new orleans—In places where there is a contested Senate race, chances are it is the most expensive midterm election in state history. Louisiana is no exception. Federal Election Commission filings show well over $30 million spent by candidates and outside groups.
At a raucous gathering for Senator Mary Landrieu on Saturday, Hillary Clinton reminded the crowd of this fact in particularly charged language for New Orleans, where the rally was being held. “There has been a flood of outside money trying to muddy the waters, drown your voice, discourage people from voting,” she said.
If the Senate election here heads to a runoff, there might be actual dump trucks of money coming across the state line, particularly if the seat will end up determining control of the upper chamber. Taking a closer look at who is spending the money—and who isn’t—is an easy way to pick up on some of this race’s unique contours.
Louisiana is one of only two contested Senate races where the US Chamber of Commerce isn’t involved. (The other is Arkansas.) As we noted last week, the Chamber has an enormous footprint wherever it goes, averaging close to $1 million per race. It’s the biggest spender in twenty-eight of the thirty-five contests it is involved with this cycle.
But it hasn’t spent a dime attacking Landrieu nor boosting her opponent, Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. This likely reflects a desire not to make an enemy of Landrieu were she to hold onto the seat, since she is the chair of the hugely powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
It’s a huge boon to Landrieu not to have a heavyweight like the Chamber pummeling her in the state, and it’s one of many ways her chairmanship has become a key asset in the campaign. Speaker after speaker at Saturday’s rally reminded potential voters how important Landrieu’s position is for the state, where over 400,000 jobs rely on the oil and gas industry.
“Nobody can tell the people of Louisiana that ‘Hey folks, we’re gonna vote to replace the chairman of the United States Senate Energy Committee, the most important committee…to the state of Louisiana, with a new first-term senator,’&thin;” said former Senator John Breaux. “We’re not gonna buy that. That would be like saying we’re going to kick Drew Brees out of being quarterback and replace him with a freshman quarterback from some high school.”
Though the Chamber isn’t actively backing Landrieu, many oil and gas companies are. Exxon Mobil, NRG Energy and Dominion Resources are three of the top five contributors to her campaign committee. They don’t even appear in Cassidy’s top twenty.