Senate races

Democrat hammers Cassidy over LSU billing allegations ahead of debate

In the final week before their Dec. 6 runoff election, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is going all-in attacking Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) over allegations he wrongly billed Louisiana State University while a member of Congress.

{mosads}The Landrieu campaign has been flooding the inboxes of supporters and the media calling Cassidy a “fraud” who is “caught up in lies” trying to cover his tracks.

Landrieu on Monday released two new radio ads focusing on the controversy.

“This is the story of Congressman Bill Cassidy and his evil twin, Dr. Bill Cassidy,” one ad says. “On the very same days Congressman Bill Cassidy was in Washington casting votes and sitting in congressional committee meetings, Evil Twin Dr. Bill Cassidy was in Baton Rouge, submitting time sheets for teaching at LSU.”

“Apparently Cassidy feels he should get paid tens of thousands of taxpayer funds for a no-show job, all on top of his $174,000 taxpayer funded Congressional salary,” the ad continues.

Landrieu held a press conference in Baton Rouge on Monday to highlight the allegations and is seeking to make it a primary focus in their debate on Monday night. She’s demanding Cassidy bring records from his time at the school to the debate, and she’ll meet with the media afterwards to further discuss.

“Congressman Cassidy…has already said he will not take questions from the media following the debate, meaning media may never be able to ask Congressman Cassidy about his many votes that have hurt Louisianians or about the recent scandal highlighting the fact that Congressman Cassidy took home nearly $250,000 in taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits for work he never did at Louisiana State University,” Landrieu said in an email to supporters.

Still, political watchers in the state say it may be too late for Landrieu’s efforts to take hold.

“I think it makes an impact, but I don’t know how much an impact at this late a time,” said Danny Ford, a Democratic political strategist and former party official in the state. “I would’ve been playing that earlier if they had that information. … I don’t think there’s enough time to let that resonate with voters.”

Public polls show Landrieu trails badly in the race, and early voting totals show Republicans turning out in greater numbers than they did for early voting before the Nov. 4 jungle primary. The early voting numbers also show a drop off in black voters, who support Landrieu almost unanimously, but not a similar drop off in white voters, a strong majority of whom backed Cassidy the first time around. 

Republicans and outside groups have outspent Landrieu by a great margin on the airwaves, and the Louisiana Democrat doesn’t have a lot of resources at her disposal to counter those attacks.

“[The controversy] has some potential but I think it came so late that it won’t have time to develop into something that would be hugely damaging to him,” said Robert Mann, a political analyst in Louisiana. “We’ll see how he handles it at the debate tonight because that will have some bearing, but my experience is that stuff like this that breaks late tends to get discounted, not just by the press but by voters too.”

Cassidy is a doctor, and the House Ethics Committee approved his request to stay on with LSU as a clinical resident supervisor. He earned about $20,000 a year over about a five-year period, and additionally received medical liability compensation and costs associated with professional training. 

Internal emails and time sheets obtained by some local blogs call into question whether Cassidy remained on payroll as a congressman while not contributing at the school, wrongly logged hours at LSU while he was in Washington, and took advantage of his situation to maintain tenure when he didn’t meet the minimum requirements. 

Cassidy and his campaign are pushing back hard against the allegations, saying it’s a desperate attempt by the Landrieu campaign to reverse the momentum of the race.

Cassidy says he often worked at LSU in the mornings before flying into Washington for votes, and that he oversaw the work being done by LSU residents in Washington. He also argues that he added value to the school as the only liver specialist in the state.

Tags Bill Cassidy Louisiana Senate Mary Landrieu

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