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Blanco ready to aid reelection chances at state's expense

Like a foolish poker player, Gov. Kathleen Blanco has continued through on her weak bluff to squeeze more money out of the federal government. It will be called and Louisiana will be the poorer for it.

Blanco appears to be committing the state to filing suit against the federal government to block its annual August sale of oil leases off Louisiana’s coastline in an effort to get the federal government to fork over more royalties to the state. Through a tragicomic series of historical events, the state gave away access to an estimated $5 billion a year from them.

The law setting up those sales permits a governor to object to them, but then the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service can override that. Blanco did exactly that, saying the sale of leases threatened Louisiana’s coast by its being inconsistent with the state’s coastal management plan, so MMS naturally came back and rejected the reasoning, and quite properly so. It’s not the sales that could cause environmental degradation, but rather the activity that occurs after the sales.

Any court will recognize this distinction, so Blanco has no hope to win that way. Instead, she’s trying to tie up the process to frustrate the federal government’s collection of these revenues in a timely fashion, attempting to goad Congress into approving legislation (such as Rep. Bobby Jindal’s H.R. 4761) that would shovel more of the royalties Louisiana’s way.

As is its wont, the Blanco Administration and its lackeys are disseminating plenty of disinformation the public’s way about the matter. The legal counsel hired for the proposed suit, Robert Szabo, claims the federal government is depending on revenues from the sale. Her Executive Assistant on Coastal Activities Sidney Coffee claims they could be between $300 million and $1 billion.

Neither assertion likely is to come true. Last year’s sale was one of the highest ever, at $285.2 million. At current rates, that’s an amount of money the federal government runs through in 54 minutes. In short, Blanco is embarking on a course that will not lead her to legal victory over stakes that the federal government would consider trivial if not insignificant. It’s a bluff with no leverage that will only antagonize Congress, which must approve of any additional monies going to the state.

So why has Blanco gone to lengths to create such publicity about the issue? Because she continues to flounder as governor with low opinion poll ratings heading into an election year (fourth lowest in the nation comparing approval to disapproval), and publicizing this may make her look better to the uninformed. She would rather spend in the neighborhood of a million dollars in state money on legal fees on a tactic whose only productive outcome is to assist in her own re-election campaign than to use it for the good of Louisiana.

When will Blanco learn that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and that it’s wasteful to use the people’s money to buy the vinegar?

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