Charbonnet hits back at hostile PACs

Mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet is going on the offensive against her two biggest antagonists this election cycle: a political action committee formed to try to sink her campaign and sanitation mogul-turned-reality TV star Sidney Torres.

Her most high-profile counterpunch takes aim at Not For Sale NOLA, a PAC formed by prominent members of the business community that has been sending out mailers and buying ads criticizing Charbonnet’s past political history and associates. Among the group's main members is charter school advocate Leslie Jacobs.

Charbonnet, a former Municipal Court judge, swung back in radio ads that attack Jacobs’ work to implement controversial public schools reforms after Hurricane Katrina and lay at her feet the Orleans Parish School Board’s termination of more than 7,000 employees shortly after the storm.

An ad paid for by Charbonnet’s campaign also points to the thousands of dollars Charbonnet’s critics have spent supporting President Donald Trump, a reference to a $50,000 donation Torres made, through his firm, to Trump’s January inauguration.

A PAC dubbed Truth in Government has sent mailers to some households accusing Jacobs and her husband Scott Jacobs of being “fake reformers” and hyprocrites.

“She has a long history of ‘bundling’ thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from her friends and cronies to influence elections,” the mailers read. “If Leslie Jacobs is looking for the Queen of Patronage and Sweet Deals, all she needs to do is look in a mirror!”

The Not For Sale NOLA ads take aim at several aspects of Charbonnet’s record and her political associates, including an incident after she was elected recorder of mortgages when she fired a dozen staff members and replaced them with friends and relatives of political allies. They also question Charbonnet's large fundraising haul, suggesting she would give city contracts to contributors.

The Truth in Government PAC is not registered with the state Ethics Administration.

At the same time, Charbonnet’s campaign has complained to CNBC, which airs Torres' real estate development and investment reality show “The Deed,” about ads Torres has been running through yet another PAC, The Voice of the People. Those ads criticize Charbonnet along lines similar to the Not For Sale ads and for skipping a debate the Torres-backed PAC held.

In a letter sent Friday to CNBC — with a copy sent to the Federal Communications Commission for good measure — the Charbonnet campaign called on CNBC to cancel "The Deed." 

Torres responded by accusing Charbonnet of trying to “chill my right to free speech” and saying “Charbonnet has only herself to blame for the people she has chosen to associate herself with and the missteps she has made along the way.”

Troy Henry enters the Torres-Charbonnet fray

Meanwhile, one of Charbonnet's electoral opponents has entered the tangled fray surrounding her fight with Torres, though Troy Henry's campaign seems to be hedging its bets in the fight.

Henry, who has been running a distant fourth behind Charbonnet, Michael Bagneris and LaToya Cantrell, released a statement Monday accusing Charbonnet of being "thin-skinned" as she "continues to argue and bicker" with Torres.

"Torres' withering criticism seems to have unraveled the Charbonnet campaign," Henry said, going on to defend Torres' "constitutional rights" to criticize her and saying a mayor needs to be able to show more leadership in times of crisis.

Henry's statement was sent out by Jeff Thomas, a media consultant for the Henry campaign who also runs the Think504 blog.

However, hours before sending out Henry's statement, Thomas used his blog to savage Not For Sale NOLA for what he said was playing to racist stereotypes in its ads against Charbonnet. It also went after Torres for hypocrisy, citing the French Quarter garbage contract he got under former Mayor Ray Nagin's administration after donating to Nagin's campaign.

The post ends by arguing that Henry is the most experienced candidate and the best equipped for the job.

Bouie, Moreno clash over Tulane scholarship

State Rep. Helena Moreno has emerged as the favorite in the City Council at-large Division 1 race, locking up key endorsements and raking in big donations. So it’s hardly surprising that state Rep. Joseph Bouie, her nearest competitor, is trying to take the wind out of her sails days before Saturday’s election.

In an email his campaign sent out Monday, Bouie attacked Moreno’s past award of her Tulane University legislative scholarship to the son of Greg Buisson, a veteran political consultant who has frequently worked on Moreno’s campaigns and communications.

The Tulane scholarship, which all legislators can award each year to one deserving high school student, could have gone instead to one of Moreno’s qualified black constituents, the email said.

Bouie’s focus on the race of the student who received the scholarship, instead of merely his status as the son of one of Moreno’s associates, is a likely attempt to cut into Moreno’s black support.

Moreno gets much of her support from white voters but also has big crossover appeal in the black community. About 36 percent of black voters said they favored her in a poll recently conducted for The Advocate and WWL-TV, with Moreno capturing 45 percent of the overall vote.

About 23 percent of black voters said they favored Bouie, who captured just 18 percent of the overall vote. But poking holes in Moreno’s black support could hurt her chances of winning in the primary and propel Bouie into a runoff.

Moreno has said that Buisson’s son, a Brother Martin graduate who received the scholarship for at least two years starting in 2012, was deserving and that it wasn’t fair to exclude him from eligibility for the scholarship simply because she knew his father.

She said she "turned the scholarship process over to an independent panel at Tulane years ago so they could help identify need-based students from our area. In fact, just this year, Tulane awarded my scholarship to a student in Rep. Bouie's district who he dropped after sponsoring her for two years."

Compiled by Jeff Adelson and Jessica Williams

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​