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Maness claim signals his campaign's death throes

If we needed any confirmation that the vanity campaign of former 2014 Senate candidate Republican Rob Maness survives now only through artificial respiration, that came this week courtesy of a bizarre claim by Maness.

On the day of the major candidates’ debate – to which minor candidate Maness did not score an invitation – he alleged a bribe offering came his way to exit the contest, from somebody supposedly connected to the Better Louisiana PAC, established to support the Senate candidacy of GOP Rep. John Fleming. He contended that an official, Paul Dickson, told him “he would provide opportunities for my future, if I left the race for Senate and endorsed John Fleming;” otherwise, he alleges being told he would be “finished as a politician.” A Maness aide present claims that statement accurately summarizes the conversation, and Maness said he would “file a criminal complaint” about the incident in the near future.

Dickson, a principal in Shreveport-based pharmaceutical distributor Morris & Dickson, has no direct affiliation with the PAC. However, his company represents the one and only donor to it, of $100,000 a year ago. He confirmed the meeting but denied making such offer, saying that he emphasized throughout the conversation that he promised no deals for a withdrawal.

Dickson, his fellow company officers, and the company all have donated substantial sums to Republican candidates. He has been affiliated with the Louisiana Coalition to Elect a Republican Majority, established by the man Maness hopes to replace, GOP Sen. David Vitter. He has donated both to Fleming’s and Vitter’s campaigns, but has no official role in the former.

When reviewing the two stories, Maness’ account looks questionable. Not uncommonly, somebody interested in the election of somebody else will ask another candidate clearly unable to advance in that contest, who he believes takes votes away from the preferred candidate, to take a walk and makes vague noises about the possibility of supporting that candidate in a future hypothetical race without ever making monetary or patronage promises if that candidate desists. None of that is illegal, and with this not being Dickson’s first rodeo he would know how to have such a permissible conversation and surely know that Maness’ temperament would make the whole thing backfire if a legally impermissible conversation occurred.

Further, it would make no sense to have an impermissible conversation with Maness with such low stakes involved. Even if Maness up and quit, few voters would become aware of that or any endorsement, and with his name on the ballot and the only indication of his late withdrawal consisting of easy-to-miss postings at precincts, Fleming would not score a lot of votes as a result – especially as Maness polls so lowly. This would not matter at all except for the closeness of the race, but it seems incredible to believe that a seasoned political activist would make such a risky, clumsy offer for such low yield.

But in Maness’ mind, trailing so badly, he might think creating controversy could boost his support. Hence, he embellishes the incident for consumption so as to put his name in the spotlight on the day of the debate. It may not even have been a conscious decision: in Maness’ desperation to find anything to jumpstart his flailing campaign and to give it an air of relevance, as Dickson suggested he simply heard what he wanted to hear regardless of what was said.

When retiring, some guys go fishing, do woodworking, volunteer, etc. Maness, when exiting the Air Force, decided he wanted to be a U.S. Senator. Out of the skies he dropped into the state after not having lived in it for many years, proclaiming himself the conservative, outsider solution needed to represent Louisiana in the Senate. Never mind in 2014 his issues preferences differed little from Republican then-Rep. Bill Cassidy’s, who could demonstrate a record of conservative policy-making in the House. Never mind that in 2016 more than one Republican, but especially Fleming, could demonstrate similar records in their government service, while in both cases Maness was all talk with no record.

The 14 percent he received in 2014 acted as a kind of fool’s gold, making him think himself more relevant that he was. Most people who seriously wanted to bag the highest national office available in the state would have spent some time working in the political scene, making connections, helping other candidates, even running for a local or state office prior to setting eyes on the biggest prize. Not Maness, who immediately upon arrival anointed himself Louisiana’s senatorial savior, and the 2014 result only ratified that view in his mind.

So the desultory showing he makes in 2016 negates any such delusions he may have had about his indispensability to the state, and has culminated in this bizarre claim. This is what a campaign, and likely political career, in its death throes looks like.

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