Another Super PAC tiptoes into Senate race

Special to the Herald-Guide
February 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford

Why should U.S. Sen. David Vitter have all the fun? He shouldn’t, according to the architects of the new Blue Pelican Super PAC that is being built up to support the re-election of senior Sen. Mary Landrieu.

But unlike the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, which is the Super PAC backing Vitter’s gubernatorial bid, Blue Pelican will not be making a push to have the state lift its $100,000 cap on donations to match federal giving guidelines. FLF is registered on both the state and federal level.

“I can’t say what the focus will be in the distant future, but we are only going to be a federal Super PAC,” said Steve Verzwyvelt of Baton Rouge’s Southern Strategic Relations, Blue Pelican’s general consultant in Louisiana. “We haven’t made a buy yet. We’ll be doing that in the coming weeks and months.”

Ben Chao, a Democratic strategist with the D.C.-based Joe Trippi and Associates, is in charge of the playbook, which is being finalized now.

“We’re going to make the case for voters in Louisiana that it’s a good thing to keep Mary around and help them learn a little more about (GOP challenger Congressman Bill) Cassidy that might make them take a second look.”

So far the Blue Pelican PAC has secured “several hundred thousand in pledges nationally,” although Chao said the first deposit “could be significantly more.”

As for the Super PAC backing Vitter’s run for governor, Chao said it could soon have direct competition.

“I think some of the people behind Blue Pelican could create a PAC for the governor’s race, too,” he said, adding it wouldn’t be a Super PAC, though.

Meanwhile, Cassidy has received his fair share of outside help from groups like Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group controlled by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch.

And while Landrieu will certainly get a boost from Blue Pelican, politicos expect even more serious money to continue rolling in on her behalf from the Senate Majority PAC, which has already shelled out more than $3.8 million this election cycle targeting five candidates around the country, including Cassidy. Vitter’s “last political job” has limited interpretationOne line from U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s announcement for governor in January stood out more than others: “This will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period.”It jumped off the page and screen because some viewed it as a thinly-veiled swipe at Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has gradually inserted himself on the national political stage and is undoubtedly running for president.

Vitter has been using the pledge on the campaign trail, most recently in Thibodaux.

So does his proclamation extend to running for re-election to his Senate seat in 2016, should he fail in his drive for the mansion?

“I’m not really focused on that right now,” Vitter told LaPolitics when asked whether the 2015 contest will be his last. “I’m only focused on this race for governor.”

If he is elected, one of his first official acts would be to appoint his Senate replacement, which has spurred speculation of how that would factor in his campaign. It won’t, pledged Vitter.

“There will be absolutely no understanding, arrangement, or deal tying any appointment to the campaign in any way,” he said.Political pressure could boost public pensionsHouse Retirement Chairman Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, said he knew something was up when he started noticing recent correspondence coming from retiree associations with not-so-subtle tag lines.

“Somewhere on the envelope or letterhead it reads, ‘Remember, retirees vote,’” he said laughing.

The second sign came from Louisiana’s experience accounts, which hold extra earnings for the four statewide retirement systems—they’re flush with cash.

Put it all together and you have a political environment ripe for increasing pension checks. Especially since it has been roughly five years since retired state workers and teachers have seen a boost.

“How could (lawmakers) vote no?” Pearson asked. “They’ll only tick off people.”

Dozens of bills have been filed for the upcoming session to address benefit increases, some permanent and others supplemental.

With sights set on the experience accounts, retirement system boards are getting behind bills that are being filed for cost of living adjustments. How much is the big question, with estimations topping out at around 2 percent.

While there’s a formula for determining that, there are also variables, like lawmakers possibly making a grab for all of the money in experience accounts, not just the earning overages.

Pearson said he’s concerned about a permanent increase, but is willing to work with all parties. Most lawmakers probably won’t remember the early 2000s, he added, when experience accounts held a negative balance of $1 billion, which was wiped off the books and mixed into unfunded accrued liability, transforming it into a debt. They Said It“I think it’s going to be the hottest issue of the session.”—State Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, regarding Common Core education standards. 

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