Politics 03.05.2008

Patrick LeBlanc returns, Boustany to inherit McCrery's leadership PAC and more

HEEE’S BACK ... If you thought Patrick LeBlanc was going to quietly go back to running his private prison empire after fellow Republican Page Cortez beat him in last autumn’s District 43 state representative race, think again. Early last month, LeBlanc mailed out a five-page survey to “concerned citizens” in Lafayette Parish. The voluntary survey asks respondents their opinions on a variety of national and local political issues, including potential future challengers for City-Parish President Joey Durel, District Attorney Mike Harson, Sheriff Mike Neustrom, Clerk of Court Louis Perret and state Sen. Mike Michot. It’s clear that even if LeBlanc decides not to make another run for public office, he intends to work behind the scenes to potentially influence future elections.

The kicker? LeBlanc’s note that the survey results will be published in Acadiana Gazette. LeBlanc and Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee member Ron Gomez — one of LeBlanc’s biggest supporters in the District 43 battle against Cortez — are now respectively the CEO and publisher of the small community newspaper distributed in Youngsville, Broussard and Lafayette. It’s no secret that LeBlanc and Gomez aren’t fans of Michot and independent state Rep. Joel Robideaux, whose political action committee Leadership for Louisiana hit LeBlanc hard for his company’s involvement in the Texas prison scandal that recently landed former Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez’s campaign manager a 10-year prison sentence. Patrick LeBlanc has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing related to the case but is currently still under investigation by the FBI.

The big question regarding LeBlanc and Gomez’s new involvement with Acadiana Gazette is whether the paper’s political coverage — if there is any — will become a bully pulpit for its top brass.

BOUSTANY TO INHERIT MCCRERY’S LEADERSHIP PAC ... Second-term U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany’s stock is on the rise with the pending departure of the state’s two more senior Republican Congressmen. Both Richard Baker of Baton Rouge and Jim McCrery of Shreveport are stepping down from their Congressional seats this year to move into private sector jobs. The Shreveport Times reports that McCrery plans to bestow his leadership Political Action Committee, called the Committee for the Preservation of Capitalism, to Boustany. Leadership PACs are set up by senior congressmen to both raise money and then filter funds to other congressional colleagues and organizations, helping the congressman to boost his stature in party ranks. “I’m going to make [Boustany] as senior as he can be,” McCrery told the Shreveport newspaper. “It will give him a head start at leadership.”

According to reports from the Federal Elections Commission, The Committee for the Preservation of Capitalism raised about $624,000 and spent about $616,000 in 2007. It currently has approximately $368,000 funds on hand. Its contributions have come from a wide variety of industry lobbying groups, with some of the heaviest donations coming in from drug manufacturers as well as physician and other medical industry groups.

JINDAL, LANDRIEU PUSH FOR NEW ORLEANS PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE ... Gov. Bobby Jindal and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu have asked the top four presidential contenders to debate in New Orleans this summer. A joint letter sent to Sen. John McCain, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama asks the candidates to attend “a Town Hall meeting” in June and assures them that “New Orleans is open and ready for business.” The letter reads in part:

“We believe that it is incumbent upon national figures and those who seek the office of the presidency in particular to shine the national spotlight on the people and places in our country which deserve to be highlighted. The people of the Gulf Coast continue to recover and rebuild from the devastating storms of 2005 and those efforts are an incredible window into the many challenges facing not just New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast, but our entire country.”

In November, the commission on presidential debates passed over New Orleans as a site for debates, claiming that the city didn’t measure up. The Times-Picayune called the decision “a shameful rebuff” and The New York Times wrote that “a disservice has been done to the electorate and the nation.” The letter also adds: “As you know, the presidential Debate Commission did not select New Orleans as one of their official sites. This was a terrible misjudgment and their reasoning that the city was somehow not ready to host a large scale event was flat wrong.”

Contributors: Scott Jordan, Nathan Stubbs and R. Reese Fuller