Give Me an 'I'!
In recent weeks, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's campaign office has been furiously combating the hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads leveled from the Republican Party -- by launching Landrieu's own TV and radio spots. Yet in the heat of the final days of the campaign, nobody apparently had time to spell-check the text on Landrieu's latest TV commercial, "Closer."
In the ad -- which announces various newspaper endorsements, including one by Gambit Weekly -- Landrieu is seated in what appears to be a comfortable living room, addressing "the issues that matter most to the people of Louisiana." As Landrieu is saying "Improving our schools," the phrase "Improving Louisiana Educaton" appears on the screen. (Italics added by Gambit Weekly.)
Landrieu spokeswoman Maria Purdy reacted to the news that the word "education" was misspelled by saying, "Oh, Jesus." Landrieu's campaign called back later that day to say that the typo was being fixed.
Vote-Smart Seeks Answers
Project Vote-Smart, a national bipartisan organization whose founding board members include former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, reports having a hard time getting answers from Louisiana congressional incumbents seeking reelection Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Praised by The New York Times for providing voters with detailed research on political candidates, the nonprofit group posts candidate responses to its questionnaires at its Web site, www.project-votesmart.org. Among the Louisiana incumbents who have not filled out the survey are U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.; U.S. Rep. David Vitter, R-Metairie; and U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, D-New Orleans.
Justin Staples, a research administrator for Project Vote Smart's National Political Awareness Test, says that the nonprofit unsuccessfully contacted Landrieu's aides seven times last month seeking her position on issues ranging from abortion to terrorism. "We never did get it," Staples says.
On Oct. 22, a Landrieu campaign aide told Gambit Weekly that the senator had filled out and returned the questionnaire. With the senator present, the aide said he would follow up on the matter. By late last week, however, Landrieu's positions on the issues had not found its way to the Vote Smart Web site. U.S. Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe, a candidate for Landrieu's seat, also did not fill out the survey. Landrieu's other two Republican opponents -- state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell of New Orleans and state Rep. Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge -- both responded to the Vote Smart 2002 survey.
In the First Congressional District, Vitter -- who filled out the Vote Smart survey as a candidate for the open seat he won in 2000 -- has declined to do so as an incumbent in the 2002 elections. In a Sept. 23 letter to Vote Smart president Richard Kimball, Vitter wrote: "I feel the best way to evaluate a candidate's position on the issues is to take a look at his or her complete record." In Vitter's case, that would be more than 1,900 congressional votes cast. Vitter adds that interested persons can visit his Web site at www.house.gov/vitter. All three of Vitter's opponents -- Libertarian Party candidate Ian Hawxhurst and Republicans Monica Monica and Robert Namer -- filled out the Vote Smart survey.
In the Second Congressional District, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson offered no explanation when asked why he had not filled out the survey. Vote Smart received responses from all four of his opponents: state Public Service Commissioner Irma Muse Dixon and businessman Clarence A. Hunt, both Democrats; Republican Silky Sullivan; and Libertarian Wayne A. Clement.
Two candidates in Tuesday's congressional elections are explaining their respective responses to a candidate survey in which both took positions to eliminate federal spending for projects that benefit Louisiana.
Responding to a survey by Project Vote Smart, U.S. Senate candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell said she would "eliminate" funding for the arts. "We have to make a decision about what our priorities are in Congress if we are going to continue to ask people to pay more taxes and choose between educating children and growing their businesses -- or funding arts that many people find offensive to their sensibilities," Terrell told Gambit Weekly.
Terrell, a lawyer and self-described art historian, continued: "When you have to make a tough decision that would be a decision that [the arts] would have to be looked at. If we continue to fund art there has to be some sort of criteria."
Louisiana received $1.2 million in federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in fiscal year 2001, which ended Oct. 1, according to an NEA spokesperson in Washington D.C. The federal grants are administered statewide by the Louisiana Department of Cultural Recreation and Tourism, currently overseen by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2003.
The arts were the only one of 15 spending categories that Terrell voted to expel from federal funds, according to the Vote Smart survey (www.vote-smart.org). Terrell said she would "greatly increase funding" for defense, education, medical research and terrorism prevention. Terrell is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, who failed to respond to the survey.
In his bid to upset fellow Democrat and incumbent New Orleans U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, businessman Clarence Hunt at first denied saying he would eliminate funding for NASA -- as reported by Vote Smart. Hunt then said that before he would vote to reduce funding for the space agency as a member of Congress, he would make sure that any spending cuts do not affect the NASA/Michoud facility in eastern New Orleans. The facility builds external fuel tanks for NASA space shuttle missions -- a project that accounts for most of the 2,500 local jobs at Martin-Marietta Aerospace, a private contractor whose principal client in New Orleans is NASA, says a spokesperson for Martin-Marietta/Manned Space Systems.
NASA was the only area listed on Hunt's budgetary chopping block, out of 15 federal spending categories. He would "greatly increase funding" for education, law enforcement, medical research, public health services and terrorism prevention.
A prominent national journalism magazine is praising Kathy Finn, the fired editor of New Orleans City Business, for refusing the business weekly's initiatives to carrying advertiser-sponsored news pages and declining to re-assign two reporters whose work had irked advertisers ("Finn's Firing," April 9, 2002). Widely read by the media industry for its "darts and laurels" column, Columbia Journalism Review (www.cjr.org) awarded a laurel to Finn in its September/October editions for her refusal to "lower the wall between editorial and advertising."
Finn, a free-lance business writer since her dismissal, still lives in New Orleans. All but two of the nine staffers have since left the paper. Former managing editor Peter Reichard and former reporter Stephen Stuart are both now research analysts for the Bureau of Governmental Research, a private nonpartisan think tank. Former reporter Chris Bonura last month started his new job as head writer for Mayor Ray Nagin. Former reporter Brett Clanton moved to Alabama and joined the staff of the Montgomery Advertiser, former reporter Ian McNulty is now writing internal communications for Hibernia National Bank, and ex-associate editor Kaija Wilkinson is now an editor with the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.
Back to Harvard Yard
With less than two weeks to go in his re-election campaign for Congress, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, apparently felt comfortable enough to return to Harvard Law School. Jefferson (Class of '72) delivered the alumni keynote address Oct. 25 at Harvard Law School Reunions Weekend.