Challenger Lesli Harris leads the District B pack in campaign contributions

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With the primary election for City Council less than a month away, the candidates for the District B seat have spent more than $200,000 battling for a seat, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program.

But it appears that several candidates have had to reach deep into their own pockets to finance an extra month of spending after election day was pushed from Oct. 9 to Nov. 13 due to Hurricane Ida. 

Both incumbent Jay H. Banks and one of his four challengers, Rosalind “Roz” Reed-Thibodaux, have only a few hundred dollars left in cash on hand, while challenger Rella Zapletal, the biggest spender in the race, is relying on a $200,000 loan she made to herself. 

Candidates Banks, Lesli Harris, Reed-Thibodaeux and Zapletal have received a total of $184,688.84 in campaign contributions in 2021, with more than half of that amount going to the Harris campaign. 

In addition, Harris loaned herself $28,700 and Zapletal has loaned herself $200,000. 

As of Wednesday morning (Oct. 20), the Louisiana Ethics Administration website did not show a campaign finance report for candidate Timothy David Ray, an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans.

Read on to find out who each candidate’s biggest donors are. 

Jay H. Banks

Councilman Jay H. Banks

District B Councilman Jay H. Banks won his seat in a 2017 runoff with the slimmest of margins — 128 votes, to be exact. He’s in for a tough battle yet again, as his campaign finance filing shows he had only $513.04 in cash left on hand.

After starting off 2021 with $4,865.73 in campaign funds, Banks collected $55,300 in contributions from 73 donors. None of that money is listed as coming from a political action committee, and 24 donors gave $200 or less.

The donors who gave Banks the maximum contribution of $2,500 are: 

  • Lynes Sloss, president of the IT company Bellwether Technology and the 2018 Rex
  • Liberty Bank
  • Bill Hammack, a co-owner of Cochon, Herbsaint and other restaurants in the Link Restaurant Group. There was also a separate $2,500 contribution from “HJI LLC c/o Bill Hammack.”
  • Chris Bardell, owner of several McDonald’s in the New Orleans area
  • L. Lauricella of the commercial real estate firm Lauricella Land Co. 
  • Attorney Darleen M. Jacobs-Levy
  • Helis Oil & Gas Co.
  • The law firm Adams and Reese

Another donor who gave $2,500 was Randall Moore, president of ETI Inc., which performs government contracting work. According to news reports and a filing from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, Randall Moore pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking part in a government kickback scheme in Mayor Marc Morial’s administration and paid a $3,000 fine. At the time Moore defended himself by saying he was the victim of extortion.

ETI Inc. provided janitorial services at Louis Armstrong International Airport, but the Aviation Board voted to end the contract in early 2020, according to a NOLA.com article.

A representative for the Banks campaign said the councilman was not aware of events that occurred 16 years ago and declined to otherwise comment.

Banks has spent almost all the money he’s collected, with $59,652.29 in expenses. Major expenditures include: 

  • $17,474.70 to Last Word Strategies. for web content and social media services 
  • $9,518 to Brown Public Relations for marketing materials
  • $7,000 to Lavoi Creative for video production
  • $6,742.12 for campaign signs and mailers from the Printer’s Wholesale Group
  • $5,000 to BDPC for consulting services
  • $4,075 to Cygnet, Inc. for mailers
  • $2,000 to Aly Media Relations for faith-based outreach

Lesli Harris

Lesli Harris

Lesli Harris, an attorney specializing in entertainment and sports law, has represented the Saints and the Pelicans. She is also the former chief of staff to the president of Loyola University.

Harris has taken in more in contributions than all the other candidates combined. So she has a bit more cushioning in her bank account.

According to her campaign finance report, she’s received $98,754.34 in contributions from 162 sources, including $2,000.34 in in-kind contributions. She also lent her campaign $28,700 in seven installments in July and August. After $62,298.72 in expenses, she’s left with $63,155.28 cash on hand.

Harris’ experience in entertainment law may have won her some friends on Frenchmen Street. She received $2,000 from live music venue Café Negril, and four separate companies tied to Jeffrey Bromberger, owner of Marigny music clubs The Maison and the Dragon’s Den, donated a combined total of $10,000:

Although the contribution limit for a district council race is $2,500 per person per election, Kathleen Allen, administrator of the Louisiana Board of Ethics, told Uptown Messenger that donating via multiple LLCs is allowed as long as they are legitimate businesses and are not all owned 100% by the same person.

