Rumor has it a newly-elected legislator from North Louisiana was told by a lobbyist friend there was so much at the Capitol that “You could just pick it up off the floor.”
Arriving for his inauguration back in January, he walked up the 50 steps and into the Capitol rotunda. He was no sooner in the door when he spotted a $100 bill lying on the floor. He looked at it a moment and then grunted and walked past the bill, saying, “Hmpf, I’ll pick you up tomorrow. I’m not working on my first day in Baton Rouge.” (With apologies to the late comic Brother Dave Gardner.)
That said, what’s the price of a reliable legislator these days?
Obviously, the going rate depends on a lot of factors. If, for instance, 97 oil and gas companies want a lawsuit against them for destroying Louisiana’s coastal marshlands, the price is pretty high as evidenced by the millions of dollars poured into political campaigns and lobbying efforts.
The oil companies, with virtually unlimited financial resources, spent like a drunken sailor by spreading the money around among legislators and political action committees.
On other issues, the answer might be not so much.
Take, for example, the confirmation of Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police. That price apparently is a little north of $76,000.
The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association obviously does not have the bottomless expense account enjoyed by the oil companies but it still manages to spread its money around pretty generously through its own political action committee, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ PAC.
But for the purposes of this one issue—the confirmation hearings last Wednesday on Edmonson’s reappointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards, we will concentrate on only a few recipients—members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, the President of the Senate and a handful of key legislative caucuses.
Last week, we watched the pathetically transparent attempt by members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee to avoid all questions about Edmonson’s record of allowing payroll fraud and other transgressions by those under his command. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/05/18/16942/
Somewhat puzzled by the collective amnesia of the committee (sarcasm) and its equally apparent determination not to thoroughly vet certain nominees while grilling others (realism), we thought we’d peel back the layers and take a peek at campaign contributions to members of the committee.
What we discovered proved interesting, to say the least.
Take committee Chairperson Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), who also serves as Chairperson of the Louisiana Democratic Party:
- Karen Carter Peterson: $3,100 in director contributions from the Sheriffs’ PAC;
- The Women’s Caucus: $3,500;
- The Louisiana Democratic Campaign Committee: $13,000;
- The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus: $25,500.
Democrats and Republicans alike benefited from the sheriffs’ PAC:
- Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans), vice chairperson of the committee: $1,000;
- Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans): $4,250;
- Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport): $1,600
- Louisiana Republican Legislative Delegation: $8,800;
- Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville): $2,000;
- Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro): $3,700;
- Neil Riser (R-Columbia): $500;
- Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe): $4,700
And just in case you might think the sheriffs’ influence was concentrated on just the committee members, the PAC also contributed $4,800 to Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego). You think he may have whispered in the ears of committee members to go light on Edmonson?
Granted, we’re not talking about a lot of money here—especially considering some of the aforementioned contributions date back to 2003. But it’s a steady flow of contributions to legislators who are restricted by the amount from any one contributor during a single election cycle ($2,500) is never ignored by the recipient. While the amounts of their contributions are lower, so, too, are their expenses because their districts are not statewide. It’s also enough to discourage legislators from taking the chance of pissing off the Sheriffs’ Association.
And while $76,000 contributed since 2003 may not seem like a lot, when you take into consideration the Sheriffs’ PAC contributed more than $794,000 on all candidates since that time—the vast majority of those legislators—it’s much easier to see how much more influence is purchased when the money is spread across the political landscape.
And to be sure, the Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ PAC doesn’t overlook those other legislators. The list is long and nearly every member of the legislator has received at least one contribution from the PAC. Here is the complete list of SHERIFFS ASSOCIATION CONTRIBUTIONS since 2003.
What’s the price of your legislator?