Who’s paying for these New Orleans campaign ads? Signs leave out required info

Update: The story has been edited to include comments from mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris’ consultant about ads it produced.

Two New Orleans political ads are raising questions about the state’s elections laws requiring candidates to display who paid for them. They promote former Judge Michael Bagneris, a candidate for mayor, and former school board member Seth Bloom, who is running for the City Council District B seat.

Bloom’s billboard went up recently over Claiborne Avenue near downtown. It features a photo of Bloom and his first name and the initial of his last name. It does not say who paid for the ad.

Bagneris’s ad is a traditional placard affixed to a fence off Earhart Boulevard. That ad says “Michael Bagneris, Mayor,” but also doesn’t carry any indication of who paid for the it.

This Michael Bagneris ad doesn’t carry the required “paid for by” line under state elections law. 

Louisiana elections law requires that any “communication” paid for by a campaign must “clearly state that the communication has been paid for by such authorized political committee.” It goes on to say that “the name of the political committee paying for the communication shall be given in full and no acronyms shall be used.”

In a statement provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, a consultant for Bloom’s campaign, Danae Columbus, acknowledged that the billboard should have carried the name of the committee because it was paid for by the campaign.

“The disclaimer was omitted during an error in production and will be corrected,” Columbus said. “The billboard was paid for by the Seth Bloom Campaign Fund. The campaign has no intentions of not fully disclosing campaign activity.”

Columbus said that a graphic was being produced that could be added to the existing billboard.

Devin Johnson of The Brylski Co., which has been handling communications for the Bagneris campaign, also acknowledged the mistake.

“Some signs were printed by a since-demoted aide without a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer,” Johnson said in an email “We are in the process of remediating this.”

There has been heightened sensitivity about political ads not disclosing who paid for them after a billboard that appeared to support Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s bid for mayor appeared over Interstate 10 in January. The ad simply said “LaToya” in large block letters and did not indicate who paid for it.

A spokesman for Cantrell, David Winkler-Schmit, said at the time that the campaign didn’t know who paid for the billboard.

The city is now in the early stages of what’s expected to be a hard-fought race for mayor and City Council, with four announced mayoral candidates so far and four candidates announced for the District B seat Cantrell is vacating.

The primary is on Oct. 14 and qualifying for the races begins next month.