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 conservativeintel.com 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 writes about the people, the politics, and the magic of Louisiana. He is the founder and publisher of the Bayou Brief and a contributing writer for the Daily Beast. Lamar is best known for his investigative reporting on public corruption, racism, and civil rights. He has appeared as a guest on CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC, and he's been the subject of profiles in The Washington Post, The Advocate, and Huffington Post. Before launching the Bayou Brief, he published CenLamar, a popular blog that initially covered the drama of City Hall in his hometown of Alexandria. Lamar is a graduate of Rice University in Houston and the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Today he lives in New Orleans and is currently writing a book about the life of reputed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello.