Quid pro quo? Kip Holden channels his inner Ray Nagin

Is EBR Mayor Kip Holden using tax dollars to cover his campaign expenses? Looking over six years worth of old campaign finance reports it sure seems that way.

First things first. Kip Holden is notorious for his tight-knit inner circle of trusted political advisors, and long-time consultant Rannah Gray has his ear, perhaps, more than any other. Little happens in the Mayor’s Office without Gray’s involvement, from the Library Board and downtown Library issue to BREC, she’s involved in everything.

As the Advocate reported yesterday, Holden has taken care of his long-time pal by funneling a steady stream of City-Parish contracts to her — almost $1 million over the last three years alone. But that’s not all, Kip went so far as to strong-arm other City-Parish contractors into hiring Gray as a subcontractor. From The Advocate:

Mathew Hodgkins, general manager of 1stCo Inc., said that JoAnne Moreau, director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told him she wanted marketing and public relations work under a proposed contract with 1stCo to be handled by Rannah Gray, a partner in Marmillion/Gray Media….

Hodgkins said 1stCo was capable of providing marketing and public relations services for the Red Stick Ready TV project, but Moreau told him she wanted Marmillion/Gray to handle those functions.

“We were directed to use her,” Hodgkins said. “From the project’s start, it was kind of a package deal.”…

Hodgkins said his firm preferred to provide [marketing and public relations] services but was given “absolutely no choice” other than to use Marmillion/Gray for the marketing and public relations duties.

Funneling City-Parish contracts to your political crony is bad. Forcing other contractors to hire said crony is an egregious abuse of power. But what really raises suspicion is the consulting fees (or lack thereof) that Holden paid.

On annual campaign finance reports filed between 2005 and 2007, Holden reported $35,000 in campaign expenses for Gray’s consulting services. Nothing wrong with that, like I said, little happens in the Mayor’s Office without her involvement and she deserves to be compensated for her time.

Where things get interesting is over the next three years. Looking at campaign finance reports from 2008 to 2010, Kip paid only $6,000 in 2008 — and not one dime in 2009 or 2010 — in consulting fees to Gray. Based on this, one would conclude that Rannah Gray has done little work with the Mayor’s Office, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one could argue that Rannah Gray is more visible now than ever (e.g. Kip’s recent police chief search committee was organized by Gray).

Could the $1 million in City-Parish contracts Kip funneled to Gray be quid pro quo for the consulting work she does for him on a regular basis? Why else would he need to strong-arm other contractors into hiring Gray as a subcontractor? Plus, isn’t it more than a little suspicious that Gray’s campaign-billed consulting fees dropped significantly over roughly the same time period that Kip steered $1 million in City-Parish contracts to her? Something just doesn’t seem right.

You can email Bruce Landry at hayridebr[email protected] or follow him on Twitter @hayridebruce.

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