BATON ROUGE, La. — An attack ad against Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was pulled Friday from TV airwaves, after it claimed the Democratic governor's West Point roommate landed a state contract worth up to $65 million, even though the contract was never awarded.
A Republican-financed, anti-Edwards group called Truth in Politics launched the attack ad. After facing pushback on the claims, the organization said it was retooling the spot and sending a revised version to television stations.
The original ad accused Edwards of being involved in "backroom deals" that benefited his military academy friend Murray Starkel, citing a coastal restoration contract.
But The Advocate reported the contract in question was never awarded to any of the four bidders deemed qualified, including Starkel's firm, Ecological Service Partners.
Starkel's firm submitted proposals for the work, but the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority announced at an August meeting it was not awarding the contract to any of the proposers, said Chip Kline, chairman of the authority's board.
Kline said in a statement the coastal agency "has never issued Mr. Starkel, nor his company, a contract of any kind."
Edwards faces Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in the Nov. 16 runoff election. Truth in Politics, which doesn't have to disclose its donors, was co-founded by GOP donor and Rispone friend Lane Grigsby.
Edwards' campaign sent a letter to TV stations in New Orleans, where the ad is running, objecting to the content and asking for it to be taken down.
Truth in Politics spokesman Morgan Wampold said the organization "updated a couple of words to further clarify" the ad. The reworked spot wasn't immediately made available Friday.
But the organization also sent out a statement by spokesman Jay Connaughton defending the ad and suggesting Starkel's firm would be in line for other multimillion-dollar work as part of a "shady deal" with the Edwards administration. Truth in Politics didn't provide any details about other coastal contracts, however.
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