A group that organized in the New Orleans mayoral primary to oppose Desiree Charbonnet’s candidacy has kept its effort alive before Saturday's runoff, accusing Charbonnet this week of being in league with Bourbon Street strip club operators cited for prostitution and drug trafficking.
But some of its claims appear to have missed their mark.
The political action committee, Not For Sale NOLA, claims that Charbonnet and what it calls her “corrupt krewe” — a group that includes bail bondsman Blair Boutte, political operative Billy Schultz and attorney Ike Spears — bolstered her $1.8 million war chest with donations from shady strip club owners.
“In December 2015, French Quarter strip clubs were cited for prostitution, drug trafficking and lewd acts,” the group's attack mailer read, referencing a 2015 state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control investigation. “Now, they’re pouring cash into Desiree’s campaign.”
Not For Sale NOLA is funded by local business leaders Leslie Jacobs, Jay Lapeyre and others. It is not affiliated with LaToya Cantrell’s mayoral bid.
But a Charbonnet campaign spokesman said the $60,000 the PAC said Charbonnet took from “bars or strip clubs” includes contributions made by the landlords of strip clubs, who often don’t run the clubs themselves.
In other cases, Not For Sale NOLA counted the registered agents of the companies that own the clubs. Those agents can often be attorneys whose only responsibility is to handle the paperwork required to register those entities with the state, spokesman Kevin Stuart said.
“It’s all a tissue of lies,” Stuart said.
Not For Sale provided The Advocate with a list of the donations it references in the mailer. Spokesman Jesse Gilmore defended the accusations as truthful.
But included in the haul is $5,000 Charbonnet took from prominent attorney Robert G. Harvey Sr., a registered agent for RMDR Investments. RMDR owned Babe’s Cabaret, a strip club the ATC sanctioned, before that club closed after it was evicted from its building in December 2016.
Brothers Charles and Jordan Bass and their business partner Jerry Kim are the actual officers of RMDR and the former owners of Babe’s. Harvey said he was merely their attorney.
“The Bass brothers gave no money to anybody,” he said. “They haven’t even paid me my fee. Ms. Jacobs and her troops are absolutely lying, and this is a desperate attempt to smear Desiree Charbonnet.”
Not For Sale also implicated Temptations on Bourbon Street, another club once under ATC scrutiny. The PAC said Billie Karno, the landlord for Temptations, gave $1,500 to Charbonnet.
Karno didn’t return a call for comment, but public records show Pamela Olano and her family members actually operate Temptations and three other Bourbon street clubs.
Stuart said members of the Karno family also have given checks to Cantrell.
Still other listed donations came from Robert Watters, who runs Rick’s Cabaret, and the Kirkendoll Co. LLC. Kirkendoll Entertainment operates the Penthouse Club. Neither of those clubs was cited in the ATC investigation.
The clubs were mentioned in a series nola.com|The Times-Picayune ran last month on Bourbon Street strip clubs and prostitution, as the mailer by Not for Sale notes, but they were held up as two examples of strip clubs that do not tolerate illegal activity.