A former Democratic candidate for clerk of the 2nd Municipal Court in New Orleans has filed a complaint with the Louisiana Ethics Board accusing a political action committee of multiple violations of the funding disclosure law. campaign related to the attack advertisements he ran against him. The complaint also disputes US Congressman Troy Carter’s involvement in the campaign, though it does not directly accuse Carter, a New Orleans Democrat representing the state’s 2nd congressional district, of any specific legal violation.
Jordan Bridges – who ran unsuccessfully against Lisa Ray Diggs in the March 26 special election for the job – told The Lens he wanted the ethics committee to take a closer look at the material inaccuracies in campaign finance disclosures submitted by the CAP, called the True Leadership CAP. He also called opposition to his campaign an ugly symptom of a local Democratic party system that rewards patronage and excludes newcomers.
“They’re all part of the political clique,” said Bridges, who is also a Democrat. “These things seem to be pre-chosen.”
Although not mentioned in the complaint, there also appear to be disclosure issues with another much more well-known and influential group that supported Diggs.
This group, the Algiers Political Action Committee (APAC), was founded by Carter in 2006. Bridges’ complaint only mentions the group in an attempt to link him to True Leadership, which the office of Carter denied.
But a review of campaign finance disclosures shows that APAC has not submitted any financial disclosures since 2019, nor has it registered as a political action committee, despite election activities in group course.
The Bridges Complaint emailed to the ethics committee on September 9 focuses on political mailings the True Leadership PAC sent out earlier this year that accused it of selling out its community and being under the control of conservative Republicans, including Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. One post included a cartoon depicting Bridges, who is black, as a puppet, and Landry, who is white, as a puppeteer. Bridges described the ad as “a racist Jim Crow-style caricature”.
The claims in the ads appear to be based on the support Bridges received from a PAC connected to Landry – the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority – during the bridges unsuccessful 2021 campaign for State House seat. Bridges also won the endorsement of the local Republican Party when elected as clerk.
“I feel like my message was very unifying and very welcoming from people across the way,” Bridges said, explaining the support he’s received from the conservative group. “I’m liberal because I have a heart for the community and I saw the need for it. However, there are conservative values that I firmly hold.
He argued that the accusations in the True Leadership postings, including that he held anti-LGBTQ beliefs and had a formal connection to Landry and other well-known conservatives, were “baseless and defamatory.”
Nothing reported on the course of the clerks
You wouldn’t know True Leadership’s opposition to Bridges by looking at their mandatory financial disclosures.
The group filed two campaign finance statements for the March 26 election, neither of which indicates which candidate it supported or opposed.
Only one of the two reports indicated expenses. That disclosure was filed Sept. 9 — nearly five months past its due date — and reported no expenses related to the Second City Court clerk’s run. Additionally, a section asking PACs to flag candidates they support or oppose was left blank.
“They sent this [attack ad] at my house, and then on their financial report, no expense was reported,” Bridges said. “That can’t happen.”
The complaint also questions whether there was a formal connection between the Diggs campaign and the True Leadership PAC. Bridges pointed out that listed True Leadership PAC chair Krystal Ancar was also Diggs’ campaign treasurer. The address listed for True Leadership PAC is the location of Ancar’s tax and accounting activities.
Diggs told The Lens she had no part in the PAC. Le Lens contacted Ancar and the treasurer listed on the True Leadership disclosure forms, but neither responded.
Dillard University professor Robert Collins reviewed the complaint and told The Lens that even if the allegations in the complaint were true, there were unlikely to be any significant consequences.
“The ethics committee is not a prosecuting body, so the worst they can do is fine you,” he said. “Now if they find something really egregious, they can make a criminal reference, but you’ll have to do something really egregious.”
“I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Collins said.
The Carter Connection
Carter’s deputy chief of staff, James Bernhard, told The Lens that neither Carter nor the group he founded, APAC, was involved in the True Leadership PAC.
But Bridges’ complaint alleges that Carter was behind the charges that appeared in True Leadership’s attack ads. He said the ads continued to damage his reputation and standing in his community. And he said he was disappointed Carter, a fellow Democrat, would go so far to support his favorite candidate.
“It’s very concerning to me that these things are happening, that we’re attacking young people who are trying,” Bridges said. “And these are people I know. Like I said, Troy Carter and I grew up on the same street. I know his family. It was very disheartening and it hit me very hard, being someone I looked up to before.
The complaint points to a February decision by the AFL-CIO of Greater New Orleans to rescind its dual endorsement of Bridges and Diggs and only endorse Diggs. Bridges said it only happened because Carter called the local AFL-CIO board the day after he decided to issue a double endorsement.
“Congressman Troy Carter called the AFL-CIO Board of Directors, spreading lies and defamatory statements about my character,” the complaint reads. “Congressman Troy Carter’s defamatory allegations said I was ‘hateful and transphobic,’ going further to accuse me of being a ‘secret Republican’ operative.”
Robert “Tiger” Hammond, president of the AFL-CIO of Greater New Orleans, confirmed that Carter had indeed been in contact with the board.
“Troy was actually on that call with us, but we had a lot of people on the call,” Hammond said. “We reserve the right to endorse anyone we choose, and we have the right to change our minds based on new facts.”
When asked what new facts caused the board to change its mind on bridges, Hammond sent screenshots of Facebook ads in support of bridges in the 2021 home race which were sponsored by the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, a PAC supported by Landry and Republican U.S. Senator John Kennedy.
In a statement, Carter said, “It’s unfortunate that people fight over endorsements and then discredit it when they don’t get it.”
“It’s no secret that Congressman Carter endorsed and supported Lisa Diggs,” Bernhard said. “He is proud of his accomplishments and has had hundreds of conversations supporting his election.”
Not only Carter endorsed Diggs, but also APAC. The group sent Diggs-endorsing senders earlier this year.
Bridges’ complaint alleges ties between APAC, True Leadership and the Diggs Campaign based on the fact that mailers from all three organizations carry the same bulk mail permit ID number. However, it seems that the shared license ID is due to groups using the same printer. The permit number is associated with Mele Printing, a company representative confirmed. Mele is one of the largest printing and mailing companies in the region. And True Leadership and the Diggs campaign have reported using Mele. It’s unclear if APAC is also using it, given the group hasn’t submitted disclosures in years.
However, the APAC endorsement raises another potential breach of disclosure law.
Bernhard told The Lens that despite its name, APAC is not actually a PAC. He said the group stopped submitting disclosures in 2019 because it was a limited liability company, rather than a not-for-profit organization, and it no longer had any expenses at all. names of candidates.
“In 2019, they found out that because they weren’t a PAC, they didn’t need it,” Bernhard said. “It is not a PAC and is not required to make any disclosures.”
The Lens asked state ethics administrator Kathleen Allen if being an LLC automatically relieves an organization of the obligation to submit ethical disclosures. She said no.
“If an LLC is not a political committee, but makes independent expenditures (not in coordination, consultation, or cooperation with a candidate) greater than $500, then it would file campaign finance disclosure reports, on the same schedule. than the records of a political committee,” she said in an email.
It is difficult to determine whether APAC made such expenditures, since it no longer reports its expenditures to the state. But the group continued to endorse candidates, and revelations from other political candidates show that APAC continued to bank thousands of dollars for things like “endorsement expenses,” “canvassing,” and ” printing and mailing costs for the ballot”.
Records show the group has banked around $70,000 since its last disclosure.
The Lens followed Carter’s office, informing them of Allen’s position.
“The congressman is not involved in APAC operations,” Bernhard said in response. “The people who run APAC have been alerted to your concern, and they are considering whether or not to file and if they do file, they will.”