“Lesli Harris is a first-time candidate and has received support from family, friends, attorneys and community leaders from across the country,” said Victoria Coulon, a spokesperson for the Harris campaign. “In filing this report, we have complied with all campaign finance rules.”  

Other companies that gave $2,500 to Harris’ campaign are:

  • Investment company Pontchartrain Capital LLC. 
  • Dilosa LLC, whose manager is Kenneth Dilosa according to state records
  • Daquiri business David Briggs Enterprises LLC
  • D-Mark LLC, whose manager is Mark Starring.
  • Louisiana Business Advisory Group LLC. According to state records, this company is tied to Jack Capella, president of Georges Enterprise. The CEO of Georges Enterprises, John Georges, owns the Advocate newspaper chain, which includes The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate and Gambit Weekly. 
  • The Louisiana Restaurant Association 
  • Public Properties, whose address matches the restaurant Saba on Magazine Street

Couples and individuals who gave $2,500 are:

  • Lucien and Joyce Bromberger of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who each gave $2,500 
  • Richard Farrell of St. Charles Avenue 
  • Attorney Rachel Wisdom of Stone Pigman, Harris’ former law firm
  • Leslie Lenox of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Major expenses include $13,500 to Victoria Coulon Consulting, $7,775 to field coordinator Erica N. Wise, $7,000 to Brandon Guichard Digital Group for digital management, $6069.74 to Printer’s Wholesale Group for campaign signs, and $4,505 to Ragusa Consulting. 

Rosalind Reed-Thibodeaux

Rosalind Reed-Thibodeaux

Roz Thibodeaux doesn’t have much to show in her campaign finance report. She has received $2,870 in contributions and spent $2,520.12, leaving her with $349.88 cash on hand. 

Major contributors include Thibodeaux Reed Realty ($1,200), which Reed-Thibodeaux owns according to her LinkedIn page; Joan Martin of St. Martinville ($2,000); and $1,000 from Michael Formeller of St. Martinville.

She also got some love from a few Carnival organizations, getting $300 from the NOLA Nyxettes dance troupe and $200 from the Krewe of Pandora, an all-female krewe that parades in Jefferson Parish.

The only non-Democrat in the race, Reed-Thibodeaux is running as an Independent.

Rella Zapletal

Rella Zapletal

Attorney Rella Zapletal is willing to put her own money on the line in the race; she gave herself a $200,000 loan on June 24. She’s raised only $27,764.50 from donors, but spent $78,057.55, enough to stuff mailboxes across the district with flyers. 

One major focus of her campaign has been taking on Entergy: she has promised that if elected she would introduce an ordinance to require an annual independent audit of the utility’s profits, and one of her latest campaign mailings attacked the incumbent as a “machine politician” who “refused to hold Entergy accountable” for power outages. 

According to her campaign finance report, Zapletal had only four donors who gave the top amount of $2,500:

  • Attorney Peter Diiorio 
  • Attorney Ramon Fonseca Jr. 
  • Lusher Charter School dance teacher Erin Healan

In addition, media company Digital Remedy gave the maximum amount via an in-kind donation of Facebook advertising services. Her husband David Zapletal is Digital Remedy’s chief innovation and media officer. The campaign filings show two more in-kind contributions totaling $1398.50 from David Zapletal for advertising.

Other notable contributions include $1,000 from the Louisiana Realtors PAC and $1,500 from business and banking consultant Ann C. Middleton. 

Zapletal’s major expenditures are mostly related to consulting, including $20,283.50 to Capture Connect Media for media consulting and $6,750 to Top Drawer Strategies for general message consulting. Other consultants she’s employed include Tyronne Walker, Percy Manson, Legal Courier Services, and Maggie Windler. 

In addition, she’s paid $5,023.76 to Printers Wholesale Group for yard signs, $4,700 to Milman Research and Consulting for campaign research, $3,630 to Winston Bergeron LLP for legal services, and $3,244 to the postal service for mailers. 

Reporter Sharon Lurye can be reached at sharonrlurye@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Uptown Messenger has received advertising dollars from the campaigns of Jay H. Banks, Lesli Harris and Rella Zapletal.

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