LT. GOV. LANDRIEU URGES LEGISLATORS TO SUPPORT COMPREHENSIVE ETHICS REFORM -- 02/11/2008
Office of Lieutenant GovernorFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2008
LT. GOV. LANDRIEU URGES LEGISLATORS TO SUPPORT COMPREHENSIVE ETHICS REFORM
Offers "Enthusiastic Support" for New Standards
BATON ROUGE, LA - In a letter to state lawmakers, Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu encouraged the adoption of meaningful ethics reforms during this month's special session. In the letter, Lt. Gov. Landrieu supports broad ethics legislation, including clear standards of behavior for public officials, stronger campaign finance laws, and greater transparency for lobbyists.
"We have to confront the reality in Louisiana and commit to real change that will serve our long term vision," said Landrieu. "The legislature must write a new set of rules for this state's future."
Landrieu promoted raising ethics standards at all levels of government as a means of improving overall quality of life in Louisiana. "After we deliver on ethics reform, we can turn our attention to addressing other challenges."
The full text of the letter is below.
I write today to offer my enthusiastic support of your impending efforts to elevate the standards of behavior for Louisiana's public officials. It is fitting that this will be the first meeting of a new legislature marked by so many first-time faces. As the legislature turns the page on its own new era, so too must it write a new set of rules for all of us privileged to serve as stewards of this state's future.
I have great respect and admiration for those who make the sacrifice to serve in public office. Most citizens who do so, serve honorably.
We cannot, however, turn a blind eye to the fact that over the years misguided individuals have put their own interests above those of the people. Louisiana's reputation for corruption--and our tolerance for it--is unfortunately legendary.
Statistics provided by the Department of Justice indicate that there were 49 federal convictions for public corruption in Louisiana as recently as 2006.
While one can correctly argue that public corruption is prevalent throughout the country, it does not change the fact that Louisiana has a problem that we must confront.
As you deliberate in the coming days, I urge you to remember that this cannot be an exercise in perception. Changes in law will not restore citizen trust in public servants, nor will they make Louisiana a premier business destination.
Creating real change requires a comprehensive approach that addresses three unique elements that govern the way we do business. First, we must establish clear standards for ethical behavior while eliminating conflicts of interest. Second, we must strengthen our campaign finance laws and increase enforcement efforts when violations occur. Finally, we must improve our current disclosure requirements for lobbying activities and provide better transparency to the public.
Mediocre improvement to any one of these tenets will fail to slam the door on the past we're working to erase. Governor Jindal's special session call certainly provides for such a comprehensive approach, and I urge that you take advantage of it.
As you encounter the toughest questions, do not squander the opportunity for progress to the temptation of political pragmatism. The use of empirical evidence to drive serious analysis of the options at hand will inevitably lead to the conclusions that will create real reform, not simply the perception of such.
Among the toughest questions to expect will involve the application of new standards to the public servants who run our parish and municipal governments.
A review of the data provides some insight. Of the 4,777 elected offices in Louisiana, nearly 89% serve at the municipal or parish level. Without addressing the preponderance of the state's public servants, will the changes you enact make a real impact?
Let me finally remind you that this state is blessed with unsurpassed natural assets and raw human talent that drive a cultural economy and industrial engine that are widely recognized for excellence--we are the sportsman's paradise and a culinary and musical capital; we fill the nation's gas tanks and heat the nation's homes. We should pursue this level of international excellence with regards to our ethics laws.
I encourage you to act quickly in this matter with clarity and conviction. The public is united on this issue and expects action. We should not shirk from the responsibility to deliver comprehensive ethics reform, campaign finance reporting, and lobbyist disclosure.
We have to confront the reality in Louisiana and commit to real change that will serve our long term vision. After we deliver on ethics reform, we can turn our attention to addressing challenges in health care, education, and economic development.
Mitchell J. Landrieu