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Following the Third Circuit Money


April 17, 2017
By Mike Stagg
Originally Posted on Acadiana Business

Informant “Deep Throat” told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to “follow the money” in their Watergate investigation, advice that still remains the best lens through which to view and understand politics almost 50 years after it was given. Although detailed reports on final fundraising in the last 20 days leading up to the primary election for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal aren’t due until April 19 (just days after this issue went to press), special state campaign reporting requirements for contributions over $1,000 provide a large enough opening to show where the big money was flowing during the stretch run to March 25.

Candyce Perret’s campaign committee, chaired by former state Sen. Mike Michot, ended up raising around $400,000 over the course of the campaign, not including $58,100 the candidate loaned her campaign to get started in December. Based on the final full campaign finance report filed 10 days prior to the March 25 primary and the special reports filed in the wake of major contributions through April 10, the Perret campaign raised $392,198. The final report cutoff date for what is known as the 10-P report was March 5. After that date, all candidates are required to report contributions in excess of $1,000 to the Campaign Finance division of the state Ethics Administration within 48 hours of receipt of contributions at or above that level. ThePerret campaign filed nine special reports.

Smaller contributions received by the campaigns after the March 5 cutoff date will be reported along with the large contributions in the April 19 reports (10 days before the general election), which will also include spending by the campaigns of Perret and her runoff opponent Susan Theall during the first three weeks of that race.

Perret far out-raised her two primary opponents — Theall and Vanessa Anseman. Anseman will have raised something on the order of $100,000 when the final reports are filed, based on her 10-P report and special reports filed after the cutoff date. Anseman’s combined total was $90,497.

Theall’s 10-P and special report totals were $33,022. Theall also loaned her campaign just under $27,000 during the primary campaign.

Nearly half of the money raised by the Perret campaign committee came from Lafayette Parish. The committee raised $185,300 in contributions from Lafayette Parish residents, or 47 percent of the total money taken in by the campaign.

The Lake Charles area was the second largest fundraising base for Perret with $94,398 coming from Calcasieu Parish. The bulk of that money — $79,399 — came in the three-week reporting period between Feb. 14 and March 5. Most of that money came from plaintiff law firms in Lake Charles and their principals.

St. Landry Parish, where Perret practiced with the firm of Morrow, Morrow, Ryan and Bassett before moving to work for her husband Hunter’s firm, Louisiana Specialty Institute (and later the couple’s The Perret Group), was the third most generous base for Perret’s campaign. The Perret Committee raised $18,600 among St. Landry residents, the bulk of that from her old firm.

Baton Rouge area residents pitched in $15,500 to the Perret campaign while New Orleans metro law firms and individuals contributed $15,000 to the campaign effort. Perret’s campaign committee raised $11,900 in her native Avoyelles Parish and another $11,000 in Iberia Parish.

In all, the Perret campaign raised $231,400 from inside the eight-parish district (59 percent) and another $160,798 outside the district.

Anseman finished second in fundraising but third in votes. Her committee raised $50,345 of its money (55.6 percent) inside the eight-parish district; $49,145 was raised in Lafayette Parish. Her committee, chaired by State Rep. Nancy Landry, raised a combined $1,200 in the rest of the district. Anseman’s contribution map is by far the most diverse, with contributions coming from Puerto Rico, New York and Florida, in addition to the New Orleans area, Reserve and Baton Rouge.

Theall lagged significantly in fundraising in the primary, but she got her money where she got her votes — in Lafayette Parish. Theall’s committee, chaired by Cecil Fuselier, reported raising $33,022 in Lafayette Parish (not including contributions of under $1,000 that came in after March 5). That constitutes 91 percent of the money Theall raised from supporters during the seven-week campaign.

Theall got 46 percent of the 14,340 votes cast in Lafayette Parish on March 25 to run a close second to Perret districtwide. Perret led Theall by fewer than 2,000 votes in the primary, despite a lopsided money advantage and initial support from a broad range of business and political leaders. District-wide turnout for the primary election was 10 percent, according to the secretary of Medium state’s website.

Unlike last fall’s Supreme Court race between Jimmy Genovese and Marilyn Castle, which produced the vacancy on the Third Circuit when Genovese was elected, neither defense nor plaintiff attorney PACs were involved in the primary campaign. Vanessa Anseman had worked maritime defense cases at Liskow & Lewis and would have been the most likely beneficiary of activity by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other probusiness groups in the primary. In a February interview regarding her campaign, Anseman said she had been told by LABI that the organization would sit out the primary and consider its options in the runoff.

Brian Landry, LABI’s vice president for Political Action, tells ABiz that the state’s largest business lobby group is going to sit out the runoff between Perret and Theall as well.

“WESTPAC is the regional PAC that oversees the Lafayette/Lake Charles/ Alexandria area,” Landry wrote in an emailed response. “The WESTPAC board interviewed all three candidates during the primary and decided not to endorse during the primary. The WESTPAC reconvened and decided to not endorse any particular candidate in the runoff.”

Perret’s money advantage in the primary was undercut by a series of stories published by ABiz’s sister publication, The Independent, which revealed that Hunter Perret’s Louisiana Specialty Institute is the target of a federal investigation, that Candyce Gagnard Perret falsely claimed to be an assistant district attorney when she was arrested in Florida in 2004 for indecent exposure on the beach, and that Gagnard Perret’s former fiancé had brought three civil suits against her over a three-year period following their breakup shortly after her Florida arrest.

The Independent also reported on questionable fundraising practices by Theall in her successful 2011 campaign for judge in the 15th JDC.

With the short runoff window overlapping final reports on primary spending, observers won’t know with any certainty if big money contributors have stuck with Perret or if Theall was able to peal off enough of that support to enable her to run a media campaign down the stretch.

The runoff for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal between Candyce Perret and Susan Theall is Saturday, April 29. Early voting started Saturday, April 15, and ends April 22. The eight-parish district comprises Allen, Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes.