No sooner had we posted the story below than we learn of yet another potential scandal that could inflict more damage to Dave Vitter’s already weakened bid for governor even more than the stories about his patronizing prostitutes.
Thanks to a tip from a reader, we were alerted to Forward Progressives, a web blog we’d never seen before which discusses the newest problem for the state’s senior senator and his bid to succeed Bobby Jindal. http://www.forwardprogressives.com/theres-brand-new-david-vitter-scandal-doesnt-involve-hookers/
And we’re not too modest to point out that we first posted a story about the potential problem with his Super PAC Fund for Louisiana way back on Dec. 17, 2013 https://louisianavoice.com/2013/12/17/lines-blurred-between-sen-vitters-campaign-committee-and-new-fund-for-louisiana-super-pac-jindal-to-succeed-vitter/
But the picture became crystal clear on Election Day Eve (Friday, Oct. 23, 2015) as a result of a minor fender bender at Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Carrollton Avenue in Metairie that could land Vitter in hot water over violations of federal election laws.
Vitter was a passenger in a 2006 Mercedes Benz driven by Courtney Guastella, 36, of New Orleans, according to New Orleans police.
Ms. Guastella, identified as Vitter’s campaign finance director, it turns out is actually Courtney Gaustella Callihan, wife of Bill Callihan, a Capital One Bank director, and the two reside at 6048 Marshall Foch Street in the Lakeview area of New Orleans.
That is the same address of the Fund for Louisiana’s Future (FLF) Super PAC set up to in 2013 to help Vitter with a run for governor in 2015.
FLF was responsible for a barrage of TV ads directed against fellow Republican candidates Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle which now are expected to focus on State Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite.
Angelle received 19 percent of the vote in Saturday’s Jungle Primary while Dardenne received 15 percent. Both were eliminated from the Nov. 21 General Election in which Vitter, who got 23 percent, will face Democrat Edwards, who led with 40 percent.
LouisianaVoice has been concerned about the close relationship between Vitter and FLF since our first story nearly two years ago, thanks to an early heads-up by the Daily Kingfish blog. http://dailykingfish.com/tag/superpac/
Washington attorney Charles Spies challenged the Louisiana Board of Ethics in December of 2013, saying that Louisiana should fall in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that removed the limits on money that may be contributed to Super PACs.
The Daily Kingfish said at the time that while Spies was the mover and shaker behind the effort to remove the state’s contribution cap, the Louisiana FLF address was 6048 Marshall Foch Street in the Lakeview area of New Orleans.
Federal law prohibits any interaction between or coordinating with a candidate and any Super PAC established on his or her behalf.
Daily Kingfish and LouisianaVoice noted nearly two years ago that Courtney Guastella Callihan was listed on invitations as the contact person for a Bayou Weekend Cajun cooking, airboat swamp tour and alligator hunt set for Sept. 5-7, 2014, with Vitter as “special guest.” (Clarification: In our initial story in December of 2013, her name was spelled Gaustella instead of Guastella.)
And while it is legal for a candidate to appear at a Super PAC event, he is prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions. So, when Courtney Callihan’s name appeared on invitations as the contact person for the event, the picture got a little murky. It was enough that she served in the dual role of campaign finance director and as spokesperson for the Super PAC but Vitter dumped at least $890,000 of his own funds into FLF (far more, it turns out, than our initial reports), which seemed to blur the distinction of separation between candidate and Super PAC. http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/contrib_all.php?cycle=2014&type=A&cmte=C00541037&page=1
Citizens United legalized independent groups raising unlimited funds (Super PACs) but it did not legalize politicians establishing dummy organizations to evade campaign finance laws.
It turns out that one Courtney Guastella has contributed $148,381 to FLF and another $55,476 directly to Vitter’s Senate campaign before than. (Note: The first of her 25 payments to FLF began in March of 2013, some nine months before Spies initiated his efforts to remove the cap on contributions.)
That blurs the line just a little more.
But on Friday, that picture was cleared up considerably and it was not a pretty image for Vitter, who should never have been in the vehicle with the woman.
And he wasn’t for long.
On the same day that a private investigator was arrested for illegally videoing a supporter of Edwards, Vitter was a passenger in the vehicle being driven by Callihan when she clipped a second vehicle. Vitter, who has attempted to position himself as an anti-corruption candidate, was quickly whisked away from the scene by a staffer in another vehicle and Callihan was ticketed for improper lane usage. Police said it was legal for Vitter to leave since he was not a driver. Legal, but was it ethical? Did it give the appearance that he may have had something to hide?
All things considered, it figures that Vitter would want to vacate the premises quickly.
But one thing I’ve learned in my seven decades on this earth is that no matter how fast you run, life has a way of catching up with you.
We can’t wait to see if he will show for two scheduled debates with Edwards or if Edwards will be debating an empty chair.
We’re certain there are a lot of questions about the past few days that Edwards as well as debate panelists would love to ask.
Given the flurry of events that have taken place since Friday and their possible implications, Vitter probably won’t even be asked about the hookers.
We’re betting that “Senate business” will prevent Vitter from attending the debates.