Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to find the deep pockets of campaign donors, raising $352,839 since Christmas Eve in his bid for a second term as New Orleans' top elected official. It's a sum that could make an already uphill climb even steeper for his chief rival, former state civil Judge Michael Bagneris.There hasn't been an independent poll of the mayor's race released this month that I know about. And I'm having a hard time drawing a bead on just how far apart the candidates might be. There are some ways to go about guessing at that but I don't want to go too far into it right now since I've got a separate post about the horse race in draft. But my immediate observations based on the forum I attended tonight say that Bagneris is maybe getting a little desperate.
Bagneris collected $126,926 between Dec. 24 and Jan. 12, but that included $50,000 of his own money, the latest campaign finance reports show. Landrieu raised $263,339 during that same time period, and another $89,500 during fundraisers last week.
The forum was at Trinity Lutheran Church on N. Claiborne hosted by a group called Voters East Of The Industrial Canal. So much of the focus was on the perception that New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward have been neglected or at least more slow to recover in relation to the rest of the city. One would think that this is where Bagneris would be at his strongest, and he certainly seemed to have much of the room on his side, but he also seemed to land too few of his punches.
Asked about progress in the East and in the Lower Nine, Mitch listed a number of construction projects at or near completion including a police station, a library, Methodist Hospital, and a new Wal-Mart. Bagneris had OK responses to some of that. For example, he complained that there aren't enough actual police working out of the new 7th District station. And went into a bit of histrionics about the Wal-Mart.
"Wal-Mart? All we get is Wal-Mart!"
And sure, nobody likes Wal-Mart. But it didn't help Bagneris' case in that regard that minutes later he was asking why the east isn't currently filled with sparkling new big box retail as far as the eye can see. In fact, a big part of Bagneris' economic development strategy seems to involve contacting "the CEOs of Target, Best Buy, (other box people)" and telling them that they don't currently operate stores in East New Orleans in case that gives them an idea.
Bagneris' weakest swing came at the Methodist Hospital project. "We still don't have a hospital," Bagneris said, "We have another promise for a hospital." Except, in fact, the hospital is currently two thirds complete and due to be ready in May. Maybe it has been too long coming, but that is a lot more than just "another promise for a hospital."
And this has been Bagneris' problem. He draws no distinction between himself and Mitch upon which any voter can comfortably rest his of her support. Bagneris could take a strongly contrasting position to Mitch's on Civil Service reform, or challenge his support of the public ed reform scheme or question his role in the rising cost of living for poor and working people in New Orleans. But he does none of this. In fact, it's difficult to determine if there's really any separation between the candidates at all on those issues.
Instead of attacking Landrieu for the things he really hasn't done or done well, Bagneris picks statistical nits at Mitch's presumed successes. Often times, as in the case of Methodist Hospital, Bagneris makes assertions that surely not even he believes. It's especially puzzling since if Bagneris really wanted to attack Mitch's record on recovery projects all he has to do is point out that the great majority of them are funded and directed by FEMA in the first place. It might be Mitch's job to competently ensure that the federal recovery funds are spent. But it's not actually Mitch out there making the rain. Katrina did that already.
Anyway, I'll come back to this later. I realize that turning out an incumbent Mayor of New Orleans isn't a very likely proposition. My sense, though, is that there may have been an unusual opportunity for the right candidate and the right argument. Michael Bagneris doesn't seem to be that guy right now.
And, like I said, it would have been hard anyway. That's thanks in no small part to that big truck of money Mitch has.. which was the reason we got into this tonight in the first place.
Landrieu's list has its fair share of out-of-town donors, including $29,500 from political action committees, but much of his money came from New Orleans addresses -- a sign he still has a local wealthy donor list that he held in reserve for the campaign's final days, said Ed Chervenak, a political scientist at the University of New Orleans.That "out-of-town" donors thing is interesting. Last week's New York Times ran a feature on the national parties' capacity to organize and direct massive amounts of money across state lines to specific state and even local elections they might consider strategically important.
Recall that early on in this election, rumors began circulating that state Republicans might be scheming to help Mitch's opponent in some sort of bank shot attempt at "tarnishing the Landrieu brand" ahead of this year's Senate election. Clancy DuBos circulated those rumors thusly.Both networks arose to help Democrats and Republicans skirt the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which sharply cut the flow of money from national parties to the states. But over the last three years they have been turbocharged by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which made it easier in many states for unions, corporations and the wealthy to pool money for large independent expenditures.Today, state and even local races increasingly are financed by checks written hundreds or thousands of miles away. A five-figure contribution from a Colorado energy executive passes through a bank account registered in Pennsylvania, where it is mixed with money that ends up in the campaign coffers of an attorney general candidate in Iowa. Business money raised in Michigan, where corporate contributions to candidates are banned, fuels campaigns in Florida and Maine, where such contributions are legal.Much of the money passes through a handful of Washington-based organizations: From 2006 to 2010, the volume of campaign cash flowing from Beltway-based groups to state parties and candidates almost doubled, to $139 million from $79 million, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.That figure is widely expected to grow in this year’s midterm elections: Strategists say donors are persuaded that dollars spent in relatively low-budget state elections can go further in advancing their agenda than money burned in the ceaseless trench warfare of Washington.
My sources tell me Bagneris will benefit from a massive anti-Landrieu fundraising effort directed by Republican mullahs who are hell-bent on tarnishing the Landrieu brand in advance of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's re-election campaign next year. If that means financing a Bagneris campaign for mayor (or mounting a third-party ad campaign to help him), so be it.Here's what that "massive anti-Landrieu fundraising effort" Bagneris is benefiting from looks like right now.
"For Bagneris, that well may be running dry," (Chervenak) said, referring to the judge's decision to inject his personal money into his campaign.If the "Republican mullahs" are gonna drop their secret money bomb, now would be a good time. More likely, though, the mullahs are a mirage concocted specifically to help prime the pump of outside Democratic cash for the Landrieu campaign... not to mention garner a high profile endorsement at an opportune moment.
After spending more than $577,000 since Christmas, including $222,559 on television and radio advertising, Landrieu is left with $883,426 on hand to spend before the Feb. 1 election. Bagneris has $201,718 after spending about $145,000 -- including $83,192 on radio and television.
But, hey, even when they've got you out money-gunned, that doesn't mean you can't spend strategically well. Which brings us to the final bit in that campaign finance story I wanted to highlight. Here's what that money buys you.
Both candidates paid political groups that endorsed them, according to the reports. Landrieu shelled out $4,000 to the Crescent City Democratic Association, $2,500 to the Spanish American Voters Alliance and $15,000 to the Independent Democratic Electors Association. On Jan. 19, Bagneris gave $12,500 to the Black Organization for Leadership Development, or BOLD; $15,000 to the Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors, or LIFE; and $5,000 to the Louisiana Democratic Party, whose Orleans Parish executive committee endorsed him earlier this month.Here's how The Advocate reported on some of these endorsements yesterday.
Give Michael Bagneris this: He may not have picked up the endorsement of President Barack Obama in his run for mayor, but he has succeeded in bringing most of the city’s black political organizations to his side.Yeah well maybe not quite so remarkably.
The groups — once dismissed by former Mayor Ray Nagin as “alphabet soup” organizations because of their acronyms — may not have the clout they once did, but they’ve been remarkably unanimous in endorsing Bagneris, a longtime Civil District Court judge, over Mayor Mitch Landrieu.