Additional checks by LouisianaVoice into the expenditure of campaign funds after leaving office has revealed that Troy Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was something of a piker in what appear to be his inappropriate expenditures of $39,000 in campaign contributions long after he left the Louisiana Senate in November of 2010.
Campaign reports examined by LouisianaVoice show that two former governors combined to spend more than $600,000 on what would appear to be such non-allowable expenditures as clerical salaries, club memberships, consulting fees, federal taxes, internet fees, office equipment, and something called “constituent relations” long after there were no longer any constituents. shall not be used for any perso
Three other former legislators who, like Hebert, now serve in other appointive capacities in state government were also checked at random and found to have combined for a little more than $22,000 in post-office-holding expenditures that appear to be for purposes specifically disallowed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
But former governors Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster have made generous use of their leftover campaign bank accounts by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for similarly disallowable purchases and expenditures.
Campaign expenditures for former governors Buddy Roemer and Edwin Edwards were not available on the State Ethics Board’s web page.
At the same time, we found one former legislator who has not spent a penny of his leftover campaign funds—for anything. Democrat Dudley “Butch” Gautreaux of Morgan City has spent none of his campaign funds—for any purpose—since leaving office in January of 2012. We sincerely hope there are others.
Foster, a Republican, accounted for more than $201,000 in apparent non-allowable expenditures from his campaign fund. He had the following expense items listed in his campaign expenditure report:
- $3,000 for internet service;
- $66,675 for clerical payroll;
- $70,000 for copiers and other office equipment and maintenance contracts;
- $9,400 in dues to the Camelot Club and City Club, both in Baton Rouge;
- $4,300 in workers’ compensation insurance premiums for office staff;
- $25,000 for bookkeeping services;
- $9,800 in federal income tax payments on office staff;
- $13,500 for “constituent services”;
- $403 in payments to M.J. Foster Farms—an apparent reimbursement to himself for unknown expenditures.
In addition, Foster contributed to numerous causes, including $1,000 to a lamppost restoration drive in his hometown of Franklin and other charitable civic and church organizations and several political candidates. Only his contributions to political candidates and to the Louisiana Republican Party appeared to have been allowable under Ethics Board regulations.
Democrat Blanco easily eclipsed Foster with more than $400,000 in expenditures described in various Ethics Board opinions as not allowable for purposes “related to a political campaign or the holding of a public office.”
Some of her questionable expenditures included:
- $188,000 for communication consulting;
- $88,000 in clerical salaries;
- $67,000 in donations to various causes;
- $64,500 in tech support;
To be fair, however, there was brief speculation that Blanco would oppose Jindal in his re-election campaign of 2011 until health considerations took her out of that race. Any funds spent in exploration of a possible run would probably be looked upon favorably as campaign-related. Charitable contributions are allowed under certain conditions, such as in the cases of pro-rata refunds of unused contributions but otherwise such use of campaign funds for charitable donations is not allowed. We found an Ethics opinion that addresses that very issue: James David Cain
Like Foster, she also contributed generously to several political candidates as well as to the Louisiana Democratic Party, all allowable under Ethics Board regulations.
Former Sen. Anne Duplessis (D-New Orleans), now a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors ($13,440), former Rep. Kay Katz (R-Monroe), now a member of the Louisiana Tax Commission ($7,700), and former Rep. and former Sen. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro), now Chief Deputy Commissioner of Insurance ($1,300), each also had combined expenditures from their respective campaign funds totaling about $22,400 for purposes not allowed, according to Ethics Board regulations.
Small as those expenditures were when contrasted to Blanco, Foster or even Hebert, however, the samplings of more than $662,000 in questionable expenditures found by LouisianaVoice for only six former office holders—and the many examples of misuse of campaign funds by current officer holders—illustrates the critical lack of oversight of the manner in which office holders and former office holders alike live the good life off, what for many of them, is tax-free income most times in the tens of thousands of dollars but in some cases, six figures.
Campaign funds are contributed by donors, such as lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests who want something in return, like a favorable vote on a key issue. And because the politicians generally oblige, the donors couldn’t care less how campaign funds are spent. The funds are donated for the wrong reasons, so why should they care if they are spent for the wrong reasons?
That in a nutshell is what is wrong with our political system today. Far too much quid pro quo, a few winks, a couple of drinks over steak or lobster and donors look the other way as the recipient enjoys nice restaurants, club memberships, luxury car leases and tickets to college and pro athletic events and perhaps the occasional hooker.
Two things can occur to rein in this abuse:
The Louisiana Legislature, in a rare (and we do mean rare) moment of integrity and soul-searching, could enact binding laws governing who can contribute to campaigns (such as tracking the federal elections laws prohibiting corporate contributions), limiting PAC funds and spelling out in detail how campaign funds may and may not be spent.
But don’t look for that to happen in this or any other lifetime. Like corporations and banks, politicians just aren’t going to self-regulate without including a gaggle of hidden loopholes in any legislation that might happen to address the issue. You can bet any legitimate attempt will either be killed outright or amended to death in committee.
The other—and this, sadly, is just as unlikely—the voters of Louisiana will, in unity, say “ENOUGH!” They will, like Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, scream out their windows, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” and they will turn out of office any legislator who so much as buys the first ticket to a football game or dines at a fine restaurant or leases a luxury auto with campaign funds. And in equal unanimity, they will demand reimbursement of all funds wrongly spent by current and former office holders alike.
But a final word of caution: That would be in a perfect world so don’t hold your breath.