Tuesday, September 25, 2007

LCRM Latest Iteration of Destructive Strain in Louisiana Politics

This piece was written for The Daily Advertiser's Left Blog, to which Stephen Handwerk generously provided me access. Click the title for a link to that original post.

The Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM) is a very small, deeply-pocketed special interest group that was convened by Senator David Vitter and his wife Wendy in late 2005. The group's roots, means and methods position it to be a formidable and destructive force in the upcoming election.

The declared objective of the group is to establish Republican rule in Louisiana, starting with control of the Legislature in this year's election.

The leaders of the group committed themselves to raising $2.5 million to accomplish this goal. Until this summer's sex scandal involving Senator Vitter, the organization's core membership group of about 25 individuals and companies were on track to raise more than $2 million on their own. In the campaign finance report filed last week, it is apparent that the Vitter scandal has forced the LCRM to look outside of Louisiana for financial support. Still, the organization has $700,000 cash on hand.

More ominously, the latest report indicates that the organization has endorsed no candidates for office, meaning it will be able to spend the money it has without regard to spending limits imposed on organizations that contribute funds to candidates' campaigns.

Texas homebuilder Bob Perry's involvement in the group via a $100,000 contribution added to the fact that the LCRM has made no endorsements, makes it clear that the LCRM will use its money to wage war on Democrats. This is the preferred method of doing business for organizations to which Perry contributes — and he's contributed a lot of money to campaigns of this sort.

Regardless of anyone's party affiliation, the LCRM's super partisan, attack-style politics should sound alarms. We've seen how it has distorted politics on the national level — politics at the federal level has become so poisoned that Congress can't even stop a war that 70 percent of the people oppose.

We have experience in Louisiana with the impact of this narrowly focused, negative-only politics. It was in the 1991 governor's race when Jack Kent, owner of Marine Shale Processing, decided he wanted to settle a score with then-Governor Buddy Roemer who was running for re-election.

Marine Shale Processing had been shut down by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, but Kent blamed Roemer.

In that 1991 election cycle, Kent spent $500,000 of his own money on ads that blanketed the state attacking Roemer.

Kent succeeded in preventing Roemer from making the run-off, so he was satisfied with the results. But, what about the rest of us?

As a result of Kent's efforts, the rest of us were confronted with the stark choice in the run-off of voting for Edwin Edwards or David Duke. Did Kent's attacks serve the state well?

The LCRM is poised to act as a similarly negative force. They have no platform or agenda, other than electing Republicans. There is no program. No plan.

We already have evidence about how the LCMR will go about its work. Earlier this year, in a special election to fill the vacancy in House District 94, the LCRM did not endorse a candidate, but spent in excess of $6,000 in postage on direct mail pieces that smeared the Democratic candidate in that race who was poised to make the run-off there. Those pieces hit on the last two days before the election when there was not time to respond. It also fell within the window when the news media would not cover campaign stories for fear of being manipulated by the charges and counter-charges that frequently fly in those final, heated days leading up to elections.

This is, again, consistent with the kind of campaigns that Bob Perry has either financed or helped finance in other states in recent years.

The LCRM can avoid spending caps by acting as an independent agent, attacking Democrats. That might, in fact, help it achieve its objective because late influxes of money can have a big influence in campaigns based in small districts like House or Senate districts.

But, the effect of LCRM's deceptive campaign tactics will be to mislead voters into poor choices based on bad information at a time when our state needs voters to be making informed choices based on the best information available.

Throughout the recovery effort in the wake of the storms of 2005, the mantra has been to keep the recovery non-partisan. It's a startling even to cynics to find that Senator Vitter and other Republicans who have championed this alleged non-partisanship so loudly have, at the same time, interjected this new, hyper-partisanship into our state's politics at a time when it is needed the least.

Whose interests are served by this? Maybe the interests of Senator Vitter and his rich allies? But, certainly not the rest of us — those Louisiana citizens who are trying to sort through the campaign rhetoric in order to make good choices in this election that is so important to our future.

LCRM's brand of politics is exactly what Louisiana does not need now. We already know what this destructive politics does to our state. Reject this group and their message when it arrives in your mail box.

For more on LCRM please visit :http://www.louisianad2d.us/

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