Cover Story

RE: The Benefit of Boorishness

by Walter Pierce

Wednesday Decemeber 7, 2011**
The Benefit of Boorishness**
By: Walter Pierce
Rep. Jeff Landry has been making an ass of himself, and it's paying off.

The Benefit of Boorishness
By: Walter Pierce
Rep. Jeff Landry has been making an ass of himself, and it's paying off.

It wasn't exactly a broadside, but it was close. Still, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry's colleague in the House, Charles Boustany, better take notice because it was aimed at him.

It was a de facto announcement that he plans to challenge Boustany next fall when Landry's office fired off a copy of a story in Politico reporting that Citizens United, it of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court ruling, had thrown its support behind Landry by dropping $5,000 in his campaign kitty "to boost his potential bid against four-term Rep. Charles Boustany."

Citizens United President David Bossie was effusive in his encouragement for the first-term beau of the Tea Party: "It is imperative that Congressman Jeff Landry remain in Congress to fight for the conservative cause. [We urge] Congressman Landry to take this primary challenge head on and campaign on his reform-minded conservative credentials."

Barring the highly unlikely success of state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's bid to restore the House seat lost to federal redistricting this year - Louisiana went from seven to six seats due to population stagnation between the 2000 and 2010 censuses - Boustany and Landry will have to square off for the new 3rd Congressional District next year.

The low-key Boustany hasn't expressly said he will seek a fifth term next year, but a spokesman suggested as much when he told the Associated Press that Boustany "looks forward to continuing to serve the families of South Louisiana..."

I'm calling Landry's announcement de facto because his office included a caveat in last week's newsletter: "(Please note: Congressman Landry has not made an official announcement regarding his future plans.)" There's been some speculation that Landry might turn his sights to unseating Sen. Mary Landrieu. But the better bet at this point is that Landry will go after Boustany. Why else would he trumpet Citizens United's backing?

The new 3rd District will be Boustany's to lose. It's basically his current 7th expanded a little eastward to fold in the western edge of Landry's current district. The new 3rd will include Landry's hometown, New Iberia, and the freshman congressman didn't do any flesh-pressing west of New Iberia when he was campaigning last year.

But Landry has the beneficence of would-be kingmaker Sen. David Vitter who, despite some setbacks in statewide races this fall - Vitter's shining countenance failed to get Billy Nungesser and Jim Tucker to the promised land - has been inserting himself into state politics with increasing frequency, possibly, as one thread of political innuendo goes, as a precursor to running for governor after Bobby Jindal moves on to whatever Bobby Jindal moves on to.

Landry appeared at events over the summer with Vitter in Lafayette and Lake Charles, Boustany's turf, and he's made a concerted effort at being the boorish bad boy in Congress this year.

He was the only member of Louisiana's Republican delegation in the House to decline an invitation to meet with President Obama late last spring - a meeting that roughly 200 House Republicans attended.

In early September he characterized employees of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement as "the Gestapo" because he had to wait and ultimately didn't get to meet with BOEMRE's director - who is Jewish - after showing up at the BOEMRE office in New Orleans unannounced.

And less than a week later he staged that ham-fisted stunt during the president's jobs speech before a joint session of Congress, holding (rather sheepishly) a sign with the simpleton's slogan, "DRILLING = JOBS."

Some prominent Republicans joined a bi-partisan chorus on Capitol Hill and in the media critical of the Cajun congressman's intemperate behavior. Yet Landry's missed manners haven't hurt him in the fundraising arena. Truth be told, they appear to have helped.

As the Politico article embedded in his newsletter points out, Landry outpaced Boustany in fundraising during the third quarter by more than $30,000 - $251,000 raised to Boustany's $218K.

But what's really telling - read it as an indictment of the Tea Party's knuckle-dragging level of discourse - is how Landry's campaign has benefitted since the sign stunt on Sept. 8.

Between Sept. 9 and the end of October, the Landry campaign, according to records collected by the Federal Elections Commission, raised $120,000, more than double Boustany's $52,950 haul during the same period.

Boustany still has an overall cash advantage with $1.1 million in the bank compared to $401,000 for Landry. The former ran unopposed last year, saving him the expense of campaigning. But at Landry's current fundraising clip, that cash-on-hand gap will likely narrow in the coming months. And if the mild-mannered Boustany is naive enough to think Landry won't savage him the way he did Hunt Downer in the Republican primary last year, he could be toast.

Plus, with the deep-pocketed Citizens United backing him, the trajectory of Landry's oily-black star may be more ascendent than ever.