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Advocate file photo of an upper part of the Louisiana State Capitol

State lawmakers are in a frenzied push to bulk up their campaign coffers before they hit a black-out period when they are barred from raising money. Don’t believe it? Just check out the recent calendar of fundraising events – primarily in Baton Rouge.

At least 16 fundraisers for 19 legislators have been scheduled in the week leading up to the session’s start at noon on Monday – many of them at the headquarters of powerful lobbying groups. Entrance to the week's events range from $250 to $500 a person, according to invitations to the fundraisers obtained by The Advocate.

Legislators cannot accept campaign cash during session, a move made in 2004 to try to curb outside influence while lawmakers consider bills.

All Louisiana legislative seats are up for election in the fall, along with all statewide offices. Candidates who don’t currently hold office are able to continue fundraising all they want during the session that stretches until June 6, while those currently in the Legislature cannot.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat also running for re-election this year, also is prohibited from accepting campaign contributions during session and the month-long period after it when he’s weighing whether to veto legislation. He has been in a similar fundraising push in the run up to the session’s start, including an event Thursday morning that featured LSU football coach Ed Orgeron.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have a restriction of some sort on campaign contributions during legislative sessions. Louisiana’s only applies to regular sessions.

The list of parties in the run-up to session in Louisiana is circulated annually among lobbyists and many of them appear on the Association of Louisiana Lobbyists’ event calendar online.

The week-long stretch up to Monday has meant plenty of opportunities for those who can afford the hundreds in suggested contributions that it would cost them and want to get a chance to see lawmakers before the session ramps up. 

On Wednesday, an ambitious fundraiser attendee could have breakfast at an event benefiting Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches, at Cornerstone Government Affairs; go to one – or both – of the luncheon fundraisers benefiting Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, or Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, that took place at the Louisiana Restaurant Association house and the nearby Louisiana Oil & Gas Association-owned Jimmy Davis house, respectively; and end the evening at a fundraiser for Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, at the LRA house.

Robert Travis Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, said that the blackout period was part of a sweeping ethics reform package that aimed to improve the state’s tawdry political culture and reputation surrounding it.

“I do think that even though there are ways around it, it’s still established a better culture and clarity about when you could and couldn’t make contributions,” he said. “You had a very bad appearance of campaign contributions coming down simultaneously as votes.”

He said the intent isn’t to hurt elected officials when they seek re-election, but to set some ground rules and make it clear that the old days of quid-pro-quo politicking wouldn’t be tolerated.

“You hope it’s not just a matter of annoying rules, but that it’s actually something that helps move the state, elected officials and donors into a better culture,” he said. “It doesn’t close all holes, but it stopped some of the most dangerous contributions in some people’s minds.”

Fundraisers from April 1 to Monday start of session.

  • Noon, April 1: Luncheon fundraiser for Republican Reps. Beryl Amedee, of Houma, and Barry Ivey, of Central, at the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association house in Baton Rouge. $250 suggested contribution.
  • Noon, April 1: Luncheon fundraiser for Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, at the Jimmie Davis House in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested contribution.
  • 11:30 a.m., April 2: Luncheon fundraiser for Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, at the Louisiana Restaurant Association house in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested contribution.
  • Noon, April 2: Luncheon fundraiser for Democratic Reps. Ted James, of Baton Rouge, and Royce Duplessis, of New Orleans, at the Beer Industry League headquarters in Baton Rouge. $250 suggested contribution.
  • Noon, April 2: Luncheon fundraiser for Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, at the Jimmie Davis House in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested contribution.
  • 5:30 p.m., April 2: Fundraiser for Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, at Cornerstone Government Affairs in Baton Rouge. Contribution levels: $500 for attendees, $1,000 for hosts and $2,500 to be named part of “Team Ward.”
  • 5:30 p.m., April 2: Fundraiser for Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, at TJ Ribs Restaurant in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested contribution.
  • 8 a.m., April 3: Breakfast fundraiser for Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches, at Cornerstone Government Affairs in Baton Rouge. $250 suggested contribution.
  • 11:45 a.m., April 3: Luncheon fundraiser for Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, at the LRA House in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested contribution to go toward campaign debt retirement.
  • Noon, April 3: Luncheon fundraiser for Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, at the Jimmie Davis House in Baton Rouge. $250 suggested contribution.
  • 5 p.m., April 3: Fundraiser for Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, at the LRA house in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested donation.
  • 11:30 a.m., April 4: Fundraiser for Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, and Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, at the Louisiana Restaurant Association house. $500 suggested contribution.
  • Noon, April 4: Luncheon fundraiser for Democratic Reps. Vincent Pierre, of Lafayette, and Dustin Miller, of Opelousas, at the Long-View house in Baton Rouge. $250 suggested contribution.
  • Noon, April 5: Luncheon fundraiser for Rep. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, at Southern Strategy Group in Baton Rouge. $250 suggested contribution.
  • 8:30 a.m., April 8: Breakfast fundraiser for Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, at the Louisiana Restaurant Association House in Baton Rouge. $500 suggested contribution.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.