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18.9.08

Cazayoux needs to step up and oppose drilling ban

As the clock ticks away on the likely short-lived Congressional career of Rep. Don Cazayoux, he’s doing everything possible to send it into overtime. How he’s doing it suggests he may wish to pursue a post-elective career involving sleight of hand.

As Democrats staunchly oppose any realistic bill to increase domestic energy production but favored a bill that would reward environmental special interests with huge payouts for infeasible targets, Cazayoux was given permission by the Democrat leadership, since they had the other votes to pass it, to oppose this bill in order to boost his flagging reelection chances and because Democrats knew their effort would be largely symbolic because of Senate and presidential opposition. Nonetheless, it gave them a chance to look like they were doing something they really were not, and it gave Cazayoux a chance to try to ingratiate himself with his pro-drilling constituency.

But if Cazayoux really wants to put his money where his mouth is, he will vote down any budget bill that includes language that would continue the Congressional moratorium to allow drilling outside of three miles from the American coast. As a fallback position, Democrats want to include the renewal of the ban in one or more budget bills to try to force it through Congress. Republicans have indicated they would stall bills with this rider even if it shut down government operations, practically meaning a Senate filibuster given the Democrat House majority would ram these bills through. Even if Cazayoux’ vote couldn’t stop this, it would be good if at least one of his symbolic votes turns out to be for the good.

They will pass these out of the House because lapdogs of Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi like Cazayoux will obediently follow her orders, highlighting the fact that the only time Cazayoux is given freedom to oppose the liberal majority it is for show back home, and that he faithfully supports liberal orthodoxy the majority of then time. Actually, he’ll probably be a willing participant, given his latest articulated idea.

Cazayoux is also pushing for tax credits to homeowners who had higher insurance deductibles because the hurricanes were named storms. While this populist measure may sound good to those in that situation, the fact of the matter is it represents a subsidy to homeowner who chose to live in riskier areas being fobbed off on the rest of the state and nation. It’s a poor decision to socialize and subsidize risk, but it will play well in his district and shows he’ll be servile to the liberal leadership on anything meaningful.

He hopes to fool enough people to get reelection on Nov. 4. Whether his tactics will succeed is another matter.

17.9.08

Jindal PSC choice highlights political conflict, stakes

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal got a rare chance to appoint somebody to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, because it is an elective position where this chance only comes because of vacancy of the office, and decided so because of the dynamics surrounding that particular position and the entire commission.

Jindal appointed E. Pat Manuel, an Alexandria-area businessman and GOP stalwart to replace Democrat Dale Sittig who took over as Jindal’s new appointee to head the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port. Manuel was a large contributor to Jindal for his gubernatorial campaign but will not run in the special election to fulfill the remainder of the term ending in 2010.

This gives for the first time a Republican majority on the Commission although Sittig tended to vote more in the conservative direction along with other Republicans Jay Blossman and Jimmy Field than with Democrats Lambert Boissiere III and Foster Campbell. This would tend to less unnecessary state interference in the areas the Commission had jurisdiction – utilities and road transportation – and thereby produce a better economic climate.

But obviously Manuel was not the long-term solution for Jindal to keep the seat in GOP hands. The challenge to both Jindal and the party especially is great because already announcing for the job is Democrat term-limited state Sen. Joe McPherson who in many ways is the antithesis of reform movement in Louisiana. McPherson is well known as one of the last populists and one of the best of the good old boys.

McPherson also is no fan of Jindal. When the new Legislature convened earlier this year Jindal made sure McPherson didn’t get the chamber’s top spot was demoted from a committee chairmanship the latter used to favor the industry in which he makes his living, nursing homes. They also clashed on the scope and role of government and on ethics reforms. McPherson has not been shy in expressing his views on Jindal, sarcastically promoting Jindal’s chances to be named Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate in order to get him out of the state, such havoc had Jindal wreaked on McPherson’s political way of life.

Ironically, now perhaps he’ll do Jindal a favor. Were McPherson to win the special election, his Senate exit surely would bring a more responsible senator, probably Republican, to the chamber and McPherson will have followed the path of Campbell, also a leading Senate Democrat populist who left for the Commission, in removing that undesirable element from the Senate. One wonders whether Jindal picked somebody not interested in more than interim service precisely to convey no incumbency advantage to somebody that would make him better able to defeat McPherson just to get McPherson out of the Senate.

