Politics 07.23.2008

Boustany's fundraising advantage over Cravins, veto session dies and more

BOUSTANY POSTS BIG FUNDRAISING ADVANTAGE OVER CRAVINS Having entered the 7th District Congressional race relatively late, state Sen. Don Cravins Jr. has a lot of catching up to do in the fundraising department. Both Cravins and incumbent Congressman Charles Boustany posted their July quarterly campaign finance reports last week, and Boustany has a significant financial edge. Boustany reported raising $320,812.27 in the period from April 1 to June 30, with a total cash on hand war chest of $669,519.39. Cravins, who only began raising money in the latter part of June, reported raising $107,072.77, with $104,840.35 cash on hand.

Of Cravins’ early haul, $59,250 came from political committees, largely through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Cravins received $21,000 directly from the DCCC, as well as more than $20,000 in DCCC directed funds from PACs and from committees for national party leaders including Charlie Rangel and Nancy Pelosi. Boustany’s take included $132,623.32 from PACs, including several national committees representing the medical, timber and petrochemical industries.

VETO SESSION DEAD Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal owes one to the Senate. As of last weekend, 36 out of the state’s 38 senators mailed in ballots voting to cancel the scheduled veto override session. For Jindal, that’s all it takes to avoid yet another conflict, since only one body of the Legislature needs to disagree to call off the show.

The Senate acted so quickly, however, that it’s difficult to gauge how votes in the House were shaping up. According to staffers in the offices of the House clerk and speaker, barely any ballots from the Lower Chamber had been mailed back as of this past weekend. As House Speaker Jim Tucker points out, it’s now a moot point.

“But I imagine by the time it’s all said and done, we will receive a majority of ballots” against the override session, says Tucker, a Republican from Algiers. “A lot of (House) members were on vacation this past week, and many are just now getting back to work.”

Tucker says that Senate President Joel Chaisson II, a Democrat from Destrehan, also had an easier task of contacting his membership — compared to the House’s 105 members — and urging them to act quickly.

MELANCON AND BOUSTANY STICK IT TO PRESIDENT BUSH As Jindal staved off a veto override session, President Bush was reeling from Congress’ decision to reverse one of his vetoes last week. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 became law when both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override Bush’s veto.

As a result, Medicare patients in need of mental health services will pay lower insurance payments and enjoy what should be improved access to certain prescription medicines. The act also protects senior citizens in rural areas by allowing them to continue seeing the same physician. It also prevents the pending 10 percent payment reduction for physicians in Medicare — meaning docs will not be losing any money.

The House voted 383-41 to stand against Bush. Aside from the minimal press coverage the vote received last week, among the biggest stunners locally was the shared aye votes of Acadiana’s two congressmen. Both Charlie Melancon, a Democrat from Napoleonville, and Charles Boustany, a Republican from Lafayette, stood against President Bush.

Melancon, for his part, was toeing the party line. Boustany, meanwhile, no doubt pulled from his experience as a physician to make his own decision. Reps. Rodney Alexander, a Quitman Republican; Bill Jefferson, a New Orleans Democrat; and Don Cazayoux, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, also voted in favor of the override. The lone nay votes belonged to freshman Rep. Steve Scalise of Metairie and retiring Rep. Jim McCrery. Both are Republicans.

NEUNER AND HANEY NAMED TO DRUG POLICY BOARD Gov. Bobby Jindal has made a dozen appointments to the Drug Policy Board, which implements drug control policies to combat illegal drug and alcohol abuse, and two locals made the cut. Lafayette attorney Frank Neuner is the chair of the Public Defender Board and will represent the indigent defender system; 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney will serve as a representative of the District Attorneys Association. The appointments are subject to a Senate confirmation.
Contributors: Nathan Stubbs, R. Reese Fuller and Jeremy Alford_