her best-funded competitor, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has nearly $3.49 million in cash on hand and counting. Those dollars don’t even count the millions that have already been spent.
And none of these dollars factor in the millions more in so-called “dark money” that will be pumped into Louisiana through third-party groups and Super PACs that can spend unlimited amounts of money. The conservative, Virginia-based Americans for Prosperity group, for instance, is already paying for television commercials attacking Landrieu for her support of “Obamacare.”
The other candidate in the race thus far, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, of Madisonville, is running as a tea party Republican. Maness does not have much of a campaign war chest, but his recent endorsement from the far-right Senate Conservatives Fund opens up his chances to bring in money from tea party groups nationwide.
The public cannot readily track where the “dark money” going to the Super PACs is coming from, but at least those PAC funds going to the candidates’ campaign are public record. And it’s always good to see how the candidates are receiving their dollars.
Landrieu, who touts herself as a moderate, has received support from the oil-and-gas industry in the past, and she still is receiving such dollars. However, Cassidy is bringing in a lot of those dollars as well. For instance, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs and his son, LOGA Vice President Gifford Briggs, are openly backing Cassidy. Gifford Briggs just gave Cassidy $2,500 at the end of September.
Or look at the prominent, Galliano-based Chouest family of Edison Chouest Offshore fortune. Just looking at the most recent fundraising quarter, Damon Chouest gave a maximum of $5,200 in individual contributions to Landrieu and $3,500 to Cassidy. Dino Chouest gave $2,500 to Landrieu, while Ross Chouest and Dionne Chouest Austin each gave $3,500 to Cassidy.
Another fundraising tactic Cassidy has employed thus far is accepting money from candidates beyond their $5,200 max donations. He can take in an additional $2,600 from each person, but the extra money can only be spent after the initial open primary election if he makes it into a runoff. Thus far, about $150,000 of his war chest is made up of so-called runoff money.
For instance, Burt Adams, of Berwick, chief executive officer of Oil and Gas Rental Services, has given the full $7,800 to Cassidy already. For good measure, Adams’ wife, Jodi, donated $7,800 to Cassidy as well.
Other key sources of campaign funds come from political action committees that can donate bigger chunks of change.
Among those that have given $10,000 to Cassidy, who is a doctor, the American Society of Anesthesiologists PAC, Fresenius Medical Care North America PAC, Political Action Committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s Prosperity Action Committee and Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s The Freedom Project.
Landrieu has even more PAC support, thus far. Among the ones giving $10,000 to her thus far are the Bryan Cave (law firm) PAC, Clear Channel PAC, Comcast PAC, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s Common Ground PAC, ConocoPhillips Spirit PAC, ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) Association PAC, Fluor Corporation PAC, Fraternity and Sorority PAC, Louisiana Healthcare Group Employees Federal PAC, McDonald’s Corp PAC and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s PAC for a Level Playing Field.
Landrieu also is teaming up with fellow vulnerable Democrats in U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Landrieu has more than $10,000 each from the Alaska Louisiana Victory Fund, Louisiana North Carolina Victory 2014, and the Women of the Senate Fund.
Landrieu also has taken advantage of PACs that allow people to make donations online to specific candidates. She has about $15,000 from the nonpartisan VoteSane and a whopping $60,000 from ActBlue.
Whether you think of massive campaign spending as election buying or as educating the public, the one thing for sure it means is tons of money being spent in Louisiana for a political office that could determine whether Democrats maintain control of the Senate.
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.