News Briefs

Oil money debate, Baker chasing chair and more


Louisiana's ongoing effort to obtain more offshore oil royalties made its move to the U.S. Senate last week amid feverish debate. The Sierra Club, Greenpeace and a number of other environmental groups placed advertisements in several Beltway publications depicting the Gulf Coast as "Oil's Next Victim" since the proposals being considered would open up the gulf to more drilling activity. The ads warned against everything from oil spills to over-drilling. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat pushing the concept, issued a press release countering the ads ' just days after she issued another attacking a Washington Post editorial that depicted the proposal as "Robbing the Feds." Landrieu, along with Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, questioned the Post's assertion that "coastal states don't deserve" a share of the oil and gas revenues they generate off their coasts. They point out that the paper failed to mention that 28 other inland states already receive a 50 percent share of similar revenues. Louisiana, meanwhile, helps generate more than $5 billion a year for the federal treasury from offshore drilling, and it gets back only about $39 million a year. ' Jeremy Alford


Congressman Richard Baker of Baton Rouge continues to court the favor of colleagues in his quest to become the next chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, a powerful position in the financing sector. The contest between Baker and fellow Republican Spencer Bachus of Alabama has become "very competitive," according to the Washington newspaper Roll Call. Both men are raising money for the GOP and spreading around personal campaign cash to other incumbents. Although Baker has the seniority and institutional knowledge, an unnamed "leadership aide" gives Bachus the edge. Baker's independent spirit and pointed remarks at President Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are blamed for his underdog status. Michael DiResto, Baker's press secretary, says the race is still undecided, though, and it would be a "timely opportunity" for the congressman to serve as chair when Louisiana desperately needs help in regards to insurance, capital investment, housing and other financial matters. ' JA


The McIlhenny Company's signature hot sauce has been a national icon for more than a century, and its New Iberia headquarters is one of the state's top tourist attractions; Tabasco is such a part of the local landscape that the signature diamond logo-embossed bottles occupy a spot in nearly every restaurant in Louisiana. This development is apparently difficult to grasp for the Daily Advertiser, which misspelled Tabasco twice in a front-page Accent section article last week on McIlhenny Co.'s recent partnership with Zapp's potato chips. ' Scott Jordan


The state Ethics Board ruled this month that state Rep. T. Taylor Townsend, a Natchitoches Democrat, can buy ownership in a company that plans to purchase property from a public entity. Townsend, who was recently appointed as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, wanted to know whether he could be a part of Kipco Holdings if the company has a financial transaction with a subsidiary of the Cleco Corporation. Kathleen M. Allen, an attorney for the board, wrote in the ruling that Townsend is legit as long as fair market value is paid for the property and Cleco doesn't provide him with anything of "economic value" to influence his decision over a related piece of legislation. ' JA


The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has just put out its annual call for nominations for "Gulf Guardians." The recognition honors Louisiana residents, companies and organizations "that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf of Mexico and associated coastal water habitats healthy, beautiful and productive." Entry forms for the 2006 Gulf Guardian Award are available online at Deadline for nominations is Sept. 15; for more info, call (228) 688-7015 or (225) 219-3553. ' SJ