Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Rigging the Election Guide Part Two: The #lasen swamp

On Election Day 2016 there are over twenty candidates in the race to replace retiring U.S. Senator and noted disgrace to humanity David Vitter. Only two of them can qualify for the runoff, of course. And at this stage, everything we've seen in the polling indicates that one of them will be the dripping mound of animated smarm known as John Neely Kennedy. Kennedy is a despicable person. But he's got the highest job approval and name recognition among this field. And he's the only candidate who has successfully run for statewide office. As difficult as it is to stomach, he's always had the clearest path to the runoff among Republican candidates. So the game really is about who squeezes into that other slot.

Louisiana political convention tells us that spot should go to the strongest Democrat.  In fact, that is still the most likely outcome Tuesday. But it isn't a lock.  Early in the year Democratic poobahs were busy figuring out how to replicate their series of happy accidents winning strategy from the 2015 governor's race. 
Handwerk said the party’s current inclination is to attempt to mimic the gubernatorial race — to come up with a strong, possibly lesser-known candidate to rally behind early while Republicans battle each other for a spot in the runoff.
Yeah that didn't happen. This is the case because of a split among Democratic power brokers initiated by the increasingly exasperating candidacy of Caroline Fayard.

The Fabulous Fayards

Why is Fayard in the race? At first it seemed okay. For a while, a popular parlor game involved figuring a way to game the abnormally large field into a double Democrat runoff. This became an especially tantalizing  prospect after David Duke jumped in.  The now infamous Raycom poll even had Duke polling at 5 percent. If that's a reliable number (it probably isn't) it was thought the presence of Duke and other fringe candidates might have captured enough of the Republican vote in the Year of Trump to deny even Kennedy a runoff spot. But that was always a long shot and the math never really worked out.  Duke is still running as a spoiler. But he's probably there to spoil somebody besides Kennedy. More on that in a bit.

Early polling showed Fayard didn't have the numbers to compete. Her campaign was always light on substance anyway. To illustrate this, I refer you to political consultant Lamar White's endorsement of her in this September 2 blog post. The points on which Lamar makes his argument for her are these.

1) She is relatively young. 
If she is successful, at 38, she would be the youngest woman ever elected to the United States Senate. All told, 116 different people have been elected to the Senate in their thirties; not a single one of them was a woman.
2) She hold a prestigious degree.
Caroline is an Ivy League graduate; she finished at the front of her class at one of the top five law schools in the country.

3) She's worked with and for powerful people.
She’s worked at one of the most successful financial institutions in the world (and even at the White House). She’s taught law at Loyola in New Orleans, and as a lawyer, she’s worked on some of the biggest environmental damages cases in American history. Last year, she helped her brother launch a new airline company. A friggin airline company.
LOL "A friggin airline company," exclaims a breathless Lamar there.  Does Donald Trump have one of those?  Also the "successful financial institution" was Goldman Sachs.

4) Caroline represents "a new generation of leadership in Louisiana" whatever the hell that means.

At no point does Lamar say anything specific about what Senator Fayard's agenda is for a tenure in the US Senate. What constituencies does she represent?  Who will she fight against? Lamar doesn't say.  All that matters to him here is the personal profile. The post most reminded me of an old Gambit cover story by Jeremy Alford where then rising star Bobby Jindal was celebrated for his "Geek Appeal" rather than substantively analyzed for his policy agenda. As if to drive home the geek cred point, the post is accompanied by a podcast where Lamar interviews Fayard. See, she's cool. She'll come on this website and chat with us.

Lamar is a friend so I don't want to be too harsh here. I hope if he reads this he takes it as constructive criticism.  But in recent years, especially, he seems to base more of his political pronouncements on his personal knowledge of the individual candidates. Too many of his endorsements can be summarized as "I've met candidate so and so and they were very nice to me."  That's great. But it's not helpful to most readers. If anything, this personality based approach represents the opposite of "new generation" style politics.  It's just a repackaged version of good ol' boy networking. (Fayard is not an ol' boy, though, so I guess it's #woke.)

Anyway back to the race. Once it became apparent that she wasn't an early contender, it made more sense for Fayard to drop out, endorse Campbell, "unite the party" so to speak, and let the Democrats claim their default runoff spot. That didn't happen, though. It's a curious thing. Again, I'm not sure why Fayard stayed in the race. But I'm pretty clear on the effect of her being there. And her behavior in the meantime has ranged from plain embarrassing to downright suspicious.

