As they head into the final stretch of the U.S. Senate runoff, Democrat Foster Campbell and Republican John Kennedy are sitting comfortably on cash coffers that will likely mean a continued constant stream of television and radio ads right up to Dec. 10.
The latest round of campaign finance reports released this week showed that, as of Nov. 20, Campbell had just over $1.4 million in the bank and Kennedy had north of $1.3 million.
Kennedy, currently state treasurer, had consistently dominated Public Service Commission member Campbell in the run up to the Nov. 8 primary.
But after making appearances on network news programs and receiving supportive messages from a long roster of celebrities, Campbell reported collecting $2.5 million in campaign donations between Oct. 20 and Nov. 20 – more than twice the amount he raised in the months that preceded the primary.
"This is a people powered campaign and we're spending every cent we get focused on issues important to Louisiana voters," Campbell said.
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Campbell's 1,264-page finance report shows he took in more than 50,000 donations during the reporting period, many of them online through a third-party site that was shared by several celebrities, including actress Sally Field and comedian Patton Oswalt. Campbell's campaign has $361,500 in outstanding debt and $750,000 in outstanding loans.
Kennedy, meanwhile, raised nearly $1.6 million during the reporting period, himself bolstered by high-powered political figures including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, shipbuilding magnate Boysie Bollinger and former Congressman and now D.C. lobbyist Bob Livingston. He has no outstanding debt or loans.
"I’m incredibly encouraged by the outpouring of support our campaign has received from across the state of Louisiana," said Kennedy. "There’s no question that the people of our state want to see a conservative as their voice in the U.S. Senate, and we’re looking forward to carrying this momentum to Election Day."
Kennedy's campaign also was quick to throw water in Campbell's fundraising haul, noting that many of the donations appear to come from other than Louisiana.
"West Coast liberals think they can buy this election for Foster Campbell. John Kennedy has received the support of donors from across Louisiana who understand he is the only conservative in this race who supports our values," Kennedy spokesman Lionel Rainey said. "Foster Campbell represents the views of Democrats from California, and this report proves exactly what we said two weeks ago: liberals support other liberals."
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Kennedy held two fundraising events in Washington last week. A Nov. 15 luncheon was hosted by the Cornerstone Affairs Group lobbying firm. Three of Cornerstone’s lobbyists were listed as hosts of the event, along with Kirby Political Action Committee – Houston-based Kirby Corp. bills itself as the nation’s premier tank barge operator – and United Egg Producers, an Atlanta-based lobbying firm that represents chicken farmers.
The suggested contribution was $2,500 per political action committee and $1,000 per individual.
Cornerstone, like other lobbying firms, is known for hosting events that can give lobbyists and business interests an entrée if a future issue arises.
“That’s how Washington works,” said Michael Henderson, an LSU professor of communication. “People who want to see certain policies enacted will want access and be connected to people in power. Candidates need resources, and folks are willing to provide those resources. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have John Kennedy in their pocket.”
Kennedy attended a second fundraiser on Nov. 15 in Washington hosted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It included a who’s who list of political insiders – 20 Republican senators led by the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. PACs were invited to give up to $5,000 apiece.
Organizing the event was Lisa Spies, a veteran Washington-based fundraiser who has worked for U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Her husband, Charlie, is a Washington lawyer who established the super PAC that backed Vitter in last year’s governor’s race, mostly by attacking his Republican opponents in the primary with what they said were misleading television ads.
Lisa Spies did not respond to an email request for an interview.
“I support President-elect Trump's position that members of his administration cannot lobby for five years and can never lobby on behalf of foreign governments,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I have supported term limits and a balanced budget requirement in my campaign. I have said repeatedly that part of the reason our economy is not working is because we have too many undeserving people at the top getting special treatment and too many at the bottom getting handouts.”
Meanwhile, Gov. John Bel Edwards and former Sen. Mary Landrieu attended a fundraiser organized by a pro-Campbell political action committee on Wednesday in New Orleans. About 50 people attended the event, which also included Campbell.