Media Campaigns Target Lawmakers

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The governor isn’t the only one trying to influence the votes of lawmakers in the ongoing second special session that ends on June 23.

The Louisiana Manufacturers Political Action Committee has purchased more than 3,000 radio spots over the next two weeks that urge voters to contact lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards to ask them to oppose tax increases. (Click here for the copy for three different spots that are running.)

“The state has increased business taxes recently to the point that new capital investments and the creation of new jobs will suffer,” said Greg Bowser, LAMP’s administrator and executive vice president of the Louisiana Chemical Association. “Billions of dollars in announced but not yet started projects are at risk because these new taxes were not anticipated.”

Americans for Prosperity’s Louisiana chapter dropped mail pieces last week in the House districts of six Republicans who have been friendly to Edwards’ revenue-raising agenda.

State director John Kay said grassroots operations are also underway in other districts as well.

The mail pieces warn voters: “DANGER! TAX HIKES AHEAD.”

The pieces also tag lawmakers for their support of sales tax changes in the first special session. Some of the House members targeted are preparing a formal reaction and may hold a press conference.

The pro-school choice group the Louisiana Federation For Children put $200,000 into a highly-publicized media buy in April. During the second special session AFC’s Louisiana chapters is also targeting specific lawmakers with direct mail and digital ads.

The pro-Edwards Rebuild Louisiana is still on television statewide with a Medicaid expansion spot, but has transitioned into messaging full-time for the second special session. Mail is being dropped, robocalls are out there and a digital buy started last week. The group is actively raising money to target more than a dozen legislative seats.

The House, more so than the Senate, seems to be seeing the most action.

Freshmen lawmakers, for example, have heard concerns directly from Republican donors and influencers like Lane Grigsby of Baton Rouge — sometimes in personal meetings.

Grigsby likewise sponsored statewide poll of 500 likely voters, conducted by Southern Media and Opinion Research, on the political landscape at the Capitol. (Click here for the poll’s dates, margins, geography and other details.)

Under the state spending portion of the poll, which also pits Treasurer John Kennedy against Gov. John Bel Edwards in terms of related messaging, the survey shows 74 percent of Republican voters are less likely to re-elect legislators who “vote for $600 million in additional taxes.” The amount raised in the upcoming special session, however, is expected to be considerably less. For all voters, that figure was 55 percent.

On the budget and tax issues, 63 percent of the respondents said there’s “too much spending” in state government and 26 percent said there’s “not enough revenue.”

When asked whether they think Louisiana businesses already pay too much in state taxes, 42 percent think “too much,” while 21 percent say “not enough.” About 29 percent of the voters think businesses pay the right amount. Another 52 percent believe increased taxes on Louisiana businesses will result in job losses. (Republicans 71 percent, Democrats 40 percent and others 54 percent)

The Louisiana Republican Party is also distributing the House and Senate switchboard phone numbers to its grassroots lists.

From the latest email: “Call your legislators and urge them to VOTE NO on all tax increases during the special session…”

Predicting a last-minute debate over hospital funding, the Louisiana Hospital Association launched a television, radio and social media ad campaign on May 23 and the spots stayed on the air until June 5, the day before the second special session convened.

Starting with imagery of the Capitol and talk of politics in Baton Rouge, the spots focused on the impact of budget cuts on jobs and health care access in Louisiana.

LHA spokesperson Mike Thompson said hospital care has been cut across the state by more than 25 percent, or $1.4 billion, since 2009.

In what amounts to a public information campaign, an advocacy group is promoting the idea of a higher cigarette tax during the second special session even though it’s not on the governor’s call. That means the topic cannot be voted on.

Invest in a Healthy Louisiana, partly funded by the Rapides Foundation, made the buy several weeks ago.

“We still want to point out that this is a relatively painless approach to raising lots of money — $200 million — and addressing health outcomes,” said Randy Hayden, a consultant with the group.

Hayden said the recent increases have only set Louisiana taxes at $1.08 per pack, significantly less than the national average of $1.61. He added that polling shows support for an additional tax of $1.25 per pack.

The Invest in a Healthy Louisiana Coalition consists of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Louisiana, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living and other health advocacy groups.

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