A very different hayride for Edwards

LA Politics notebook by Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis

Special to the Herald-Guide
March 28, 2014 at 11:35 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, 86, is traveling a campaign trail that’s dissimilar in many ways from the one he successfully maneuvered last in 1991.

Back then, he didn’t have to deal with real-time reporting, bloggers who won’t be won over and social media platforms that need to be fed.

Yet in regard to the latter, Edwards and his one-liners already seem custom-made for the 140-character world of Twitter. Either he, or perhaps a handler, has taken to it in a real way, lambasting critics directly and even chiding opponents.

To entrepreneur Paul Dietzel, Edwards tweeted, “U have a sense of humor. Not sure it makes up for the lack of experience, but every little bit helps.” [sic] Another read, “Well u know what they say...If you don’t have anything nice to say...go ahead and talk about David Vitter.” To a naysayer, he responded, “I could loan you my sense of humor so you could come up with wittier tweets when you repost mine if you’d like?”

While Edwards won’t have a heavy like David Duke to rail against this go around, it could quickly transform into the race we’ve all been pining for-Edwards versus Gov. Bobby Jindal. The governor has not endorsed his former aide Garret Graves, and probably won’t, but Jindal’s A-team will likely be involved, giving Edwards an opportunity to weigh in, like he did in his announcement recently by slamming the governor’s stance on Medicaid.

It will also be Edwards’ first race without assistance from his brother, Marion, who died last year. Asked what that would be like, Edwards told LaPolitics, “Someone will step up in that role.”

Other names of yesteryear are likely to manifest themselves as well, probably in Edwards’ campaign finance reports. If anyone knows where the proverbial bodies are buried, it’s him. And considering he didn’t sing to the feds after being dealt a 10-year sentence, there’s probably more than a couple of favors he’ll be able to call in.  

The idea of a super PAC remains a possibility, and Edwards is still talking openly about wanting one to support his candidacy. This is despite federal laws prohibiting any collusion between candidate and PAC.

“I’m still learning all the rules and guidelines and looking into it,” Edwards told LaPolitics.

But the newest addition to the Edwards campaign is also the smallest. His son Eli was born last year. Prior to addressing the Baton Rouge Press Club in mid-March, Edwards attempted to hold his crying son, moving the child around while desperately and awkwardly trying to get ahold of him. Things went much smoother once they transferred Eli to a stroller and the former governor scored the golden photo-op. His wife, Trina, is a new cast member, too. She took to Facebook after his husband’s announcement to clear up one bone of contention.

“Before I go to bed,” she wrote, “Id like to clear a few things up...I haven’t had a boob job or a tummy tuck. So sleep well, dear taxpayers...God gave me this figure and it didn’t cost you a penny!! lol”

Poll split on prospects for two Landrieus

Another week, another poll. The latest shows a dead heat in the U.S. Senate race, solid support for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as a potential gubernatorial candidate and a big opening for a Democrat to get into the attorney general’s race.

The Voter Consumer Research poll conducted for the Louisiana State Medical Society and PhRMA, compared to one taken by the same pollster a year ago, shows Sen. Mary Landrieu’s 14-point lead over Congressman Bill Cassidy in January 2013 shrinking to a 45-44 percent statistical tie in February 2014. Over that same span, opposition to the Affordable Care Act grew from 54-41 percent against to 57-35 percent opposed.

In the governor’s race, the poll shows Mitch Landrieu, who hasn’t said he’s running, leading Sen. David Vitter, who has. The results were: Landrieu, 33 percent; Vitter, 25; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, 11; Treasurer John Kennedy, 9; and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the lone declared Democrat, 8. Kennedy also has not said he is running.

In his re-election bid, the poll has Attorney General Buddy Caldwell leading fellow Republican and former Congressman Jeff Landry, 23-15 percent. But “a Democratic candidate,” yet to materialize, would lead them both at 33 percent.

The survey asked a series of health care questions important to the sponsors. Respondents disapproved, 56-34 percent, of a provision in the ACA that allows insurance companies not to pay doctors for treatment to patients who are more than 30 days behind on their premiums. Respondents strongly disapproved, 78-15 percent, of any state or insurance policy that would deny treatment to patients based on life expectancy.

Such a policy exists in Oregon, but closer to home PhRMA supports HB 336 by Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, which would ensure the right to treatment if the patient and doctor agree it is in the patient’s best interest.

Lawmakers want more transparency for NGO money

The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation in the session’s third week that would force non-governmental organizations that receive state money to open up their related records and meetings to the public.

Although they regularly feel the heat from good government types, NGOs fell under heavy political fire last fall when Treasurer John Kennedy discovered there were at least 36 groups not complying with a state law that requires full financial reporting. Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, took issue with Kennedy’s findings, arguing that the Colomb Foundation, a nonprofit founded by her husband, was mistakingly added to the noncompliance list.

The definition of a NGO depends on who you ask. Some call it pork served up for lawmakers’ pet groups back in their districts, while many have referred to the process as a slush fund in the past. Still, others are quick to point out that most of the groups, which are overwhelmingly nonprofits, serve important functions.

Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Erath, author of HB 225, said she wants to make sure any NGO that receives taxpayer-backed dollars from a budget line item will have to agree to a state audit; release all related documents when requested; and advertise and hold a public meeting on how the state money will be spent.

Skeptical lawmakers argued that the proposed guidelines might put too much on the NGOs, many of which are small community organizations.

“If they are that concerned about having public meetings and opening up their records they shouldn’t be applying for public money,” countered Champagne.

Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, repeatedly voiced concerns ranging from privacy to costs. He said the NGOs he has worked with in the past have received only a few thousand here and there, and that having to spend some of it on advertising public meetings would only water down their missions. “How much damage can you do with $3,000 or $4,000?” Burrell asked.

Champagne said that most of the NGOs she reviewed receive on average around $20,000 from the state—some much more—and not the $5,000 or less category Burrell cited.They Said It“Audits can be a lot like bathing suits. They are very revealing, but they hide some very important details.”-Troy Hebert, commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control “The problem is that best intentions quickly become schemes around this place.” -State Rep. Sam JonesFor more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Maginnis and Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.

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