Court refuses to force campaign consultant to suspend work for candidate

A political consultant who quit one 6th Congressional District candidate’s campaign can continue working, at least for the time being, for a direct opponent in the same race, a state district judge ruled Wednesday morning.

“I’m not happy with the result of this. I don’t think it’s right, but politics is a dirty business,” 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelley said in ruling from his Baton Rouge bench. “Is it fair? Is it right? Legally, it’s enforceable, but morally and ethically, the court has a severe problem with this type of thing.”

Republican candidate Cassie Felder is running to replace U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy in representing the district that stretches from south Baton Rouge into the far west New Orleans suburbs and south to parts of Thibodaux and Houma. She contracted in September with Scott Hobbs and Jason Hebert of The Political Firm to handle her campaign. In March, Hobbs terminated the contract and about two weeks later was contacted by Garret Graves, another GOP candidate in the 6th District race.

“She never put in the work,” Hobbs said when asked why The Political Firm ended the consulting relationship with Felder.

Hobbs said he and his partner had, among other services for Felder, developed a campaign strategy, created a logo and drafted a budget, along with a fundraising plan to meet those financial goals. The fundraising plan called for Felder to spend 22 hours on the phone asking individuals for campaign contributions. She put in two, maybe four hours, Hobbs said.

He would not comment on Kelley’s observations about the morality of political consultants and campaigns.

Felder claimed that confidentiality and noncompete clauses in the contract, which was drafted by Hebert’s brother, a lawyer, survived the termination of the relationship as was spelled out in a portion of the contract.

The Political Firm countered that the noncompete clause ended with the termination of the contract.

Kelley ruled that while the confidentiality portion of the contract had a timeline for compliance, the noncompete section did not. The injunction asked that Hobbs and Hebert immediately suspend work on their $100,000 contract with Graves.

The injunction, which requires a showing of more evidence, does not impact an underlying lawsuit, which will continue.

Felder said her lawyer, Chandler Loupe, is preparing to ask the First Circuit Court of Appeal to review Kelley’s decision to allow Hobbs and Hebert to continue working for Graves through the Nov. 4 election and Dec. 6 runoff, if necessary.

Felder said her lawyers would be filing court motions that would require Graves to testify, before the election, about what he knew and when he learned it.

Though disappointed in Kelley’s decision, Felder said she was heartened by his observations about the behavior of Hobbs and Hebert.

“I was looking for some recognition and validation that what these guys did was unethical and immoral. And I want everyone to know it,” Felder said. “I think I got that from what the judge said.”