Sen. Mary Landrieu joined U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon and other Gulf Coast leaders at the downtown Marriott hotel this afternoon to launch the "Ready 4 Takeoff Coalition," a broad-based lobbying and public relations effort to attract federal compensation and defense spending to the region in the wake of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The senator was ushered off to her next appointment without taking questions. The press kit for the event was short on details but said the coalition was "committed to building a better tomorrow for the innumerable families, workers, suppliers, manufacturers, and small and large businesses within the region." Its economic development initiatives include securing a $40 billion federal government contract for EADS North America to build a KC-45 Real Tanker (pictured) in Mobile, Ala.
Ready 4 Takeoff get it?
"There's going to be a significant amount of money paid to the federal government in the aftermath of the spill," Landrieu said in prepared remarks. "And our congressional group is claiming that 80 percent of that money be spent in the Gulf of Mexico region. Whether it's $5 billion or $20 billion, depending on if the courts find BP simply or grossly negligent, we're going to spend that money from Florida to Texas.
"BP is going to replace every blade of grass, every fish destroyed, every pelican oiled, and we are going to hold BP accountable."
The other politicians and commerce leaders from Mississippi, Florida and Alabama talked in similarly broad terms about BP being made to pay, but were also short on specifics when it came to defense spending, even though the coalition's members include Airbus Americas, which is owned by EADS North America and stands to benefit directly from the tanker contract.
In addition to the refueling jet, the initiative seeks to push the federal government to purchase more Gulf Coast seafood for military and school contracts, accelerate revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas development, and acquire federal money for projects like the U.S. High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program in Alabama and Mississippi.
The roundabout nature of the rhetoric stood in contrast to the specific request for a $40 billion defense contract.
"We're talking to each other, building relationships and coalitions," Mobile Mayor Sam Jackson said after Landrieu had left the building.
"People are scared of what they can't see, and what they don't know," Melancon said. "It's important the message gets out to people that the beaches are open and the seafood is safe to eat."
Again, no mention of the military jets being safe to refuel. But you can sign the petition online, if you're interested.