Even the most casual TV viewer has probably notice a heavy, heavy deluge of James Stewart for DA commercials that started in the last week. And there’s good reason—a $256,000 has been dumped by an out of state liberal into the Stewart campaign. How Caddo voters will react to this astonishing development is a question that will be answered on Saturday October 24.
George Soros is a self-made billionaire known for spending megabucks to influence politics and his personal agenda. Soros traditionally supported Democratic candidates and liberal causes. To date, he had not dabbled in Louisiana politics—but now he has in a big way. Soros is controversial to say the least, and the Hungarian transplant to New York City has now formed the largest PAC (political action committee) ever founded in Northwest Louisiana—and reportedly is dedicated totally to funding Stewart’s campaign.
The PAC—Louisiana Safety & Justice—was registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State on October 7. The registration lists Lee Jeter of Bossier City as the Chairperson, Shreveport attorney Herschel Richard as treasurer, and Shreveport resident Sherry Kerr as a PAC officer. The PAC was set up by a high dollar firm named “Buying Time”; the company website says it is “one of the top Washington, D.C. paid media strategy, planning and buying shops.” Herschel Richard has not answered an email concerning the PAC and thus it is unknown how he and the other local residents became involved or if they are paid by the PAC for their services.
Seemingly Soros is motivated by the national attention given to Caddo Parish in the aftermath of statements by acting Caddo DA Dale Cox concerning the death penalty and all the negative fallout in the national media. Many believe that Soros was the motivating influence in the recent 60 Minutes story on Caddo Parish and the high number of death penalty cases here and how capital punishment has been applied to minorities. Evidently Soros did not check on Stewart’s record as a Caddo assistant DA, as a Caddo judge or a Court of Appeals judge—Stewart was known to be harsh on minorities he prosecuted and later judged. And Stewart has not made any campaign pledges publicly to stop seeking the death penalty if elected DA; whether or not he has made a commitment privately to Soros will never be known.
Soros’ money has purchased over $37,000 of TV ads with KSLA that started airing when the PAC was registered in Louisiana. This “buy” runs through October 19 and it is expected that even more TV time will be purchased to run until the October 24 primary with KTBS and maybe other local TV stations. Stewart ads have appeared on other TV networks and they will probably continue as along, with heavy radio advertisements. How much of the $256,000 will be spent in an effort to have Stewart elected without a runoff will not be known until the next round of campaign finance reports are filed. According to a Shreveport Times article Stewart said he had no knowledge of the PAC and the ads until they began to run.
The Soros PAC devoted to electing Stewart is the latest development in a campaign that has produced more questions than answers on issues of concern to Caddo voters. Initially a “Run James Run” campaign popped up while Stewart was still on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that featured billboards, flyers and mail outs, and media ads. Stewart denied having any knowledge much less involvement in this effort.
Later Stewart made a formal announcement for the DA race on August 13—while he was still a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Stewart submitted a resignation letter that was effective on September 8—2 days before he qualified for the election. The Louisiana Judicial Canons of Ethics require a judge to retire when he announces for a non-judicial office like DA. Stewart drew over $10,000 in taxpayer funded salary after his announcement and before his effective retirement date. Despite numerous requests, Stewart has refused to answer questions about the apparent ethics violation or to release any advisory opinions that would clarify his actions.
The latest revelation that has not been answered by Stewart is this travel expenses while on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In less than a 4 year time period he wracked up more than $57,000 of trips on the taxpayer dime. The other 8 judges only averaged $14,000 of expenses—Stewart spent more than 4 times this average. His travels included Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, and St. Louis—as well as 20 trips to New Orleans where his brother Carl is a judge. Stewart even spent a week in Los Angeles in late July before his August 13 DA announcement – presumably to rest up for the race.
Like it or not, the Caddo DA race is drawing state-wide and national attention for many of the wrong reasons. The common assumption that Stewart, who is one of 2 African Americans in the race, will change capitol punishment in Caddo Parish is not founded in campaign pledges by Stewart, much less fact. Stewart’s biggest local contributors are defense attorneys and old Shreveport (as in “white”) money; most black leaders have not been a part of his campaign team and now a New York billionaire is dumping as much money into Stewart’s lap as has been raised by Stewart and all the other DA candidates combined. How all this shakes out is a story yet to be told—but there little doubt that there is a black cloud on this race.