Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2007

St. John attorney working up close with Clinton


Editor and Publisher

RESERVE – Danny Becnel flipped the card across the desk.

&#8220Look at this,” he said with a slightly smug smile. &#8220I just got this in the mail the other day.”

It was a birthday card with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front. Inside was a hand signed note:

&#8220Danny, thought this might look nice on your desk. Hillary.”

Becnel said that he also got a call on June 14th from the New York senator, wishing him Happy Birthday and thanking him for the help in Louisiana as Clinton marches forward on her campaign for president of the United States, and of course, what she hopes will be the first female president in our nation’s history.

Becnel has continued a behind-the-scenes job he has continued for years, supporting top national Democratic candidates for president. He says he offers more than just big-money fundraisers, but has also been asked for advice from the candidates since he travels extensively throughout the country gaining insight into key issues.

&#8220It’s not just the fundraisers I put on,” he said. &#8220But I am one of a number of people who are fortunate to get to talk with these candidates and offer my thoughts about what needs to be done to get them elected. As for Hillary Clinton, she really has impressed me as someone who listens a lot to those she meets with.”

And it was a close-up and personal meeting with Clinton that Becnel was able to have in Washington, D.C. when he was invited to her house in Washington, D.C. for dinner, joining fewer than 10 people who had a personal meeting with her that lasted for hours after cocktails and dinner.

&#8220When she met with us, she spent a lot of time listening. She wanted to know what we thought she was doing right and what she was doing wrong, and after I talked with her about Louisiana, she made a number of changes in some meetings down here that I think will really help her,” Becnel said.

Louisiana is considered a key target state for Democrats, along with Arkansas, and Clinton made a visit here recently where she again was part of a fundraiser Becnel and others put on for her at a New Orleans home.

&#8220She is surrounded by so many ‘yes’ people that I think she wants outside influences and thoughts from people like myself and others. That’s the problem with Bush. He has so many ‘yes’ people around him and look where it has gotten him. I’m a guy who isn’t looking for a job, so she knows I’m just telling her what I honestly think will help her win,” Becnel explained.

Becnel was also accompanied to the Washington dinner by his son Bradley Becnel, who put the many details together for the New Orleans fundraiser that brought in thousands of dollars.

Becnel had previously been strongly behind John Edwards, and said he still supports Edwards. But he now believes Clinton is the one who will win the presidency.

&#8220I still like John Edwards, and I think he would make a great vice president. But I think he shot himself in the foot when he got the $400 haircut, and he built a 26,000 square foot house, and simply because he is a trial lawyer,” he added.

As for Clinton as president, Becnel says there are several reasons she is a strong candidate.

&#8220Number one is that she will get us out of Iraq quickly, and that is what everyone wants, including the Republicans,” he said. &#8220Then she will have Bill working with her and they will form a great team to rebuild our overseas relationships.”

As for the advent of Barack Obama, the up-and-coming candidate who has announced a presidential run, Becnel said he is still too inexperienced to be ready for the job.

He believes Clinton strengthened her Louisiana position after the Washington meeting since Becnel said he recommended she change her schedule to attend the black mayor’s conference in Baton Rouge, she decided to have a New Orleans fundraiser, and she met with black politicians in New Orleans privately when she came.

&#8220The black vote here is vital for her to win,” he said. &#8220And I believe she is showing that she cares about listening to all people. And when she was here she also did the commencement speech for Dillard, and I think that helped her as well.”

He views Clinton as a top presidential candidate for many reasons, but believes her knowledge of issues and a vision for the future set her apart from others.

&#8220When I have talked to her, I come away thinking she is as smart as can be about all the issues, and has a great command of language and solutions to problems,” he added. &#8220She has a lot of plans if she gets elected.”

He also said that Clinton wants to push universal health care for all Americans through Congress as well.

&#8220I give Hillary my opinions and advice, and she is a great listener,” Becnel said. &#8220I’m like a reporter when I go out of town. I talk to cab drivers, and business people, and I get a good feel for what is going on in the country. My reason to do all this is because I think that this is a good way for me to do something for the country and for our society. If I can help Hillary Clinton get elected, then I think I will have done something that can help a lot of people.”