If we follow the old Watergate admonition and "follow the money," we'd all be watching Richard Ieyoub, Bobby Jindal, Randy Ewing and Kathleen Blanco in the governor's race. Those are the top four money-raisers this year, and they also have the most cash on hand, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
There are several ways to read the reports, depending on which numbers you emphasize. For example, Ieyoub and Blanco are the current leaders in terms of cash on hand, which means they are best situated to sprint toward the Oct. 4 primary election. In terms of recent fundraising success, however, Jindal has garnered more than twice as much as Blanco since Jan. 1 -- and almost exactly as much as top money-raiser Ieyoub.
Buddy Leach, Ewing and Jay Blossman are the spending leaders, but of those three only Ewing appears to have moved much in the polls. Leach and Blossman have the most personal wealth, however, so they are poised to get lots more in a hurry, if they choose.
Let's take a closer look at all the candidates and their finances.
Kathleen Blanco. The lieutenant governor, a Democrat, ranks second in cash on hand with $1.45 million -- but she has not kept pace with others at raising money this year. She started the year with $1.06 million on hand and raised "only" $488,000 since then. On the other hand, she hasn't spent much ($107,000 in 2003; $77,000 in the latest quarter), yet she consistently leads all polls by a comfortable margin.
Jay Blossman. The GOP Public Service Commissioner has $613,000 on hand (seventh of the eight candidates), most of it his own money. He has loaned his campaign a total of more than $1 million -- nearly $700,000 since Jan. 1. He spent $552,000 in the second quarter of this year ($285,000 repaying loans to himself). He raised $168,000 from others in the latest quarter, $512,000 since Jan. 1.
Hunt Downer. The state representative from Houma is supposed to be the golden boy of mainstream Republicans, but it's hard to tell by his coffers. He has $802,000 on hand (fifth overall) and raised a mere $221,000 in the latest quarter ($393,000 since Jan. 1). He's not spending much ($152,000 since Jan. 1), but he also isn't moving in the polls.
Randy Ewing. The Democratic former state Senate President has $894,000 on hand (fourth overall), but raised $593,000 in the latest quarter ($793,000 since Jan. 1 -- third overall). He spent heavily on TV ads in the last quarter ($757,000), and moved up a few notches in the polls -- enough to get John Kennedy back into the state treasurer's race.
Richard Ieyoub. The Democratic state attorney general leads just about every category, except spending: $2.72 million on hand; $774,000 raised in the last quarter; $1.18 million since Jan. 1. He runs second in the polls, behind Blanco, yet spent only $304,000 in the last quarter ($577,000 since Jan. 1). Word has it he just dropped more than $1.5 million to lock up his TV time in the last four weeks of the primary. That's a huge gauntlet that others will either have to pick up or risk being shut out in the crucial final weeks -- when voters will be making up their minds.
Bobby Jindal. He started the year with zero, and since entering the race in mid-January he has kept pace with Ieyoub at fundraising -- $1.17 million since Jan. 1; $655,000 in the last quarter. He has spent next to nothing ($132,000 since Jan. 1) yet, thanks to Gov. Foster's backing, is nudging Ieyoub for second place in the polls. He has $1.03 million on hand -- third overall.
Dan Kyle. He raised a paltry $36,000 in the last quarter, but loaned his campaign another $500,000 in recent weeks (for total loans of $615,000). He has spent only $117,000 and has $678,000 on hand (sixth overall).
Buddy Leach. Officially, he ranks last in cash on hand ($207,000) and money raised from others ($103,000 since Jan. 1), but that's insignificant because he has more personal wealth than all the others in the race combined. Not surprisingly, he leads among "lenders," having loaned his campaign more than $2.6 million in 2002 and 2003. He's also the leading spender at $1.3 million since Jan. 1 -- $1.1 million in the last quarter.
If you'd like to see more of the money trail, check out the state Ethics Commission's Web site at www.ethics.state.la.us.