And the Fayards are a suspicious lot to begin with. I've pointed you over to AZ for some background on this previously.  Calvin and Caroline Fayard have played dubious roles profiteering off of the BP settlement and Wisner trust disputes.  Caroline likes to call this "taking on BP" in her campaign ads. It's nothing of the sort, of course. Hilariously, she won't even endorse the state's attempt to sue the oil and gas industry over coastal erosion. But we've covered that already too.

Here is a more recent AZ post reminding us that Calvin Fayard was among the brigade of Uptown New Orleans aristocrats who, during the post-Katrina aftermath, barricaded themselves in their mansions behind their own guns and private security while taking verbal pot shots at the "demographics" of the city. This is from the Vanity Fair article Jason quotes.
Some of the city’s richest residents stepped into the breach, taking security into their own hands. In New Orleans’s upscale Uptown neighborhood, well-heeled and well-armed property owners, sometimes with security guards to assist them, kept possible looters at bay, carrying firearms openly in their neighborhoods and looking after neighbors’ homes and valuables—even keeping a close watch on friends’ irreplaceable art collections. Attorney Calvin Fayard—one of the region’s major political fund-raisers for the Democratic Party, and the owner of the so-called Wedding Cake House, one of the city’s grand mansions—would remain at home and on guard with a coterie of like-minded friends. Some would use their powerboats to rescue the marooned. Their neighbors would dine on gourmet food from nearby specialty stores. Some would bathe in their stagnant swimming pools. One or two would take the opportunity to fly by helicopter to the office to shred potentially sensitive business documents—to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, should law and order break down altogether.
You might remember some of the other members of this A-Team.  Here is Ashton O'Dwyer in 2005 being interviewed from his stronghold.
In rich white enclaves like Uptown, residents are wary of sounding racist. But with their deep business and family connections, they say they are determined to ensure the new city will be very different than the old one, which for so long has been associated with crime, poor schools and corruption.

"Whatever you do, don't put people back in the city who are criminals and who are incapable of, or unwilling to, help themselves," said Mr. O'Dwyer, a volatile, white 57-year-old lawyer.

"What was once unacceptable in polite, respectable society has not only become commonplace over the past 30 years of Negro rule in this city, but it has become acceptable and I am not going to stand for it any more," said the fifth-generation New Orleans resident. "If we return to the same old, same old . . . I'm outta here."
And this is Jimmy Reiss
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
So these are the Fayards.  This is the world they come from.  And here is how they've applied these values to their political activities.  Caroline was a contributor to former Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker. Baker famously declared after Katrina that God had "cleaned up public housing" in New Orleans. That's pretty well in keeping with the Fayard ethos as laid out above. But there's more.

Much has been made in the news (even today, in fact) of the Fayards' close associations with the Clintons. In 2008 Calvin Fayard was a big time fundraiser for Hillary associated with a group calling themselves "Hillraisers." You may recall that after Hillary lost the nomination to Barack Obama, some of these people had a difficult time reconciling themselves to that fact. Fayard was among them.  Here he is at a McCain/Palin fundraiser aimed at courting disappointed Democrats. Fayard and his "liberal Democrat" friends were especially awed by Sarah Palin.
John Coale, an attorney in Washington, D.C. who is married to Greta Van Susteren, has worked with John McCain on tobacco legislation, and includes Nancy Pelosi among his friends, estimates he single-handedly brought in "50 percent" of the people who attended the fundraiser. He, too, was upset at how "Obama and Howard Dean and the crew" handled the situation as Clinton faced misogyny. He also questioned Obama's fitness for the job: "I've met with Obama three times… I think he was full of platitudes then and he's still full of platitudes now."

"I'm a liberal Democrat," Cole continued. "Sarah Palin just reinforced the reason I'm for McCain. I think she probably has more experience [than Obama], but I think it's appalling the way she has been treated," referring again to perceived sexism.

Calvin Fayard, another lawyer in New Orleans, said he "came away a lot more comfortable" with Palin after meeting her. "She struck me as being very energetic, very knowledgeable, and at least in touch with the rest of the world."
Oy! Here is an NYT account of the same event
More than 1,000 people paid $1,000 each for tickets to the main fund-raiser. Nearly 250 people who contributed $25,000 got dinner beforehand with Mr. McCain. 

