Mystery Solved

Months before Republican Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone launched an “attack ad” against fellow Republican challenger Ralph Abraham, a decision that angered conservatives like talk radio host Moon Griffon and U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a pair of reports critical of Abraham materialized on the website Conservative Intel. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration, Eddie Rispone’s campaign spent $278,114.60 with a company owned by the same man who the web publication.

Shortly after the publication of the second article, Elizabeth Crisp of the Advocate reported the story of the “mysterious anti-Ralph Abraham blog post.

“The Rispone campaign said that an Advocate reporter’s tweet was the first he had seen of the anti-Abraham posting but that Conservative Intelligence is one of several email vendors the campaign has used,” Crisp reported. ”The campaign sent out a ‘news alert’ linking to the conservative blog’s post after seeing it on Twitter. Fundraising emails linking to the Rispone campaign’s website also have been sent from addresses on the domain.”

The two reports, both of which do not list the name of their author, were published on Feb. 28 and March 20 of this year, and they both attempt to characterize the three-term Republican congressman as an advocate of the “#NeverTrump” movement, calling attention to comments Abraham had made when Trump was still seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

Although the posts still appear, as previews, through a search of the site’s archives, the actual articles haven been removed.

The site is owned by Michigan Republican political operative John Yow, who also owns a portfolio of companies that provide various services for conservative candidates. The Detroit News first revealed Yow’s connections to the website in 2017, raising concerns about the integrity of Yow’s “news outlet” and the ethics of political candidates who may be paying for news articles without disclosing their involvement.

In her report for the Advocate, Crisp mentions news and fundraising emails sent on behalf of Rispone’s campaign by Conservative Intelligence. However, despite the Rispone campaign’s claims of ignorance and assertions about the company merely being “one of several email vendors,” the campaign never actually paid that particular company for email or fundraising services.

Instead, it paid yet another company owned by Yow, Victory Phones, LLC, which allegedly provides auto-dialing resources for surveys and polls.

According to consultants familiar with the industry, the expenditures raise significant questions, particularly considering Rispone also retained the services of a pollster, who has, thus far, been paid nearly a half of a million dollars by the campaign, including for services that appear to be duplicative.

Featured image: John Yow. Screenshot of Fox News. Edited by the Bayou Brief.

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Lamar White, Jr.
Lamar White, Jr. is an award-winning writer and the publisher and founder of the Bayou Brief, Louisiana’s only statewide news and culture publication. Born and raised on the banks of the Red River in Alexandria, he is a proud product of the Louisiana public education system and a graduate of Rice University in Houston and SMU’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas. Lamar has been writing about politics and public policy in Louisiana for twenty years, beginning as a weekly youth columnist for his hometown paper, the Town Talk. After earning his undergraduate degree in English and Religious Studies, Lamar moved back to Alexandria, where he launched a popular blogsite, CenLamar, and worked for five years as the Special Assistant to the Mayor. He exposed significant problems with Louisiana’s school voucher program, which resulted in a series of other investigations and ultimately in the removal of several schools from the program. He was the last person to argue online with Andrew Breitbart. He investigated and then broke the report that U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise had once attended a white supremacist conference. He was the first to share a photograph of Bobby Jindal’s portrait in the state Capitol. He exposed U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s incomplete timesheets while the then-representative moonlighted as a physician. He earned headlines in Texas after the gubernatorial campaign of Greg Abbott falsely claimed he had been exploited as a “campaign prop” by Abbott’s opponent, Wendy Davis, and after exposing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign for relying on online “bot farms” to counter Beto O’Rourke, and he earned headlines in Mississippi after publishing videos of U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith making bizarre comments about public hangings and voter suppression tactics which were both perceived as racist. Lamar was the recipient of the 2011 Ashley Morris Award, given to the writer who best exemplifies the spirit of New Orleans, and in 2019, he was honored as one of Gambit’s Top 40 Under 40 and as the year’s Outstanding Millennial in Journalism at the annual Millennial Awards. He has been the subject of profiles in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Above the Law, and the Advocate and has appeared multiple times as a guest on CNN and MSNBC. Lamar currently lives in New Orleans with his two golden retrievers, Lucy Ana and Ruby Dog.