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Landrieu credibility eroding as "mistakes" mount

Once is coincidence, twice is happenstance, an aphorism Sen. Mary Landrieu rather would not hear but who invited it by self-reporting yet another campaign funding violation, and proffering an explanation for it that doesn’t quite hold water.

Just days ago, Landrieu’s office admitted a humiliating incident that it wrongly billed its taxpayer-paid office account for campaign travel expenses involving chartering a plane, a consequence of trying to submit a certain campaign image to voters. Its defense was that a simple clerical error had been made – despite the dubious nature of the claim and even as the apparent practice of the vendor is to send her office the bills and then it sorts them out.

But now another instance, in some ways even more interesting, has popped up. Landrieu’s office now says it will reimburse out of the campaign account at least part of a $5,700 charter bill for the Shreveport to Dallas leg that also included a leg from New Orleans on Sep. 22, 2013. Flying into Shreveport was on official business during the weekend, but the next morning she had to head back to Washington. So she took a charter flight from Shreveport to Dallas where she could catch a commercial flight the next day, but only after she engaged in some fundraising activity there before leaving.


LA legislator laziness demands procedural changes

Here we go again, and this time Louisiana’s legislators have no real excuse for giving the impression that they don’t really know what they are voting on, nor should they have any excuse to try to fix this.

A number of sitting justices of the peace and constables just now are kicking up a fuss after they have appeared to figure out that a bill signed into law two months ago disallows them running for their jobs again this fall. Act 495 removes an exception to the law that permitted those already elected to office as of Aug. 15, 2006 to be eligible for reelection without the age limit of being younger than 70 when beginning a term of service that otherwise would apply. It is estimated to affect around 160 officials, only some of whom already are over 70.

Justices of the peace fitting that loophole were the only elected state judicial officials excepted from the state’s 70-year-old age limit (the constitutionality of age limits having been upheld). They handle civil claims under $5,000, can issue orders pursuant to those, and perform marriages. Constables carry out those orders and also have minor law enforcement powers associated with that ability.


Landrieu charter choice keeps haunting her politically

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s political campaign has caught the political equivalent of herpes as it battles a series of damaging outbreaks that won’t go away stemming from her activities of last Nov. 8, because these revelations too usefully destroy her campaign narrative.

The infection began when Democrat Landrieu on the morning of that day hitched a ride on Air Force One to Armstrong International Airport outside New Orleans with her co-partisan Pres. Barack Obama, yet then failed to accompany him to an appearance at the Port of New Orleans, citing she had a “long-standing” commitment for a campaign function in Lake Charles, some 180 miles from Kenner. Commentators snickered and her Republican opponents and their supporters baited her about how this was an attempt to “hide” in order to avoid being seen with Obama, who then and now continues to be deeply unpopular in Louisiana.

Later, Landrieu would claim that could not be the case, being as she appeared in photographs with Obama (as well as her brother New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Gov. Bobby Jindal). But it’s one thing to be in a few snapshots that may or may not appear in Louisiana media outlets; it’s another entirely to stand or sit next to him on stage and walk by him for an extended period with several hundred constituents about that certainly would get media coverage that hundreds of thousands of more constituents would see or hear.


Retirement issues inconvenience potential candidates

Retirement issues have created a ruckus around one north Louisiana politician, and raise a potentially distracting issue for another.

Last month, almost nobody seemed happy in the aftermath of the passage of Act 859, which on the surface seemed to make mere semantic changes to the law about investigating law enforcement officers. At least that’s how it started out, but on the final day of the session, in a conference committee because of minor disagreement over versions of the bill between the chambers, a provision appeared that undid a law passed a few years ago on behalf of a narrowly-defined class of individuals – estimated at exactly two – which seemed if not innocuous, then unnoticed by legislators who passed it unanimously, and then got Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature on it.

The only problem is this violates Art. X Sec. 29 of the Constitution. Because it made a change to retirement benefits, the entire bill in that form had to be advertised at least 30 days prior to passage, at least twice. Now it’s incumbent on the State Police Retirement System to sue the Legislature to have the law declared unconstitutional. Yet no action seems forthcoming at least until the board meets in early September.


GOP chickens may roost by its blanket primary support

Qualifying for federal elections in Louisiana begins next week, and Republicans have to hope that a decision too many party elected officials and leaders realized too late does not come back to haunt them.

Four years ago the state reversed course on its decision to have closed primary elections for these offices, where only voters who are affiliated with a party (or under that version no-party voters if allowed by the party) could vote to nominate a candidate for the general election. This system promoted greater accountability and provided incentives for issue preferences of candidates rather than their personalities to be evaluated by voters. After the 2008 and 2010 elections, the blanket primary system, which actually does not include a primary but heads straight to a general election, was reinstituted.

Besides strengthening parties because of their increased value as aggregative mechanisms that could bestow the most important asset to a candidate, a nomination, closed primaries also helped parties in their ability to forward stronger general election candidates by disallowing interference by non-party elements in that process. Lack of that ability may prove decisive in at least two 2014 contests.