US Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, speaks at a luncheon at L'Auberge du Lac on Aug. 19, 2011. (American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:06 PM
U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, on Monday night said he will seek re-election — an announcement made only hours after Landry came under fire from government watchdog group Public Citizen, which accused him of improper spending.
The group said Landry spent more than $30,000 to run radio ads to promote a forum in an area that is now outside his 3rd Congressional District but will become part of it because of redistricting.
Landry and U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, will face off this fall for the merged House seat.
The ads, which cost $33,994.50, ran to promote a forum in Lafayette with U.S. Sen. David Vitter. The radio script said that “your U.S. congressman, Jeff Landry, will join United States Senator David Vitter at a forum” to discuss various issues Aug. 25 in Lafayette.
“This particular abuse by Jeff Landry is fairly unique in that we have now entered a season of redistricting,” Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said. “As a result, Landry is spending taxpayer dollars to help bolster his image in his new district.”
Holman said this violates the congressman’s franking privilege, which involves the use of taxpayer funds, since this is not yet his district. The expense was authorized by the House of Representatives.
“I suspect he will not be brought forward with ethics charges,” Holman told the American Press by phone Monday. “The Franking Commission is notorious for not reinforcing its own rules. Really, the most we can do to rein this type of abuse in is by public pressure.”
According to the Committee on House Administration’s congressional handbook, “members may be reimbursed for ordinary and necessary expenses associated with holding joint town hall meetings with Members of House of Representatives representing adjacent districts or United States Senators representing the same state.”
But it says that “joint town hall meetings must be held in one of the hosting House Members’ districts, or if held jointly with the home state Senator, then the meeting must take place within the House Member’s district.”
The handbook also says that for an advertisement to be reimbursable, “notice of personal appearance of the Member at an official event” must represent “duties to the district from which he or she is elected.”
Millard Mulé, communications director for Landry, told the American Press by email Monday that “as detailed in the radio ad approved by the bipartisan Franking Commission and in accordance with the Commission’s rules and guidelines, Congressman Landry was Senator Vitter’s guest” at the meeting in Lafayette.
John Porter, campaign adviser for Boustany, said by phone Monday that Landry’s action “certainly appears to be” a franking violation.
“He did a joint town hall, which is clearly prohibited,” Porter said. “It states that you can do a joint town hall only if it is in your district.”