Louisiana special pits state pol against Duck Dynasty favorite


Tomorrow's special election in Louisiana's Fifth will be the second time in two weeks that a candidate backed by the Republican establishment will face off against an upstart from within his own party. Though, in this go around, the political 'outsider' has vast personal wealth — and the endorsement of a local celebrity — to help keep the campaign battle competitive.

Vance McAllister, who owns a pipeline construction company, and sitting state senator Neil Riser, Jr were the two candidates to advance from the "jungle" primary for the heavily conservative district.

McAllister, a political newcomer, has been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket to keep pace with the fundraising pace of his opponent. Of his campaign's $757,493 in total receipts, a whopping $655,000 came from McAllister himself. A Sunlight analysis of his campaign receipts finds that, not counting the candidate himself, only 59 different people have contributed to the businessman's congressional campaign. No PACs or campaign committees have contributed any cash and no outside spending groups disclosed making any expenditure on his behalf. The biggest boost the outsider's campaign got came via an endorsement by "Duck Dynasty" star Willie Robertson (pictured right).    

Riser, on the other hand, has enjoyed a steady stream of donations from PACs, candidate committees and others for a total of nearly $1 million raised on the eve of the election. This figure is even more impressive given that the abbreviated race has only spanned a few months, though the Riser camp hit the ground running as soon as it was clear that the congressional seat was in play.

Candidates had little time to put together campaigns after the surprise departure of Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who left congress to head the state's Department of Veteran's Affairs. The Riser camp's quick turnaround after Alexander's public announcement — he had a campaign website up and running just one day later — has led to speculation that Riser and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, R, conspired to secure the seat for the state senator.

His quick start and close relationship with the governor has paid dividends for the state legislator and funeral home operator. On top of a host of endorsements, the PACs of business interests and sitting Republican congressmen are flooding Riser's campaign coffers with donations.  

In the past three weeks alone, Riser's committee has received contributions from (all data found using IE's RealTime tool):

  • Citizens United Political Victory Fund: $5,000 (for $10,000 total)
  • Committee for the Preservation of Capitalism PAC (Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La.): $5,000 (for $10,000 total)
  • Dealers Election Committee of the National Automotive Dealer's Association: $5,000 (for $10,000 total)
  • Louisiana Banker's Association PAC: $5,000 (for $10,000 total)
  • Conservative Opportunities for A New America PAC (Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas): $5,000
  • Dow Chemical PAC: $5,000
  • National Association of Realtors PAC: $5,000
  • People for Enterprise Trade and Economic Growth PAC (Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas): $5,000
  • National Beer Wholesalers Association PAC: $2,500
  • Gulf States Toyota PAC: $2,500

This hard money is on top of around $50,000 spent by outside groups on Riser's behalf. Republican Super PAC Inc — the political arm of campaign finance lawyer James Bopp — has spent $32,691 on mail advertisements and surveys for Riser, while the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund has also chipped in $14,328 for mailing expenses in the sprawling district.

Though all of Riser's fundraising success and endorsements will mean nothing if McAllister pulls off an upset at the ballot box. Fifth district voters will decide the outcome tomorrow. 

(Note: A representative of the Federal Election Commssion has confirmed that the Commission's previous reports of McAllister's campaign receipts totaling $717,877 were incorrect)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons