FEC filings show that Louisiana’s ‘fiscally conservative’ congressional delegation has been spending like a sailor on shore leave, and in some cases running a deficit. By Jeremy Alford
If Potomac politics exists in a world fueled by influence, access and information, then cash money would definitely serve as that world’s naturally occurring source of gravity, providing weight to objects with certain density, otherwise known as congressmen. Thankfully, members of the U.S. House have to report their campaign finance information on a quarterly basis to the Federal Election Commission, like they did last week.
The reports cover contributions, lines of campaign credit, expenses and a handful of other financial odds and ends from the period spanning Jan. 1 to March 31. And here are the only five things worth knowing:
1) Redistricting was expensive: Redistricting was the political civil war of the decade, sharply dividing north Louisiana lawmakers from those in the south. Most of the tension was created by the requirement that the state eliminate one of its seven congressional seats.
GOP members of the U.S. House delegation took an early, unified stance, beginning with a group dinner Jan. 19 at Hunan Dynasty on Capitol Hill, a meal the campaign of Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, underwrote for $600. Alexander is also the dean of the delegation.
Additionally, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, spent $4,000 for a “redistricting report” from the Lafayette-based Caid Group a couple of weeks before the dinner meeting. Most of the delegation’s other members did the same. Boustany spent $8,000 with the Caid Group, as did Alexander. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, shelled out $4,000 in early January.
That’s $24,000 for the Caid Group in the months preceding the Louisiana Legislature’s special redistricting session. According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s corporate database, the company lists as its agent John W. Sutherlin, who is also currently employed as a political science professor at UL Monroe.
Sources familiar with the inner workings of the relationship say Sutherlin relied on other employees from ULM as well to provide services to the congressmen and to state Sen. Robert Kostelka, R-Monroe, who chairs the Senate’s lead redistricting committee.
2) Cassidy has the biggest bank: When it comes to campaign kitties that really purr, look no further than Cassidy. He has more than $1 million in the bank, exceeding the tallies of all other U.S. House members from Louisiana.
During the last quarter, Rep. John Fleming, R-Shreveport, raised the most loot, nearly $350,000. But he had only $303,000 in the bank. The closest to Cassidy is Boustany, who has $694,000 cash on hand; then Scalise with $480,000; freshman Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, $171,000; fellow rookie Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, $87,000; and Alexander the dean trailing far behind with only $35,000.
Cassidy’s campaign spent $48,500 during the past three months as well. Notably, there were more than $6,000 in travel reimbursements made to the congressman and his wife and a $290 payment attributed to “babysitting for GOP retreat.” Alexander’s campaign likewise doled out $5,800 in travel reimbursements to the married couple at the top.
3) Buying conservative creds: Anyone can do it. Just ask Landry, who is slated to face Boustany in Louisiana’s newly drawn 3rd Congressional District in 2012. He made a whopping $5,000 donation earlier this year to the Fund for Self Government, which is connected to a group that prepares “young people for leadership, teaching them the ideas of freedom and a free-market economy.” It could go a long way in helping Landry keep his tea party followers faithful.
Fleming also seems to know a thing or two about purchasing conservative creds — just check out his $1,000 media buy on the Moon Griffon Show.
4) Campaign money is good eats: Scalise recently footed the bill for a $3,000 dinner at Galatoire’s. That’s equivalent to roughly 333 duck crepes. He also gave $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, but they don’t make momma-slappin’ grits.
5) Debt is very real in campaigns: They may preach and hem and haw about being fiscal conservatives, but the truth is many members of Congress operate campaigns that are seriously in the red.
Even though Richmond, who considers himself a “fiscal conservative,” spent more than $32,000 on consultants and $2,000 with Deep South Investigations of Gretna during the last quarter, and despite raising $165,000, his campaign is carrying $208,000 worth of debt. About $59,000 is due to vendors and companies that serviced his 2010 campaign — something not often seen in these reports. Another $149,000 represents loans he personally made — a more common occurrence.
Alexander’s campaign has $15,000 in debt owed to the candidate, although $10,000 was paid off this past quarter. Landry collected $4,200 from his campaign this cycle but is still owed $38,000.
All reports can be viewed at http://www.fec.gov/.
Jeremy Alford can be reached at
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