Junior senator rakes it in – with some help

By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais, LaPolitics.com

How does $250,000 sound? That was the one-night take for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy at a recent New Orleans fundraiser.

The event’s headliner, however, had as much political value as the checks being autographed by donors. Showing up to support Kennedy — in person — was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

While Kennedy has at times been critical of the upper chamber’s leadership, the two men are said to have a relationship that’s growing stronger. (Kennedy once told reporters that McConnell was “like a cat on a fat rat” when it came to health care reforms.)

Kennedy has about $2.4 million locked up in his primary campaign account, and the figure is positioned to balloon over the next year or so. With committees assignments on appropriations, banking and judiciary, Washington politicos contend Kennedy has taken to the Beltway’s fundraising circuit rather quickly.

Those tracking Kennedy’s finances are watching the junior senator’s expenses as well. Given his elected position, nearly every public outreach can be a statewide appeal — or, in other words, the electorate that selects the next governor.

Kennedy hasn’t ruled it out running for governor in 2019, and key supporters aren’t sure what to expect. But the senator is keeping a few campaign staffers on the payroll and otherwise spending money to deepen his positions.

The campaign’s largest individual expenses are for direct mail and, more so, for Kennedy’s fundraising operation. From the start of 2017 through the first quarter of this year, Kennedy spent roughly $300,000 on a high-functioning team headed up by consultant Courtney Guastella.

The question, of course, is what is Kennedy doing? As a U.S. senator he cannot spend money raised on the federal level to win a statewide race like governor.

But there is case law, established by the legal team of former U.S. Sen. David Vitter when he ran for governor in 2015, that seemingly paves the way for Kennedy to donate his federal cash to a supportive super PAC that would in turn seek to influence the top race of 2019.

None of that will be needed, of course, if Kennedy decides to stay in the nation’s most exclusive chamber.

In last week’s edition of The Tuesday Tracker, former U.S. Sen. John Breaux tackled that very topic.

“Oh, I cannot imagine leaving the United States Senate after one year to go run for governor,” Breaux told LaPolitics. “In the United States Senate, you are one of a hundred in the whole country and you have an ability to unilaterally effect national legislation on a day to day basis. I think the atmosphere is easier to work in the United States Senate than it would be being governor. I had looked at it after I had already retired from Congress after 34 years. I think I never would have given up a United States Senate seat to run for governor.”

 

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