The reception for former Clinton supporters, which also was attended by Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager, was spearheaded by Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a former telecommunications entrepreneur and “Hillraiser” who brought in more than $100,000 for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign; Calvin Fayard, also a former Hillraiser and longtime Democratic donor from Louisiana, and Miguel Lausell, a former senior political adviser to the Clinton campaign from Puerto Rico.
The Hillraisers and the PUMA movement they spawned went on from their infatuation with Palin to other such luminous achievements as spreading (possibly initiating, actually) the disgusting racist "Birther" movement against Obama which, in turn, became a primary vehicle by which Donald Trump entered our national political discourse.  So it turns out we have Calvin Fayard, who is now spending his own money and calling in political favors from within the Landrieu-Carville orbit to push his daughter's Senate candidacy, to thank for a lot of things.  Just keep all of that in mind as we look at how Caroline has conducted her campaign, particularly where it concerns her David Duke fixation.

Usually we talk about David Duke's maneuverings with special attention to his grifting.  Sure, he's a deplorable white supremacist. But the actual reason he even shows up above ground is because he has a nose for money.  The most likely reason Duke is in the Senate race is because one way or another someone is paying him to be there. Recall that when his name first came up as a possible candidate this year, Duke was rumored to be entering as a challenger to US Rep Steve Scalise. At the time we speculated that perhaps some Democrat leaning jokers were attempting to highlight Scalise's controversial association with Duke by placing the two of them together on a ballot much the same way they once tried to run a porn star against David Vitter. At the last minute, though, Duke suddenly found himself running for Senate.  What happened there?  Did he find a more generous patron? 

On the other hand, Duke's motivation for running could be as simple as Duke thinking he could pull in a few extra donations or online followers by attaching his brand to Donald Trump. That's reasonable. Not doubt he has benefited from doing just that.

Similarly, Caroline Fayard has benefited from attaching her brand to David Duke.  Remember, Duke has never polled any better than 3 to 5 percent. But Fayard, has treated him as though he were her principal opponent. From the moment Duke entered the race, Fayard leaped at the opportunity to make the fringe candidate who deserves nobody's attention the center of her campaign. She was the most aggressive at throwing herself into the national media circus Duke inevitably generates.  Here she is on the Maddow show back in August soliciting donations.   All of the candidates tried some version of this, of course. But Fayard has themed the bulk of her advertising and fundraising appeals with the Duke bogeyman.  

The Fayard campaign's most reprehensible use of Duke was a disgusting attack on Foster Campbell that distorted his words and one photograph into an easily disproven lie that Campbell is in some way allied with Duke. Once the lie was exposed, Fayard was roundly shamed for it in the press. Here, for example, is Stephanie Grace giving her the whatfor.  The Alliance For Good Government even withdrew its endorsement of her.  A lot of the people her campaign had drawn into its corner began to feel like they had been used.

But then Fayard doubled down. Refusing to back off from the absurd assertions of her ads, she continued running them. Even more shockingly, she stood by them in person during the second debate at Dillard. Had Duke himself not been on the same stage ranting about Jews, Fayard's bald faced lie would have been the evening's low point by far.

There are people who insist, though, that Fayard's internal polling shows her morally indefensible strategy is working.  Even if they're correct (and we'll know soon enough) that won't necessarily put her in the runoff.  It will keep Campbell out, though.  I hope they're real proud of that "win" if they get it.

Given her, lack of experience in government, her poor positioning in the polls and her campaign's lack of substance, we've often asked why the heck Fayard is even in this race. Her behavior over the final weeks of the election suggest her sole purpose may be to deny Campbell a slot in the runoff.  I don't know enough to say why that is happening.  But I've tried to make it clear that the Fayards aren't exactly trustworthy.  And if it turns out they have friends of friends in common with friends of friends of another candidate well... a lot of these people have friends is all I'm saying. The Fayards are friends and neighbors with wealthy plutocrats who wanted New Orleans ethnically cleansed after Katrina.  That Caroline wants us to think of her now as the anti-Duke is a staggering insult.

Buying in/Buying out

David Duke doesn't have any friends, of course.  But, as we said, he does like money. Cue Clancy. 
Clancy DuBos, a political commentator who has covered Mr. Duke for decades, dismissed the media attention as “cheap headlines and click bait.”

