(Cross-posted to Polimom, Too)
A week ago, Metroblogging Houston posted about a “Re-elect Our Mayor” billboard spotted in Houston.
I have to admit, it’s pretty disorienting to be in Houston, seeing signs about “our” mayor… Nagin. Polimom suspects they’re feeling similarly discombobulated in Atlanta.
Who’s paying for that? It made me curious enough to google on “Ben Edwards” (named right there on the billboard) – and I found this from NOLA.com:
Though the similarity of Edwards’ billboards to those posted by Nagin might suggest a collaboration with the campaign, Edwards said he created the images he used independently by scanning one of Nagin’s bumper stickers into a computer. The Nagin campaign told a similar story.
“I’ve never heard of him,” said Nagin strategist Jim Carvin of Edwards.
That’s cool — a private citizen spending his own money on independent support for his choice of candidate. He evidently feels very strongly that Nagin did an excellent job during the Katrina crisis, and whether one agrees with that or not, everybody’s entitled to an opinion. This person’s opinion is just backed up by a LOT of money. (Note to NOLA: you might want to keep track of whether Nagin finds a way to politically reward this. Independent support must mean exactly that.)
Unfortunately, while all of the above are great, this is less so:
Under state law, individuals or groups may spend as much money as they desire on “independent expenditures,” defined as those not made in coordination with a political campaign. Anyone who does so is required to file reports with the state showing where the money came from and how it was spent — a fact that came as a surprise to Edwards, who has not filed any reports.
Edwards appears to have overlooked another campaign law in donating $5,000 to Nagin’s war chest recently through a nonprofit he runs, Third Shiloh Housing. Such organizations, which enjoy tax-free status, are prohibited from donating to political campaigns.
Edwards said he was aware of that rule, but unaware that Third Shiloh had cut a check to Nagin, which the mayor reported on his most recent filing. “I need to find out what happened there,” Edwards said. “That will be corrected.”
I’m hoping he does correct it, actually. Not only that, I hope something similar appears – soon – from other candidate supporters. It’s enormously important, because if something doesn’t galvanize the New Orleanians who don’t intend to stay in Houston, or Atlanta, or wherever, the results may be challenged, further damaging recovery and lives.
Thus far, Houston’s evacuees have had apparently lackluster turnout and interest, judging by the total of 288 souls who voted early in Lake Charles’ satellite polling location.
The election is only six days away. As odd as it feels to see campaign billboards from an election in another city here, Houston needs more. If the election is successful (i.e. unchallenged), then those geographically confounding signs can all come down on April 23 – and everybody can
go back to sleep… er… continue to pay careful attention to the political process…. er… drive on with their lives.