by R. Reese Fuller


Republican presidential contender Ron Paul is questioning the results of Louisiana’s recently held GOP caucus. Paul came in third place in the caucus, behind John McCain and an uncommitted “pro-life, pro-family” slate of delegates. Last Friday, Paul’s campaign filed a letter with the state Republican party to contest the credentials of delegates elected to the state convention.

In an unorthodox process, Louisiana’s state GOP caucus elects delegates to the state convention, who then in turn vote on national convention delegates. A Feb. 9 primary also can award national delegates, but only if one candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote. Beyond the general confusion, the Paul campaign is alleging several irregularities that may have diminished their showing in the caucus.

Specifically, Paul’s campaign has cited the fact that the Louisiana Republican Party made an 11th hour move to extend the deadline to file delegates, in order to accommodate his opponents. Paul claims a majority of delegates were pledged to him at the time of the original deadline. In addition, Paul’s campaign says that many voters who turned out at the caucus were forced to cast provisional ballots and that caucus locations relied on a voter list from Nov. 1, 2007 or perhaps earlier, despite the fact that caucus rules state voters need only have registered Republican before Nov. 30, 2007.

A Texas Congressman who has raised millions through online donations and amassed an impressive grassroots organization in Louisiana, Paul is viewed by many in the Republican establishment as somewhat of a fringe candidate, due to his staunch opposition to the Iraq war and Libertarian-leaning ideology. Of the remaining field of Republican presidential contenders, Paul is running fourth — behind Mitt Romney, John McCain and Mike Huckabee, but ahead of Rudy Giuliani — in the current tally of pledged national delegates from early state primaries.

Paul expected a stronger showing in Louisiana. In a story that’s attracting some national attention, Paul campaign manager Lew Moore has stated, “The initial failure of the Louisiana GOP to properly determine who was and wasn’t eligible to vote threw this entire process into disarray. However, voter eligibility was just one of many irregularities with the caucus process. We are filing this contest to ensure that we can challenge the results if it appears that delegates were improperly selected.” ... BUSH LEVEE PLAN CO-OPS STATE’S SURPLUS In a White House budget proposed for 2009, the Bush administration is asking Louisiana to use its $1 billion-plus surplus to match an estimated $7.5 billion in Army Corps of Engineers levee work. The surplus has been a hot topic in the Louisiana Legislature; Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to call a special session on how to spend the funds. Both of Louisiana’s senators oppose federal requirements for the state to pony up. Democrat Mary Landrieu characterized the Bush administration proposal as “too onerous for Louisiana, which is still reeling from hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” while Republican David Vitter told the Associated Press, “There is absolutely no way we can meet current constructing deadlines doing this.” Added to the Corps’ recent admission that its plan for hurricane protection is months behind schedule, this flack over funding could further delay work to upgrade levees, leaving New Orleans vulnerable once again for the 2008 hurricane season. Donald Powell, head of the federal Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding, defended the White House budget. According to the AP, Powell said Bush’s plan “prioritizes hurricane protection for this area, consistent with the president’s commitment, while maintaining fiscal responsibility and local partnership on the management of these projects.” ... JINDAL MULLING NATURAL RESOURCES RECOMMENDATIONS Infrastructure improvements, advancements in alternative energy and further streamlining of the oil-and-gas permitting process are among the recommendations included in a review of the Department of Natural Resources. The report was presented to Gov. Bobby Jindal last week by his Economic Growth Advisory Council, which was formed last year to provide an overview of several broad-based areas, including natural resources.

Ray Lasseigne, president of TMR Exploration in Bossier City, served as chairman of the advisory group and reported back to Jindal that the recommendations were structured to promote Louisiana as the “Energy State.”

The group is working on a secondary report that addresses specific policy priorities. “With the tremendous impact that oil and gas exploration, production, and processing has had on Louisiana’s history and its continuing impact on its revenue stream and on employment, it is difficult to understand why Louisiana has never had an energy policy,” Lasseigne says.

The findings are presented in defensive and offensive terms. On one front, Jindal is advised to protect the industry against legacy suits and any push to implement a processing tax on oil and gas. The group also wants Jindal to come up with a new way to address damaged oyster leases.

The report also says Louisiana must support oil and gas by continuing to improve the permitting process for drilling in coastal and wetlands areas. The Louisiana Geological Survey is another key element in the report. The advisory council wants the governor to adequately fund the program so that it can provide research and feasibility studies on under-developed geological trends, new technology and — particularly — alternative energy.

The entire report can be found at www.louisianatransition.com .

Contributors: Nathan Stubbs, Mary Tutwiler and Jeremy Alford