Millions of campaign dollars from all over America are pouring into Louisiana in a calculated effort to influence the outcome of the state’s up and coming U.S. Senate race. Incumbent democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is in the fight of her political life and republicans are leaving no stone unturned in an effort to beat her in November. But who is going to decide the outcome of this race -- voters in Louisiana or political PACs in Washington, D.C.?
Landrieu’s main opponent, so far, is incumbent 6th district congressman Bill Cassidy, although several other republican challengers have been making headway in recent weeks. Conservative republican Tea Party candidate Rob Maness picked up the support of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin last week, and his supporters feel this gives his campaign a much-needed shot in the arm. The one thing all these candidates have in common is their obsessive desire to gather financial and political help from outside the state.
National super PACs are running the show in the senate race, and the dark money from non-Louisianans will continue to pour into the Bayou State. Yes, we here in Louisiana know this is a big race. Political prognosticators from all over America continually tell the rest of the country that the winner in Louisiana could decide whether democrats or republicans control the U.S. Senate. But even with so much supposedly at stake, should outside money be the deciding factor in who represents the interests of Louisiana in Washington?
Louisiana is notorious for weak campaign disclosure laws, allowing big money from numerous outside groups to go unreported. And even if the PAC itself is listed, it becomes a front since the donors themselves stay secret. Financial reports show that as of now, Mary Landrieu has raised about half of all her campaign money form out of state. Congressman Cassidy has raised some 30% of his campaign funds from non-Louisiana donors, but expect these percentages to rise dramatically in the weeks to come.
But listed campaign donations are only the tip of the iceberg. Millions of dollars from outside groups opposing both major candidates are pouring into the state unreported. TV commercials sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (the Koch Brothers) airing statewide attack Landrieu’s voting record daily. Bush operative Karl Rove’s group, American Crossroads, has joined the fray opposing Landrieu. But national democratic leaning PACs are also in the mix opposing Cassidy. Look for a whole host of national organizations to jump in to Louisiana’s senate race in the weeks to come. Names like the U.S. Chamber of commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and the National Rifle Association.
So how about this idea? Let Louisiana voters elect their own U.S. Senator without interference from outsiders across the U.S.? Wouldn’t that be unique? Right now, these PACs feel that Louisiana citizens are ignorant and incapable of choosing the candidate to best serve the state’s interest and just waiting to be exploited by special interest groups. How about being really radical, prohibit all outside campaign money, and just let Louisiana folks decide on their own?
There is a proposed constitutional amendment being considered right now in Washington to allow states to regulate the nation’s campaign laws. Such an amendment is necessary because a recent Supreme Court decision has allowed unlimited money from all over the nation to directly affect states like Louisiana. With such an amendment, a courageous Louisiana Legislature (is that an oxymoron?) could simply pass a law saying no outside campaign money in any Louisiana campaign.
When was the last time someone even saw a candidate for U.S. Senate in the state? These candidates are obsessed with raising dollars for television. I wonder if any candidate has the courage to make this commitment -- that they will accept no undocumented out-of-state money from special interest groups, and only raise campaign dollars from voters in Louisiana. Now that would be one heck of a campaign pledge.