Purchase of David Duke Mailing List Raises Eyebrows

Election Turmoil

The race for governor in Louisiana was shaping up to be a ho-hum affair in which the popular incumbent, Republican Mike Foster, was expected to easily cruise to re-election victory. But then ex-Klan leader David Duke, fresh from his failed attempt to replace Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston, re-entered the headlines.

In May, a federal grand jury disclosed that Duke had sold Foster a mailing list of his supporters for $150,000 when Foster first ran for governor in 1995. While the purchase of such lists is common for politicians trying to amass support, this transaction, conducted secretly and at a price almost 20 times higher than normal, has raised suspicions over what was really for sale. Despite the denials of both men, many critics believe Foster was buying Duke's endorsement and agreement not to run — both of which Foster got.

"It was good for me and good for the governor," Duke said of the deal, telling The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate that Foster's "financial support" came at a key time for him, as he was finishing expensive research on his recently published autobiography.

Foster, a multi-millionaire who gave up a safe seat in the state senate to run for governor, said he saw no reason to report the transaction on campaign disclosure statements because he had used his own personal funds. After the matter was made public, Foster said he'd done "nothing intentionally illegal." He declined to criticize Duke.

"When you're in a political race, you do whatever you think has to be done, as long as it's honest," Foster, who faces voters in November, told The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. "My job at the time was to ... figure out how to win a race."