Editor’s Note: Reposted in light of today’s event. Originally appeared at the Hayride on Jan. 3.
Our story yesterday on the prospective Congressional candidacy of Louisiana’s most famous crooked politician Edwin Edwards got a bit of play in the national media, particularly after the Times-Picayune couldn’t get a denial out of his camp that he’s interested in running to replace 6th District Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Nobody has any more specificity on a prospective Edwards candidacy than we had yesterday, and we don’t either. It’s entirely possible that Edwards isn’t all that serious about running for Congress, or that he’s making these noises in order to get attention he can use to back someone else for that run. Edwards’ wife Trina is reportedly good friends with state rep. Clay Schexnayder, for example, and Schexnayder’s name has been mentioned in some circles as a potential candidate for the 6th District.
But Schexnayder doesn’t offer much appeal for conservatives as a congressional candidate. For one thing, when he filled out his candidate questionnaire back in 2011 in pursuit of the National Federation of Independent Business’ endorsement, he mentioned he’d be for an oil-processing tax like the one Bananas Foster Campbell has been flogging for years. And for another, when there was a bill in the House in last year’s session that would have eliminated the practice of having the state pay union dues for state employees via direct deposit rather than making unions like LFT and SEIU have to collect their own dues, Schexnayder walked out of the Labor Committee meeting at which that bill was killed; his vote was necessary to get that bill to the floor, where it would have passed, and he took a powder.
Which means Schexnayder isn’t much of a Republican, and it’s doubtful he’d get much support in a conservative district.
Edwards would do better running himself than Schexnayder. Some think he might actually win, and though that seems unlikely from this quarter, it’s enough of a possibility that a narcissist with an ego the size of the Silver Zipper’s could conceivably act on it.
So for now, we’ll entertain the possibility he’s serious about running. And as such, as the headline says, we have two suggestions, a demand and a promise to offer.
Suggestion #1: The Slapdown
Steve Scalise is the head of the Republican Study Committee up on Capitol Hill. Scalise has the ear, at least to some extent, of the House GOP leadership. And what Scalise ought to do is bring up the subject of Edwards as a potential candidate – and what the leadership should do about it.
Our specific suggestion is that House Speaker John Boehner ought to make a statement to the effect that Edwards will not be a member of Congress. Period. That if somehow he’s elected, a House with Boehner or some other Republican as Speaker will refuse to seat him. There is a long history of the House refusing to seat individuals of unsavory character of one stripe or another; a good example somewhat on point was the refusal to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-New York) in 1967 because of allegations of corruption. Powell actually sued when he was excluded, and won – with the Supreme Court establishing that a two-thirds vote is needed to refuse to seat a House member (that two-thirds vote being the requirement for an expulsion, to which an exclusion is tantamount).
Getting a two-thirds vote to exclude Edwin Edwards from Congress means you’d need somewhere around 60 Democrats, if the numbers in the House remain as they are. That should be very doable; in most cases where the House has refused to seat an elected member the issue at hand has been election fraud, or intimidation of black voters, or in Powell’s case a scandal. Someone who has spent eight years in federal prison on racketeering charges emerging out of his actions the last time he held an elected office; well, that’s a horse of a different color.
There are 201 Democrats in the House now. If the next Congress has similar numbers, would you really expect more than 70 percent of the Democrats to vote to seat a convicted felon in the House? If so, that’s a pretty stark signal they’ll be sending about integrity in government.
In other words, that’s a fairly credible threat Boehner would be making, and it would be a good signal to send to the dopey voters who think Edwin Edwards is cute and that it would be fun to put him back in office. The prospect of not actually having a Congressman from the 6th District because you stupidly voted for a crook the House wouldn’t seat might sober up some of the dunces on whose support Fast Eddie has survived all these years in politics.
Suggestion #2: Machinations
One of the more brilliant moves we’ve seen in Louisiana electoral politics in recent years was the gambit in 2008 by which former state rep. Michael Jackson, who had lost in the Democrat primary, entered the race as an independent against then-incumbent Donald Cazayoux for the 6th District seat ultimately won by current outgoing incumbent Bill Cassidy. Jackson, who is black, siphoned off 12 percent of the vote on the Nov. 4, 2008 general election – which in a three-way race was crucial. Cazayoux ended up with 40 percent of the vote while Cassidy had 48. Remember that on Nov. 4, 2008, both Barack Obama and Kip Holden were on the ballot, meaning that black Democrat turnout was at its highest point. Without Jackson in the race, Cazayoux would have beaten Cassidy.
