By Robert Mann
I’ve already written about the silly lawsuit by state Sen. Paul Hollis challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu’s candidacy based on the question of her legal residency. Hollis will almost certainly lose, because the suit is clearly frivolous. The Constitution sets the requirements for a U.S. senator, not state legislatures and state judges.
But the fact that Hollis and other Republicans are screaming so loudly about the question of Landrieu’s property ownership suggests that it’s not about her devotion to Louisiana or her strong self-identification with the Bayou State.
It’s strictly about home ownership.
Which raises this question? Do Hollis and Landrieu’s major Republican opponents, Rep. Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness, believe that a person must own property to run for elective office? Are those living with family members, but do not have their names on a title or a mortgage, unqualified to serve the public?
That was once the rule for participation in public life in this country — for voting and holding office. But we stopped requiring property ownership long ago. Is this a sign that Republicans are reviving ownership of property as a test for holding office?
Strictly speaking, such a test would not prevent Landrieu from running. She owns property in Louisiana.
But the larger question is: what hurdles do Republicans like Hollis (and now Donald Trump) believe that candidates ought to clear before they are qualified for elective office?
Trump, who supports Cassidy, has made it clear where he stands. He tweeted on Friday, “Senator Landrieu, If you are a Senator representing Louisiana, then you SHOULD own a home in the state. Send @BillCassidy to the Senate!”
Among those who re-tweeted Trump’s comment was Cassidy’s press secretary, Jillian Rogers.
While some prominent Republicans believe that candidates must own a home before running for office, other prominent voices in Louisiana Republican Party circles seem to be arguing that citizens have no right criticize public officials unless they are willing to challenge that official in an election.
Last year, Kyle Plotkin — then Gov. Bobby Jindal’s deputy chief of staff and now his chief of staff — fired off an angry tweet at me, suggesting my criticisms of Jindal weren’t valid unless I ran for governor myself. “i’ve got an idea,” Plotkin told me. “run 4 gov. Put ur ideas up 4 debate instead of just tweeting & complaining.”
As I observed at the time,
Let’s give Plotkin the benefit of the doubt. Apparently he has a 14-year-old son who has hacked his Twitter account. (And he clearly does not know how to spell “your.”)
Just contemplate what it means if that’s truly the opinion of the governor’s senior staff — that you shouldn’t speak out or criticize the governor unless you become a candidate for public office. Everyone else, keep quiet. The public sphere isn’t for mere citizens!!
That approach to public dissent has now found its way into the commentary of Jindal’s good friend and acolyte and LSU Board of Supervisors member, Rolfe McCollister.
In his latest column in the Business Report, which he owns, McCollister complains about a recent speech to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club in which Greg Albrecht, the chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, was “whining again and sharing his doom and gloom.”
Albrecht correctly noted that Louisiana is “facing the third year of essentially zero sales tax growth” and he warned about the expected $1.2 billion state deficit for next fiscal year. Among other things, Albrecht suggested that Louisiana’s financial woes are tied to the Stelly tax reform plan’s repeal, which slashed state income taxes for upper-income residents.
As a newspaper publisher and citizen, McCollister has every right to criticize Albrecht and critique his analysis. But that’s not what he did. McCollister, who might tell you he believes in free speech, demonstrated it’s not among his highest principles. He ended his attack on Albrecht with this disturbing broadside:
And Greg, if you think you have a better answer and want to call the shots, then why don’t you run for governor next year? I would love to see how far your campaign gets with a “Bring back the Stelly Plan” platform that would raise our taxes.
Like Plotkin, McCollister appears to believe that the free speech of Albrecht, a senior legislative official, is only valid if he’s willing to run for political office. That’s not only disturbing language for a newspaper publisher, but McCollister also helps run the LSU System. I wonder if his position is that faculty members, like me, have no right criticize the LSU Board unless we donate thousands to Jindal and get ourselves a plum appointment (you know, like McCollister’s big bucks bought him)?
Is that how it works these days in the Louisiana GOP? If you want to run, buy a house? If you want to speak out, run for office.
As for the rest of you, shut your pie holes.