Rep. Jeff Landry’s Monday announcement — long expected — sets the stage for a classic mudslinger.
By Walter Pierce
The wait is over: U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, announced Monday in Youngsville that he will challenge Congressman Charles Boustany this fall. And if recent history is a guide — recent history being Landry’s ugly primary election against Hunt Downer for his current seat nearly two years ago — this race will get nasty long before it’s decided.
The freshman congressman and Tea Party favorite took several swipes at the mainline Boustany during Monday’s announcement, linking him with the bogey-woman of the right: “[L]adies and gentlemen, Charles voted with Nancy Pelosi to increase his own pay,” Landry told a group of supporters, hanging the “career politician” albatross around Boustany’s neck.
Landry’s announcement at Sugar Mill Pond in Youngsville was one of the most anticlimactic events of the 2012 political season: Signs have been abundant for weeks that he would take on the moderate, establishment Boustany.
A reception scheduled for May 23 in River Ranch bills itself as “a reception benefitting the re-election of Congressman Jeff Landry, Louisiana, 3rd District.” Couples will pay $250 to attend, $1,000 to host and the handsome sum of $2,500 to serve as sponsors. Twenty-seven individuals and/or couples are signed on as sponsors while 18 are listed as hosts, meaning the fête has already netted Landry more than $85,000.
Landry’s announcement is born of necessity: After 2012 there will be no 3rd Congressional District to which Landry could be re-elected; the district was effectively eliminated during the 2011 redistricting session in the Legislature — absorbed into districts to the east and west including Boustany’s 7th Congressional District, which will expand eastward to take in New Iberia where Landry lives.
The new district for which Boustany will essentially be the incumbent will be called the 3rd Congressional District effective Jan. 1, 2013. But don’t tell the Landry camp that. On the congressman’s website, LandryForLouisiana.com, there is a page devoted to the 3rd Congressional District, but the congressman uses a map of the new 3rd, which doesn’t yet exist. The combined effect of the May 23 fundraiser in Lafayette and the deceptive image on Landry’s website is that Landry is seeking re-election to Boustany’s district. Weird, we know. Landry seems to be inventing a new reality: He’s the incumbent in southwest Louisiana and he wants another term representing the good people of Lafayette, Jennings and Lake Charles.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Charles [Boustany] voted with Nancy Pelosi to increase his own pay.”
– U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, attacking his opponent in the fall election
And there is growing evidence that he’s been campaigning inappropriately on Boustany’s turf for some time. Just this week, a non-partisan congressional watchdog group called out the rep for another apparent abuse of his federal franking privilege — a month after this newspaper published an exposé of Landry and a less egregious waste — but a waste nonetheless — of taxpayer money.
In a May 14 article posted by the Beltway political newspaper Roll Call, Craig Holman of Public Citizen accuses Landry of abusing the franking privilege by spending more than $30,000 in taxpayer funds in the third quarter of 2011 to finance a series of radio ads in Lafayette and Lake Charles alerting listeners to town hall meetings he attended with U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Lafayette and Lake Charles anchor the east and west ends of Boustany’s 7th Congressional District.
The congressional franking privilege allows members of the U.S. House of Representatives to be reimbursed for communications such as direct mail, radio and TV ads and newspaper inserts so long as those communications are not for re-election purposes and only if said communications are directed at that member of Congress’ constituents. In the “if it walks like a duck” department, Landry appears to have been skirting federal law to build name recognition in Boustany’s district: His communications in Boustany’s district are for “re-election” purposes and they’re not directed at his constituents.
Public Citizen contends that because the radio ads targeted voters in Boustany’s district, they constitute a franking violation. The Landry camp, of course, disputes the allegation — just as it did in our April 11 cover story, “Frankly Speaking,” which makes the case that a “Year End Report” Landry paid to insert into The Independent and The Daily Advertiser, which reach virtually none of Landry’s constituents, at the end of 2011 also constitutes a franking violation.
Boustany, who serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and is close to House Speaker John Boehner, says he will definitely seek a fifth term this fall, and he and Landry have already begun sniping at each other in press releases. Political junkies, yonder comes your fix.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.