Perhaps unsurprisingly, campaign finance reports show that one of the political action committees punching back at attackers of Desiree Charbonnet gets most of its money from Charbonnet advisers and relatives.
Ironically, however, the group, Watchdog PAC, has been warning against the influence of other “dark money” groups, particularly the Sidney Torres-headed Voice of the People. That outfit, helmed by the celebrity garbage hauler and reality-television star, ran ads against Charbonnet in the waning weeks of the campaign.
Another group that aims to protect Charbonnet, Truth in Government PAC, has more obscure funding. That organization has gone after both Torres and charter school advocate Leslie Jacobs, a primary backer of the anti-Charbonnet Not For Sale NOLA PAC.
Outgoing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who took office five years after the city's lates…
Sparring among the various PACs has made for an unusual sideshow in the mayor’s race. While it’s not uncommon for such groups to finance attacks on candidates, it's rare for the attacks to focus on organizations and people that are not even in the running.
Watchdog PAC, which has put out ads telling Torres, “Grow up Sidney, we’ll chose our own mayor,” was created in 2015 and is run by a former aide to then-state treasurer and current Republican U.S. Senator John Kennedy.
It got an infusion of cash this month from members of Charbonnet’s inner circle.
Bernard “Bunny” Charbonnet, Desiree Charbonnet’s brother, and Kay Charbonnet, her niece, gave $10,000 through a business they own. And lawyer Ike Spears, a significant supporter of Charbonnet’s, donated $30,000 to the PAC through two businesses. The rest came from a $5,000 donation from Sundiata Haley, who has the contract to work as the Regional Transit Authority’s general counsel, and $2,000 from the plumbers and steamfitters union.
That, Torres said this week, shows hypocrisy from a group that has complained about outside influences in the race and raises questions about whether the campaign and the PACs were coordinating their efforts.
“Come out on front street, do it from your own campaign,” Torres said, adding that some of the fliers bear the same return address as those from Charbonnet’s campaign.
Kevin Stuart, a spokesman for the Charbonnet campaign, said despite the donations from those close to the candidate, there was no coordination between the campaign and the PAC.
“We put our name on everything we do, the campaign has no connection to what people do -- they’ll have to answer for themselves,” Stuart said, noting that the Charbonnet campaign has put out its own fliers attacking Torres.
Mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet is going on the offensive against her two biggest antag…
Asked about the contributions from Charbonnet’s relatives and Spears, Stuart said, “They are friends and relatives but who friends and relatives give to is not up to the campaign or the candidate.”
Truth in Government’s backers are less prominent. Former Orleans Parish School Board candidate Alvin Crusto gave $6,000 and Glynn Durand gave $9,500. Another $5,000 came from Anthony and Nicole Marullo and Jay Roberts also gave $5,000. None of those individuals gave to Charbonnet’s campaign, but the Gee Cee Co., a city contractor, gave $2,500 to the PAC after giving $5,000 to Charbonnet.
Torres, who said he plans to run more ads before the Nov. 18 general election, denied claims in the ads run by Watchdog and Truth in Government and challenged Charbonnet to deny anything in the spots he’s run.
Torres began to go after the former Municipal Court judge after she dropped out of a debate hosted by The Voice of the People, which the campaign attributed to a decision by two local TV stations to pull out of the event. That’s led to a back-and-forth between Torres and Charbonnet, with both sides running ads and Charbonnet’s camp making a long-shot play to get CNBC to cancel Torres’ reality show.