Gov. John Bel Edwards caught handing out big contracts to top donors
BATON ROUGE — On August 12, the rain started falling and the rivers started rising, and floodwaters soon washed over much of Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes.
Maybe that’s why nobody noticed when, four days later, a group of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ top campaign donors were brought in as attorneys on a controversial lawsuit against oil and gas companies — a case that could mean a big payday for Edwards’ hired guns.
The Edwards administration’s contract is with lawyer and former state Rep. Taylor Townsend of Natchitoches, who was a co-chairman of the governor’s transition team and now heads Edwards’ super PAC fundraising committee, Louisiana Families First. With the governor’s approval, Townsend then brought in six other attorneys as subcontractors.
Townsend, his law firm and affiliates and those of a team of six subcontracted attorneys combined to give the Edwards campaign and his transition team $130,000 last year.
"There is a perception that the governor is turning his office into a private law firm,” said Melissa Landry of the tort reform group Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch. The governor, she said, “is quietly handing no-bid legal contracts to his campaign supporters,” a practice for which Landry harshly criticized former Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. Read more...