Obama, Holder Group Drops $300K Into Louisiana

Dem incumbent in dead heat ahead of Saturday runoff

Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder / Getty Images

A group backed by President Barack Obama and led by former attorney general Eric Holder sent $300,000 to Louisiana Democrats in the closing days of the governor's race, filings show.

The outside money flowed into the state as polls show the race between Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone at a dead heat. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), an Obama and Holder outfit that focuses on "Republican gerrymandering" around the country, added Louisiana to its "2019-2020 targets," citing Bel Edwards's ability to "veto a gerrymandered map" offered by the Republican-controlled legislature.

The group has quietly sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats ahead of the runoff election. The NDRC's PAC sent $100,000 each to the State Democratic Campaign Committee of Louisiana, Louisiana Democrats, and the House Democratic Campaign Committee of Louisiana in late October, state filings show. Holder's group now ranks among the largest spenders in the state since the October 12 primary.

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The NDRC did not respond to requests for comment on its Louisiana efforts. Neither the state Democratic Party nor the Bel Edwards campaign returned requests for comment.

The NDRC launched in 2016 in part because of Obama's frustration with Republican control of the House of Representatives, which he blamed on gerrymandering at the state level. Prior to leaving the White House, Obama held a strategy session with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe that identified breaking up Republican-controlled legislatures as a top priority for Democrats in the upcoming years.

Holder has said that the NDRC's goal is personal for Obama. "The tasks that he had placed before him were made a lot more difficult, progress a lot more difficult, than it needed to be," Holder told the New York Times in 2017. "That's because of the Congress that he had to deal with, which was a function of the 2010 redistricting effort."

The group has since attracted the attention of top Democratic operatives. Kelly Ward, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, serves as the NDRC's president. Democratic Governors Association executive director Noam Lee, House Majority PAC president Ali Lapp, and America Votes Action Fund president Greg Speed are all involved with the group. Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic attorney who acted as Hillary Clinton's top campaign lawyer and now holds the same position with Sen. Kamala Harris's (D., Calif.) presidential campaign, has also has acted as a senior adviser and general counsel for the group.

The NDRC first became politically active by pouring more than $1 million into Virginia's 2017 gubernatorial race backing Ralph Northam. That same year, the group raised more than $11 million for all of its entities including the NDRC, the National Democratic Redistricting Foundation, and the National Democratic Redistricting Fund. It had set a $30 million fundraising goal for 2018.

The group most recently dumped hundreds of thousands into Virginia for its 2019 off-year elections, which helped Democrats take control of both houses of the state legislature. For the 2020 election cycle, the NDRC plans to launch operations in 12 states that could decide the presidency, including Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Louisiana's runoff election will be held on Saturday.