Thursday, December 11, 2008

Louisiana 2: Former Landrieu Chief of Staff Aided Jefferson Challenger

By Nathan L. Gonzales

There are plenty of Democrats who aren’t particularly sad that indicted Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson (D) will not be returning to Congress after his upset defeat on Saturday. Those Democrats may be surprised that Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D) former chief of staff, Ron Faucheux, helped Republican Joseph Cao defeat the embattled Congressman.

Faucheux is president of Clarus Research Group, a Washington, D.C.-based polling firm, which conducted surveys for Cao in the 2nd district race. According to an e-mail sent by Faucheux on Sunday afternoon, Clarus helped the GOP attorney score “one of the biggest Congressional upsets of the year.”

Cao defeated Jefferson, 50 percent to 47 percent, in a low-turnout general election that was postponed because of Hurricane Gustav.

Faucheux was elected to the Louisiana House at age 25 and served there with Landrieu. He later moved to Washington, was editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine for a decade and served as chief of staff to Landrieu for a year, beginning in 2006.

“I’ve worked for many years trying to bring reform and good leadership to my home state of Louisiana,” Faucheux said. “I’ve helped candidates I believe will do that, without regard to partisanship.”

In August 2005, the FBI raided Jefferson’s home and allegedly found $90,000 in cash in his freezer. The Congressman won re-election — 57 percent to 43 percent — in 2006 against Democrat Karen Carter in a runoff. In June 2007, Jefferson was indicted on 16 charges of corruption. He is awaiting trial.

Faucheux formed Clarus in June 2008, combining his consulting business, Faucheux Strategies, with the research division of Qorvis Communications. He was an adviser to Landrieu’s successful re-election bid last month, but Faucheux never talked with the Senator about his work on the Cao race.

“Clarus is a nonpartisan research firm focused on corporate, association and nonprofit clients, not political campaigns,” Faucheux explained. “Candidate work is an exception.”

The Faucheux-Cao connection is just one example of the small world that is Louisiana politics.

Faucheux ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New Orleans in 1982, losing 53 percent to 47 percent to incumbent Ernest Morial, the city’s first African-American mayor. Faucheux finished second in the initial all-party primary with 45 percent, less than two points behind Morial. Jefferson , then a state Senator, finished third with a distant 7 percent of the vote.

This story first appeared on on December 8, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.