Two longtime Jefferson Parish State Senators, one on each bank of the river, Westwego’s John Alario and Kenner’s Danny Martiny, are reported to have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in excess campaign contributions from Political Action Committees or PACs.
The Fox 8/Nola.com report alleges that Alario, the Senate President, exceeded the amount of contributions that PACs can contribute to a district candidate for his past two elections and has already exceeded the limit for his next election. Alario received almost $79,856 in PAC contributions in 2007, almost $102,846 in 2011 (despite running unopposed) and has already accepted $95,512 in PAC contributions for 2015.
For the 2007 election, Martiny accepted $96,007 in PAC contributions and another $92,103 in the 2011 election cycle. The report did not disclose Martiny’s PAC contributions for the 2015 election cycle.
The maximum amount of contributions that a Senate candidate can accept from PACs is $60,000 per election.
Alario and Martiny are longtime State Legislators and are well aware of the rules. Prior to their elections to the State Senate in 2007, Alario spent 36 years and Martiny served 14 years in the State House.
In addition, Martiny has acted as the Campaign Treasurer for other candidates including Jefferson Parish District 5 Councilwoman Cynthia Sheng and has been involved in the campaigns of Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.
In one report, Martiny reported receiving $0 from PACs but within the report it showed PAC contributions of over $92,000.
The State Ethics Board can impose a fine of twice the amount of the violation or $10,000, whichever is greater.
One of the problems is that the State Ethics Board simply processes the campaign finance reports and doesn’t audit them. They’re not checking the reports, just ensuring that the reports arrive on time.
On Nola.com, UNO Political Analyst Ed Chervenak hit the nail on the head when he said:
"There may some sense that, 'Well, we can get away with this and then, if we do (get caught) we'll just pay the fine,'" Chervenak said. "If they have violated the law, they should be investigated."
Sadly, that is the moral code of many elected officials – let’s push the envelope as far as we can and, if they catch us, we’ll just plead ignorance or blame a “clerical error”, pay the fine and move on. We can always raise even more money.
And, voters will have forgotten by the time the next election rolls around.