The Marc St. Pierre federal trial has been quite revealing and not only for St. Pierre. The testimony from the corruption trial of the former city vender has really given us an inside look into the Ray Nagin administration, especially Nagin’s 2nd term as Mayor of the city of New Orleans. More specifically, how Nagin’s 2nd term election campaign was funded by a large percentage of illegal contributions.
If you remember the 2006 race for mayor, it wasn’t just Nagin versus Landrieu, especially when it came down to fundraising. Actually Ron Foreman, of the Audubon Society, raised the most cash for that race. Forman and Landrieu each raised over $2 million, with the eventual winner, Nagin, raising a little over $1.4 million.
According to the sworn testimony of Nagin’s deputy mayor Greg Meffert, Nagin asked Meffert to raise $250,000 for his campaign. Meffert got most of the money from St. Pierre. One problem, you can’t just write a check for $250,000 to a campaign when the legal contribution limits are $5,000. So Meffert and St. Pierre got a bunch of folks to contribute the $5000 limit and then reimbursed them. By circumventing election laws, the Nagin campaign had another quarter million dollars to stay competitive in the race.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Nagin’s campaign also indirectly accepted a convicted felon’s help when the campaign had former S&WB member Benjamin Edwards contribute over $270,000 in the form of billboards promoting Nagin for mayor. Edwards stole millions from the city for decades and apparently used some of that money to help out the former mayor.
Roughly 30% of the money Nagin used for his 2006 re-election campaign came from illegal sources. About a quarter million dollars from St. Pierre and Meffert and another quarter million plus from Edwards, who is presently serving a 20 year jail term.
It’s safe to say, without the illegal contributions, Nagin wouldn’t have won a 2nd term and our city would be further along than it is today.