Politics 10.15.2008

Cravins ad highlights Boustany's checks, Boustany outspends Cravins on TV ads and more CRAVINS AD HIGHLIGHTS BOUSTANY’S DISABILITY CHECKS

Don Cravins Jr. has opened up a new front in the 7th District Congressional race, highlighting the more than $800,000 incumbent Charles Boustany has collected in medical disability payments over the past four years. A retired heart surgeon, Boustany ended his medical career prior to being elected to Congress in 2004 after developing arthritis in his hands and neck. He collects monthly payments from a surgeon’s disability insurance policy he paid into for years.

Cravins’ latest campaign ad is titled “Ably Disabled” and opens by highlighting the fact Boustany collects some $20,000 a month in disability checks while earning $150,000 a year as a congressman. The ad then goes on to note that Boustany was “enabled enough” to bring in $350,000 in campaign contributions from big oil and drug companies and to vote for $7,500 in congressional pay raises while voting against the minimum wage increase. Congress members receive annual pay adjustments based on a formula for cost-of-living increases. The increases are automatic, unless voted down by Congress. Following the 2008 adjustment, members annual salary will be $169,300. Boustany’s congressional office did not reply to a request this morning to respond to the ad.

Each point made in Cravins’ ad is driven home with the refrain “That’s bad. Boustany’s got to geaux,” delivered by some of Cravins’ supporters. Cravins insists the point of the ad is not to insinuate any abuse of the disability insurance system. “We’re not doubting his disability,” Cravins says. “I’m not qualified to make that determination. Our intent was to show this guy’s making a whole lot of money and yet he’s got the audacity to vote against working people.”

This month, Congressman Charles Boustany has launched his re-election campaign ads in heavy rotation. The ads, which began airing the first of the month, advocate energy reform and expanded offshore drilling, as well as Boustany’s efforts on behalf of hurricane victims and farmers.

Records show Boustany is currently outspending his opponent, Don Cravins Jr., more than 2 to 1 on TV spots. According to TV station ad buys, Cravins’ campaign ads were down for the first week of the month. He has since come back with a $14,095 ad buy to run his “Ably Disabled” commercial, critical of Boustany, from Oct. 8-13 on KATC. Cravins’ campaign is also up again with a $9,000 ad buy on KPLC in Lake Charles. Boustany’s campaign spent $30,340 on ads running on KATC through the first two weeks of October and $37,000 for the same period on KPLC. KLFY reports that to date Boustany spent a total of $101,945 on ads while the Cravins’ campaign ad buys total $31,515. Cravins’ campaign downplays the significanct of this, noting its ads began running almost a month before Boustany’s.

Lost in the controversial legislation tossing a $700 billion life preserver to Wall Street was a significantly smaller provision that could help flood and hurricane victims stay afloat during their own recovery. The new federal law allows Louisiana families who suffered property damage from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, as well victims from the recent flooding in the Midwest, to claim thousands of dollars more in deductions on their taxes. The break, included by the Senate, changes the way the casualty-loss tax formula is applied to the current year.

It’s a silver lining to an otherwise tough vote for Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Napoleonville Democrat who represents portions of Acadiana. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll, 44 percent of Americans opposed the bailout. Back home in Louisiana, editorial writers chastised the proposal as corporate welfare, and constituents sounded off on talk radio about what was in it for them. Lawmakers on the Hill referred to it as a “legacy vote” and many facing re-election – Melancon is unopposed this year – took care to oppose the measure. Louisiana’s own congressional delegation was also split on the vote.

Faced with the reality that the nation’s financial markets were broken and possibly dragging the country into a recession, Melancon, who bills himself as a fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Democrat, says he had no choice but to support the package. “This rescue called for a hefty investment from all of us, but it only earned my vote when significant steps were taken to guarantee taxpayers weren’t stuck with the bill,” Melancon says.

Moreover, Melancon says he was swayed by the support included for hurricane victims, especially in light of the out-of-pocket costs some of his constituents were facing. In particular, coastal residents have been shocked to find a special hurricane deductible on their policies that is a percentage of a home’s insured value, rather than the traditional deductible of $500 or $1,000. “After Katrina and Rita, many families in south Louisiana saw their named-storm insurance deductibles climb dramatically,” Melancon says. “If you lost a roof during Gustav, chances are you’re faced with a very big repair cost and very little help from your insurance company. This tax change will help a lot of folks in this situation recoup a few thousand dollars at tax time.”

Previously, taxpayers would only be able to claim a deduction on property damage (incurred in a federally declared disaster area) that exceeded 10 percent of their adjusted gross income — minus $100. Under the National Disaster Relief section of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, they will now be able to claim all the damage that exceeds $500, with no consideration of adjusted gross income.