Current Mayor-President race may lead to ethics rule changes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some campaign expenses might be questioned in the future

The two top candidates in the race for Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge parish are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure their spot. A few types of expenses are raising some eye brows and may lead to ethics rule changes down the road.

WAFB News obtained the latest campaign finance reports from current Mayor-President Kip Holden and current Mayor Pro Tem, Mike Walker's respective campaigns.

The reports reflect the time period of January 1, 2011 to September 1, 2012 and show Kip Holden's total contributions at $414,485. His closest opponent, Mike Walker's campaign reports total contributions at $332,361; $82,124 separates the two campaigns.

Kip Holden's top single contributor is AT&T Louisiana PAC giving $9,000. Walker's top contributors include, Claude Penn Jr. giving $5,000, another $5,000 from Penn Properties and $5,000 from Chris Gorman.

Thirty two people made single donations of $5,000 to Kip Holden's campaign compared to three single $5,000 contributions to Walker's campaign.

"Fundraising is never easy, but we are very pleased with where we are in the campaign and feel that our fundraising plan is on schedule," said Rannah Gray, campaign adviser for Holden. "We have a tremendous cross section of people planning large and small fundraisers."

"After being the Mayor-President for eight years, we are surprised the current mayor has not raised more money," said Chris Boudreaux, representing the Walker campaign.

Tickets to athletic events are one type of campaign expense that has caught the attention of the Louisiana Ethic's Board.

Kip Holden's campaign spent $18,840 on LSU season football tickets and parking passes to the games at Tiger Stadium during the reported period. Holden also lists parts of his trip to New Orleans for the Bayou Classic football game as an expense.

"The Board of Ethics decided in March to form a campaign finance committee to look into adopting rules to provide candidates and campaigns with greater clarity as to permissible expenditures," said Alainna Giacone, Communications Director for the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

The committee, headed by board of ethics vice chairman Scott Schneider has met twice for discussion purposes and has an open meeting scheduled for September 20, 2012 to discuss proposed rules which include the issue of tickets to athletic events.

Kip Holden's campaign says they will spend a great deal of money on campaign signs and promotional materials and defended the $18,840 expense for LSU tickets and parking passes.

"This is an expense the Mayor has reported every year and he follows the campaign finance laws regarding this expenditure," said Gray. "Mayor Holden is a graduate of LSU and has always supported the university in every way he can, from the sports teams to the academic programs."

Mike Walker's campaign responded saying that Walker and his wife 'certainly love and support the LSU Tigers' but do so with their own money, just like the rest of the taxpayers.

WAFB Political analyst Jim Engster says he understands the expense.

"I think the Mayor knows where the people are and the people in this area are quite often at football games at this time of the year, Engster said. "And let's not forget the November 6th election is three days after the LSU/Alabama game in Tiger Stadium. I will guess the mayor will have an ample supply of tickets for the LSU/Alabama game."

The list of contributors to both campaign's contains engineers, business leaders, lawyers and other citizens, some of them giving as much as $5,000, some as low as $5.

"Generally people contribute for access, more so than anything else. Can I pick up the phone and can I get the mayor on the line and can I get help with a problem if I have one," added Engster.

The next fundraising reports are due next in October.