Alford: The legacies and loopholes in Louisiana legislators’ campaign finances

Those who say you can’t take it with you clearly haven’t met state Sen. Francis Thompson, the Legislature’s second-longest serving member. The 77-year-old Delhi Democrat also enjoys a special grandfathered designation in regard to our state laws that regulate how candidates can spend certain campaign dollars, Jeremy Alford writes in his new column.

To understand Thompson’s special situation you’ll need to know that he’s been fundraising and burning up campaign trails since he was first seated as a member of the state House in 1975. He moved to the Senate in 2008, but has always embraced a slow and steady approach to fundraising over the decades.

“Real slow, with a little bit here and a little bit there. That’s how I’ve done it,” Thompson told LaPolitics. “I raise it that way and I spend it that way. Plus, I don’t live out of my account.”

Thompson, who’s on his way out of the Senate and is now running for his old House seat, currently has $893,000 in cash on hand, of which $659,000 is being held in investments that garnered a return of $8,000 last calendar year.

Only two other legislators, Senate President John Alario of Westwego and Sen. Greg Tarver of Shreveport, could find themselves in similar situations, Alford writes.

Tarver, a Democrat who served in the upper chamber from 1984 to 2004 before his most recent legislative reincarnation, has $178,000 in his campaign finance account. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Elected prior to Thompson in January 1972, Alario is the Legislature’s longest-serving member who knows a bit about fundraising as well. Alario has $241,000 in his campaign finance account and $319,000 in his leadership PAC.

Read the full column for why and how Thompson has managed to have almost twice the campaign funds as his peers, and what grandfathered status means for the most grandfatherly of Louisiana’s legislators.

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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