“He’s not in this to win the Senate, he’s in this to make money,” he said.
I continue in my disappointment that no one else has asked about his angle in those terms. It's a natural thread to pull on given what we know about Duke.  He is and always has been a hustler. But he's only one of twenty something candidates here which makes him a hustler among hustlers. So while we're asking why Duke might have been bought out of a congressional race and into the Senate race, we should ask about some of these other transactions as well.

Duke isn't the only Republican angling for the hard core Trumpista vote.  And this has to be frustrating as hell for sandwich magnate John Fleming. Back when he announced his candidacy, on December 7, 2015 (a day that will live in infamy) Fleming had to figure he would be the most extreme right wing nut in the game. Fleming has devoted his tenure in Congress to making a name for himself as a petulant Tea Party insurgent. He has frothed frequently against Obama's health insurance reforms. His hard stance against reproductive rights is so out of touch with reality that he shared an Onion article about an "Abortionplex" thinking it was actual news. Most embarrassing to him and to the entire flood prone state of Louisiana was his vote against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

And still Fleming can't corner the market on reactionary assholery.  Not with Duke hanging around. And not with Rob Maness flanking him among Trump supporters as well. Maness is more flamboyantly pro-gun and pro-life than Fleming but adds just a bit of the populist skepticism of Republican establishment policies with regard to war and Wall Street that puts him slightly more in tune with Trump's schizophrenic messaging than Fleming is.

The Fleming campaign actually attempted to buy Maness out of the race last month. Not unusual, that. What was unusual was Maness' choice not to take the money and instead run to the papers with the story. What is he getting that is better than whatever Fleming offered?  It's hard to say.  We did notice that he's had a few TV ads running paid for by something called "Warrior PAC."
Warrior PAC, which is being run out of California, is backing retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness. It has raised $10,000 from Bo Reily of the William B. Reily Company in New Orleans and has roughly that same amount in the bank. PAC director Robert San Luis said via email that Reily has also paid for polling. 
You may know the William B. Reily Company as Reily Foods, a century old New Orleans based grocery distributor. It owns several well-known brands most notably Luzianne tea, CDM coffee, and Blue Plate mayonnaise... which is amusing to those of us who have been in the habit of pronouncing Maness's name the way New Orleanians sometimes say, "Mah-nezz."  It's also funny to think that Maness didn't sell out to the Sandwich Man because he already had too much Mayonnaise money.

But here's the other thing about the Reilys.  They're not just a prominent New Orleans family. They are a Prominent New Orleans Business Family. To get a sense of this, please take a minute to peruse this January obituary of Boatner Reily III The CV portion of it really gains momentum toward the end. 
Reily also served on the New Orleans Aviation Board.

He attended Metairie Park Country Day School, Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, Yale University and Tulane, from which he graduated in 1950. He was a captain in the Rex organization for 10 years and reigned as Rex in 1982.

An avid runner, he started the Rex organization’s “royal run” around Audubon Park on Mardi Gras morning. In that inaugural run, he wore running shoes painted gold and decorated with colorful ribbons.

Reily was a major contributor to Tulane. The Reily Family Foundation contributed to the Tulane Hospital and Clinic for the construction of the Reily Foundation Pavilion, which opened in 1991, and was a major contributor to the Reily Student Recreation Center.

Cowen said he met Reily when Cowen was interviewing for the president’s job at Tulane.

“He asked incredibly perceptive questions and was extraordinarily kind in the delivery of those questions and listened with great intent,” he said.

Cowen said he often met with Reily in the first years of his tenure leading Tulane. “He provided great insight to New Orleans, its culture and the university,” he said.

He called Reily, the Reily family and its foundation “one of the pillars of Tulane University for generations. They’ve been incredibly generous philanthropically and with their time.”
Rex captain, GNOF founder, Tulane benefactor, personal friend of Scott fucking Cowen. That's all very pleasant.  One more thing about that, though.  While it's certainly believable that these blue bloods and their scions would be enthusiastic Tea Partiers, they prefer to identify as patricians.  The Reilys just don't have all that much in common with the typical Maness voter. In fact, they're actually a lot more like.. the Fayards. But we'll come back to that.

First let's note that one candidate actually was successfully bought out of the race.  His name is Abhay Patel. He dropped out on October 20. See, during the course of the campaign, Patel happened to make a friend.
But during campaign appearances, Patel had an opportunity to visit with (US Rep. Charles) Boustany. He found that he and the Lafayette Republican shared many of same pastimes – they both are avid readers who enjoy talking history – and both see the world through a similar political prism.

