Tickets should go to taxpayers, not legislators

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Christmas season is the time for giving, and our Louisiana politicians are always very happy to accept gifts, the bigger the better.

It never changes, the poor image of Louisiana politicians. Just when we think we might be turning the corner, there are reports of another smelly deal that benefits the political class in our state.

Sadly, Louisiana politicians just can’t help themselves. They have an insatiable need to take advantage of every perk.

Last week it was reported that Louisiana legislators, as well as statewide elected officials, will be receiving six tickets to the Jan. 9, 2012, BCS championship game between LSU and Alabama at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Thanks to the generosity of the Sugar Bowl Committee and LSU, 141 current legislators will receive the six-pack of tickets at the discounted rate of $350 each. While this is the “face” value, the real market value is approximately $1,850 per ticket.

In effect, our legislators are receiving a $7,500 gift due to their position as Louisiana politicians. This is another outrageous deal that sends the wrong image about our state and our politicians.

Our legislators can allow their family and friends to use the tickets or “give” them to their top donors in exchange for more contributions. They can even sell them online. Even though we supposedly have the “gold standard” of ethics in this state, it would not be illegal for our legislators to sell these tickets for a huge profit. Instead of the “gold standard” of ethics, Louisiana really has the “fool’s gold” ethical standard.

As fans struggle to find tickets to buy on the Internet, legislators and other statewide politicians enjoy treatment as a special privileged class.

According to Herb Vincent, associate vice chancellor for communications at LSU, the university “makes these tickets available for purchase to these offices because they play a vital role in the continued success of Louisiana State University.”

In effect, because legislators control the purse strings, they are getting this gift, compliments of LSU.

The university should be more grateful to the fans that support the team each week, the parents who pay the tuition costs and the taxpayers who fund all of the major programs at LSU.

Their gratitude is directed toward the wrong people, for everything the legislators give to LSU is provided by the hard working taxpayers of the state.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if the school had set aside all of these tickets for parents, students, fans or regular taxpayers instead of politicians? These misplaced priorities are nothing new.

Ideally, our legislators should act like public servants, making a sacrifice to serve their constituents. This job should not be an opportunity to receive perks and benefits not available to the average citizen.

Once again, Louisiana is exposed as a political banana republic with a governing political class lording over a bunch of citizen serfs. We need to change this dynamic in our state. It is essential that we not only demand more of our politicians but expect more.

This offer was made to only the current group of legislators and not any of the freshman class that was just elected. Not surprisingly, only three of the current legislators rejected this generous gift.

Hopefully, some of the newly elected legislators are getting tired of this image of political greed. Maybe one of the new legislators will have the courage to propose legislation outlawing this type of outrageous benefit.

For our state to grow and prosper and actually recruit new business, we need to change our political image. It has been this way since the days of Huey Long, and it is getting old.

Jeff Crouere is a political analyst and host of “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Sunday on WLAE-TV and 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 in New Orleans.