SADOW: Has Chartergate Robbed Mary Of Her Mojo?

Perhaps the only reason some observers cling to the notion that Sen.Mary Landrieu has at least a toss-up chance of retaining her seat,despite polling numbers to her disadvantage, is that she has a reputation, by winning past close elections, of being a good campaigner. One must question that narrative given the way she has handled the burgeoning scandal of her using taxpayer dollars for campaign travel activities.

After the first questionable use of these funds, where a trip that qualifies under Senate rules as requiring at least partial campaign funding she paid for entirely out of taxpayer funding, came to light, she tried to fob it off as a billing error by the vendor, which as it turns out was not possible. When the second publicized incident broke, she then proclaimed a thorough investigation would be done of all past travel.

That’s the recommended strategy if you feel reasonably confident that these are few and far between, because then you know that independent, outside forces will find few, if any. Indeed, even the state Republican Party, politically motivated to scour public records as much as possibly available to find damaging incidents, could find fewer than double-digits worth. Instead, Landrieu and her staff entirely misdiagnosed – whether from sheer ignorance or that she had become so comfortable in violating regulations that any thought in her conscience that she was in the wrong – her level of risk on this, in finding 43 such events.

Worse, they excluded review of her first five years in office, which gives every reason to believe she’s trying to hide far more injurious results. The reason given for not reviewing prior to early 2002 was thatFederal Election Commission rules interpretation changed for thisthen. Back then, funds could not be apportioned between accounts, so presumably not to violate regulations any travel in that era that had any campaign activity at all she had to pay through her campaign account. So why not include those five years in the review, just to verify? The exclusion invites, with very good reason, suspicions that more activity that broke FEC regulations occurred then, and much more blatantly so since then the rules made a trip all-or-nothing. After all, the only reason not to make public a demonstration that nothing was wrong is that there are things that were wrong – and this after Landrieu previously had announced all years she has been in office would be scrutinized.

Already it strains credulity that her staff could go over a dozen years making the same “mistake” over and over again, so why would this impression that a politician disconnected to her constituents flouted the rules out of a sense of privilege willingly be reinforced by a failure to perform what should be a simple audit that shows her for that time span in the clear? And that not doing so only allows the scandal to continue like a Chinese water torture to her campaign, instead of getting it over with and finally, after six weeks, shutting it off. By failing to come entirely clean, she just allows the water to keep dripping, ever closer to Nov. 4.

Being as Landrieu almost certainly suspected, if not knew, her exposure was great on this issue from the start, if she and her campaign had it together then as soon as she got gigged on this in late July she should have made the decision to conduct the review and put it all out there immediately. She takes a big hit, but it doesn’t drag on with new reminders every week and it’s done with three months distant to election day. Instead, they handled it in the worst way possible, in the process drawing as much attention as possible and making her look like she’s got everything to hide, as if getting the truth out of her was like pulling teeth.

That’s exactly the wrong image she wants to project when already she’s desperately trying to avoid being perceived as out-of-touch and beholden to Washington insiders rather than Louisiana citizens. So if, as is looking increasingly likely, she goes down either in November or December, it may be her lack of campaign acumen that on this issue that costs her.

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