Tuesday, 07 February 2012 16:32

Sitting Louisiana Congressmen have money to burn for races

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washington-affairDeep pockets
    The Fax-Net reported last week that the Louisiana Democratic Party is searching for a creditable candidate to run against incumbent Republican 4th District U.S. Rep. John Fleming, who is seeking a third two-year term.
    The name of Kyle Robinson, a Bossier attorney, was bouncing around on the political rumor mill, but he has told the Democratic Party he will not be a candidate.
    Whoever decides to run against Fleming, a medical doctor and businessman, better have deep pockets.  One needs only to look at the investment Fleming has made in his successful efforts to become a congressman and get re-elected.

    In 2008, he spent $2.2 million to win a Republican primary and narrowly defeat Democrat Paul Carmouche in the runoff by 350 votes. 
Fleming  put $975,490 of his own money into the race.  Carmouche, on the other hand, spent nearly $1.8 million in a losing cause, but he did not have to use his own money.  He was heavily funded by Democratic PACs.
    In 2010, Fleming spent $1.3 million on his first re-election bid against two opponents, getting 62% of the vote.  His chief opponent, Democrat David Melville, spent $228,313 and got 32%.  The third candidate, Artis Cash, No Party, received 6%.
    As of December 31, Fleming has $436,125 cash on hand.  He still has a debt of $495,600, most of which is the personal loan he made to his campaign committee.
    It will be interesting to see if the Democratic Party is willing to go to the financial mat against Fleming.

Easy money
    It is not hard for a member of Congress to raise money. Special interest groups and Political Action Committees (PACs) are more than anxious to write checks whenever asked.
    Consequently, most incumbents have a hefty campaign fund that often scares away potential challengers.  Once they are elected, it is not easy to defeat an incumbent members of Congress.
    The approval rating of Congress as a whole is currently 13%, the lowest in history.  But when asked about each party, the Democrats get a 30% approval rating compared with 20% for Republicans.
    However, if you ask voters about their own member of Congress, he or she usually gets a respectable approval rating.  That explains why so many incumbents are re-elected every two years.
    U.S. Rep.  Rodney Alexander, a Democrat-turned-Republican, who represents the state’s 5th Congressional District, will be seeking his sixth term, having been first elected in 2002.  He is the dean of the delegation.
    Alexander did not have a big campaign warchest as of December 31.  His cash-on-hand total was $89,851.  But he is not expected to have serious opposition.
    Here is a look at the Louisiana U.S. House delegation and the amount of money they have on hand as of December 31:
    *Steve Scalise, R-Ist District – $588,719.
    *Cedric Richmond, D-2nd District – $236,329.
    *John Fleming, R-4th District – $436,125.
    *Rodney Alexander, R-5th District – $89,851.
    *Bill Cassidy, R-6th District – $1,485,576.
    All of the above members are predicted to win re-election.
    Because Louisiana lost a congressional district as a result of the 2010 Census, going from seven to six districts, two incumbents will be running against each other in south Louisiana.
    Jeff Landry, R-3rd District, will have to run against Charles Boustany, R-7th District.
    The race favors Boustany, who retained more of  his old district geographically than did Landry.  And Boustany has a big lead over Landry in the money race.
    As of December 31, Boustany had $1,270,797 cash on hand compared with $534,147 for Landry.
    When all is said and done, it is likely Louisiana will have five Republicans and one Democrat as members of its U.S. House delegation.
    Neither Democratic U.S. SeWindfall for Buddy?n.  Mary Landrieu nor Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter are up for te-election this year.  Landrieu is up in 2014.
    If they need more money, they can easily raise it.  These money totals will increase as the year progresses.  Even if a member of Congress has no opposition, he or she still uses the election year as a reason to pad their campaign warchest.

Windfall for Buddy
    Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer of Bossier City has been snubbed by GOP powers-that-be and the national news media, but he has found one area where  he is in the lead.
    He is the first 2012 presidential candidate to be qualified by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to receive matching federal funds.
    To be considered for federal matching funds, a candidate must raise at least $100,000 “by collecting $5,000 in 20 different states in amounts no greater than $250 from any individual,” according to a release from the FEC.
    The candidate must also agree “to an overall spending limit,” keep “financial records” and “permit an extensive campaign audit.”  A candidate can receive up to $22.8 million, according to the FEC.
    Roemer has been involved in a “David vs. Goliath” scenario with other GOP presidential contenders  because he refuses to accept a contribution of more than $100 from any individual.
    Based on Roemer’s initial threshold submission,  the FEC will request that the United States Treasury make an initial payment of $100,000 to Roemer’s campaign.  If nothing else, Roemer’s run for president has demonstrated how big money controls the process.  He has been excluded from all presidential debates.
    Roemer notes that he was first told that he would have to get 1% in the polls to be included.  When he reached that milestone, he was told he needed 2%.
    The former Louisiana congressman and governor is being mentioned as a possible third-party candidate.
    Roemer’s message about money controlling elections would likely resonate with many independent voters and perhaps some Democrats and Republicans.
    The matching federal funds may very well give him the ability to get that message out, which could be embarrassing for the top tier candidates and keep them on their toes.

Point made
    No better example of how big money controls federal elections comes from the recent Florida GOP presidential preference primary.
    Mitt Romney, and his backers through super PACs, spent $15.3 million in Florida compared with $3.4 million spent by Newt Gingrich.
    More  than  13,000  television  and  radio  ads  were  put on the air for Romney, compared with 200 for Gingrich.  Political researchers point out that about 92% of  the ads run by the Romney campaign were negative towards his Republican opponents and President Barack Obama.
    No doubt about it.  Campaigns of both parties are getting more expensive and cheap-shot.  And to think that we are not even close to the main event.

by Lou Gehrig Burnett, Publisher of Fax-Net, an online political publication focused upon North Louisiana

FAX-NET UPDATE is published weekly and delivered to your home or office by fax or e-mail. Subscription rates are: $50 for 12 months (50 issues) or $35 for six months. To subscribe, send check or money order to: Fax-Net Update, P.O. Box 44522, Shreveport, LA 71134. If you have questions, tips or want to do a guest column, call 861-0552 or send e-mail to [email protected]net. Lou Gehrig Burnett, Publisher.

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