The Advertiser carries a nifty little story that illustrates a basic principle of legislative strategy seldom covered in civics texts; let’s call it: “Killing with Kindness” or KWK
Now the more usual strategy is to kill a bad bill by, you know, arguing against it. That’s in all the civics books. Debate, rational argumentation—you’ve heard of it. But using the standard strategy depends upon your opponent having actually putting forward the real purpose of the bill. If instead he has disguised his real purpose by using some Mom and Apple Pie (MAP) strategy disguise its true purpose—well then, things get a bit harder for opponents of the true bill. After all who wants to vote against Mom or Apple Pie? Or, in this case, for “porn.”
Now faced with MAP you’ve got two choices: 1) Argue against the real purpose and count on your fellow legislators to be smart enough to see through the deception and brave enough to vote against Mom. (intelligence+courage: not available in Louisiana) 2) KWK—Kill it with Kindness, a sort of legislative jiujitsu which turns the strength of the deceptive MAP bill against it in a way that damages the real interests behind the bad bill and so causes its advocates to turn against it. (slyness: something Louisiana has in abundance)
Sooo…now we are in a position to understand the story in the Advertiser report more fully. Franklin house member Sam Jones puts forward an obviously pointless MAP bill—one which he pretends is needed to outlaw something that is already illegal (buying porn on a government credit card.) From the story:
Jones originally explained HB142 as banning the use of public credit cards by state and local officials visiting strip clubs or purchasing pay-per-view movies while traveling,
One of the sly points of a MAP strategy is that it isn’t as clear as with an honest bill whose interests are actually served. So anyone intending to counter it with a KWK (Kill it With Kindess) strategy has to accurately scope out the real intent behind the bill. Michot thought he knew who was behind the bill:
“Lafayette is the only public utility that offers cable service,” Michot said. He said singling out Lafayette would put it at an unfair disadvantage against competitors like Cox and AT&T.
So the Lafayette contingent had to figure out how to kill Cox and AT&T with kindness. If they were right they could kill the bill by causing the incumbents’ agents to withdraw it rather than suffer the consequences. (If they were wrong they’d lose—if the real interest was just some sort of simple silly prudery then the bill’s author would welcome make it more prudish and silly.) The most obvious thing to try is to include Cox in the same trap that Smith & Cox were trying to put the Lafayette legislators and LUS in: include them in the bill:
Michot and Rep. Joel Robideaux of Lafayette were appointed to a conference committee to try to reach a compromise. Michot and other Senate appointees, as well as Robideaux, who was a House delegate to the panel, wanted to make the ban apply to all cable TV providers in Louisiana.
This is the crucial moment in the story—if Lafayette is right and the real interests behind the bill were the incumbents then they’d tell their agent (Smith) to drop the thing; after all this sort of strategy is supposed to use the power of the state to create a disadvantage for your competitor, not “level the playing field.” Apparently Lafayette was right:
Since he couldn’t get Michot to pull his amendment, he decided to allow the bill to die without action.
Robideaux said that to him, Jones’ unwillingness to work on a compromise “tells me it was always about trying to put LUS at a disadvantage. If he would have worked with us, he had every opportunity to have his bill passed and signed.
There you have it: An advanced lesson in civics as she is played out in the Gret State.
Extra Credit: Decide whether the real point of this exercise was purely PR — was it never intended to pass, only to try and lay on LUS (again–this ploy fizzled badly during the fiber fight) the onus of selling “porn?” Or was the hope to impose another long, embarrassing and distracting lawsuit on Lafayette? (This worked pretty well during the fiber fight.) Show your work….