The day after a small but powerful cabal of far-right state representatives, once again, purposely sabotaged a bipartisan agreement to resolve Louisiana’s $648M fiscal cliff, State Senator Danny Martiny, a Republican from Metairie, called into WWL radio’s “Scoot” show and offered his unvarnished and extraordinarily candid assessment of why he believes the legislature is plagued by dysfunction.
You can listen to the full interview here:
Among other things, Martiny asserted that Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax political action committee financed by the mega-billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, had allegedly threatened to spend $100,000 to oppose any Republican legislator who refused to vote in lockstep with the organization’s political agenda.
“Americans for Prosperity pretty much laid down the gauntlet saying that if you don’t vote the way we like, we’re going to be spending $100,000 against you,” he claimed, “And I’m all for Americans for Prosperity, but they shouldn’t be calling the shots. We need to be voting based on the needs of our constituents, not based on the political needs of Americans for Prosperity.”
Already, the group has released slickly-produced digital ads attacking Republican state representatives Mark Abraham, Julie Stokes, Rob Shadoin, and Ryan Gatti, with a promise that eight additional legislators are already next on their list.
Although AFP has had a presence in Louisiana since 2013, they had previously focused almost exclusively on statewide elections, campaigning against Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2014 and then in support of Sen. David Vitter’s unsuccessful race for governor in 2015.
This is the first year the group has invested any significant amount of time or resources covering the Louisiana legislature, and during the past four months, they have asserted a daily presence, primarily through a well-funded social media campaign, during the first special session, the regular session, the second special session, and presumably during the upcoming third special session as well.
The chapter is led by John Kay, a former staffer for Gov. Bobby Jindal and a Shreveport native who earned a Bachelors in General Studies from LSUS.
Their tactics are reminiscent of David Vitter’s organization, the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority and now rebranded as the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, currently led by state Attorney General Jeff Landry, as well as the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which offers endorsements and pledges donations to any official who votes 80% or higher on their scorecard.
If State Sen. Martiny’s allegations are accurate, the efforts of Americans for Prosperity’s Louisiana chapter may run afoul of state and federal campaign finance and anti-bribery laws, which prohibit politicians from accepting quid pro quo donations in exchange for their votes. (AFP-Louisiana is also investing in promoting candidates who vote lockstep with their agenda, and on social media, they’re currently inviting people to sign a series of form letters in appreciation of their favored legislators).
Since 1997, it is worth noting, the Koch Brothers have received approximately $300M in state incentives and exemptions benefitting their company Georgia Pacific.
Their political organization has opposed increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for more than 500,000 poor and working class families; they have promoted a phony study that claimed any effort to retain revenue by renewing a portion of the state sales taxes would reduce the state’s GDP and result in job losses (a conclusion that was reached by using the wrong baseline numbers), and they have promoted an expensive and largely duplicative government “transparency” website that would allow people to search government spending except for incentives and tax breaks for businesses, arguing that publicizing that information could lead to a “slippery slope.”
In other words, the Koch Brothers-backed organization is championing a “transparency” website that wouldn’t include information on how much money Louisiana taxpayers pay the Koch Brothers.
“It’s not just them,” Martiny said. “It’s also other various business lobbyists, LABI, that really have way too much influence on what we do.”
Although he didn’t name anyone specifically, Martiny repeatedly emphasized how common and pervasive the problems truly are. “Look, I know for a fact that there were business leaders going around the legislature last year and telling some of the newer house members that ‘if you do vote for this tax, we will have somebody in your race.’ And you know, I’m not really good at responding to threats like that, but I think some people are. People who talk to these legislators know they wanted to vote for the half-penny, but they were scared to death (because of these threats).”
Martiny, who is term-limited and has spent the past 24 years representing the people of Jefferson Parish, first as a member of the House and now in the Senate, is one of only a handful of people in state government who possess the type of institutional knowledge and experience necessary to provide historical context, and in his opinion, the situation is worse today than it ever has been.
“I predicted before we went up there,” he said, “the House is not going to give enough money for the governor to fund a reasonable budget. I think it showed up last night. I think it showed up in the way that we operated, in that we didn’t even have the appropriations bill for the first week of the special session. And everyone says we didn’t have enough time. We should have had enough time.”
Martiny, who has worked alongside the past five Louisiana governors, also expressed his exasperation with the unprecedented obstructionism certain legislators have employed, merely because they resent that the governor is a Democrat.
“I think there are some people on both sides of the building that are not happy by the fact that John Bel Edwards is the governor, and I’ve worked for (five) different governors. And each one had their different way,” Martiny said. “If it was a Republican I’d supported, I worked with them, and if it was a Democrat I didn’t support, I’d still work with them. I don’t see that happening now, and I think that’s terrible. It scares me because what’s good for the state does not depend on who the governor is. We have to fund vital services. People rely on us to do that. At the end of the day, we need to put aside our politics, and we didn’t do our job. And we should be highly criticized for it.”
Featured Photo Credit: Robin May, The Independent