Louisiana Rep. Jeff Landry’s single largest office expense during the third quarter of last year was $30,000 for radio ads promoting meetings outside his current district but within a redrawn one where he may battle a fellow House Republican should he run for a second term.
Members are largely restricted from using official funds to promote, host or advertise events that do not directly serve their constituents. However, guidance from the House Administration Committee, the franking commission and the House Ethics Committee gives lawmakers enough leeway to at times fund events outside their districts.
But government watchdog group Public Citizen said Landry’s hefty expenditure to publicize an event in a neighboring district gives “every appearance” of breaking the rules.
“Thirty thousand taxpayer dollars were spent by Landry for an event that was outside his district, which may or may not have benefited any of his constituents,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen.
Landry’s office paid the same consulting firm that handles his political advertisements $33,994.50 for radio spots for two forums he was attending to discuss the federal debt ceiling with Republican Sen. David Vitter. The events were held in Lake Charles and Lafayette, La., which rest squarely within the neighboring district of Rep. Charles Boustany (R).
“Your Congressman Jeff Landry would like you to know that the forum will be held on Thursday, Aug. 25,” one ad stated before giving the time and address. “He and Sen. Vitter will discuss efforts to combat the national debt, its effect on jobs and other concerns.”
Though Landry hasn’t yet officially declared a run against Boustany — the filing deadline for Louisiana isn’t until Aug. 17 — a challenge is widely expected. The race would pit Boustany, who is close with Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and the Republican establishment, against the tea-party-affiliated freshman. Landry has burnished his conservative credentials during his short tenure in Congress and already has the backing of the powerful tea party group FreedomWorks PAC.
Louisiana lost one House seat as a result of reapportionment following the 2010 census. A redistricting plan signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in April combined portions of Boustany’s southwestern district with parts of Landry’s, in the southeastern corner of the state.
A major point of contention between Landry and Boustany will likely be last summer’s Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling. Landry voted against the act while Boustany, along with the GOP leadership, was in favor of it. The events with Vitter — who also voted against the measure — were held in the wake of the marquee legislation.
Landry’s office characterized the events as forums on the debt ceiling that the lawmaker attended but did not co-host. A representative said the radio spots informed constituents of his schedule, which happened to include events outside his district.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.