Thursday, October 22, 2015

Who is panicking now?

The Hayride's pollster has Gomer all the way up to 40% That seems a bit much. Looks to me like they've either lost track of or purposefully reassigned a big chunk of undecideds.  I'd have a hard time believing that 4.3%  (down from 15% in one month!) is a raw number.

Hayride poll

If you read the post at the Hayride, you'll see they're already blaming Dardenne and Angelle for failing to decide which one of them should have dropped out months ago.  The real problem, though, is everybody hates Vitter... when they're not afraid of him anyway.  And the more vulnerable he looks as a candidate, well, the less afraid people become.

But as Vitter's weakness becomes more and evident, you'll notice some of the folks relying on him becoming Governor are beginning to panic. Yesterday we mentioned Phyllis Taylor's wavering, for instance.
It's unclear why Taylor has started giving money to Angelle's PAC over the past few months, while not contributing to Vitter's recently. A call to the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation in search of Taylor was not returned on Tuesday (Oct. 20).

But of the four major gubernatorial candidates, Angelle has made the strongest statements about keeping the TOPS program very similar to the way it operates now. The other candidates have been more willing to talk about tweaking TOPS, such that the scholarship would not necessarily cover the entire cost of college tuition in the future.
This doesn't have anything to do with TOPS.  Taylor's foundation is one of many conduits through which oil money is piped into the Louisiana political process.  And right now, since "Big Oil's Boy" David Vitter looks like he's in trouble, that money is looking for somewhere more productive to go.

Why such urgency? Because the oil companies have come to view the attack on Vitter as a direct assault on them.  Only a few days ago, BP's Head of State and Local Government Affairs speaking at a business luncheon said that lawsuits, not falling prices, are "the biggest threat to the oil and gas industry" in Louisiana. 
The constant threat of a potential lawsuit has dampened industrial growth in the state, especially in the Houma-Thibodaux area, Ellis said. He said small businesses may not hire more people and delay plans to add new equipment or projects out of fear of a lawsuit. 

“I believe in the legal system; I believe in its fairness and impartiality. I don't believe in a system that measures justice based on the depths of your pockets,” Ellis said, citing a 2013 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report that ranked Louisiana 49th among lawsuit climates. “The oil and gas industry in Louisiana...are threatened not as much by the decline in oil prices and market prices as they are by the attitude that some have that the industry's deep pockets make for good lawsuits.”
Tyler Bridges corroborates this somewhat writing in the Washington Post this week that "trial lawyers" have been out to get Vitter from the beginning.
But this year, as he has pursued his gubernatorial bid, a Baton Rouge law firm has spent $1.6 million to broadcast television ads — using video clips and shots of sensational headlines — to remind voters of the scandal.

The trial lawyers behind the ads want to defeat Vitter because he has promised to kill lawsuits filed by the firm that accuse oil and gas companies of polluting land and aquifers throughout the state, as well as destroying coastal wetlands.
John Bel Edwards is the only candidate who has expressed at least some middling degree of support for legal action against the oil industry.  If Vitter can't protect them, it looks like Big Oil is gonna need another boy.

Luckily they've got plenty of those laying around.  For example, Phyllis Taylor's new favorite.
But Angelle, who used to be a Democrat, is trying to appeal to moderates in that party. Angelle is a social conservative, who said he switched parties primarily because national Democrats weren't backing up the oil and gas industry like they should have.

Angelle has close ties to the oil and gas industry. He majored in petroleum land management at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette. As the head of the Department of Natural Resources, he helped regulate the oil and gas industry for the Blanco and Jindal administrations.

Angelle sits on the Sunoco Logistics board of directors, for which he gets paid almost $390,000 – as long as he attends all of the meetings – according to federal filings. U.S. Sen. David Vitter's campaign has called foul on that relationship, implying Angelle used his positions in state government to get the board post. 

Angelle said he has not been involved in regulating the company while sitting on its board. If elected governor, he said he would step down from the position.

Oilman and gas CE0 James Flores has also donated $1.25 million to Angelle's affiliated PAC, called Louisiana Rising. Flores' mega-donation has raised some eyebrows.
It's a bit late in the game, but some of these money people are starting to realize just how damaged David Vitter is.  If he makes it to the runoff there is a very good chance Edwards can actually win.  And even though Edwards is himself a fairly moderate to friendly figure toward oil and gas, the industry would nonetheless interpret this as a disaster. So now they are pulling out all the stops to get a stronger horse into the runoff.

And this is why I found it telling that Angelle was the candidate pushing Dambala's hooker investigation during the debate this week. The trial lawyers may have started the ball rolling with this but, in a fun bit of irony, it looks like having the scandal catch fire in the final week before the primary is the oil industry's best hope to ensure it has a candidate in the runoff who can win.

If Vitter makes it anyway, take a look at whether the scandal stays in play.  The Edwards campaign really hasn't mentioned it all. If it stays on the airwaves, it will have to come from somebody's PAC.  But whose?

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