Politics

'Cajun John Wayne' House Candidate Under Fire in Louisiana

Clay Higgins reportedly promoted himself on the taxpayers' dime

Clay Higgins hopes to parlay his fame gained through a series of tough-talking "Crime Stoppers" videos, but now faces questions about pushing that fame on taxpayer's time. (KATC screen grab)

Louisiana House candidate Clay Higgins, also known as the "Cajun John Wayne," allegedly used his job in law enforcement and his growing fame, to launch several money-making schemes, according to media reports. 

Higgins became famous after making a series of gruff Crime Stoppers videos calling for criminals to turn themselves in to police. But he he spent time on the job as a captain in the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Department to negotiate paid appearances on TV shows and selling mugs and t-shirts through his government email, that Salon obtained through a public records request.

Higgins is running for the seat that Republican Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. left open to run for retiring Sen. David VItter's seat.

['Cajun John Wayne' Sets Sights on Capitol Hill

When Higgins resigned from his post in February, he said  he was leaving because he could no longer follow the orders of his sheriff. But St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz had a different take.

"Clay Higgins formed a personal business venture to raise money by selling mugs, t-shirts, and other trinkets using department badge and uniform," Guidroz wrote in an internal memo obtained by Salon.  

The latest polling in the race from June showed Higgins running second in the seven-candidate field behind Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, 39 percent to 17.5 percent. The top two vote-getters in the race would face off in a December primary if no candidate cracks 50 percent.  

[Roll Call's Election Guide: House races]

Higgins is also being criticized for allegedly not reporting new income in campaign finance reports. In emails to his accountant in January he said the IRS was garnishing his wages $656 a month for back taxes.

In other emails, he requested to be paid in cash when discussing payment for ads with a lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana. 

“I have my reasons for preferring cash, reasons best discussed, if need be, in person," he wrote. 

 

Higgins campaign communications director Chris Comeaux did not respond to Salon's questions about the amount Higgins owed the IRS, but defended his looking for additional income. 

“Captain Higgins has a professional tax firm who prepares his taxes,” Comeaux said. “Secondary employment and cash remuneration, reported on 1099, is common for most police officers.”

The emails also revealed Higgins's proposals reality TV shows. One pitches an "American Justice" pilot in which Higgins would go on manhunts and offer suspects "a chance at redemption, to express regret and seek a new path by talking directly to me."

“Our project could feature… me actually involved as an operator during the arrest, flown out to wherever, assigned a spot on the arrest team… making the arrest, and having interaction with the suspect one-on-one,” Salon reported he wrote to a talent manager at Entertainment One, a Toronto talent agency

Higgins and his campaign have yet to publicly address the content of the emails released. He has continued his campaign and recently called for the police to arrest more illegal immigrants on Facebook.  

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