He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. — Proverbs 13:20
City-parish president candidate Joel Robideaux denies any knowledge of that awful, ugly, ham-handed push poll conducted last week in Lafayette Parish by an out-of-state firm, writing over the weekend in a status update to his official Facebook page that he’s proud of his “relentlessly positive campaign” and that he’s “deeply disappointed that negative advertising by outside groups may make it harder for the voters to hear our message.” But to the extent that the old riff on the 20th verse of the 13th chapter of Proverbs — you are the company you keep — is true, that push poll undercuts any claims to relentless positivity, if by association alone.
You might have heard of the poll; you might have even been unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of it. It’s been the talk in Lafayette political circles for several days now, prompting the wife of Robideaux’s opponent to produce a robo-call disputing the lies, half-truths and mis-characterizations contained in the “questions,” which are really just inflammatory statements about Dee Stanley followed by “Would that make you more or less likely to vote for him?”
Fortunately, The IND was able to obtain a recording of the poll (transcript and recording below), which paints Stanley as a dissembling, degenerate politician while building up Robideaux as the best thing since edible underwear. What it also does is characterize Lafayette as a crime-plagued hothouse of corruption and cronyism because, natch, Dee Stanley has been chief administrative officer for 12 years.
“It’s inflammatory, despicable and an attack on our community,” was all Stanley had to say when contacted about the push poll. He’s obviously flummoxed by the smears but says he understands it’s politics — at its worst. His wife, KLFY-TV10 anchor Blue Rolfes (on voluntary leave from the station until after the election), produced a robo-call piped into Lafayette homes over the weekend saying in part, “None of it is true — none of it — and they know it is untrue.”
But who is the “they” to whom Rolfes refers? That’s the $10,000 question. Robideaux claims no knowledge or role in the smear. Robideaux’s campaign manager, Joe Castille, who is widely known for his greasy, win-at-all-costs tactics, also claims to have had nothing to do with it.
Based on the questioner’s pronunciation of Lafayette, she’s quite clearly not a Louisiana resident. And let’s take Robideaux at his word — he and his campaign chief knew nothing of the push poll. But it’s still equally obvious that someone who supports Robideaux and who has the resources to commission an out-of-state firm to conduct the push poll is behind it; there’s just too much inside baseball on Lafayette and consolidated government to arrive at any other conclusion.
So here’s how the push poll works: A questioner — in our recording it sounds like a college student at her part-time job — calls and, after establishing that the respondent is eligible to take the poll (registered voter, not a member of the media, etc.) reads a series of statements followed by the refrain, “Would that make you more or less likely to vote for the candidate?” In the case of the push poll targeting Stanley, the questioner reads six statements about Stanley and six statements about Robideaux. The obvious intent of this push poll is the “push” the respondent toward both a negative opinion of Stanley and a positive opinion of Robideaux. For example, one of the statements claims LCG has paid out more than $4 million dollars to settle “various lawsuits” during Stanley’s tenure as CAO and that Stanley “personally approved” 50 of them. That might be true on the surface, but it’s contextually threadbare and butt-nakedly mendacious because what the push poll doesn’t acknowledge is that LCG’s legal department negotiates these settlements, that it’s usually cheaper to settle out of court than to litigate a civil suit claiming, say, that a substandard road caused a collision or a city bus rear-ended a motorist resulting in injury, and Stanley as CAO simply signs the settlement because that’s what CAOs do — they sign off on stuff.
Here’s a transcript of the push poll based on the recording we received from a source (the recording doesn’t begin until after a couple of questions about the respondent’s eligibility to take the poll):
â— Dee Stanley has been singled out in ethics reports for taking money from lobbyists and parish contractors and then spending tens of thousands of this money on luxury trips, vacations, to football games, Mardi Gras floats and even men’s formal wear. Would that be much more or less likely or just a little more or less likely?
â— Dee Stanley [unintelligible] as chief administrative officer of the Lah-fah-yette Consolidated Government has paid over $4 million funded by taxpayers to settle various lawsuits, 50 of which were personally approved by Stanley. In one circumstance, Stanley raided a health care fund set up by the taxpayers to help those in need to also pay for a legal settlement to pay for the mistakes he made as CAO.
â— Dee Stanley’s campaign is being run by the same group that helps the trial lawyers in their legacy lawsuits against independent oil companies. These lawsuits are good at killing good-paying jobs throughout the state and are devastating our state’s oil and gas industry.
â— In clear conflict of interest, Dee Stanley’s campaign is being funded by over $100,000 in money given by contractors, architects and engineers, service companies and other special interests that got special tax breaks given by the Lah-fah-yette Consolidated Government that he oversees as chief administrative officer.
â— As the chief administrative officer in our parish, Dee Stanley has had oversight over our police and our skyrocketing crime rates. Recent increases in murder, burglaries and crimes have citizens scared and even forced neighborhoods to hire private security because the parish is not doing its job. Dee Stanley has not given any solutions how to stop this increase in crime.
â— As the candidate running to replace his boss, Joey Durel, Dee Stanley has yet to release any plan or any details about his ideas for the future of our parish. Instead, he is campaigning on the continuation of the same policies that have brought us bad traffic and roads, higher crime, higher taxes and many communities are feeling ignored.
Here are the statements about Robideaux in that same push poll:
â— Joel Robideaux led the fight to protect ULL and Southeast [sic] Louisiana Community College from crippling budget cuts of up to 82 percent, saved millions of dollars in funding, protecting tens of thousands of jobs that were at risk. Robideaux did this by closing tax loopholes on businesses to protect these jobs, and to protect our local economy, which is already struggling due to low oil prices.
â— As state representative, Joel Robideaux led efforts that created lots of jobs-killing taxes on businesses. [We believe the questioner read this wrong and it should have been “fought efforts” instead of “led efforts.”]
â— Joel Robideaux’s background as a certified public accountant will be essential to helping to balance the Lafayette government’s budget and to fully fund essential programs.
â— Joel Robideaux is very concerned about the recent increase in murder, burglaries and crime. As parish president he will put more resources into our police efforts to ensure that your tax dollars are used to keep you and your family safe.
â— Joel Robideaux is focused on uniting the region. While many smaller communities have felt ignored in the past, Joel will work to serve all the communities in the parish both large and small.
â— Now knowing what you do, if this month’s election for parish president were being held today and the candidates were Dee Stanley, Republican, and Joel Robideaux, Republican, for whom would you vote?
The push poll is concluded following a series of demographic questions — age, income, political party affiliation, ideology, race, etc.
Here’s one other thing to know about the push poll: It was conducted after the cut-off point for campaign finance filings leading into the Oct. 24 election (and on the eve of early voting), meaning even if Robideaux’s campaign or a PAC commissioned the poll, we can’t find out until after the election.
Recall that in late September Robideaux's own brother, Lafayette attorney Jason Robideaux, took issue with the tone of his brother's campaign in a comment posted to theind.com (a comment he later backed in a phone interview with this reporter). Jason Robideaux characterized a statement his brother's campaign released concerning a possible pay raise if elected city-parish president as an "unfounded smear attack ... devoid of logic and common sense..." (Read that story here.)
The actual push poll recording (respondent’s voice has been deleted):
The robo-call produced by Blue Rolfes: