Melancon Trying To Score Points On Technicalities

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon took a shot at tripping up his opponent in the upcoming U.S. Senate race, David Vitter.

If Melancon thought he was bringing out the big gun to knock down Vitter’s 24-point lead in the polls, though, what he ended up using looked more like a pea shooter.

The weapon? An ethics complaint. It seems that Vitter put out a campaign fundraising letter which had a logo on it that looked a little like the Senate seal, and this is arguably a violation of ethics rules. The logo has an eagle, but he’s facing in the opposite direction and he’s of a little different shape – Vitter likes eagles who look more like small forwards while Senate eagles are, shall we say, fullbackish.

That’s not good enough for Melancon’s sticklers, who say that Vitter hasn’t just broken Senate Standards of Conduct, but federal law as well. And they say they’re letting Vitter off easy by just reporting him to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics; they otherwise could make a federal case out of Vitter’s eagle.

“You can’t make the law look the other way by having the eagle look the other way,” said Melancon campaign attorney Brian Svoboda, who apparently smells blood.

“There’s a fine line between what’s legal and what’s not, and David Vitter often finds himself on the wrong side of the law,” Melancon’s campaign manager Bradley Beychok said. “But the law’s the law.”

OK, well, maybe they’re right. But Vitter’s campaign fired back with a pretty good argument.

“Funny, Charlie Melancon didn’t file an ethics complaint when Barack Obama used an eagle seal in his presidential campaign. Maybe it’s because Charlie endorsed Obama.”

And more: “Charlie Melancon’s arrogant allies who run this Congress don’t own the rights to the eagle any more than the NFL owns the rights to ‘Who Dat.'”

This is a tempest in a teapot. The long and short of it is that the War Of The Logos isn’t the way out of Melancon’s electoral wilderness; on a day when the Ouachita Citizen’s Sam Hanna is asking whether Melancon is wasting his time and when the Times-Picayune’s James Gill decries Melancon’s non-competitive campaign as a snoozer which threatens the viability of politics as Louisiana’s favorite blood sport you’d think Charlie’s people would be coming up with a better game-changer than the appearance of Vitter’s fundraising letters.

For example, Melancon could grow a set of pipes and say something about the outrageous kangaroo court his buddies on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are setting up to assault the shale gas industry. Or he could say something about the nutjobs his buddy Barack Obama has at the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force working on tearing down the sportfishing industry. But that would imply taking principled stands and doing some heavy lifting on the part of the folks who drive Louisiana’s economy; one reason Charlie is getting killed in the polls is that he’s been around long enough for the people of this state to realize those stakes are too high for a penny-ante player like he is.

So instead of a vision for how he can help Louisiana build a 21st century future, we instead get complaints about letterhead and sound bites from Charlie accosting people in restaurants at lunchtime. Little wonder Gill blames him for Louisiana politics getting boring.

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