This is the most Louisiana Politics thing in Louisiana politics, of course, and it’s a good indication of how ugly Louisiana’s 3rd District congressional race has gotten.
What’s on the two audio clips below is a conversation between Higgins and his ex sometime earlier this year, and he’s attempting to negotiate some sort of arrangement whereby she doesn’t show up to burn his campaign down.
Which she ultimately tried, because she filed suit against him in late October, when it was fairly clear Higgins would be in the runoff against Angelle. The suit claims he owes six figures in back child support; Higgins has said he doesn’t owe her anything.
Ken Stickney from the Lafayette Advertiser has a detailed piece on the child support issue from back in November; there are lots of moving parts to it and it’s not a cut-and-dried case that Angelle’s accusations are true. It sounds like Higgins has done about as well as he was able by the two kids he and Stormy Rothkamm-Hambrice, the ex, had together; the problem being that as a street cop he didn’t make any money and the child support figure he settled on with the ex was based on what he made when he was in the car business.
The rest of us generally don’t want to get involved in that fight. It’s not exactly public policy we’re talking about here.
Part of the color behind this issue is Higgins’ ex used to work as a paralegal in the governor’s office and she’s a personal friend of Angelle’s campaign guru Timmy Teepell. That doesn’t mean anything she’s complaining about is invalid; it just explains the enthusiasm with which the Angelle campaign is dredging up personal business in an effort to beat back Higgins’ challenge to what at one point was seen as a foregone conclusion Angelle would win.
And enthusiasm is a good word. Here’s Angelle spokesman Ryan Cross talking about this in a press release today…
Higgins’ Phone Conversation Reveals His Intent to Violate the Law
The law is very clear that a candidate cannot use campaign funds for any personal gain, and that certainly includes paying for $100,000+ of unpaid child support.
Clay Higgins clearly implies in the attached conversation that he was planning to use his congressional campaign to pay for his years of unpaid child support. Higgins told his ex-wife in a May 2016 phone conversation that “I’m just learning about campaign laws and sh**, but there’s got to be a lot of money floating around.”
Higgins’ former wife immediately shuts down Higgins’ illegal scheme when she says “I would never have anything to do with that. Whatever you pay me has to be completely clean.”
Perhaps the most indicting thing Higgins says is that “I really don’t know how much we should even talk about some of this stuff on the phone.” That statement shows his clear intention to not get caught in his illegal scheme.
The statement is reminiscent of Higgins using public resources to request to be paid $10,000 in cash and to only discuss the reason why “in person” from a lawyer he was filming a commercial for.
In the tape, Higgins acknowledges that he owes $100,000+ in unpaid child support…something he has previously denied to reporters as recently as 14 days ago.
We’re left wondering why Clay Higgins has repeatedly lied to reporters ave can Clay ever be trusted by the public to handle taxpayer dollars?
Here’s the audio, in two parts.
And Part 2…
Is it devastating? The contention that Higgins is trying to break the law is pretty weak – essentially, he’s offering her what amounts to a job in his campaign, which isn’t great ethically but it’s unlikely anybody would prosecute her, and then when she takes a dump on that idea he talks about giving her a settlement out of his future earnings – which really isn’t the public’s business.
Nobody really wants to know about all this stuff. Higgins looks pretty bad for having this issue hanging over his head, but on the other hand is it really a feather in Angelle’s cap for this stuff to be his December surprise?
Higgins’ camp tells us he’s been trying to come to a resolution of the child support issue since before he started running for Congress and the ex has refused to negotiate it. The audio above was recorded in May or June of this year, we’re told, and what’s probably most significant in it is that she recorded the call – which isn’t generally something you’d do if you’re serious about resolving a dispute amicably. The connection she has to Angelle through Teepell adds some color to that.
And no, nobody is going to believe Clay Higgins is a crook on the basis of this audio. What they’ll believe is he’s a working-class guy with working-class problems, and maybe he’s not the textbook congressional candidate. Angelle’s camp is running a pretty significant risk of making itself look like the shameless cabal of political hacks Higgins has accused them of being. It’s one thing to spread dirt on your opponent if you can show he’s crooked, or if he’s a sex fiend, or if he clubs baby seals or something. It’s something else when you set him up in what comes off as a sting operation over a long-dormant child support fight which is so painfully common among regular people as to make it unusable as a campaign issue.
The ex looks like a woman scorned who’s trying to destroy the father of her children when he’s trying to make something of himself, and Angelle’s campaign is promoting that. It’s a fair retort that if a Higgins-friendly PAC can take a flamethrower to Angelle and accuse him of being a crook who voted for Hillary Clinton this isn’t so far afield, but still.
It might be a way to win an election, but it seems like it’s the worst possible way.
Those of us not in the 3rd congressional district can take pity on those who are. It’s a hell of a choice you folks have on Saturday.