by Elliott Stonecipher
We have no way of knowing what manner of things actually get through to today’s top American politicians. From our nation’s highest-ranking office holders, we learn more each day about how carefully arranged and scripted and spun and packaged and teleprompted all things are. Electoral accountability at the ballot box, no matter how devout our commitment to the notion, is thus being systemically compromised.
Thus, we are left to wonder whether or not Louisiana’s senior U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu was, even in the slightest, concerned about Kimberly Strassel’s article about her in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago. Based on its content and timing, if we apply America’s old political rules, the Senator would be very concerned. Though I read the article the day it was published, many Louisianans, judging from my remarkable number of related emails, are only now beginning to receive it from friends and others.
Honestly, I was surprised when I realized the article surprised me – almost nothing of the like does anymore – but the described Landrieu op is certainly stunning, even by today’s lowest-of-low standards. Ms. Strassel works from data in the public domain, gathered and analyzed by a new non-profit group, Keep Louisiana Working, and exposes the way Senator Landrieu’s leadership political action committee, JAZZ PAC, funds anti-energy industry actors and orgs while she simultaneously claims to be one of the Senate’s most devout energy industry supporters. Such is electoral prerequisite in Louisiana, we know. Here is a bit of Ms. Strassel’s evidence of Landrieu’s hypocrisy:
An example: In March 2012, Ms. Landrieu’s fellow Louisiana senator, Republican David Vitter, managed to get a vote on an amendment that would have implemented a 2008 offshore drilling plan to allow new oil and gas leases throughout the Outer Continental Shelf. Ms. Landrieu voted for the amendment.
But JAZZ PAC helped finance Democrats who defeated the Vitter amendment by 12 votes. Of the 48 Democrats who voted against Louisiana oil and gas that day, JAZZ PAC had contributed to 37 of them—more than $300,000 in total.
JAZZ PAC has given $10,000 to California’s Barbara Boxer, who in September railed on the Senate floor against approval of the Keystone pipeline. She’s given $15,000 to Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, a fan of more oil and gas taxes.
She’s given $12,500 to New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, who sent a letter this March, signed by seven fellow Democrats, opposing any bipartisan effort to expand drilling. Of the eight signers, JAZZ PAC had contributed to seven. Florida’s Bill Nelson, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, Illinois’s Dick Durbin, Maryland’s Ben Cardin : Name an anti-oil-and-gas Democrat, and JAZZ PAC has helped get him elected.
It is notable that this push-back surfaces as Senator Landrieu and her media and other supporters work overtime to sell their story about Landrieu’s odds of ascending to the top spot on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the post-election Senate. That, we are virtually assured, would be money in the bank for Louisiana, a not-distant cousin to those heady ’60s and ’70s days when our Senator Russell Long chaired the Senate Finance Committee. Given the emerging evidence that America’s oil and gas production may yield our energy independence in a matter of relatively few years, that argument has strong face validity. The problem, we now know, is which side would Landrieu really – really – be on?
All of Which Begs the Question …
As I explained in a National Public Radio interview during Senator Landrieu’s last re-election campaign, she is to me Louisiana’s, and one of America’s, most extraordinary examples of an old-style, in-the-trenches, political warrior. In a state growing redder and redder by the year, she has since her 1996 election to the Senate kicked all political butts and taken all political names. It was remarkable when she won that first race by a few thousand votes (leaving aside the issue of how she came by those votes), but even more remarkable that she has since been twice re-elected, and may well win again this year. Given her exposure as a key Affordable Care Act / Obamacare supporter, and as a senator otherwise strongly supportive of President Obama, she should have no chance – zero – of winning a statewide race in Louisiana.
Thus, the question: has Mary Landrieu’s charmed political run ended? She does, all hypocrisies and Senate votes against a majority of Louisianans notwithstanding, have a lot of things going for her. Governor Jindal’s refusal to support, much less endorse, her Republican opponent is a real plus for Landrieu. Her trademark pumping-up of minority votes in urban streets may again succeed, especially given how much “street money” she always gathers and will again spread around. There is certainly a chance, as well, that the Tea Party candidate in the race may split the Republican vote as necessary for her to win.
On the other hand, beyond political dark arts of every kind, something new may be in the Senator’s re-election mix this time.
The underlying strength of Ms. Landrieu’s political machine has always been how many pols and voters learned early in her career that her hold on power means money in their pockets, examples of which are government contracts, jobs, new government programs, her belief in and support of wealth redistribution, and so forth. In fact, using taxpayer money to reward “friends” has long been her claim to what those recipients consider fame, and to what most others consider poisonous to a better and disappearing way of life.
This time, some significant number of those first-time-every-time Landrieu votes may figure out that her political ways and means can just as easily take big bucks out of their pockets. First, there is the general paucity of available government money going forward, even for this acclaimed wizard of it use. Then, there is the evidence to date of expected negative effects of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare on everyone in the middle class and up. And, most recently given Ms. Strassel’s piece and like ones certain to follow, untold numbers of her bedrock energy industry pals must lay down significant new bets of protection should she be given control of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee after the election.
With a minute or two to think about it, the point here can be simply put: what if, even for Senator Landrieu, what goes around comes around?
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.