With a month before election day, the race for the open District A seat on the New Orleans City Council has already drawn more than $300,000 in political contributions — with the clear majority to Joe Giarrusso III and a strong second place by Aylin Acikalin Maklansky.
But who is paying for their campaigns?
Giarrusso, a Lakeview attorney who has led several neighborhood and civic groups, is by far the fundraising leader, with nearly $200,000 in contributions, $37,000 in funding from himself, and nearly $100,000 still in the bank after expenses as of Sept. 14, the due date for campaign finance reports.
Maklanksy, a former staffer for Sen. Mary Landrieu and at City Hall, raised $74,000 in contributions and funded herself nearly $22,000, leaving her $45,000 in the bank for the final month of campaigning after expenses.
Of the other four candidates, Drew Ward raised more than $3,000 and hung onto $764 for the month ahead, and Dan Ring raised $465 which, added to what he already had in the bank, left him with $512 for the remainder of the campaign. Tilman Hardy and Toyia Washington-Kendrick both filed reports showing that they are funding their own campaigns, without any reported contributions.
Joe Giarrusso III
Giarrusso’s campaign finance report is by far the longest at 86 pages. He also had at least two dozen donors contribute the maximum $2,500, either through firms or individuals.
Firms and companies that contributed $2,500 to Giarrusso include:
- Burgos and Associates and, separately, the Burgos law firm, both on Canal Street ($2,500 each),
- Jackson Square Investment II LLC, which is related to a company that lists Darryl Berger and others among its officers,
- Soniat Street LLC, a company registered to Kenneth Barnes of Broadway Street and represented by Stone Pigman attorney Hirschel T. Abbott Jr.,
- Willow Incorporated, a company whose officers include Fred Heebe, the developer of the controversial River Birch landfill that led to the downfall of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten,
- Yovimpa Point, a company with ties to former Judge Max Tobias, and
- the Landry and Swarr law firm.
Individuals and couples who donated $2,500 to Giarrusso include:
- Daniel Foley, Giarrusso’s campaign chairman, as well as the Foley law firm ($2,500 each),
- Robert Lupo, a City Park board member, and his company Lupo Enterprises ($2,500 each),
- Diane Africk and Max Africk of Rosa Park Avenue ($2,500 each),
- Joseph Pappalardo and Linda Pappalardo ($2,500 each),
- Frances Fayard, Audubon Commission board member,
- Jennifer Heebe, former state representative and wife of landfill magnate Fred Heebe,
- Nancy Marsiglia, a civic activist whose death in May was widely mourned,
- Jay Lapeyre, a businessman, Tulane board member and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry,
- civic activist Janice Parmelee,
- Jimmie Woods, owner of Metro Disposal,
- attorney Freeman Matthews,
- attorney William Hall,
- attorney Evan Trestman,
- Celia Katz of Broadway Street, and
- Donna Klein of Valmont Street.
Other well-known names on Giarrusso’s report include the following:
- developer Darleen Jacobs Levy, $2,000;
- attorney Chip Forstall, $1,500;
- Ralph Brennan, $1,000, as well as an in-kind donation for a fundraiser by his restaurant group (see below);
- land-use attorney David Halpern $1,000;
- education activist Leslie Jacobs, $1,000;
- former U.S. Attorney Ken Polite, $1,000;
- businessman Frank Stewart (who recently made headlines with his criticism of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s removal of the Confederate monuments), $700;
- Clerk of Court Dale Atkins, $500;
- developer Joseph Canizaro, $500;
- State Sen. Ed Murray, $500;
- School Board member Sarah Usdin, $500;
- Freddy Yoder, Lakeview neighborhood leader and Durr Heavy Construction owner, $500;
- Cedric Martin of Martin Wine Cellar, $450;
- State Sen. J.P. Morrell, $319; and
- attorney Morris Bart, $250;
Major consultants being paid by the Giarrusso campaign include Greg Rigamer, Bill Schultz, Todd Ragusa, American Directions Group, The Farwell Group, Brylski Company and Win Partners.
