SADOW: Mary’s Running A Scam On Louisiana’s Voters, And It’s Hurting America’s Interests

If Sen. Mary Landrieu wants to create the perception that she’s identified with Louisiana rather than with Washington, D.C., standing athwart of foreign policy that helps U.S. interests just to make that point isn’t the way to do it.

For weeks all that has stood in between the U.S. being able to levy certain sanctions against Venezuelan individuals involved in crackdowns directed at protests against that country’s authoritarian leaders, which would involve revoking the visas and freezing the assets of a handful of people, has been Landrieu’s insistence that the matter not be taken up in the Senate. Under the rules for this kind of measure that require unanimity, she has become the only objector, claiming that these would cost Louisianans jobs with her rationale being that these could affect operations at a CITGO refinery in Lake Charles, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Venezuela’s government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A..

How intellectually she can come to such a conclusion is known only to her. The bill as drafted, assuming that you can conflate Venezuela’s leaders as “owning” CITGO, does not prevent its operation in anyway – confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers involved with the bill. But Landrieu’s office admitted they agreed with Venezuelan officials – working through the struggling Patton Boggs lobby firm recently acquired by Squire Sanders but retaining as its co-lead lobbyist the guy who showed her the ropes when she got to Washington, former Sen. John Breaux – that CITGO might conceivably someday be considered a legal person despite the committee staffers’ reassurance.

Never mind also that the three Republican and one Democrat senators from Texas and Illinois, which also have CITGO refineries, don’t seem to be troubled by sanctions and their impact on jobs. All three are up for sale in any event because Venezuela’s socialist “Chavismo” government policy continues to drive its economy into the ground and the country needs hard currency even as oil prices continue to average close to $100 a barrel as world demand grows. PDVSA also owns a half-interest in a Chalmette refinery with Exxon, which inconsistently doesn’t seem to perturb Landrieu relative to sanctions.

In fact, if any jobs are to be lost, it’s much more likely that will happen by CITGO pulling the plug rather than through sanctions. Because of a deal made with the People’s Republic of China, it may be more profitable if CITGO is sold in its entirety to concentrate on supplying the Red Chinese. As a result, the entire company is up for sale, in pieces or win whole. Unless sold by 2016, it may make more economic sense simply to close the Lake Charles facility as Venezuela shuttles its crude elsewhere.

But none of this makes an impression on Landrieu, who has been stung over the past couple of months by revelations of questionable travel expenses and whether she has become more a Washington than Louisiana resident, so this obstinacy can be understood as a tactic purporting to show that she “cares” about Louisiana by “protecting” vulnerable jobs. And last week Senate Republican Marco Rubio and House Republican Bill Cassidy, who is her main challenger for reelection this fall, turned up the heat by questioning where lie her policy loyalties, to which she responded asserting the tortured, if not counter-factual, argument above.

Yet by Cassidy’s salvo, this demonstrates that he’s not going to lay down on the issue and have her construct a narrative at odds with reality. Indeed, he can turn it around on her by showing she’s captive to a good-old-boy network based in Washington to the point of constructing a false narrative that additionally serves her reelection desires, in the process putting that personal interest ahead of U.S. interests. If he sticks with it, the best she can hope for in terms of how the issue molds perceptions of her candidacy is that it doesn’t move the needle against her.

So if Cassidy doesn’t cede the field to her in this, it’s not an answer to counter incidents making her seem more and more fraudulent that are hazardous to her political health. And given that since the beginning of the year Landrieu continues generally to trail Cassidy in heads-up polling, on this issues that’s not the outcome she wants.

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