There was considerable howling from Democrats about Jackson’s candidacy, particularly given that he was backed financially by Lane Grigsby – the Cajun Industries founder and CEO who has long been a Cassidy supporter. Democrats – and Cazayoux supporters in particular, called it a dirty trick on Grigsby’s part to run Jackson as a third-party candidate to dilute the black vote and sink their man.
If Edwards gets in this race, it’s time for Grigsby and Jackson – or someone like him – to ride again. The dynamics this time will be a little different, as it’s a jungle primary in which multiple Republicans would be in the race, but an entry by a black Democrat would peel off a large number of votes Edwards has depended on in his previous successful elections and quite possibly keep him out of the runoff.
The accusation against Jackson in 2008 was that he was bought off by Grigsby to run against Cazayoux. Maybe he, or somebody else, would be willing to get bought off again.
Or, given that Edwin Edwards is a disgraced politician who went to prison for racketeering while governor, someone like Jackson would be willing to run in order to insure that the 6th District doesn’t end up with a convicted crook for a Congressman. That would seem a good bit like take-one-for-the-team civic spirit to us.
The Demand: Return The Favor
Let’s not forget that Edwards’ ill-fated final term as Louisiana’s governor was only possible because lots of Republicans and conservatives crossed the line to vote for him in the runoff against the embarrassing David Duke, who rode a protest candidacy and a strange set of circumstances past then-incumbent Buddy Roemer into the worst matchup in state history.
Remember “Vote For The Crook; It’s Important?” It was a bunch of Republicans who pushed that meme. It was the state’s GOP establishment attempting to clean up its act after failing to rout Duke out of state politics. It was an ugly business supporting Edwards that year, and it ended horribly for all concerned – including the fact that The Crook ended up in jail for acting like a crook in office, but it was necessary.
Our demand? The Louisiana Democrat Party should return the favor. The party should publicly disavow an Edwards candidacy and pledge not to support him if he runs. Period.
This isn’t that much to ask. Republican politicians and Republican voters held their noses and supported someone they hated in order to keep David Duke out of statewide office, so the Democrat establishment should stand against corruption and reject a convicted felon as its candidate for Congress.
The Promise: Transparency
Which leads us to the final point: namely, that if Edwards runs, he’s going to have to file FEC reports stating who his campaign donors are.
It’s one thing for this washed-up old sociopath to run for Congress in an effort to get the attention and validation he craves. That’s somewhat understandable in a pathetic, demented sort of way. What is less tolerable is that people would actually support him with checks.
Voting is one thing. If you vote in an election, you can be choosing to vote against someone just as much as for someone else. And voting is something of a private matter; we have secret ballots for a reason.
You don’t have to donate money to political candidates. Most people don’t. That’s more of a public matter; in fact, campaign finance information is a matter of public record. When you give money to a candidate, you’re not only fueling his or her efforts to get elected; you’re making a public statement that you support what he/she believes and/or you think he/she has the character required of the office.
To do that for a convicted felon who spent his last term in elected office as a racketeer is…hard to describe. It says you’re a fan of corruption.
So our promise is this: if Edwards runs, we’re going to go through every FEC report he files. And we’re going to publish, because it’s a matter of public record, the name, address and amount given of every single donor to Edwin Edwards’ campaign.
You want to support this guy? OK, fine. We’ll make you famous. Everybody you know will know that you’ve got money you could give to St. Jude or Susan G. Komen or the United Way but instead you decided to use it to try to put a convicted felon in Congress.
We think your friends and neighbors, and the people you do business with, might have interest in that information, and we’ll gladly facilitate it. So think hard whether an Edwards candidacy is cute enough to enter the fray.
Hopefully, for all concerned, we don’t have to go through any of this. Hopefully Edwards will spare us the tawdry spectacle of another political campaign. Hopefully he’ll recognize the failure of that reality TV show is a good indication people outside of his circle of lickspittles don’t find him as delightful as he thinks.
But if our hopes are dashed, fine. He wants trouble, there will be trouble.