This past weekend we learned that John Bel’s dark money group, Gumbo PAC, is relying on more than just Planned Parenthood money being funneled through the hyper-liberal Democratic Governors Association- its biggest Louisiana donor is New Horizons USA PAC. This new dark money group was founded by Dominick Fazzio, the longtime chief financial officer at River Birch Landfill and former target of a four-year federal investigation for his role in payroll and embezzlement conspiracies.
New Horizons USA PAC has given at least $200,000 to Gumbo PAC and is funded primarily by two companies owned and operated by Fred Heebe and Jim Ward: River Birch and Willow LLC, a development company. Since Edwards’ election in 2015, River Birch has funneled at least $150,000 into New Horizons, and Willow has contributed $100,000.
According to a report from The Advocate, Ward, Heebe and other landfill executives are some of the largest financial backers of the effort to reelect Gov. John Bel Edwards, even as they prepare their defense in a civil racketeering case over long-standing accusations that some of their earlier political donations constituted bribes — in particular, a batch of checks they gave to convicted former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who currently sits in prison on corruption charges.
River Birch and its affiliates must still face the lawsuit filed by the state Ethics Board in Jefferson Parish in 2012. That case largely mirrors the federal investigation, accusing the firm and its principals of violating state campaign laws by bundling donations through bogus companies. That matter has been on hold because of the other litigation.
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