BR.cityresponse612.adv.jpg

Volunteer Jim Talbot holds a sign for passing motorists at a public signing event for the petition to create the city of St. George on Saturday, May 5, 2018 in front of Woodlawn Baptist Church on Jones Creek Road.

A political action committee directly related to the effort to create a new city of St. George in southeast East Baton Rouge Parish has received a little more than $70,000 in contributions so far, including a nearly $20,000 in-kind donation of recent mailers that have gone out to voters in the area, according to campaign finance reports.

The group, St. George PAC, pulled in its largest donation from local philanthropist Art Farve, who contributed $50,000 to the efforts to create what might become the parish's fifth city.

B & H Distributors, an infrastructure repair and corrosion control company located within the boundaries of the proposed city, was the only other monetary donation listed in the group's campaign finance report. The business donated $1,000 to the cause.    

The incorporation proposal will appear on the Oct. 12 ballot. Early voting begins Sept. 28 and lasts until Oct. 5, excluding Sept. 29, a Sunday.

The first round of campaign disclosure reports were due Thursday to the Louisiana Ethics Administration. The report covered fundraising and spending for candidates and political groups between Aug. 12 and Sept. 2. 

St. George PAC has spent $19,753 within the three-week period, the bulk of which for digital ads on social media.   

So far, the report from St. George PAC is the only campaign finance disclosure found on the ethics administration's website as of Friday.

No campaign disclosure reports have been filed by Put Louisiana First, Louisiana First Republicans or Our Promising Future, LLC — all of which have recently sent out mailers for and against St. George's incorporation. 

However, Our Promising Future is listed as a "in-kind" contributor to St. George PAC. The group, which someone named J.H. Grace is listed as the registering agent in the company's filings with the Secretary of State's Office, "donated" $19,999 worth of mailers that went out this month urging voters in the proposed area to support the incorporation effort.

In its opposition mailer, Louisiana First Republicans accused Our Promising Future of having not properly registered with the Louisiana Ethics Administration, which St. George proponents have also accused detractors of.  

After The Advocate reported this week that neither of the groups had registered with the state's ethics board, prominent businessman John Mathis came forth as the backer of Louisiana First Republicans and pointed out that his group isn't required to file a campaign finance report until Oct. 2 because their activity to fight the St. George incorporation didn't begin until after Sept. 2.

And although Mathis' group did register with the ethics board in 2018, Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said the group hadn't registered yet this year, which is required for any political committee that spends more than $500 within a calendar year. 

Mathis in an email said he would re-register as required. He added that Our Promising Future had not registered or filed campaign disclosure forms revealing their donors and expenses because they aren't the grassroots organization they proclaim. 

Instead he asserts the group is a "well-financed operation supported by wealthy insiders who have received millions of dollars in government contracts and tax credits from the same type of politicians they intend to install in St. George."

Richard Lipsey, another prominent businessman with three businesses in the proposed city, previously said his group, Put Louisiana First, is only providing voters with information debunking claims made by St. George proponents and not urging anyone to vote a certain way, thereby exempting themselves from the state's campaign finance disclosure laws.

Residents of a new St. George would still be East Baton Rouge Parish residents. The vote is only on whether to gather certain unincorporated areas in the southeastern part of the parish into a municipality.


Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com