"Though we are not in the position we hoped to be in, I am committed to working tirelessly to ensure that we elect a conservative Republican to the United States Senate," Patel said of his endorsement of Boustany.

“I found him a very bright, very articulate young man,” Boustany said in an interview, recalling their first encounter at a Jefferson Parish GOP function.

“Abhay Patel’s passion and knowledge for conservative values, small government, and the Constitution have impressed me over that last several months. His campaign has been focused on ideas and substance rather than platitudes and lip service," Boustany said.

Patel, a lawyer, said he and Boustany talked about creating a committee that could advise Boustany on who to recommend for federal judges and prosecutors in Louisiana; what kind of positions a conservative lawyer would take.
How sweet. They got along famously. I hope Boustany kept the receipt.

Boustany in the Bayou

Oh yeah. Hey, by the way, Charles Boustany is also a candidate here. Did you forget?  He's not out of the running by any stretch. In addition to Patel's backing, he also enjoys the endorsement of the Times-Picayune as well as the always influential Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Stephanie Grace even gave him something of a compliment during the final debate when she described him as the "policy wonk in the mix."  Of course, if the policy you are wonking about involves protecting his friends' right to exploit virtual slave labor, or voting 60 times to repeal Obamacare, it's difficult to see that as a positive.

Boustany has two paths to the runoff. One of those would be going through Kennedy.  And he has tried this. His direct attack on Kennedy, this ad featuring an adorable pug and Kennedy's all around sliminess, was the best produced by any campaign. But, as we said at the outset of this post, Kennedy's slot is pretty well entrenched. If Boustany can't edge him out of the runoff, then Plan B is edge out everyone else. How would someone like Charles Boustany go about accomplishing that?

Well, first of all, let's remember that the seemingly mild mannered bespectacled Boustany is actually something of a heavy.  This is where Ethan Brown's Murder In the Bayou is instructive. I say this, not so much because of the book's allegation that Boustany may have been a client of some of the murdered prostitutes in Jennings. I can't really speak to the veracity of that. Having read the book, though, I'd say his connection to the Boudreaux Inn and its operators is more than just circumstantial.

We don't have time to get too far into it here but I do recommend the book. It's disappointing to see the political press brush this off. Their oft-repeated mantra that Brown's chapter on Boustany is "unsourced" is flat out untrue. Brown cites testimony by witnesses interviewed by the task force investigating the murders, ex-employees of the motel, a high profile drug dealer he interviews, as well as, yes, some anonymous sources.  But even anonymous sources are.. you know.. sources.  Unfortunately the media herd tends to steer clear of stuff like this while they're in campaign mode. Maybe they'll come back to it at some point.

What Brown clearly shows, in any case, is that Boustany field rep, Martin Guillory, was running the motel during the peak of its infamy and that he was familiar with the victims and several of the suspects. It's also obvious that Guillory was more than just a bit player in Boustany's world. And that's really the point here.
Boustany's power base in Southwest Louisiana is tied up with a decades-old system dominated by corrupt and brutal Sheriffs along the I-10 drug route. Brown's book focuses on Jeff Davis Parish but the problem is more widespread. Not only is it conceivable that the Congressman's political operation would connect to these criminals somewhere along the line, it's actually more difficult to imagine that it wouldn't.

Boustany is tough and shrewd. He's also backed by people who are themselves tough and shrewd. Newell Normand is one example. Sheriffs like this guy, I guess. He's also the only candidate who we're pretty sure has successfully manipulated the field. It's interesting that Patel can be bought out by Boustany but Maness can't be bought out by Fleming. Duke, perhaps the most corrupt person in the race, apparently can't be bought out by anybody.  Meanwhile the Fayards who just happen to be in the same category of plutocrat as the Maness-backing Reilys are stubbornly running interference against Foster Campbell.

It would be a stretch to tie all of that together into one conspiracy.  That's not really what I'm trying to say. It's just that sometimes the maneuverings of different but similarly interested parties accidentally work toward the same purpose. In this case, it is pretty neat the way all of that lines up in a way that could clear Fleming and Campbell out of Boustany's way, isn't it?  He might not make it, but Boustany certainly is an interesting character. Watch out for that guy.

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