State Ethics Board barely scoffs as AG Jeff Landry uses campaign funds to pay car notes

According to a recent media report, the Louisiana Ethics Board has chided state Attorney General Jeff Landry for using his campaign fund to pay for his car note. Landry used nearly $12,000 in campaign funds between 2017 and 2019 to pay a portion of the note on a Chevy Suburban, according to the report.

It was an act that the Ethics Board says violates campaign finance law.

A spokesman for Landry has said that Landry bought the car with personal funds, and was reimbursing himself for times he used the Suburban for his campaign.

But the law is clear. Candidates and elected officials can “use campaign funds to pay for gas expenses for the use of a personal vehicle during the campaign or reimbursement for mileage. Elected officials and candidates should keep adequate records to support the reimbursement payments as related to the campaign or holding of public office.” However, “campaign funds may not be used to purchase immovable property or a motor vehicle.”

It is written . . . in English; and surely the state’s highest-ranking attorney knew better!

Of course, there have been a handful of other elected officials in the state who have dared to push the envelope by leasing vehicles using campaign funds, circumventing the law by arguing that “leasing” and “purchasing” are not the same. A 2019 investigation and report by the Shreveport-based KSLA News found that then-state senators, Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb of Baton Rouge and John Alario of Jefferson Parish, along with state Sen. Greg Tarver of Shreveport and state Rep. Taylor Barras of New Iberia, used campaign funds to lease cars, with Tarver spending more than $1,100 a month on a Mercedes-Benz lease.

That’s Louisiana for You

They tried it. And why not? Apparently, the Ethics Board is asleep at the wheel. That’s Louisiana for you.

Before we go any further, let’s be clear, Landry broke the law. With meticulous records, he could have used campaign funds to reimburse himself for gas or mileage. But a car note, in part or whole, is against state law. Period.

He committed an act that state campaign finance law explicitly forbids, which is why we don’t understand why the Ethics Board has failed to properly discipline the Attorney General or why it reportedly tried to keep it under wraps with confidential letters to the AG and his attorney.

We find the whole mess blatantly biased and hypocritical, particularly when we consider how media coverage of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s alleged infractions are consistent fodder for front page news and around the clock coverage. To be sure, we understand a thing or two about the news business. An article about a declared gubernatorial candidate violating campaign finance law and the quiet manner in which the state Ethics Board tried to handle is a page one story nearly anywhere, except New Orleans, it seems.

According to media reports, beyond telling Landry, a Republican who has already announced his candidacy for governor in the next election, that it was wrong and admonishing him to not do it again, the state ethics board has taken no action. It appears that he does not have to repay the money or even pay a fine.

Of course, there are those who might argue that this is such a minor violation that it does not warrant such intervention on the part of the Ethics Board. But we see it as gateway. If the state Ethics Board keeps letting “little” things slip through the cracks, we’re going to end up with a punch of big holes. The Ethics Board needs to get its act together. It must be fair, unbiased and, most of all, transparent.

And if the lack of action on the part of the Ethics Board isn’t enough to leave us scratching our heads, we are certainly trying to figure out why an article about Landry’s flagrant VIOLATION of state campaign finance LAW was buried inside the print edition of the local daily.

We find the whole mess blatantly biased and hypocritical, particularly when we consider how media coverage of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s alleged infractions are consistent fodder for front page news and around the clock coverage.

To be sure, we understand a thing or two about the news business. An article about a declared gubernatorial candidate violating campaign finance law and the quiet manner in which the state Ethics Board tried to handle is a page one story nearly every where, except New Orleans, it seems.

The state’s highest ranking attorney breaks campaign finance law, and the Ethics Board appears to attempt to keep it hush-hush. Then, on top of that, the local daily newspaper buries its report on an inside page.

That’s Louisiana for you.

The New Orleans Tribune

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