Four candidates for Ascension Parish President reported a total of $192,190 in campaign contributions 30 days prior to October 12, Election Day. That’s approximately one-quarter of the contributions reported for the 2015 election cycle when five candidates sought the parish executive (in the neighborhood of $750,000). Murphy Painter led the way with $141,200, about what the second place finisher raised in all of 2015 through the primary and general elections.
What could account for the dearth of money? Two words…Clint Cointment.
Many of the big money boys who lavished donations on Kenny Matassa and Chris Loar in 2015 are sitting this one out after Cointment’s dark horse, grassroots candidacy came 117 votes from pulling off a stunner four years ago. If they are ponying up, for the most part, it is to Painter alone instead of double dipping.
Cointment’s 2019 contributions ($48,770) are only a slight increase from the amount ($44,945) reported 30 days prior to the 2015 election. He reported another $33,620 just before the primary but only a paltry $1,000 from the engineering/architectural firms or subdivision developers contributing to Matassa and Loar. Even after the runoff was set, they withheld those dollars from Cointment.
Given that he is seen as the favorite by no less an authority than Matassa’s campaign manager in 2015, one would have expected an easier time raising funds this time around. Rick Webre, a last minute entry this year, reported $2,200 while Ricky Diggs has not received any contributions.
In 2017-18 a Political Action Committee camouflaged as a non-profit, A Better Ascension (ABA) stressed the urgency of taking filthy lucre out of the electoral equation by abolishing the parish presidency altogether. Intellectually disingenuous from its inception, ABA’s misinformation campaign perpetuated the false narrative that “over $1 million” had been spent on the election. That sounds a lot more ominous than “three-quarters of a million.”
What should one expect from a group that hid its own fundraising sources by claiming non-profit status?
Delivering one of ABA’s stated objectives, it would be reasonable to assume Cointment would be getting some love from ABA. That has not happened as its membership cannot seem to get over its failure, blaming Cointment whose outspoken opposition to ABA’s agenda caused lingering resentment. It has a new darling, one whose propensity for unsupported political propaganda rivals the best ABA could muster.
Twelve days away from the election and only one candidate for Ascension President has attacked his opponents; Rick Webre. In a recent campaign video Webre claimed that “over half-a-million dollars was spent to elect an Ascension Parish President.” Matassa led the way with $200,000 less than Webre would have you believe. That spurious claim was followed by a voice over which made the accusation that…
“Rick Webre’s two opponents have both taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the same vendors who receive millions in parish contracts. It’s called pay to play.”
First off, Webre has three opponents so the listener is left to figure out who he intended to slight by omission as he claims to be the only candidate who “refused” contributions from those vendors. We suppose it is Ricky Diggs though the tough talking Webre has declined to point any fingers too directly.
Secondly, Webre’s sloganeering (Performance. Not Politics.) aside, he has his facts wrong.
In 2015 there was about $750,000 contributed to three candidates out of a five-man ballot. The eventual winner, Kenny Matassa reported over $300,000 for two election dates, the October 24 Primary and November 21 General Election. Clint Cointment, for the two elections came in at roughly half of Matassa’s war chest. Alsoran Chris Loar checked in with nearly $250,000 without making it to the runoff.
Webre must not have bothered to review his opponents’ campaign finance disclosures though his claim has some validity as to Painter. Painter reported $36,650 from 19 entities with ties to “vendors” currently contracting with Ascension Parish. How many millions of dollars is involved is hard to pinpoint but HNTB has enjoyed over $5 million in taxpayer-funded contracts since the beginning of 2015 (a conservative estimate).
Impressive as it is, still a far cry from the going-out-of-business sale conducted by Kenny Matassa and the Gang.
Other interesting observations about Painter’s finance report:
- Six current/former Parish Council members or their companies gave Painter $8,700.
- Five current members were recognized by Painter’s campaign at an April kickoff event.
- The mayor of Gonzales and all three of five council members (all the white guys) gave $100 (probably by attending a fundraiser).
- Donaldsonville mayor, Leroy Sullivan, received $1,000 from Painter’s campaign, offset by $100 from Councilman Raymond Aucoin.
- Three prominent parish employees (not including Mike Enlow whose function is to engineer all those engineering dollars for Painter) gave $1,000 total.
- Olin Berthelot & Associates-$300; Dempsey Pendarvis-$500; Nicky Prejean companies-$4,000 (for the hardcore political junkies out there).
Clint Cointment, unlike 2015 when he had none, has received six contributions from engineers/architectural firms or affiliates totaling $15,000. Only one is a current vendor of Ascension Parish, an engineer providing services for the MoveAscension project at $574,379. That’s about half the amount Rick Webre pocketed during his tenure as Ascension’s OHSEP Director.