Business of Politics

THE BUSINESS OF POLITICS Felons for Office Issue Could Surface in Regular Session

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

With the Louisiana Supreme Court siding with former state legislator Derrick Shepherd and ruling unconstitutional the provision barring convicted felons from running for office for 15 years after their sentences end, the question now becomes what’s next.

With the Louisiana Supreme Court siding with former state legislator Derrick Shepherd and ruling unconstitutional the provision barring convicted felons from running for office for 15 years after their sentences end, the question now becomes what’s next.

According to Secretary of State Tom Schedler, it’s probably a reaction from the Legislature.

“I believe there will be great interest within the Legislature to revisit the issue of convicted felons running for public office,” says Schedler. “The Supreme Court overturned the law on a technicality, not on the substance, so it’s now up to lawmakers to fix the technical issues.”

Shepherd, a former state representative and senator, qualified to run in House District 87 last fall despite a previous conviction for money laundering. He was initially blocked from running before the Supreme Court could hear his case.

Shepherd argues in his lawsuit that the constitutional amendment approved by voters banning convicted felons from running excluded language that had been approved by the Legislature, thus making the law invalid.

Schedler says fixing the law would be more than just a reaction to the recent Supreme Court decision; it would be about doing the right thing.

“In my opinion this is the heart of good government,” he adds. “Voters want to be assured that the public officials making their laws are also committed to following the law. It’s common sense legislation and needs to be shored up as soon as possible.”

GOP sinks $2 million into registration drive

Backed by consultant Bill Skelly of Causeway Solutions and fundraiser Allee Bautsch Grunewald of The Bautsch Group, the Louisiana Republican Party launched the “Red to the Roots” initiative in early February. It’s a $2 million effort to identify, register and engage new Republican voters across the state.

Given last year’s gubernatorial election, conservatives in the party feel like a permanent field program is more important than ever.

Although Republicans are increasing their share of registration, the party is not comfortable with the trend of falling behind Democrats in partisan registration by 509,000 voters. Also, if the current registration trends continue, independents could soon surpass GOP registrations.

From an introductory memo obtained by LaPolitics: “We must commit to funding and implementing this program immediately and sustain this commitment for years if we are to be successful in this endeavor. Democrats have nearly perfected these programs – and we see their successes in their electoral victories around the country.”

In perennial presidential target states like Nevada, the memo goes on to add, Democrats took a state that in 2004 had 4,431 more Republican voters than Democrats and swung that to a 90,187 voter advantage in their favor in just eight years, moving a state that President George W. Bush won in 2004 to a state solidly in President Barack Obama’s camp in 2008 and 2012.

“Further, Democrats are now taking this proven approach into traditionally ‘red’ states,” according to the memorandum.

GUMBO still on political burner

Although the historic race for governor ended several months ago, GUMBO PAC still has some roux left in it.

The Super PAC, which was opposed to the election of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, is posting to social media on a regular basis and engaging followers.

Does that mean GUMBO will be a regular menu option in Louisiana politics?

“I’m still not sure what the long-term plan for the PAC is,” says Director Trey Ourso. “There have been preliminary conversations with the people who helped seed it and fund it. We’re keeping all of our filings current to keep running it. But there are no concrete plans.”

Ourso says the Super PAC has not been raising money this month, but will continue to be active with its social media, which has 10,500 followers on Facebook.

Ieyoub now regulating energy industry

Gov. John Bel Edwards recently appointed former Attorney General Richard Ieyoub as the new commissioner of conservation.

It’s a big year for Ieyoub, who is also being inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame.

His appointment had been rumored for most of the new year, but is now a reality.

The commissioner of conservation, a position inside the Department of Natural Resources, is charged with conserving and regulating oil and gas resources in Louisiana. When it comes to DNR, it is the most critical position for the business and energy lobbies.

Ieyoub remains very popular in Democratic circles and has strong ties to Louisiana’s legal community, from the trial bar and district attorneys to public defenders.

His appointment is being cheered by environmental advocates, but it’s also being met with concern by industry.

He’s labeled by some as the forefather to the modern contingency fee contract. Ieyoub’s use of contingency fee contracts even resulted in a state Supreme Court decision, from a case brought by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, that found such department-related contracts should have required legislative approval.

How the relationship between Ieyoub and the industry progresses will be one of the more interesting stories on the energy front in 2016.

For more Louisiana political news, visit or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.