During his year-long campaign for Louisiana governor, Gov.-elect Jeff Landry funneled more than $500,000 from his campaign war chest and associated super PACs into a staffing company he owns, continuing an unusual arrangement that ensures the public does not know who he pays for campaign work.
Landry’s practice of cutting campaign checks to his own companies — an unorthodox campaign finance practice in Louisiana — stretches back to at least 2007. But it accelerated sharply during his run for governor through payments to a firm he owns called UST Staffing, according to a review of campaign finance records.
A Landry spokesperson declined to comment on the continued payments. His staff has defended them?as legal, saying they're an efficient way to handle payroll and that they align with state ethics rules governing candidates' work with companies owned by themselves or relatives.
Landry, the current Republican state attorney general, was a prolific fundraiser ahead of his outright gubernatorial win on Oct. 14. He ended the election cycle with $4.5 million in the bank and left his opponents with little room to build visibility.
His campaign has paid UST Staffing a total of $732,039 since 2011. Almost all of that spending occurred in the past four years, a review of campaign finance records shows.
And more than $485,000 of that cash moved to UST after Landry officially entered the governor's race in October of 2022, the records show.
Landry’s super PAC, Cajun PAC II, has also paid more than $66,800 to UST Staffing since 2014 — about $25,000 of which moved during the governor’s race.
Landry's campaign finance reports describe the majority of expenses paid to UST Staffing as “payroll." A spokesperson said last year that the payments “encompass all costs, including the actual net paychecks paid to the employees.”
An investigation last year by this newspaper found that Landry is alone among statewide officials in using such a system. The ultimate effect is his fundraising reports do not show how many people work for his campaign or who they are.
Louisiana law broadly requires that politicians only spend campaign money on items related to running a campaign or holding office. But it’s silent on whether they may hire their own companies for those services.
Ethics experts have said the practice doesn't appear to violate any state laws. But some called it worrisome, saying a candidate using private donations in support of a business a they own could pose a conflict of interest.
It's been unclear in the past whether Landry directly profits from the payments.
He reported earning between $25,000 and $50,000 in income from UST in 2022, his ethics disclosures say. That's much less than Landry has earned from the company in the past; in 2020, UST earned him more than $200,000, his disclosures say.
Landry is the sole agent and officer of UST Staffing, which is a trade name for the company UST Environmental Services, according to Louisiana Secretary of State Business Records.
Landry "does not view his campaigns or political entities as profit centers,” his longtime political consultant, Brent Littlefield, said last year.
Staff writer Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.