Looks Like The Water Coalition PAC Exploded On Liftoff

Yesterday, an ad began running on local TV in Baton Rouge castigating David Vitter over a rather old set of attack material – specifically the prostitution thing and the 2008 incident involving a former Vitter staffer who got involved in a domestic violence situation and wasn’t fired immediately. It was all the same type of stuff that was litigated in front of the voters in advance of the 2010 Senate election that Vitter won by 21 points over Charlie Melancon; fairly obviously, nobody cares.

But unlike the previous attack-ad material being brought out in this campaign by third parties, this wasn’t distributed by Gumbo PAC, the Democrat outfit launched by former Melancon campaign manager Trey Ourso. Instead, it was courtesy of a different outfit, this one called the Louisiana Water Coalition PAC. Two names were associated with that outfit in its filings; Laurie Tate and Alesia Ardoin.

Tate is apparently a public defender in West Baton Rouge Parish. As for Ardoin, she’s an attorney with the Sexton Law Firm in Baton Rouge – which is somewhat interesting. Ardoin’s employer Gray Sexton used to be the attorney for the Louisiana State Board of Ethics until he went into private practice, and he now does a lot of work for political candidates with respect to compliance with campaign finance and ethics code laws. Ardoin also used to be an attorney working for the State Board of Ethics.

And apparently, Ardoin resigned her role providing “legal oversight for the group’s activities during the campaign period” as outlined in the news release announcing the Water Coalition’s formation on Wednesday. That according to an email circulating from the Vitter campaign, which is rather gleeful over what looks like an implosion of a PAC aimed at attacking him.

According to the e-mail…

FYI — Alesia Ardoin, the lead attorney for the special interest PAC attacking Senator Vitter, has resigned today after very serious violations by her as attorney for the PAC came to light. These ethical and legal violations by her and the PAC are being pursued and could lead to her being sanctioned or disbarred.

That doesn’t sound too good.

The Baton Rouge Advocate has more, including Gray Sexton’s side of the story.

The Sexton law firm is no longer representing the political action committee that began broadcasting an attack ad Wednesday against U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

Gray Sexton said on Thursday that his firm’s role was to make sure that the Louisiana Water Coalition PAC was complying with state campaign finance laws, but resigned the work to avoid an appearance of a conflict because the firm had performed a similar role for Vitter and another gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

Sexton said his firm stepped aside from the Louisiana Water Coalition PAC after receiving a warning letter from Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign.

Sexton said he and Alesia Ardoin, who was identified in the water coalition’s press release as one of its attorneys, played no role in the PAC’s political strategy. He declined to identify who hired the firm.

Sexton also told the paper that neither Ardoin nor his law firm had done anything wrong.

Meanwhile, the Dead Pelican had a snippet of information on this case to the effect that WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge, where the ad began running on Wednesday, has pulled the TV spot off its air.

So far it’s not fully known who the money is behind the Louisiana Water Coalition PAC, though the grapevine says it’s a project of Baton Rouge trial attorney John Carmouche, whose prior involvement in political action committees produced the similar-sounding Citizens For Clean Water And Land PAC a few years ago. Carmouche is credited with virtually single-handedly electing Jeff Hughes to the state Supreme Court by dropping some $250,000 into that race over the few weeks before the primary, and he’s thought to have done so in an effort to put a balance on the court in favor of generous treatment of the so-called “legacy lawsuits” in which lucrative damages are awarded to landowners from oil companies engaged in antiquated environmental practices decades ago.

We don’t know if the grapevine is correct, though one assumes we’ll find out.

But at this point, whatever Ms. Ardoin might be facing it doesn’t appear that the Water Coalition PAC’s launch went as well as planned.



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