Aylin Acikalin Maklanksy
Maklanksy’s report is exactly half the length of Giarrusso’s at 43 pages, but also had a number of maximum-level contributions. They include:
- her father, Tamer Acikalin, and two firms registered to him, 1068 LLC and 920F LLC, gave $2500 each,
- The Canlas Ellis law firm, which includes attorney Bob Ellis, who has represented defendants against the city’s short-term rental prosecution,
- Cornerstone Capital LLC, which gave $3,000 in two installments in June and August. The campaign refunded $500 on Sept. 1.,
- Sean Meenan, developer of the stalled French Quarter Cafe Habana project,
- Gregor Fox, a developer briefly involved with the State Palace Theater,
- Ted Kelso, a developer involved in a hotel in the Bywater,
- Integrated Logistical Support, an engineering firm on Tchoupitoulas,
- Magnolia Builders LLC, a construction firm in Gretna led by Josh Murphey,
- Deep South Studios LLC, a firm on South Peters Street registered to Scott Niemeyer,
- Stuart Consulting Group, an engineering firm based in Metairie,
- attorney Daniel Davillier,
- attorney Alexander Liu,
- Esra Hudson, an attorney in Los Angeles,
- Adrian Dobrescu, a doctor on Prytania Street, and
- Murat Gundogdu, a partner in Magazine Pizza.
Other noteworthy donations to Maklanksy include:
- developer Sean Cummings, $1,000,
- architect John Williams, $1,000,
- Rawbar LLC, which shares an address with Acme Oyster House, $1,000, and
- Sherman Strategies LLC, owned by former Mitch Landrieu aide Michael Sherman, $500.
Major consultants working for Maklansky are T. Bradley Keith, Last Word Strategies, as well as aides Jonathan Henderson, Bailee Stewart, Bobby Mannis and Matt Schoenberger.
One area of District A fundraising has already drawn significant scrutiny, the role of money from AirBnB and short-term rental advocates. According to an article in Gambit, short-term rental advocates seek to expand the amount of short-term rentals permitted in the city, and planned fundraisers over the summer for District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey and Maklansky, her former legislative director.
Maklansky received donations from at least three sources clearly related to short-term rental advocates: $500 from the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, $1,750 on several occasions from the group’s president, Eric Bay, and $250 from IHOSTNOLA.COM LLC, a firm owned by attorney Bob Ellis and Eric Bay.
Maklansky “contacted Gambit to say she did not remember receiving a check from the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity in early July, and that she was returning the money,” the Gambit article. “She had declined to accept a $1,000 check from the organization in August.”
Maklanksy also told Gambit that the fundraising events have no bearing on her positions on AirBnB — in several issue forums, she has said it is too early to assess the impact of the new legislation enabling them — and that she has not committed to any of the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity’s legislative agenda.
Giarrusso received a $250 contribution from Bay but then immediately refunded it the same day, the campaign finance reports show.
Drew Ward was the third-highest fundraiser in District A with a total of $3,344 in donations. None were at the maximum of $2,500, and his largest check was $1,000 from Kailey Gallegos of Stamford, Conn.
Ward also received $444 from mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock in early April; $250 from Deborah Skrmetta, wife of Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta; and $250 from Lamar White, founder of the CenLamar and Bayou Brief websites, the reports show.
Most of Dan Ring’s $465 in contributions was in donations of $20 or less, and none were greater than $100.
The restaurant endorsement
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a campaign in New Orleans, restaurants and food are well represented on the campaign finance reports. While it’s unclear what insight they offer into the candidates’ governing styles, they do suggest where you might run into your future City Councilman if you need to have a word over lunch.
Giarrusso had several major fundraising events, spending $12,675 at El Gato Negro in Lakeview and on another occasion $1,160 for food and beverages from Martin Wine Cellar. He also reports a donation of $2,480 from the Brennan Restaurant Group for a fundraiser at Ralph’s on the Park.
For meals with campaign staff and meetings, Giarrusso visited Mondo in Lakeview, Juan’s Flying Burrito, Blue Dot Donuts in Mid-City, Russell’s Marina Grill, City Greens Downtown, Betsy’s Pancake House on Canal Street, Cafe Navarre, Geisha Restaurant, Houston’s on St. Charles. For coffee, he went to Starbucks once and made a couple of trips to Mojo Coffee House on Freret,
Maklanksy had at least two restaurants throw fundraisers for her, $400 each from tapas restaurants Sala and Santa Fe, plus $756 from Ben Markey of Mid-City Yacht Club for a campaign kickoff event in July. Her campaign meetings and meals were at Lakeview Harbor, Liuzza’s, Freret Street Po-Boys, Borgne, Bud’s Broiler and Ted Frostop off Calhoun Street, and for coffee she preferred Rue de la Course on South Carrollton.
Ward dropped in for meetings at Cooter Brown’s and Wakin Bakin in Mid-City, and Washington-Kendrick had a meeting with volunteers at Golden Corral in Kenner.
[Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the principals in Soniat Street LLC. Hirschel T. Abbott, the registered agent for the company, is an attorney at the Stone Pigman law firm. He is not the 2011 King of Rex, Herschel Lee Abbott. ]