Campaign finance reports say a lot about a candidate’s fund-raising ability. A surprising number of hopefuls end up digging into their own pockets, and that isn’t the most productive way to run for office.
Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have to use his own money. He is far and away the champion fundraiser in the current statewide election campaign with $7.7 million at his fingertips. It won’t take much for him to defeat his nine relatively unknown challengers, but he is putting the money to good use.
Jindal is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to take complete control of the legislative process. He began by endorsing 56 lawmakers who have already been re-elected because of no opposition.
The governor’s latest campaign finance report shows he has spent $190,500 to give more than 70 legislative candidates the maximum $2,500 contribution. Most of them don’t even need the money.
Another $67,500 has been spent since Jindal filed his report. It has gone to other legislators and candidates the governor supports in campaigns for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Billy Nungesser, who is challenging Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, is the only other statewide candidate with more than $1 million in his campaign account. However, most of that is his own money.
Nungesser, who is president of Plaquemines Parish, has made two $500,000 loans to his campaign. He had $1.66 million in his account at the reporting deadline.
Dardenne wasted no time responding to Nungesser’s fundraising effort, calling it “an attempt to buy the office.”
“My support has always been from people across the state who believe in what I stand for,” Dardenne said.
Caroline Fayard, who made the runoff against Dardenne in a special election last year, also poured a lot of her own money or her family’s into her unsuccessful effort.
Dardenne summed up Fayard’s campaign well.
“I fully expect that she will outraise me and outspend me,” he said. “She has unlimited personal wealth and the entire Democratic machine behind her.”
The Louisiana Board of Ethics has begun an investigation into Fayard’s campaign funding. Dardenne had complained that her family was getting around contribution limits by funneling money through the state Democratic Party.
Dardenne’s latest report shows he has $635,596 on hand to wage his effort against Nungesser. Dardenne hasn’t loaned his campaign any money.
“… He (Nungesser), like others who have run against me before, is trying to buy this office,” Dardenne told the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “I have never borrowed money to run for office and I won’t now.”
Having to use his own money isn’t Nungesser’s only problem. He backed out of two forums last week at the last minute that has even some of his supporters upset.
“We put publicity out in good faith,” one of the forum officials told The Advocate of Baton Rouge. “Now what do I do? Do you go in and tell all those people not to come?”
A Baton Rouge Press Club official said she is trying to convince Nungesser to show up.
Voters deserve to see more from a candidate than his or her own scripted campaign rhetoric.
Dardenne, once again, made hay of the latest development.
“He (Nungesser) doesn’t want a side-by-side comparison between the two of us,” Dardenne said.
The other statewide race that promises some major campaigning involves two candidates in the secretary of state’s contest.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler is being challenged by Speaker of the House Jim Tucker of New Orleans, who is term-limited in the lower chamber.
Schedler reported he had $364,409 in cash on hand. He loaned his campaign $200,000. Tucker had $694,802, and has loaned his campaign $500,000.
Mike Strain, state agriculture commissioner, loaned his campaign $250,000. He has two opponents who aren’t well-known.
Jim Donelon, state insurance commissioner, has $413,341 to spend and has not taken out any loans. He has one opponent.
The advantage of beating the bushes for campaign funds is the support you gain in the process. Whatever anyone contributes to a candidate, be it $10 or $1,000, his vote normally follows.
Dardenne’s experience shows the value of following that formula. He lost his only political race in 1987, but the margin was 51-49 percent. Since that time he has been elected to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council, the state Senate four times and as secretary of state and lieutenant governor.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].