Louisiana Republicans and Democrats used private funds to hire outside help for redistricting

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The Democratic and Republican caucuses in the Louisiana Legislature have spent tens of thousands of dollars paying for outside experts on political redistricting, though it’s unclear exactly what advice was provided and who was behind the private money. .

The Louisiana Democratic Party received $18,240 in “redistricting services” in December from the National Democratic Redistricting PAC, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, according to state campaign finance records. The party then used that support to “loan” an independent demographer to the House Democratic Caucus before and during the Legislature’s redistricting session, lawmakers said.

The Louisiana House and Senate each have their own full-time in-house demographer to draw the state’s political maps. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, said Legislature staff were extremely professional and helpful, but Democrats also wanted to consult with an expert who shared their views. State employees are only supposed to offer non-partisan advice.

“We felt we needed time with someone who had our perspective,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins worked with Democratic Party demographer Edward Wisham on his Louisiana House map proposal and even brought Wisham to committee hearings on the map, which did not move forward. Wisham previously worked as chief technology officer for the Louisiana Democratic Party.

While Democrats have been fairly outspoken about helping with redistricting, Republican lawmakers have been more circumspect. House Republican Caucus Chairman Blake Miguez, R-Erath, said his delegation used outside funds to hire a lawyer to advise GOP members on redistricting.

“[The attorney] was mostly to work on the home map,” Miguez said. “No public funds were used.”



Miguez said the money for the legal advice came from a political organization “aligned with our purpose” and that the arrangement was similar to that between the House Democratic Caucus and the Louisiana Democratic Party. Nor would he say who, specifically, paid the bill. He also declined to provide the name of the lawyer or law firm.

Both Miguez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of French Settlement are Republican leaders, but a coalition of more moderate Republicans and Democrats elected Schexnayder to the House’s top job. Miguez often clashes with Schexnayder and is not part of the speaker’s inner circle.

Miguez said conservative Republicans in the House hired a lawyer to help with the redistricting because they “didn’t have access to all the staff who [legislative] management did.

The lawyer wasn’t used much, however, Miguez said, as conservatives ended up being largely happy with the map crafted by Schexnayder and the House member leading the redistricting efforts, Rep. John Stefanski. R-Crowley.

While Miguez declined to say who offered the House GOP help, there are a few conservative groups that have spent thousands of dollars on redistricting efforts ahead of the special session of the Legislative Assembly this month.

The Louisiana Republican Party has spent more than $19,500 on law firms for redistricting advice since early October. Celebration, who had financial difficultiesStill owes one of the law firms — Bienvenu, Foster, Ryan & O’Bannon of New Orleans — more than $13,000, according to the party’s latest campaign finance report.

The other law firm hired by the GOP was Daigle, Fisse and Kessenich of Madisonville.

Louis Gurvich, the state’s GOP chairman, did not return phone calls and messages to his personal cell phone and to the state party office.

Louisiana’s majority conservative PAC also spent $48,000 in November on “generic redistricting research services” at BDPC, a New Orleans political consulting firm owned by Greg Rigamer.

Rigamer, a demographer and election data expert from Louisiana, has worked for the Republican and Democratic campaigns. Especially, Governor John Bel Edwards hired him in 2019 to help win his second-round race after a less-than-stellar primary. He also recently worked on campaigns for two high-profile Republicans: Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto.

US Senator John Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry in 2019 created the Louisiana Conservative Majority PAC to flip legislative seats held by white Democrats and moderate Republicans to more conservative lawmakers. Kennedy still leads the organization, although Landry is no longer involved.

Kyle Ruckert, executive director of the PAC, did not return multiple phone calls and text messages regarding his redistricting expenses.

One of Louisiana’s most powerful interest groups, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, has also spent thousands of dollars on redistricting over the past five years, according to campaign finance reports. Four PACs associated with the organization have spent $15,000 on Maptitude, software marketed as a political redistricting tool, since 2017.

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LABI primarily uses the mapping tool for promotional and marketing materials, said Stephen Waguespack, the organization’s president and CEO. The organization also undertook a major project to study and promote an overhaul of the Louisiana court system, where the mapping tool was used, he added.

Legislators have also sometimes requested LABI’s assistance with political mapping, as they know that some of the association’s staff have experience working with mapping software, Waguespack said.

LABI has also held political discussions about redistricting over the years.

Records show Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City, charged $75 from his campaign account for a “LABI Redistricting Seminar” held at the former LABI headquarters in Baton Rouge in November 2020.

The Louisiana Free Enterprise PAC, which is affiliated with LABI, held three “redistricting meetings” in 2018. Two were held at Windsor Court New Orleans and a third at Hooters in Metairie, according to campaign finance reports.

Information gleaned from campaign finance reports on redistricting spending was first reported by LaPolitics Weekly.

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