By MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards may be sitting on millions more in campaign donations than his Republican competitors, but he’ll soon be hamstrung in soliciting donations for his reelection bid, unable to fundraise for three months.
The Democratic incumbent is limited by a law prohibiting the governor and state lawmakers from seeking campaign contributions during the regular legislative session, which starts Monday and runs for two months. The 2004 prohibition, which includes exceptions for congressional or certain other campaigns, aimed to limit outside influence over decision-making.
The fundraising ban on Louisiana’s governor also extends 30 days beyond the session’s end, when he decides whether to sign or veto bills.
As they’re not state-level lawmakers, Edwards’ Republican opponents, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, aren’t similarly restricted.
With the blackout period looming, Edwards has packed in donor solicitation events in recent days. He’s also playing up the ban in fundraising emails, warning potential donors that he won’t be able to raise “a single penny” for three months.
“All the while, my opponents will go on attacking me,” he said in two recent solicitations.
After three years of healthy fundraising since taking office, Edwards reported that he was sitting on $8.4 million when 2018 ended.
“Gov. Edwards has had a fundraising blackout period every year he’s been governor, and it hasn’t stopped him from setting fundraising records,” campaign spokesman Eric Holl said in a statement.
The next campaign finance reports are due April 15. The election is Oct. 12.
Holl said the incumbent governor was “in a strong financial position heading into the blackout, which the campaign’s soon-to-come fundraising report will show.”
And even as Edwards stalls his fundraising operation for a quarter, outside groups can keep hauling in money to help his reelection bid.
Since they didn’t announce their campaigns until the final quarter of last year, Rispone and Abraham lag behind Edwards in fundraising.
Rispone, a wealthy political donor and first-time office seeker who declared his candidacy in October, reported raising $5.5 million at the end of 2018, including $5 million of his own money. He’s said he’s willing to pour more of his personal cash into the race. Abraham, a rural doctor who entered the race in December, had $350,000 in his campaign account by last year’s close, but has said he will report reaching the $1 million mark in his next filing.
The GOP campaigns differed on the importance of Edwards’ three-month fundraising ban.
“It’s irrelevant to us. John Bel could have a billion dollars and it wouldn’t matter,” Abraham’s political consultant, Lionel Rainey, said in a statement. He said Edwards has “a record to run on now” and the people of Louisiana are “not going to buy what he’s selling this go-around.”
Rispone spokesman Anthony Ramirez said the Republican contender “is the only full-time candidate in the race, and we plan on taking full advantage (of the) three-month fundraising blackout period.”
“The April 15 report will highlight that Rispone has strong fundraising credentials and the resources to defeat John Bel Edwards,” Ramirez said in an email.