SADOW: Campaign Finance Reports Aren’t Kind To Gatti’s Re-Election Bid

Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti doesn’t have just recently-released campaign figures about which to worry. Some past numbers aren’t going to help his reelection chances in his right-of-center district, either.

Last week, he and principal opponent Republican Robert Mills filed their data for 30 days prior to the election. Gatti found his $148,000 raised couldn’t match the $192,000 Mills raised; Mills outspent him $142,000 to $111,000; and, most alarmingly, he had just $40,000 in the bank for the stretch run while Mills sat on $174,000.

Worse for him, Gatti went deep into his own pockets to squeak out a win in his previous election. Making dozens of loans to himself, many after the election’s conclusion, at the end of 2018 he had loaned himself almost $422,000 and had fewer than $75,000 left in his campaign account – perhaps explaining why he fought so hard from his Senate perch to kill legislation that not only almost certainly would have decreased vehicle insurance rates but also would have made his personal injury attorney practice less lucrative. He kicked in another $8,000 or so in 2019.

And this doesn’t count money he or the law firm he owns spent on trying to defeat other Republicans. When his former college friend GOP state Rep Mike Johnson ran for Congress, Center for Responsive Politics compiled data show his firm plunked down $100,000 on the Fighting for Louisiana super PAC formed to aid in the election of Republican former Shreveport city councilman Oliver Jenkins. The Jenkins campaign gave the group around $38,000 and JPRC Energy, LLC, managed by Paul Dickson (who made the news last year when his company Morris and Dickson ran into trouble with the Drug Enforcement Administration for alleged reporting omissions) gave another $25,000; these were the only donations (Dickson and his pharmaceutical firm both donated to Mills in 2019.)

According to CRP compilations, Gatti also coughed up $35,000 over a two-year period starting in 2016 to Napoleon PAC, named after the address of and located at the headquarters of Democrat operative Trey Ourso with Milton Ourso as the chairman. Trey Ourso is the leading figure behind Gumbo PAC, made famous by raising millions of dollars running extremely negative, if not always accurate, advertisements against Republican candidates contesting Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, the law school friend of Gatti.

Since its 2016 founding, Gatti is the second-largest of the mainly trial lawyer donors to Napoleon PAC, which is described by CRP as having a “Democrat/liberal” orientation. In its short existence, it has donated money to only Democrats, including former Sen. Hillary Clinton and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, but has spent the lion’s share of receipts on activities by Trey Ourso’s political consulting firm Ourso Beychok.

Conservatives, particularly in his district, may wonder why Gatti is in bed with liberal Democrats – certainly a consideration that weighed on the minds of a number of high-profile elected conservative Republicans who have endorsed Mills, including Johnson. Maybe being in hock $430,000 and counting and desperate to hold onto elected office to help keep the dough rolling into his law office means the political moderate who signed up to run as a Republican has to seek new alliances with the ideological left.

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