An anti-Desiree Charbonnet political action committee that has been running ads and sending out mailers in an attempt to sink her mayoral candidacy is being funded by prominent, deep-pocketed members of the business community, according to the group's campaign finance report.
Not For Sale NOLA, which has been attacking Charbonnet for weeks, raised $190,000 for the campaign against the former Municipal Court judge, largely from people who frequently dabble in New Orleans politics, according to the report. Those donors also have given to Charbonnet's opponents, primarily former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris.
The PAC's report was filed Wednesday night just before the midnight deadline.
The primary is Oct. 14.
The first major shots have officially been fired in what so far has been a mostly low-key, a…
The group's ads have created a stir in an otherwise mostly humdrum election season. The booklets, TV spots and online ads have delved into past accusations that Charbonnet, in previous jobs, hired friends and relatives of her political allies and supporters. They also cast aspersions on members of her inner circle.
Chief among the group paying for the ads are prominent charter school advocate Leslie Jacobs and Lane Grigsby, a Baton Rouge businessman and major contributor to conservative campaigns, as well as an architect of pro-charter school and voucher efforts. Each donated $40,000 to the effort to defeat Charbonnet.
Jacobs referred all questions about the PAC to Jesse Gilmore, the political consultant who runs it.
In a news release sent out Thursday, Gilmore said the group is not backing any candidate.
The PAC "is a bipartisan effort of concerned citizens who care deeply about the future of New Orleans and, like many others, have been dismayed by New Orleans’ long history of corrupt politics," according to the release. "It has complied with all of Louisiana’s campaign finance reporting laws and disclosed its donors to the public."
Grigsby said Thursday that he didn't want "to get into specifics" about the PAC and said, "I forget how I got engaged in it."
"People contact me all the time about getting involved with candidates and races," he said.
The new report confirms rumors that have been circulating for weeks about the general contours of the group financing the PAC and its attacks on Charbonnet.
Charbonnet, in fact, mentioned Jacobs by name last week when asking Bagneris to swear his campaign was not involved in the ads. He said it was not.
Bagneris has denied any connection to the group.
Jay Lapeyre, head of Laitram LLC and a major player in the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region as well as the wider business community, gave $25,000 to Not For Sale NOLA.
Stuart Phillips gave $25,000 as well. Phillips, who did not respond to a request for comment, is not a well-known figure in city or state politics or business circles.
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Another $15,000 came from shipbuilding magnate Boysie Bollinger, and Crescent Bank and Trust, led by businessman Gary Solomon Sr., gave the same amount.
WTD Publishing gave $10,000. The first lists its manager as Mohamad Motahari, who works for Frank Stewart, a prominent businessman who has supported Bagneris in the mayor's race and who earlier feuded with Mayor Mitch Landrieu through a series of ads excoriating him for removing four Jim Crow-era monuments. Stewart's backing helped Bagneris gain significant campaign funds from the city's business community.
William Goldring, who made his fortune through the Sazerac Co., gave $5,000 through a company he owns, as did Paul Fine, who has worked with Goldring for years.
Aurelius Management, a firm based in Utah, also gave $5,000. The firm's registered agent, John McNamara II, is president and CEO of Stewart Capital, Stewart's investment company.
There's significant overlap between the donor bases of Not For Sale NOLA and Bagneris' campaign.
Solomon and Crescent Bank gave Bagneris $10,000, Motahari gave him $5,000, firms associated with Fine and Goldring gave $7,500, and Lapeyre, his family and businesses gave Bagneris $25,000.
Stewart and his wife gave Bagneris $10,000, although campaign officials said Bagneris returned those donations after being told the Stewarts were planning on spending money independently in the race.
A relative of Lapeyre's also gave $500 to mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell this cycle.
Bollinger gave Bagneris $15,000 personally or through his businesses. He has also given $5,000 to Charbonnet's campaign.
Bollinger Shipyards, which is now run by a relative of Boysie Bollinger, also gave $5,000 to a PAC supporting Troy Henry's run for mayor.