Vance McAllister, the once obscure Republican representative of Louisiana’s fifth congressional district, became the butt of nationwide jokes in April when video footage surfaced of the married father of five children locking lips with a staffer who was a married mom.
McAllister, a millionaire businessman whose ventures run from oil and gas to wrestling promotion and Subway stores, is now locked in a six-way primary with everyone from a veterinarian to a scion of Duck Dynasty’s Robertson clan. His personal conduct is at the forefront of a race in which he is now perceived as highly vulnerable.
This is, of course, the state where former governor Edwin Edwards observed that he’d lose reelection only if he was “caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”
But this is also 2014, and the associations of this devout Baptist who has described his decision to run for office as “a prayerful one” are being called into question. Legal documents allege that the oil-and-gas company from which he derives a chunk of his considerable wealth is a miasma of salacious conduct.
The freshman congressman, according to financial disclosure documents filed with the House of Representatives, serves as managing director, with a 50 percent ownership stake, of an oil-and-gas exploration company called Texas Coastal Energy, and in the course of a legal dispute with the company, a former employee recently described it as a “Wolf-of-Wall-Street-type environment replete with illegal drugs, high-stakes gambling, prostitutes, extramarital interoffice affairs, and ubiquitous sexual innuendo.”
McAllister himself is not named in the documents, and his role in the alleged scandalous behavior is unknown, but, according to financial-disclosure forms filed with the House of Representatives, his largest investment by far is in the company, which he co-founded in 2010. His ownership stake is worth $5 million to $25 million.
Texas Coastal Energy, according to a legal complaint filed by a former employee in August, was awash in inappropriate or even illegal activity ranging from drug use to sexual harassment and the misuse of investment funds. The allegations are detailed in a Dallas County district-court filing by Taylor Stilovich, who served as the company’s vice president for business development until he resigned in April. Stilovich did not return a phone call seeking comment, and his lawyer, Jeremy Fielding, declined to comment on the matter.
Just days after National Review Online began investigating Stilovich’s claims, attempting to contact him and McAllister and speaking with lawyers for both Stilovich and Texas Coastal Energy, Stilovich on Wednesday afternoon abruptly withdrew his claim from the court. He asked that it “disregard” his allegations. He also produced a letter, sent to Texas Coastal Energy, stating that his dispute with the company “did not relate to any issues I had with Mr. McAllister either personally or professionally.”
Stilovich had laid out, in great detail, eye-popping claims about the company’s bawdy corporate culture. The former employee, who described himself as a “devout Mormon,” said Texas Coastal Energy was a “workplace suffused with drug use, gambling, sexual vulgarity, and sexual harassment of female employees.”
He was required to go on business trips where company principals pressured him to “visit strip clubs, use illegal drugs, and engage in other debauchery.” In Las Vegas in May 2013, Stilovich claimed, Texas Coastal CEO Jeff Gordon, whom McAllister described in a 2013 campaign biography as his business partner and friend, “paired off prostitutes with company employees after boasting about having anal sex with one of them the night before.”
Gordon, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, donated $2,500 to McAllister’s 2013 campaign and another $600 to his leadership PAC in February. He has described McAllister in local news reports as a “good guy” and “somebody you can count on.”
#page#Gordon was arrested in 2004 and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges for two counts of theft after knowingly writing bad checks, totaling $33.80, for “food and beverages” to a local Tetco convenience store. He was fined $300, sentenced to 180 days of community supervision, and required to perform 24 hours of community service. Five months later, he was arrested again for violating the conditions of his probation, having failed to pay the fine or to perform a single hour of community service, and he was placed under community supervision until January 2006.
Stilovich also made allegations about Texas Coastal Energy’s abuse of its investors’ money, describing how, on a company trip in Key West, “Mr. Gordon and another married Texas Coastal Energy principal met and courted some women they had met by purchasing them expensive watches with company funds.” Stilovich added that the company’s American Express credit card was cut off because “it had an outstanding balance of $500,000.” McAllister and Gordon are tagged, along with other Texas Coastal Energy employees, in a March 2013 photograph in Key West and posted to the Facebook website.
Matt Daigle, who represented Texas Coastal Energy in the lawsuit and initially declined to comment for this story, now says, “We consider this matter closed now that Mr. Stilovich has withdrawn his filing and retracted his allegations.”
Stilovich’s claims came in response to a lawsuit brought against him in May by Texas Coastal Energy. The company alleged that before he resigned in April, Stilovich made a modest unauthorized purchase on the company credit card and copied contact information for potential investors, which the company had purchased at considerable cost, so he could use it in starting another company. Stilovich now serves as president of Alliance Petroleum Interests, which describes itself as a privately owned explorer and developer of oil-and-gas reserves in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
McAllister, 40, came under fire in the spring when a surveillance video showed him kissing a staffer, in particular because he campaigned for office last year as a principled Christian conservative. Regarding Texas Coastal Energy, McAllister, who is not named directly in the suit, said through a spokeswoman, Jennifer Dunagin, “This is an employment dispute between Texas Coastal Energy Company and their former employee,” adding that McAllister “is not involved with the day-to-day management of the company” or with the lawsuit. Dunagin declined to say whether McAllister attended any of the company trips to which Stilovich referred.
McAllister won a surprise victory in a special election last year after spending nearly a million dollars of his fortune on the race. Although many speculated he would not seek reelection, and several top Republicans, including Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and the chairman of the Louisiana Republican party, Roger Villere, called on him to resign, he decided to run for reelection in November.
As a result, McAllister is now in a tough battle for survival. Last month, he aired a television ad featuring his wife, Kelly, flashing her wedding ring and testifying to his strong character. “A man’s character is based on how many times he gets back up and stands again,” she says.
In the bayou jungle of Louisiana’s primary system, McAllister is competing against four Republicans and a Democrat in the November election. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will go head to head in a December runoff. The latest poll shows the Republican candidates splitting the GOP vote and handing the lead in the conservative district to the Democrat, Jamie Mayo, mayor of Monroe, La. The poll, released Monday, shows Mayo leading the field with 19 percent, followed by McAllister with 17 percent. Another Republican, Zach Dasher, who has garnered considerable support within the GOP establishment, is in third place with 13 percent.
Dasher is a cousin of Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, and, though the Robertson clan supported McAllister in his 2013 bid — Robertson even cut an ad for him — they are backing Dasher this time around.
The anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed Dasher and has thus far spent $258,000 to sink McAllister, whom its president, Chris Chocola, has attacked for both his “personal problems” and “extremely liberal record.”
Whether it’s liberal, libertine, or “prayerful” will be up to the voters to decide.
— Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of National Review.