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Richmond Campaign Paid Surveillance Firm

Just days after Democrat Cedric Richmond unseated GOP Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao in his 2010 bid for re-election in Louisiana’s 2nd district, Richmond’s campaign received a bill from an investigations firm that specializes in covert video surveillance, court records searches and serving subpoenas.

Deep South Investigations is a New Orleans-area firm that specializes in “covert video surveillance involving property and casualty, workers’ compensation and disability, slip and falls, product liability, Jones Act and longshoreman claims,” according to its website. The firm billed the Richmond for Congress campaign $3,454.45 that showed up as an unpaid debt incurred sometime between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31 of last year.

The campaign wrote a check for a portion of the bill at the beginning of the year, leaving a balance of $1,446.50 owed to Deep South Investigations at the end of June. But the campaign recently reported to the Federal Election Commission that it had made a payment of $3,454.45 to the firm on July 1 and owes a $1,446.50 debt.

A campaign representative said the surveillance firm was used during the last campaign and the payments are for prior services.

Deep South Investigations does not specialize in campaign-related opposition research or provide ongoing security services, according to a firm representative who answered the phone on Monday. A survey of disbursements made by other Congressional candidates showed no other payments made to the firm during the past decade.

Though Deep South conducts public records and database searches, its bread and butter is undercover video surveillance of individuals who have made workers’ compensation and other injury claims against insurers and other entities.

“We have the ability to go into retail stores, workout facilities, bars and other indoor locations to videotape claimants. This process requires a great deal of savvy on the part of the investigator,” the firm’s website says.

Examples of its work — posted in categories that include “Mardi Gras,” “Auto Accidents” and “Covert Video” — show gotcha-style footage taken of individuals by Deep South investigators.

“Mardi Gras in New Orleans is said to be the greatest free show on earth. The festival certainly presents countless opportunities to acquire covert video footage of suspicious claimants,” the website says as an introduction to videos of injury claimants throwing beads, dancing and carrying heavy items.

“This claimant has back and bulging disc injuries. However, he is still able to jump up into a truck without assistance.  He was following the 2 cases of beer that he had just flung into the bed of the truck,” according to copy accompanying a 2005 video.

“Does this look like the claimant has bad knees as a result of an automobile accident?” the firm asks of a woman rollerblading.

Louisiana recently lost a seat to reapportionment, and the newly drawn 2nd district now snakes from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, but political operatives in the state agree that Richmond’s hold on his seat is secure.

President Barack Obama taped a television spot for the Richmond campaign during the last cycle, which was a huge boon in the majority-black district.

Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat said he didn’t “see any real danger” to Richmond and the chances of him getting ousted in a presidential election year with Obama at the top of the ballot are “slim to none.”

Other disbursements the Richmond for Congress campaign reported in the Oct. 14 filing, which covers money raised and spent in July, August and September, included $21,991 paid to the Political Development Group, a Democratic fundraising and strategy firm on Capitol Hill; $2,795 to the Democratic campaign software firm NGP Software; and $2,287 for three meals at the New Orleans restaurant Zea.

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