There’s been a lot of talk about Gov. John Bel Edwards 90-day fundraising ban during and after the ongoing regular session, but little attention given to the backup fundraising structure that has been established to support the incumbent’s bid
While the Edwards campaign has no choice but to temporarily shutter its fundraising operations, GUMBO PAC—in particular—is ramping up its solicitations to help fill the void. “I would expect you’ll see some events, too, over the next few months,” said GUMBO PAC Director Trey Ourso.
Super PACs, like GUMBO, are prohibited from communicating or coordinating with the campaigns they support in terms of strategy and spending. The PACs and campaigns, however, can call each other daily if they wish to share specific scheduling and fundraising information. (If the rules come off as confusing, that’s because they are. There’s very little in state and federal law regarding super PACs, but there is ample case law on both levels.)
More to the point, boosters for candidates can gently direct donors who have reached their legal limits with the campaigns to their corresponding super PACs. The candidates can even attend events hosted by the PACs, as long as there’s no direct solicitation for money. (That scenario played out more than once during the 2015 gubernatorial cycle, which also served as the state’s introduction to super PAC politics in a race for the mansion.)
Democratic donors like the sound of that heading into this blackout period, but Ourso said no such events are on his calendar yet. The pro-Edwards Rebuild Louisiana, which sports a nonprofit structure, will likely do a bit of fundraising as well over the next three months, Ourso added, but GUMBO PAC will undoubtedly be undertaking the heavy lifting. As for what’s in the roux, the PAC has more than $2 million in its pot.
Last cycle GUMBO PAC found a deep-pocketed partner in the Democratic Governors Association, which will likewise be coming to the table with resources for Edwards. When, exactly, that will transpire is unknown, though. While the DGA has already sent staffers to Louisiana, Democratic diehards are still waiting for the dollars. (Make no mistake: when the DGA does fully land in Louisiana, it’ll be loaded up with cash, due to a lack of competitive races elsewhere and the importance of redistricting next term.)
Another unknown is what kind of role, if any, the Louisiana Water Coalition might play this cycle. In 2015 the PAC pointed all of its opposition resources at former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, which in turn benefitted Edwards’ narrative. The Water Coalition PAC is still active, with its latest report to the Ethics Administration filed in February.
The group only had about $96,000 in the bank, but it should be able to get up and running with little to no effort. During September and October 2015 alone, the Baton Rouge law firm of Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello dumped $1.2 million into the PAC. A call seeking comment from the PAC’s chairman was not returned prior to the publication of this column.
Then there’s the rest of the third-party landscape, which includes not only PACs but also nonprofits that were formed to dog the issues in elections:
—Several outside groups, trickling down from the national level, are expected to participate in the governor’s race, with American Bridge reportedly intending to support Edwards re-election and the opposite coming from the likes of the Republican Governors Association, Americans for Prosperity and America Rising.
—Truth in Politics, another 501(c)4, is anti-Edwards, and nothing else matters. Founded by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, TIP has Innovative Advertising on media and a national fundraiser on the payroll. The group’s first television ad buy of the cycle amounted to $400,000.
—Securing Louisiana’s Future PAC was designed to be a pro-Abraham PAC. The committee was being guided as early as February by Brett Buerck of Majority Strategies, who said the focus at the time was on fundraising.
As you can see, the race for governor has a busy field of players. But keep a close eye on these PACs and nonprofits. Their contributions will add up in a hurry. By October of 2015, or what would be five months from now in the current gubernatorial cycle, 40% of all of the cash raised for the governor’s race came from super PACs.
And of the $4.5 million spent on television ads for the governor’s race, 29% of the buys by October originated with super PACs as well, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Those spots were mostly negative, allowing the super PACs to get muddy on behalf of their chosen candidates without the candidates themselves becoming dirty.
Does that sound familiar? If not yet, it will soon.