Politics 04.16.2008

Blossman in hot water, Pinac not running against Boustany and more

BLOSSMAN IN HOT WATER OVER PITCH FOR ACADIAN SALESMAN Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman can now officially be counted in the politicians-without-a-clue category. Blossman thinks it’s perfectly OK for him to use a PSC-generated list of more than 200 transportation companies — businesses he’s responsible for regulating — and then write a letter on agency stationery to those companies asking them to accept a sales meeting with his friend who sells a mobile technology product. Some of the companies were not too happy about Blossman’s bone-headed and heavy-handed move, and promptly alerted Baton Rouge’s Metropolitan Crime Commission. Now it’s up to the state inspector general to determine whether Blossman’s correspondence qualifies as an abuse of public office.

The friend that Blossman was pitching for is Nicholas Larussa, a new sales employee of Acadian Ambulance’s Acadian Monitoring Services division. Larussa’s sister apparently babysits Blossman’s children. The Times-Picayune wrote, “Blossman said he was impressed with the technology when Larussa showed it to him and offered to write a letter to let people know about the product. ... He thought his letter did not encourage the motor carriers to do business with Louisiana, but only encouraged them to accept an appointment if Larussa called. He said that if the law prohibits that type of letter, ‘the law needs to be changed.’”

In regards to Larussa, Acadian Ambulance Vice President Tyron Picard told the Picayune: “In retrospect, the fact that we had a junior salesperson who was probably not very experienced, coupled with the fact with not having a complete understanding of dealing with the governmental arena, I’m willing to chalk that up to youthful inexperience and aggressiveness on his part that he has probably learned a good lesson on.”

PINAC NOT RUNNING AGAINST BOUSTANY Local Democratic Party officials had been looking to former state Rep. Gil Pinac as their go-to candidate in challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Charles Boustany this fall. Pinac, who lost a bid last year for state Senate, is a Crowley Democrat in the mold of former 7th District Congressmen Chris John and John Breaux. However, at a caucus meeting last Saturday of party officials from across the 7th District, Pinac broke the news that he would not be entering the race. “He told us he made a decision that this wasn’t the right time for him to run,” says John Bernhardt, chairman of the Lafayette Parish Democratic Party Executive Committee. Bernhardt is still holding out hope that a Democrat will emerge to run against Boustany, but says “as of this moment there’s no candidate.” Pinac could not be reached for comment.

SEN. “WIDE STANCE” CRAIG TO “SERIOUS SIN” VITTER’S DEFENSE U.S. Sen. Larry “wide stance” Craig is defending fellow embattled Sen. David Vitter, saying Vitter should not resign over his “serious sin” involving an alleged D.C. prostitution ring. Idaho’s Craig was among several GOP senators who said Vitter’s possible testimony in the “D.C. Madam” prostitution case should not have compelled his resignation, The Hill reported April 8. (It turns out that Vitter didn’t need Craig’s support, as the case was set to conclude Monday without Vitter being called to the witness stand.)

“First and foremost, in these kinds of issues, it’s the state and the relationship you have with your state that really determines where you ought to go,” Craig told the D.C.-based publication. “That was certainly my case. The Senate itself wasn’t going to judge me. I would allow the citizens of my state to do so. And there is still strong support there.”

Craig was arrested last year and pleaded guilty to soliciting sex from an undercover male officer in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. He then tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea, blaming his “wide stance.” After initially saying he would resign, Craig decided to stay in office, citing support from Idahoans. Last month he announced that he would not seek re-election and claims that decision was made before his “playing footsies” controversy.

LOUISIANA EARMARKS UP FOR DEBATE During budget debates in recent years, average citizens, editorial writers and good government groups have all winced at the sight of funding for hot air balloon races and high school alumni groups. Why? Because it’s your money that’s supporting these questionable activities and groups.

These earmarks are traditionally included in the state budget without information as to how the taxpayer money will be spent or who benefits. That’s why some folks call it pork, or even political payout. Additionally, many of the earmarks support nonprofit organizations — some of which receive virtually all of their revenue from state government grants sponsored by individual legislators.

“The question isn’t whether or not these organizations do some good in our state, it’s how efficient is the job they are doing,” says state Treasurer John Kennedy. “If the state is going to continue to give money to these nonprofit organizations, at the very least taxpayers statewide deserve full disclosure about these projects.”

As a possible solution, Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, a Jennings Republican, has filed Senate Bill 106 to force lawmakers to reveal every last detail about their earmarks. Each funding request would have to include budget information, project goals, objectives and even information about connections with elected officials.

Kennedy is among the bill’s supporters and plans to testify when the Senate Finance Committee takes up the measure.

Contributors: Scott Jordan, Nathan Stubbs, Jeremy Alford and Leslie Turk