Perhaps not given partisan control of the Commission in the balance (and with Blossman’s seat open this fall the chance that a Republican may not get elected there; Campbell drew no opposition in the other race this fall). Republicans particularly would cringe with a Campbell clone joining him on the Commission, so there’s probably some work going on behind the scenes to find a strong candidate to put up against McPherson with this appointment buying time to do so.

16.9.08

Disruption puts Jefferson in reelection driver's seat

As previously discussed, election delays brought about by hurricanes indeed have provided an opportunity for indicted Rep. William Jefferson to salvage his chances at reelection to the Second Congressional District.

To review, lagging candidates and those who had greater ability to draw upon political resources would be advantaged by the delay of party nomination contests from Sep. 6 to Oct. 4. Jefferson fit the bill on both; his polling numbers were unimpressive particularly for an incumbent, and because of his legal woes his campaign treasury was anemic, again especially for an incumbent.

But Jefferson has other non-pecuniary resources of incumbency he can draw upon and was given the extra time to use them while other candidates, without these, had a diminished ability to campaign due to distractions caused by New Orleans area cleanup after Hurricane Gustav. This cannot hurt the political position he appeared to be in right before the storm, leading the Democrat field with 18 percent of the intended vote – largely composed of die-hard supporters or those who had thought nothing of the campaign and went with the incumbent’s name that they know.

Typically, informed speculation would consider 18 percent a dangerous number for an incumbent, especially given twice that amount remained undecided. But with the next closest candidate the non-black Helena Moreno at 16 percent and four other black males in the higher single digits in a primary contest from an electorate that is 60 percent black, Jefferson’s position is not bad. A majority of the non-black vote will go to Moreno so she is likely to top 20 percent, as is Jefferson although neither probably will go much beyond that number. Even so, it means among the other four realistic challengers in order to get to that figure, one would have to sweep up at least a third of the remaining vote meaning, in practical terms being anywhere from a third to a half of the undecided vote.

Whether any of the other four can achieve such a consolidation is less than three weeks is rather debatable. Put both Jefferson and Moreno at 20 percent (which would be underperforming significantly among the undecided voters) and then split out the remaining candidates proportionally with the remaining undecided vote (meaning they significantly overperform among these voters) and none of them catch the top two. In other words, somebody from that other four must break out of the pack and do significantly better among undecided voters for there not to be a Jefferson-Moreno runoff for the Democrat nomination.

Whether one candidate, in the more-confused immediate post-hurricane environment whose strategies were based upon a Sep. 6 election date, can consolidate enough of the vote to ace either Jefferson or Moreno out of the nomination runoff is fairly questionable, especially given this environment favors the electioneering efforts of Jefferson. And if it does end up being these two, incredibly Jefferson would be favored to retain the seat.

Most anywhere else, having the law after you with a compelling case against you means sure defeat even as an incumbent. But in the New Orleans area, race means everything to most black Democrats, as demonstrated by Orleanians reelecting black Mayor Ray Nagin in 2006 despite the tremendous negative publicity he garnered in handling the challenges of Hurricane Katrina the year previous and despite his runoff opponent being the white Democrat sitting lieutenant governor – and this with Republicans included in the voting.

The simple facts of life are if Jefferson makes the runoff against Hispanic Moreno he very likely wins. And then he very likely wins the general election against three other little-known non-black candidates even if it is four days after his trial begins, given the political loyalty black Democrats have to their party as well as race. As improbable as it seems, Jefferson must be considered the favorite for reelection now, and the intervention of Hurricane Gustav will have had something non-trivial to do with it.

15.9.08

Desperate Democrats try blame-shifting gambit on oil

A bit of a government scandal touched Louisiana as scathing reports about the ethics and integrity of a government agency were issued. No, it’s not from any state or local government, but the federal government. But more interesting is the reaction from certain politicians desperate to use the issue to try to reverse their party’s waning fortunes.

Turns out that some officials in the U.S. Mineral Management Service have been having a grand old time – a senior male official reported to have made booty calls and snorting coke with subordinates along pursuing with an illegal outside consultancy, and engaging in other breaches of integrity, while two female officials better known by randy and/or wary private sector clients as the “MMS chicks” were documented having considerable party experiences in New Orleans, among other places, all the while violating a number of ethics standards, and as many as 15 others also seemed to get in on the act in less lurid but equally corrupt fashion. A couple of proposed deals involved Louisiana properties.

