Separate Campaign Pots
Third District Assessor Errol Williams, speaking by phone from Phoenix, Ariz., where he is attending a certification course sponsored by the International Association of Assessing Officers, says the assessors' campaign for issues on the Nov. 7 ballot will conform with all state campaign finance laws. Assessors opposing Amendment 7 or any other issues on the ballot next Tuesday (Nov. 7) are required to use campaign funds to pay for ads indicating their positions "for" or "against" ballot propositions. Meanwhile, "informational" campaigns (in which the assessors' positions are not explicitly stated) will be funded by operating funds of individual assessors. For example, Williams says he has spent $17,500 in campaign funds urging voters to cast ballots against Amendment 7. "I can't tell you how much the others are spending; I can't speak for them," Williams says. Williams says he has also spent $27,000 out of $30,000 in "office" funds he has budgeted for an "informational" campaign that does not explicitly state his position on Amendment 7. Williams says support for the assessor consolidation proposal is being driven by "business interests and the Uptown community -- people who have not been adversely affected by the storm." He added that if supporters of the amendment "piss me off enough, I might spend another $20,000 in your newspaper" for ads opposing Amendment 7. He identified the two committees running assessor-funded campaign ads as "New New Orleans" and "Friends of the Assessors." -- Johnson
OCS Money Could Raise State Debt
There may be a move afoot to put Louisiana deeper into debt -- but the flip side is that it would be for a good cause, according to supporters of the idea. Congress is close to approving an increase in the amount of money the state receives from offshore oil and gas royalties. If that happens, voters already approved a constitutional amendment that dedicates the funds to coastal restoration. If history is any indication, the state will likely borrow against future revenue streams -- which could run into the billions -- to create a big impact early on. "We are exploring all options, including that one," says Sydney Coffee, the governor's adviser on coastal activity. But such a move would require the Legislature to change the state law that limits the issuance of tax-supported debt, a threshold established annually by the Louisiana Bond Commission. Whether borrowing against the anticipated oil and gas revenues would result in more bonded debt (which is constitutionally capped) or tax debt (the caps of which can be changed by statute, without a vote of the people) is a question the state Department of Natural Resources may soon pose to the Attorney General's Office by requesting an official opinion on the subject. -- Alford
Sex Sells in 5th District
"What is Rodney Alexander running -- a congressional office or a den of deceit and debauchery?" That's the question being posed by Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. Congressman Alexander, a Quitman Democrat, has admittedly had a rough time in this area. Most recently, and notably, Alexander was thrown into the middle of the Mark Foley young page Internet scandal because his office sponsored the victimized page. Then last summer, Alexander's assistant was discovered writing love letters to death row inmate Scott Peterson while on the congressman's payroll -- a story partly broken by the National Enquirer. But the icing on the cake for Demos, who want the northeast Louisiana seat, came when a former aide filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against chief of staff Royal Alexander (no relation). "Rodney Alexander clearly has no control over his office or the people he hires to help the constituents of his district. It's time to clean house and vote him out of office," Whittington says. "Our choice is Gloria Hearn, a forthright, intelligent and caring candidate who truly represents the morals and values of the people of the 5th District." As the campaign enters its final week, expect more of the same. -- Alford
Red Hot Donkey Love?
