New tort group targeting legislative elections

With a budget that could reach $2 million, the newly-created Louisiana Lawsuit Fairness Committee (LLFC) may emerge in the coming weeks as one of the biggest players involved in this year’s state House and Senate races.

While its focus will be on tort reform, LLFC is also expected to dip its special interest toes into tax reform and other issues.

Created by businessman Boysie Bollinger, LLFC is being billed to donors as the non-partisan rebirth of the Louisiana Committee For A Republican Majority, which U.S. Sen. David Vitter headed up in 2007 to help elect the Legislature’s conservative majority.

In addition to Bollinger, Kelly Hart & Pitre partner Loulan Pitre, a former state representative from Lafourche Parish, and Todd Danos, co-founder of Gulf Offshore Logistics, are serving on LLFC’s board.

Questionnaires have been sent out to legislative candidates already and it’s expected that some incumbents will be targeted, although how many is unknown. Endorsements should be rolled out soon and independent expenditures will be part of the operation.

LLFC will operate as a 501(c)(4) but it will also have a state political action committee, or PAC, and a super PAC, which will be able to raise unlimited amounts of money. The group is following the model used by Texans for Legal Reform to dramatically improve the civil justice system for businesses in Texas. Leaders of the effort here say they are committed to “an all-out fight to elect legislators who agree that Louisiana’s lawsuit climate is unfair to Louisiana businesses and will support the organization’s package of significant lawsuit reform legislation in 2016.” Additionally, LLFC will “stand in direct opposition to the trial lawyers efforts to gain a footprint in the Louisiana Legislature.”

One of the big unanswered questions from the governor’s race can now be answered. The Fund For Louisiana’s Future, a super PAC supporting U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s campaign, started laying down television buys last week and is already on the air.

The initial buy included television and broadcast and will help the super PAC eventually build toward an expected $2 million media budget between Aug. 28 and the primary election on Oct. 24 — or roughly $250,000 per week on average.

It represents the kickoff of what could be the largest TV buy from any single entity so far this cycle. Super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money.

“You’re really going to stand out with that kind of investment,” said Eric Morgan, the managing partner of the New Orleans-based Morgan & Co., a media planning and buying agency not involved with the current statewide election cycle. “The fact that others will be running on television at the same time will not diminish it.

This is a big amount and something we do not see that often for just a two-month period. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is enough to adequately cover the entire Louisiana market.”

Among those also running for governor are Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. John Bel Edwards.

State Sen. Elbert Guillory, a Republican from Opelousas, grabbed headlines around Louisiana in mid-August for his first campaign commercial as a candidate for lieutenant governor because it included a line of dialogue where the N-word was used.

Now Guillory is promoting a new web video that uses the term several times over as well as various other words that many would describe as bigoted.

The new web video, paid for by his campaign, has Guillory personally, along with others, saying the N- word eight different times in an effort to explain that it might have different meanings to various people.

In the spot Guillory also wears a wig, a cowboy hat, appears to spit on the ground and lets loose a string of racial descriptions to cover a variety of ethnicities ranging from Italian-Americans and Native Americans to those of Asian descent.

“Let’s talk and get past race,” Guillory says in the web video.

The first campaign commercial, which aired twice in the New Orleans market, featured Guillory speaking to the late Martin Luther King Jr. and then taking to the pulpit in an empty church. It also plays an alleged recording of former President Lyndon B. Johnson using the N-Word.

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, who is also running for lieutenant governor, has been highly critical of Guillory’s original commercial, resulting in a brief but very public back and forth between the men.

Among those also running for lieutenant governor are former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Jefferson Parish President John Young.

Jack McGuire, the former director of public relations for the city of New Orleans, says the University Press of Mississippi has signed on to publish his forthcoming book “Win Or Die Trying: Uncle Earl’s Last Hurrah.”

It will focus largely on 1960, when Long was given up for dead politically by friend and foe alike following a year that saw him committed to mental institutions in two states before engineering his own release — only to miss the runoff for lieutenant governor, said McGuire.


About Jeremy Alford 227 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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