BATON ROUGE — All four branches of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) lobbying group formally endorsed U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) in the state’s tight gubernatorial race on Wednesday.
NORTHPAC, EASTPAC, SOUTHPAC and WESTPAC represent 2,500 business members in Louisiana. Their endorsement carries much weight in the business community.
“LABI’s affiliated PACs rarely endorse in statewide races, though it has occurred in several instances,” Brian Landry, vice president of LABI Political Action, said in a statement released the night of the endorsement. “For an endorsement to occur, all four of the independent PACs must agree with a supermajority on one single candidate. In this governor’s election, the four boards unanimously agreed to endorse David Vitter for governor."
Landry told the Louisiana Record that the endorsement was based on the “complete record” of Vitter, who, during his time in the state legislature, voted 95 percent in support of pro-business initiatives scored by LABI.
“Vitter’s record on vouchers, on charters, dealing with employers in general, as well as his tort votes, all are pro-business” Landry said.
Landry told the Record that comparatively, John Bel Edwards’ voting records is concerning.
“There is the issue of the trial bar backing John Bel Edwards – this is something that the business community should be concerned about,” Landry said.
Edwards, a trial lawyer by trade, has opposed the tort reform that LABI supports, particularly LABI’s efforts to lower Louisiana’s jury trial threshold. Louisiana’s legal system is consistently ranked as one of the worst in the country; at $500,000, the state’s jury trial threshold is the highest in the nation. LABI representatives maintain that having a high threshold forces businesses to settle at excessively high levels. When this issue was taken up by the state legislature in 2014, Edwards tried to kill it.
The members of LABI called for the next governor to take on tort reform in September. Vitter has made the issue of tort reform central to his campaign, much to the approval of Louisiana’s businesses.
“[Vitter] is willing to listen to the business community and understands our concerns,” Landry said.