La. Commissioner Drops Attempt to Pull Opponent’s Ads, Files Lawsuit

September 29, 2006

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon dropped his attempt earlier this week to yank off the air his opponent’s commercial that claims Donelon traded insurance licenses for campaign contributions.

Donelon sued state Sen. James David Cain, his opponent in Saturday’s election, claiming the television ad is smearing Donelon’s reputation and seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages. But Donelon also initially sought to force Cain to stop airing the ads, a request Donelon’s lawyer withdrew in state district court on Sept. 27.

Judge Janice Clark dismissed the request to pull the commercial, leaving the defamation lawsuit to proceed with traditional legal filings and no ruling expected until well after the primary election.

“We have not dismissed our case,” said Mike McKay, an attorney for Donelon.

Voters are choosing a commissioner to serve the final year of the term of Robert Wooley, who resigned months ago. Donelon, as Wooley’s chief assistant, took the position until the election.

Both Donelon and Cain are Republicans, and their race for insurance commissioner has become a series of nasty attacks against each other and allegations of wrongdoing on both sides.

McKay said that the Cain TV ad linking Donelon’s issuance of insurance licenses to campaign contributions is false and that he will continue with the lawsuit against Cain. But he said Donelon’s campaign realized that even if the judge agreed to force the ad off the air, it would only be a day or so before the election, and not worth pursuing.

Cain’s campaign manager Chris Ingram said the ad is accurate and backed up by public records. Ingram said he believes Donelon will drop the lawsuit after the election.

“For Donelon, it’s more about getting it into the press that Cain has been sued. It’s not about litigating the case,” Ingram said.

Donelon’s campaign said some TV stations are airing edited versions of the Cain campaign ad that remove the accusations about Donelon trading insurance licenses for contributions, but Ingram said the ad had not been pulled.

Ingram said edited versions of the ad had gone out to TV stations in case the judge would force the ad off the air, but Ingram said no stations have been instructed to run the edited version.

Also named as a defendant in Donelon’s lawsuit is Jamestown Associates, the company that placed the ads for Cain’s campaign.

A third candidate, Libertarian S.B.A Zaitoon, a Baton Rouge insurance broker, is running against Donelon, R-Metairie, and Cain, R-Dry Creek, in the race.

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