So it’s a sad tale of government employees, even as it was documented they were well-trained on the appropriate ethical standards, with financial powers backed by the power of the federal government that let themselves act corruptly, right? Not according to certain Democrats in Congress. “This is why we must not allow Big Oil's agenda to be jammed through Congress,” snorted Sen. Bill Nelson, while Sen. Charles Schumer bloviated, “This IG report has it all — sex, drugs and the Bush administration officials once again in cahoots with Big Oil.”

So “Big Oil” is to blame, never mind that the oil companies (including a few regional firms of small size that apparently when Democrats use the phrase it must mean every business connected to petroleum larger than a corner gas station) did not force the employees to violate ethics laws? And it’s “Bush administration officials” that are the miscreants, even though none of those involved are political appointees and it was the Bush appointees in fact who blew the whistle and ferreted out the wrongdoers? If the amount of brains of Nelson and Schumer were gunpowder, it’s clear combined they couldn’t blow each other’s noses.

The reason why they are trotting out explanations that insult intelligences is that they are looking for any excuse to deflect from maybe the biggest issue on the political radar now, that Democrats for decades have backed unreasonable measures to restrict domestic oil production in order to please anti-growth/environmentalist wacko interests. Only now are some of them, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, even budging from this absolutism with a sham proposal that will do next to nothing to solve the problem at great expense to consumers.

Perhaps more that any other issue it has led to a comeback for Republicans on the campaign trail as many congressional candidates have hammered their Democrat rivals on it. Anything that will try to shift blame to Republicans or the private sector in place of the culpability of Democrats some are willing to try.

Landrieu for her part smartly has avoided such preposterous rhetoric. It’s too bad she won’t go a step further and condemn her partisan colleagues for distortion of the issue that will inhibit implementation of the real reforms needed.

14.9.08

Landrieu sham plan, complaint just more gamesmanship

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s apparent pro-oil drilling, pro-additional state revenues advocacy represents just another disingenuous attempt on her part to appear to be something that she isn’t during an election year.

Landrieu addressed two of the biggest issues for Louisianans, increasing domestic oil production and revenues sharing of federal money to the states, in her statement in opposition to her own party’s House colleagues’ plan modeled after one onto which she signed with (now) 19 other senators. Her plan largely is cosmetic and would do little other than shift money from energy consumers in the public to favored environmental causes of Democrats but even so the small difference with the plan backed by House Democrats, revenue sharing removed from theirs, brought her rebuke.

But we must understand the additional sham she is perpetrating other than her original plan. House Democrats leaders say their version can’t include revenue sharing because it would violate the “pay-as-you-go” (PAYGO) rules re-established in Congress at the beginning of 2007 courtesy of Democrat campaign pledges. They sounded impressive: if legislation reduces predicted revenues, spending must be cut to match.

However, PAYGO as a concept has been violated by Democrats so much they would make Storyville of a century ago look like a nunnery. From the start its form was riddled with loopholes and exceptions and since then it has been ignored on numerous occasions. In fact, at the end of last year Landrieu’s Senate Democrats gave up on it, ending the pretense to show its real purpose is to be used as an excuse to prevent permanent tax reductions from being realized while creating the chimera of fiscal responsibility.

Still, the House Democrats continue to prop up this charade which is what provided Landrieu the perfect excuse to try to demonstrate she cares about Louisiana. She knew House Democrats could use PAYGO as an excuse to ignore her, even as they have routinely waived its applicability in the past. In exchange, she comes across making an apparently bold statement allegedly showing she’s not a slave to the party line and bringing more attention to her bogus plan.

If the heat gets too much for Democrats on the drilling issue, their House contingent simply will waive PAYGO again and go along with the plan, making Landrieu look even more heroic which she desperately needs in her quest to fight off Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy for reelection. Voters must recognize the manipulative game she is waging here on two levels: first in trumpeting a plan that does little-to-nothing to bring down energy prices in the short- or long-term, then being made to appear courageous in fighting for federal dollars.

As Landrieu’s lifetime voting record shows, she consistently sticks with the Democrat left contrary to the policy preferences of Louisiana’s majority, even on the issue of more domestic production. No amount of gamesmanship on her part changes that fact.