by Tom Herrmann
E-mail messages from July show that a Republican candidate for Louisiana attorney general offered to lobby federal officials to oppose proposed cuts in Medicaid and Medicare payments in exchange for campaign contributions, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Shreveport attorney Royal Alexander said he has a "vague recollection" of an exchange with members of the Louisiana Association of Ambulatory Healthcare, but the exchange was confirmed by several people who received e-mail from Alexander, according to a blog from the newspaper's Bill Barrow.
"I am willing to reach out to my D.C. staffer friends very quickly," Alexander wrote on July 20, according to Barrow. "However ... I am very busy. So, in return for the precious time I am going to take away from my campaign for Attorney General to assist you, I am going to ask you to make a substantial financial contribution to my campaign."
The messages were addressed to Lansing Kolb of Alexandria, a nursing home owner with a history of giving to Republican candidates, and Paul Broussard, an executive for Southwest Ambulatory Behavioral Services Inc.
The Louisiana Association of Ambulatory Healthcare is fighting proposed cuts in federal payments to some providers who served Medicaid and Medicare patients.
Louisiana's campaign finance law states: "No person shall knowingly coerce or attempt to coerce another person to give or withhold a contribution."
Recipients said Alexander's tone might have been a bit unusual, but they didn't view his solicitation as a quid pro quo, Barrow reported. Alexander said he intended nothing inappropriate and described his general approach to fundraising as "aggressive."
State law provides that a candidate turn over to the state any contribution determined to be obtained by coercive tactics banned by campaign finance statutes. Officials at the state Board of Ethics would make such a determination based on any complaint the agency might receive.
But such coercion by a candidate does not appear to violate Louisiana criminal statutes, according to interim state ethics administrator Kathleen Allen.