Attorney General Charles Foti has been lobbying Hollywood for years to put anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs and video games, but with very little success. Until now. The Weinstein Company -- the team that started Miramax -- has agreed to insert anti-smoking PSAs on many of its forthcoming DVDs. In what might be a tongue-in-cheek move, the company has decided to kick off the promotion with the December release of Clerks II, the Kevin Smith movie that famously depicted relations between a stripper and a donkey. The film has other curiosities, but the bestiality scene garnered the most press and even prompted Good Morning America film critic Joel Siegel to storm out during a screening. "I cannot thank Bob and Harvey Weinstein enough," Foti says in a press release. "We have been trying for years to get Hollywood studios to work with us on what we believe is an important and meaningful protection for our children, and the Weinsteins have taken that all-important first step." No word yet on whether Foti has actually seen the film, but a win is a win, both in Hollywood and in Louisiana politics. -- Alford
Homeowners Tax Credit
State Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. , a Democrat from Grosse Tete, says he will push either a tax credit or tax deduction to assist homeowners saddled with increased insurance premiums. Gov. Kathleen Blanco wants to use the state's anticipated surplus to offset the increases, but Marionneaux says his proposal will be broader, reaching homeowners in all regions, not just certain municipalities. As proposed, the legislation would provide a credit for the amount a person pays for homeowners coverage and a credit for the assessment levied recently to prop up the state-created Citizens Property Insurance Company. "It makes no sense for us to use a large portion of the projected surplus on an isolated region of the state," Marionneaux says. "All Louisiana homeowners should receive some benefit from this large projected surplus, not just the people who are stuck with Citizens Insurance," which is the state's insurer of last resort. The idea of using a tax credit first appeared in a blog by noted legislative critic C.B. Forgotston, who expressed surprise that a lege actually ran with one of his proposals, sort of. Forgotston also proposed a rebate for citizens who do not owe personal state income taxes. -- Alford
To Free or Not to Free?
Although there are no immediate plans by the federal government to release former Gov. Edwin Edwards from prison, the two front-running candidates in the Third Congressional District have their own opinions on how the infamous Democrat should be treated. Edwards, who served an unprecedented 16 years in office between 1972 and 1996, was convicted of extorting payoffs from businessmen seeking riverboat casino licenses in 2001. At the age of 73, Edwards was taken down on multiple counts of racketeering, fraud and conspiracy and sentenced to 10 years in jail. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he will be released in 2011. Today, EWE is serving his time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale. Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Napoleonville Democrat, says he received his first real taste of Louisiana politics -- and met his wife, the former Peachy Clark -- while working in Edwards' 1971 gubernatorial campaign. As for Edwards' prison sentence, Melancon says some leniency should be considered. While he doesn't condone the illegal actions of the former governor, Melancon says a decadelong forced penance may have been too harsh. "He's not harmful to the public whatsoever," Melancon says. "The federal government has accomplished what they wanted with Edwin. They've broken his spirit. They've broken him." Melancon says he has not been to visit his former boss while he has been in Oakdale. State Sen. Craig Romero, a Republican from New Iberia who is challenging Melancon and who served in the upper chamber during Edwards' last term, says he barely knew the fabled politician and doesn't approve of his style. He says the full sentence should be served, no matter how repentant or broken Edwards might be. "He should have to serve whatever came from the courts," Romero says. -- Alford
Two public offices that property owners have used frequently since Hurricane Katrina will be closed later this week. Both the recorder of mortgages and register of conveyances offices in Orleans Parish will be closed Wednesday (Nov. 1) for the All Saints Day holiday as well as Thursday and Friday (Nov. 2-3). During that time they will relocate from the 18th floor to the fourth floor of 1340 Poydras St., formerly known as the Amoco Building, across the street from the rear entrance of City Hall. "These two offices have been very important post-Katrina," according to Walt Pierce, public information director of Orleans Parish Civil District Court. "The general public has been using both offices extensively for canceling mortgages and for dealing with other matters related to property." Both offices will reopen next Monday (Nov. 6) and resume normal hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Johnson
What's a Guv to Do?
Joe A. Impastato of Lacombe, the first public official indicted by the feds on Katrina-related corruption charges, recently resigned his seat on the St. Tammany Parish Council but maintains his innocence. Federal prosecutors allege Impastato used his office to get $85,000 in kickbacks for a debris removal contract. Impastato's departure from public service may leave other officials in an ethical dilemma: What to do when he or she has received campaign contributions from a fellow politician who later comes under a cloud? For example, Impastato filed an amended campaign finance report June 29, shortly after his indictment, stating that he made a $1,000 donation to Gov. Kathleen Blanco's campaign on Jan. 19, 2005. Blanco was in New York last week, but responded to Impastato's reported contribution through a spokesperson. "[The Governor] is going to donate the $1,000 to the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps," a nonprofit organization started after Hurricane Katrina, said Blanco deputy press secretary Marie Centanni. -- Johnson