Jeff Landry spent at least $3.7 million with Trump political consultants
Gov.-elect Jeff Landry spent at least $3.7 million with political consultants tied to former President Donald Trump while Landry was running for Louisiana governor over the past year.
Months before Landry received Trump’s endorsement in May, the incoming governor started paying people associated with the former president to be a part of his campaign team.
Louisiana’s Republican attorney general ended up winning the gubernatorial election outright in an October primary with 52% of the vote, giving his conservative agenda a boost headed into his first term in office.
Campaign finance records from the Louisiana Ethics Administration indicate Landry hired one of Trump’s former political advertising firms, People Who Think, in December. In March, Landry started paying Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and he hired Lewandowski’s close associate, Christian Ziegler, two months earlier.
Of the three political consultants, only one had worked on a Louisiana political campaign before Landry’s. Spouses Jay and Jennifer Connaughton started People Who Think under a different name, Innovative Advertising, in Mandeville over two decades ago.
Their company has worked for state legislative candidates, the anti-tax organization Americans for Prosperity and several groups that want to expand charter schools and K-12 voucher programs in Louisiana.
In 2016, Trump tapped Jay Connaughton to be a campaign media adviser at the urging of national political consultant and Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, according to The Times-Picayune. Conway got to know Connaughton initially through his work with Americans for Prosperity.
For Landry in 2023, Connaughton was the go-to political consultant for visual branding. Landry’s campaign, political action committee and the Republican Party of Louisiana spent a combined $2.6 million with Connaughton’s firm to produce Landry’s campaign logo, website and television commercials, among other things.
Connaughton’s company also arranged for the placement of approximately $4 million worth of broadcast advertising for Landry over the past several months, according to campaign finance reports. Connaughton could not be reached by phone Monday afternoon.
Landry’s campaign also spent more than $896,000 on Facebook and Instagram advertising through Micro Targeted Media, the Sarasota, Florida-based political firm Ziegler owns. Earlier this year, Ziegler was elected chairman of the state Republican Party in Florida, Politico reported.
Ziegler’s firm doesn’t appear to have worked in Louisiana before Landry’s campaign, but his wife is the co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a conservative group with a local Louisiana chapter that pushes back on LGBTQ-friendly and diversity policies in K-12 schools.
Lewandowski received $180,000 from Landry and his political action committee to act as a senior political consultant for the governor-elect. His involvement with the campaign created controversy because of sexual misconduct allegations he has faced.
Back in September, Idaho Republican businessman John Odom asked Landry to return his $100,000 donation after hearing that Landry had hired Lewandowski. Lewandowski allegedly harassed Odom’s ex-wife at a Las Vegas charity event in 2021 and took a plea deal with Nevada prosecutors in order to avoid criminal charges over the matter.
Reached by phone Monday, Odom said he is still upset Landry hasn’t returned his six-figure donation and wants to consider suing the governor-elect, but his ex-wife, Trashelle Odom, has been supportive of Landry.
“I was married to John at the time he made his donation to Jeff, so half of that money was mine,” Trashelle Odom said in a written statement in September. “Not only should Jeff not return that money, he should spend every dime making sure he’s Louisiana’s next governor.”
Lewandowski, whose political firms are based in Salem, New Hampshire, could not be reached for comment.
Landry’s campaign declined this week to say anything about Lewandowski’s role in the campaign, but John Odom’s objections appear to have done little to deter the governor-elect from working with him.
The week after Odom complained publicly about Lewandowski’s hire, Landry went on to pay the political consultant an additional $50,000, according to campaign finance reports.