Politics 02.06.2008

THE BOUSTANY/VITTER/GIULIANI POST-MORTEM ... One of Louisiana’s more bizarre political alliances is over before it had a chance to make it to the altar. In April 2007, The Independent Weekly chronicled the strange, early endorsements of Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany and U.S. Sen. David Vitter. “Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice, pro-gay rights and pro-gun control. Why are Louisiana conservatives Charles Boustany and David Vitter endorsing him for president, and will the state’s GOP base stand for it?” we asked.

The answer was pretty simple: Vitter and Boustany wanted to ride the former frontrunner’s coattails, and there were even rumblings that Vitter — before his prostitution scandal broke — was a possibility for a VP slot if Giuliani got the nomination. But now that Giuliani’s spectacular flameout is complete and he’s dropped out of the race, where do Boustany and Vitter turn now? Do they endorse current Republican frontrunner and favorite John McCain, whom Giuliani is now endorsing? (Boustany and Vitter did not return e-mail requests for comment.)

The Louisiana Republican legislators’ ill-fated Giuliani endorsement probably won’t matter much in the end for voters, but if the Republicans retain the White House, Vitter and Boustany won’t be at the front of the line for plum committee assignments and state dinners.

LANDRIEU, VITTER FACE OFF OVER U.S. ATTORNEY DUGAS ... It was all purple-and-gold warm fuzzies earlier this week when Louisiana Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu introduced a Senate resolution honoring the LSU Tigers’ championship run. Since that important government business is now taken care of, they’ve returned to squabbling over President Bush’s nomination of U.S. Attorney David Dugas to the federal bench. Last October, Vitter and Landrieu traded sharp barbs over Dugas, exchanging icy letters. Some highlights, er, lowlights from Round 1:

Vitter: “I strongly believe that every judicial nominee deserves a fair and timely hearing and up-or-down vote. I believe this would be a new low of delay, obstructionism and partisanship regarding judges.”

Landrieu: “An important line exists between fighting the true obstacles to our recovery and seeking false controversy in hopes of grabbing headlines. I urge you to consider more constructive steps in moving past your recent political challenges.”

And now, Round 2. Vitter’s latest correspondence: “To continue to block this qualified nominee is nothing more than partisanship and obstructionism.” Landrieu spokesman Adam Sharp responded by telling The Advocate that Landrieu remains concerned over Dugas’ lack of intervention in a lawsuit investigating claims of insurance companies’ fraud in hurricane recovery claims. “She has not been actually convinced that [Dugas] acted in the constituents’ best interest,” Sharp said.

With it being an election year, expect the Vitter/Landrieu pen-pal follies to increase.

LANDRIEU CROSSES AISLE ON WIRETAPPING IMMUNITY FOR TELECOMS ... In between sparring with Vitter, Landrieu was one of only three Democrats to cross party lines last week and vote in favor of granting telecom companies retroactive immunity for their participation in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. “President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program represented a lack of judgment on the part of the Federal Government,” Landrieu said in a statement to The Independent Weekly. “Immediately after September 11th, many telecom companies thought they had no choice but to comply with the government’s request. They should not be punished for cooperating in a fight for our national security. I will fight for amendments to the legislation that examine the legality of the President’s wiretapping program and that strengthen the role of the FISA court.”

It appears her vote is a nod to conservatives in anticipation of her upcoming 2008 re-election battle against Republican John Kennedy and other possible challengers. However, it’s worth noting that telecoms have been generous contributors to Landrieu’s campaigns through the years. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Landrieu received $33,250 from telephone utilities in the 2000 election cycle, including $10,500 from BellSouth. In the 2003-2008 Senate election cycle, Comcast and CenturyTel’s political action committees clock in as two of Landrieu’s Top 20 campaign contributors.

WHO DAT MAKIN’ DEM LAWS? ... Special interests are chomping at the bit to figure out a strategy for this year’s legislative sessions, but with so many new faces in the House and Senate, it’s difficult to figure out who is holding the cards. “There’s a lot of issues in the upcoming special sessions we’re interested in, but as far as the regular session, we’re waiting to see what’s being floated and who the players are,” says former U.S. Rep. Chris John of Crowley, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.

Maybe that’s why folks around the Capitol are eager to see this year’s versions of the legislative guides that various groups put out every year. The tiny booklets feature not only headshots, but background info on all lawmakers. “Yeah, I think everyone is waiting on those,” John says.

As for political maneuvers, the loudest chatter coming out of last week’s Washington, D.C. Mardi Gras concerned John taking on Vitter in 2010 in a sequel to their 2004 battle. “I would certainly welcome a rematch,” John says. “But everything right now is about [Sen.] Mary [Landrieu] until we get through this election year. Very few people are even thinking about David right now.”
Contributors: Scott Jordan and Jeremy Alford_