Search
| ,
| RSS | |

SECTIONS:

 

Arts · Politics · Crime
· Sports · Food ·
· Opinion · NOLA ·
Lagniappe

 
THE

Defender Picks

 

Crime of 'Passion?'

Baton Rouge Billboard Battle Lands State, MoveOn.Org in Federal Court



With the state legislative session in full gear, Baton Rouge is in its annual free-for-all of horse-trading and designating. But this week, the biggest political battleground is on the side of the Red Stick highway, rather than the House that Long Built. The skirmish involves an influential national progressive organization, a pair of state GOP pols with designs on higher office and, as ever in the current political climate, Obamacare.

 

In early March, MoveOn.org, which spearheaded grassroots organizing on the Web before Super PACs and the Obama campaign, started displaying a billboard ad along Interstate 10 East in Baton Rouge that took aim at Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to deny the Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act.

 

To get at the gov, the billboard lampoons the state's "Pick Your Passion" tourism campaign.

 

The billboard says: "LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”

 

While state Democrats, including U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, have been pounding Jindal on his health care positions for months, this one apparently hit a nerve. The next stop was court.

 

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose primary duties include overseeing state tourism, took up the fight. Dardenne, who said he will run for governor in 2015 issued a cease and desist letter to MoveOn.org over the billboard, claiming it infringes on the state's tourism campaign.

 

Not surprisingly, MoveOn didn't back down, much less remove the sign. In fact, the well-funded group only upped the media campaign. To go along with the placard, MoveOn launched a five-figure TV ad campaign in the Baton Rouge market.

 

"This billboard is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech," MoveOn communications director Nick Berning said. "Instead of wasting our time and theirs with a pathetic attempt to suppress criticism of the state government, state officials should focus on helping nearly 245,000 Louisianans access Medicaid."

Here's the commercial:

 

But Dardenne wasn't done lawyering up. On Friday (3-14), the lieutenant gov filed a lawsuit against the organization in federal court.

 

The suit argues that the billboard and commercials -- right down to the picture of a plate of crawfish -- "creates confusion" about the tourism campaign, and infringes on state and federal trademark laws.

 

The state's lawyers also contend that the tourism campaign's slogan is not subject to fair use for satire "because the subject of the parody -- Gov. Bobby Jindal -- is not the author of the Service Marks, as is required."

 

Ultimately, the lawsuit asks a judge to order the removal of the billboard.

 

"No group should be able to use our state brand for partisan political posturing," Dardenne said in a statement released when the lawsuit was filed.

 

On Monday, Jindal got directly involved in the fight with an op-ed that appears in local papers around the state. In the piece, the gov argues that the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion would provide less money for people with disabilities than it would for "childless adults."

 

"With more than half a million individuals with disabilities already on waiting lists for Medicaid services nationwide, we need to protect access for people with disabilities, not engage in a massive new wave of government-run health coverage," Jindal writes, reiterating his old position.

 

With a pitched battle in place and a hotly contested U.S. Senate gearing up where the GOP wants to make Obamacare a central issue, it seems that the judge will have to make the next move.

view counter
view counter
Advertise With Us Here
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
view counter
Mardi Gras Zone
view counter


Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

Published Daily