Pro-Jindal raises nearlty $750,000, Dardenne stays put for now and more

PRO-JINDAL GROUP RAISES NEARLY $750,000 The cost of gas, health care, and groceries keep going up, up, up, and the economy is struggling. But all’s good if you’re Believe in Louisiana, the non-profit group whose sole mission is to tout Gov. Bobby Jindal’s agenda and legislative accomplishments. The Times-Picayune reports that in just three months, Believe in Louisiana has raised nearly $750,000 — and it’s already spent more than $600,000 of that figure with a Virginia-based media firm.

The group was formed by Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister, who also served as Jindal’s campaign treasurer. It’s organized as a 527 group, which isn’t restricted by campaign finance limits and allows for unlimited contributions. The Picayune notes: “... $625,000 of the donations came from fewer than a dozen people or companies, including four that gave $100,000 apiece: Lee Domingue, of Baton Rouge; Joseph Canizaro, of New Orleans; Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport; and Edward Diefenthal, of Metairie. McCollister donated $4,100 himself.”

DARDENNE STAYING PUT FOR NOW In the current battle between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and her challenger, Republican Treasurer John Kennedy, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne was the wild card. Republican Dardenne, who’s widely respected and has high approval ratings among fellow Republicans and lawmakers, has been hedging his bets for months when asked if he’d join the fray. Injuries he sustained in an auto accident last fall put most of the campaign talk on the back burner for months.

Last week, Dardenne made it official: he’s staying put. For Kennedy, whose campaign has gotten off to a relatively slow start, it’s especially good news that he won’t have a fellow Republican to contend with in the race. The timing of Dardenne’s announcement was also a boon for Kennedy, who’s hoping for a fund-raising and name-recognition boost in the wake of President George Bush hosting a fund raiser for him last week in Baton Rouge. 

As for Dardenne’s future political plans, he’s seen as a formidable challenger to U.S. Sen. David Vitter if Vitter runs for re-election in 2010.

AND SPEAKING OF KENNEDY AND LANDRIEU Landrieu has a 50 percent-38 percent lead over Republican challenger Kennedy, with 11.6 percent of voters undecided, according to a recent statewide poll. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent. Louisiana’s senior senator, Landrieu is seeking a third term.

Interviews for the poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research were completed between March 26 and April 9 by telephone with 600 likely Louisiana voters; the results were released last week. Voters were asked who they’d vote for if the November election were held today.

Landrieu also received a 70 percent approval rating, which pollster Bernie Pinsonat says is extremely good, and Kennedy almost 48 percent. The good news for Kennedy is that 45 percent of the voters said they do not know enough about him to give an impression, so he has time for those numbers to move upward. Pinsonat says that he isn’t working for either candidate.

On the fund-raising front, Kennedy faces an uphill battle. While his $1.4 million raised in the first quarter of 2008 bested Landrieu’s $1 million haul, Landrieu has more than $4.5 million cash-in-hand, while Kennedy has approximately $1.6 million on that front.

LAKE PEIGNEUR BILL DIES Last Thursday, members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee voted against a bill that would have limited the expansion of natural gas storage caverns under Jefferson Island. It was a major setback for the citizens group Save Lake Peigneur, which has been fighting against the expansion for more than a year. Sen. Troy Hebert, SB 194’s author, told The Daily Iberian that the committee is “very friendly” with the oil industry. He added, “That lake has been poked more times than my grandmother’s pincushion.”

The group AGL Resources intends to add two caverns to the existing facility. Save Lake Peigneur Vice President Nara Crowley told The Daily Iberian, “The bottom line is that the lobbyists and the company, the people with the money, they could afford to sway the vote.” The bill sought to protect “the ground water of Lake Peigneur by prohibiting the development, expansion, or conversion of certain storage caverns in the Jefferson Island salt dome.” The vote against the bill was 4 to 3.

Contributors: Scott Jordan, Leslie Turk and R. Reese Fuller

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