Louisiana voters will go to the polls Saturday to select a new senator, choosing between Democrat Foster Campbell and Republican John Kennedy. Last week, WWL-TV checked the accuracy of claims made in an anti-Kennedy TV ad.
Now we look at another ad that has been hitting the airwaves, this one attacking Campbell. The ad was purchased not by Kennedy, Louisiana state treasurer, but by a PAC called the Ending Spending Action Fund, or ESA Fund.
“Who does liberal politician Foster Campbell really work for?”
That's the opening of the attack ad against Campbell, who sits on the Public Service Commission. Sidestepping the broad claim that Campbell is a “liberal,” let's apply a verification test to some of the facts contained in the ad.
“Over a four-year period, more than half the money Campbell raised came from industries he was charged with regulating.”
The ad claims that from 2009 to 2013, Campbell received $346,000 dollars from industries he regulates.
But campaign finance reports show that as a commissioner, Campbell received only about a third of that amount – $105,000 – from utility companies regulated by the PSC.
UNO Political Science Professor Ed Chervenak said such campaign contributions to PSC members are routine.
“Obviously in that position he's regulating industries and he's an elected official, so he's going to be taking money from those industries as well,” Chervenak said.
Additional money came from individuals, presumably some who are officers or employees of PSC-regulated companies, but there is no way to verify what percent of those individuals were connected to those companies.
So we call that claim “QUESTIONABLE.”
Worse, Campbell accepted thousands from a businessman whose company provided Louisianans with water containing brain eating amoeba.
Campaign finance reports show that in May 2012, Wood T. Sparks, CEO of the Greater Ouchita Water Company, contributed $2,000 to Campbell. And although nobody got sick from the amoeba in that part of the state, it was discovered in the North Monroe water system in 2015.
However, it was under Sparks that the company used a chlorine burn to clear the system of the single-cell invader.
Even so, we list that claim as “VERIFIED.”
“Campbell's Commission even allowed the same company to jack up utility rates on customers.”
Greater Ouchita Water Company received a 38-percent rate increase in 2014, approved by Campbell and the rest of the Public Service Commission.
So that claim is “VERIFIED.”
But here’s the background.
The increase was part of a complex transaction in which Greater Ouchita acquired the previous water provider, Louisiana Water Company, under the condition that rate increase be approved. And that came after years without a rate increase because LWC was chronically out of state compliance, a situation that was reversed by the new company.
“Foster Campbell, a slippery politician leaving Louisiana high and dry.”
So does Campbell’s actions make him “slippery?” Did he leave Louisiana “high and dry?” Whatever voters think of those claims, they get a chance to voice their opinion at the ballot box on Saturday.