POLITICS
09/04/2013 07:55 am ET Updated Sep 04, 2013

Mary Landrieu's Real Estate Ties Target Of 'Multi-Phase' GOP Offensive

WASHINGTON - The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a new paid media campaign Wednesday targeting Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who has recently come under fire over a slew of real estate deals that her husband, realtor Frank Snellings, brokered on behalf of well-known Washington lobbyists.

Snellings, a former attorney, has been building a successful real estate practice on Capitol Hill since 2003. A review of his real estate deals conducted by The Huffington Post earlier this year revealed that a significant number of his clients made their livings on K Street, an avenue synonymous with Washington's lobbying industry.

Snellings' clients have included Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta, former Louisiana senator turned lobbyist John Breaux (D), Comcast lobbyist Melissa Maxfield and former Louisiana congressman turned oil industry lobbyist Chris John (D).

The NRSC's campaign centers around a web page called LandrieuForSale.com, which seeks to link the senator's work to her husband's real estate clients.

Landrieu and Snellings both appear to have reported their incomes on Senate financial disclosure forms, and Snellings maintains a public realtor's website that makes no effort to hide his marriage to Landrieu.

Nonetheless, recent revelations about Snellings' long and politically connected client list have created an opening for Landrieu's opponents.

"The questions raised by these lobbyists to Landrieu transactions are very serious," said NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring, who described the website being launched Wednesday as "Phase I" of a multi-part offensive against the senator.

A staunch backer of Louisiana's oil and gas industry, Landrieu has traditionally sided with Republicans, not her fellow Democrats, on issues related to offshore drilling and carbon emissions. In recent years, however, Louisiana's electorate has veered to the right, and in 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the state by a margin of 17.2 points, over President Barack Obama -- all of which makes Landrieu one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats seeking reelection in 2014.

Landrieu is far from helpless. Campaign finance reports indicate that she has raised over $7 million since 2009 for her combined campaign funds -- a well-padded war chest, by any standard.

"Our goal is to force Landrieu to release a comprehensive list of all lobbying contacts and meetings," said Dayspring, who suggested that Landrieu could have "potentially funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars" from lobbyists "to her husband for real estate deals."

Landrieu's spokesman Matt Lehner has vehemently denied that any of Snellings' real estate transactions were linked to Landrieu's work in the Senate.

"Senator Landrieu received guidance from the Senate Ethics Committee that stated it is completely permissible and appropriate for Mr. Snellings to be a real estate agent for anyone," Lehner recently told HuffPost, adding that Snellings and Landrieu "have always abided" by the Senate Ethics Committee's rules and "disclose their finances every year."

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) likewise said last week that she sees no ethical problems with Snellings' work as a realtor or his client list.

But when it comes to Landrieu and Snellings' business, the NRSC clearly smells the political equivalent of blood in the water. The group plans to launch additional advertising in various forms, said Dayspring, "be it digital, TV, and some out-of-the box type places," he said. "Stay tuned."

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