Campaign flier raises questions

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002


GARYVILLE – Geri Broussard-Baloney’s campaign for district attorney in the 40th Judicial District recently hit a snag over a faxed campaign flier. The snag, according to the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, could be prosecuted as a campaign fraud case – by the district attorney.

The Sept. 17 letter faxed to St. John the Baptist Parish businesses, speaking as one business owner to another, came from the “Committee to Elect Geri Broussard-Baloney,” and gave the address and telephone number of her law office in Garyville, while soliciting campaign contributions. Broussard-Baloney said she “really has no idea how many were sent out.”

The problem came with the last sentence: “Your tax deductible gift will allow us to reach more people and involve them in our campaign.”

Campaign contributions are not tax deductible, according to the U.S. Master Tax Guide, said LaPlace accountant Robert Smith of Economy Bookkeeping and Tax Service.

Broussard-Baloney responded, “We just caught that yesterday, and we’ve been on the phone, telling people it’s a mistake.”

A fax was issued Friday and it read, “You recently received correspondence from us on behalf of the campaign. There was an error which we’d like to correct. Your gift is not ‘tax deductible.’

“We apologize for the error or any confusion this may have caused.”

Her opponent, District Attorney John Crum, would not say whether he would pursue the matter.

“I’m not really surprised about anything they do.”

He added, “That’s just another problem with her running for district attorney.”

Crum added that business owners who attempted to use a campaign contribution as a tax deduction would get a rude awakening. “I’m offended by it, personally,” he said.

The faxed letter presents a short campaign note, citing Broussard-Baloney’s intentions as district attorney, and saying no business is safe from crime. It added the sentence, “I am the only candidate who lives and operates a business in St. John Parish.”

That sentence related to the claim that her campaign made in court, in which she claimed Crum was not a legal resident of the parish and was therefore not qualified to run for district attorney.

That argument failed in both district court and before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled unanimously against Broussard-Baloney’s case and upheld Crum’s claim of domicile in St. John the Baptist Parish.

The faxed note, with Broussard-Baloney’s signature, added: “I am pleased to report that the campaign is going very well, but it is very costly. So, I am writing to ask for your financial support. Fundraising is a fundamental part of the electoral process and is essential for a candidate if she wants to win an elected office.”

The letter then asked for the name, address, phone number and e-mail address of contributors, with check-boxes for the amount of the checks enclosed, $500, $1,500 or $2,500 or Other.

Broussard-Baloney, when contacted for comment, began to laugh and said, “We caught it yesterday and we’ve been calling people and telling them just to scratch that out.”

Crum responded, “It’s like she doesn’t understand the seriousness of what she did.”