During the final days of the fall elections, Gov. Bobby Jindal cut back-to-back commercials for fellow Republicans at an unknown private residence. One of the spots, produced for state Sen. Bill Cassidy’s bid in Baton Rouge’s 6th Congressional District, called out Democrats for making attacks that were “over the line,” as Jindal put it. But when the National Republican Campaign Committee lashed out at Democrat Don Cazayoux, the incumbent in the race, for voting to legalize cloning in Louisiana when no such vote ever took place, Jindal was nowhere to be found. Those ads were eventually pulled from the air, but it was proof positive that the truth sometimes has a party preference, especially this election cycle.
In Shreveport’s 4th Congressional District, the animosity in the Republican primary crested when Dr. John Fleming and attorney Jeff Thompson accused frontrunner Chris Gorman of lying about his master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University. Behind the scenes in that contest, political operatives also circulated stories linking one of the candidates to a series of work-related deaths, but the mainstream media in north Louisiana never took the bait.
Meanwhile, in Acadiana’s 7th Congressional District, Democratic state Sen. Don Cravins shot his campaign commercials in a place he hoped voters would relate with honesty and integrity: his hometown church, standing below stained-glass windows and praying inside empty pews with his family. A later ad from Cravins slammed Dr. Charles Boustany, the Republican incumbent, for collecting disability checks, which is true. But Boustany, who suffers from a severe case of arthritis, receives the money from a surgeon’s insurance program he paid into for years.
There’s no shortage of examples from the 2008 election cycle where campaigns fudged the truth, candidates spoke in half-truths and political operatives were spreading downright nasty lies. With the campaigning all but over, here’s a quick look at a few outrageous fibs, misleading headlines and harsh realities from the recent political season:
Southeastern Students Are Hitting the Pipe
When the Southeastern Louisiana University Social Science department released a poll last week showing GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy trailing incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, by 19 percentage points, the Kennedy camp was not pleased. In fact, Kennedy spokesman Lenny Alcivar told reporters that those responsible for the poll were “smoking crack.” Unfortunately for Alcivar, he was not only referring to SLU’s faculty, but also to a handful of students that helped conduct the poll. Everybody who was anybody in the Louisiana Democratic Party immediately demanded an apology.
The Secretary of State Violated Federal Law
By all indications, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, a Republican, did not violate the National Voter Registration Act, but a story published recently by The New York Times does suggest as much. It cites a voter purge that removed 25,165 names from local rolls between July 23 and Aug. 27.
According to the NVRA, there are certain instances where this should not happen within 90 days preceding congressional races, and one purging was held in Louisiana on Oct. 4. In a legislative hearing following the printed bombshell, Dardenne told the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that registrars of voters in each parish are acting on their own based on a 21-day challenge law that allows them to remove voters if they die, get convicted of a felony, move, provide false information and other factors. Even though the blame was properly shifted, the Louisiana Democratic Party howled that its members were removed at a higher rate than Republicans. Dardenne says that’s because there are more Democrats in the state. The New Orleans-based Louisiana Justice Institute, a civil rights group, has also unearthed names of voters who have been removed from local rolls in error. In preparation, the state sent hundreds of paper provisional ballots to the larger parishes so that unregistered voters can use them to cast their votes. A panel of election officials will decide after the fact if the votes should count — and in the process could become the biggest post-election story out there.
Bobby Jindal is Going to be Vice President
Earlier this year, Jindal said over and over that he was not going to be the running mate of Republican presidential nominee John McCain. He was right. But that doesn’t mean Jindal isn’t looking toward 2012. Later this month, Jindal will be in Iowa, a must-stop state for presidential contenders. And what is he doing in Iowa, aside from raising money in another state? He’ll be speaking to the Family Policy Center, the kind of right wing, conservative group a Republican needs to succeed on the national level.
There’s No Way Bill Jefferson Will Make it Past the Primary
The contest to capture New Orleans’ 2nd Congressional District surprised everyone, especially those living outside the Crescent City. Who would have ever thought Jefferson would make it this far? It just goes to show that political bosses are alive and well in south Louisiana, and a reliable base can be built up by anyone — even long-term congressmen who hide money in their freezer for no good reason.
Mary Landrieu Was Supposed to Become a Nun
The final U.S. Senate debate between Kennedy and Landrieu yielded one nugget of insight toward the end, a relic from the Democrat’s childhood that probably caught many conservatives by surprise. When asked what she would be doing with her life if she were not holding elected office, Landrieu, a hardened politician by any standard, said she once considered becoming a full-time Christian minister. “It happened when I was a young girl, and it didn’t work out,” she said.
Constitutional Amendments Are Silly
While most of the state’s public policy groups came out with voter guides supporting this year’s constitutional amendments, the New Orleans-based Bureau of Governmental Research took a more principled approach and only supported three out of the seven. On one amendment, the bureau simply stated that the “issue is too insignificant to warrant a constitutional amendment.”
Not including the seven proposals slated from this year’s ballot, Louisiana voters have considered 214 amendments since the 1974 Constitution was adopted. To date, 151 of those amendments have been approved. The concept of the constitution as a relatively permanent statement of basic law should always be remembered, says Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council in Baton Rouge, especially since it fades with the adoption of each new amendment. “In each case, voters should consider not only the merits of the amendment but also whether the proposed language belongs in the constitution,” Brandt says.
As for the 2008 election season as a whole, it’s almost a wrap. Granted, there will be another congressional runoff in Shreveport in December, and the 2010 U.S. Senate should pick up momentum beginning next year, but Louisiana is entering a downtime in its political cycle. You’ll no longer see attack ads on television, candidates will not be gathering for regular debates, and your mailbox will likewise experience a lighter load.
But behind the scenes, the scheming and positioning continues. As always, what you see is not what you get in Louisiana politics, as state Sen. Danny Martiny, a Metairie Republican, pointed out in a recent legislative session. “We’re not in the reality business,” Martiny said, “we’re in the perception business.”
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.