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Opinion: Mystick Krewe of Embarrassment

Yesterday marked the end to the annual bacchanalia that is “Washington Mardi Gras,” a long-weekend of bashes and booze. For the uninitiated, Louisiana business and political establishment have gathered at the D.C. Capitol Hilton to party and debate your future for years. It’s the perfect synergy of lobbying and political power. All, and we mean all, of the Louisiana political players will be there at one point or another. And it’s all underwritten by thousands and thousands of dollars of corporate and lobby money. If you want to be a player in politics, forget about organizing public support, just buy yourself into a major DC Mardi Gras event and you’re in the conversation. And no matter how teahadist your world view has become, no matter how much you rail against the corrupt Washington establishment of lobbyists and power peddling, no matter how conservative you claim to be, you never dare to say a word against the big fete:

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, may be a conservative’s conservative, but the good news for revelers at the 64th Washington D.C., Mardi Gras was that, as chairman of this year’s festivities, the congress,man chose a theme — “200 Years with Oysters and Beers” — that was more about letting the good times roll than tightening any belts.

All of this hedonism is excused because, hey, this is Louisiana, and moreover Louisiana during carnival. We’re all about food and excess, right? No matter how poor, or how far behind Louisiana gets, the party still goes on in DC. But make no mistake, for those that put these events on, this is serious business. It’s all about buying politicians, une tradition particulière en Louisiane:

In excess of 3,000 normally attend the D.C. event, of which 90 percent travel from Louisiana.All of the attendees receive full access to the state’s most powerful politicians, so it isn’t surprising that many local organizations and companies actually dedicate portions of their marketing budgets to attending the bash.

….Lobbyists and special interests used to underwrite Washington Mardi Gras and then hand out tickets as a form of favoritism or influence. But due to changes in federal ethics laws four years ago — as in no more gifts for lawmakers and staff — the organization that runs the event is now in charge of tickets.

Ethics laws didn’t stop the party, and this year continued the tradition of a lobbying buffet staring the biggest names in Louisiana politics. Don’t worry, Mr. Gold Standard in ethics will be there. Among the other luminaries:

Krewe Captain this year is Senator Mary Landrieu, with captains emeritus including former MOCs John Breaux and Jim McCrery. The 2012 Chairman is Congressman Steve Scalise. Party lines do not matter. Everyone is part of the same corrupt game. After new ethics laws took effect in 2008, the Times-Picayune reported on the shell game:

In the past, they have given the tickets to Capitol Hill staffers, the same ones they count on to shepherd their legislation or ensure that a certain issue gets the lawmaker’s attention. But a new law banning gifts to senators and staff has forced sponsors to alter their routine slightly.

Now, they give the extra tickets to the group that runs the party, Louisiana Alive! Inc., which makes sure they get to the right people on Capitol Hill. The rerouting of tickets appears to be one of the few concessions to the new ethics rules by the Washington Mardi Gras.

Of course, this type of revelry gives some folks a chance to finally shine. In the case of professional pretty boy empty suit Cedric Richmond, a congressman who was elected by default and whose greatest claim to fame is beating a Vietnamese Republican who voted against Healthcare Reform in the country’s most Democratic district (what an accomplishment!), is apparently quite the party-thrower:

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, has already established himself as his party’s star pitcher and among the best-dressed people on Capitol Hill. Add to that a developing reputation as the guy who hosts the coolest Washington Mardi Gras parties.

This year’s event was a packed party at Ozio Restaurant & Lounge, two blocks up from K Street [the center of DC lobbying], which was transformed into a reasonable facsimile of a Tuesday night at the Maple Leaf with a raucous appearance by the Rebirth Brass Band.

Being an embarrassment is nothing new for Richmond. But considering his dearth of actual accomplishments, his strength in bolstering the most corrupt weekend in Washington, DC is  probably working in his favor.Everyone likes guy in the nice suits who throws a great party.

Sure, never mind the fact that the public sent these folks to DC to work for them. Instead, they’re burning the midnight oil party-planning and creating fancy bead throws:

Washington Mardi Gras is an occasion for breaking out the latest in political beadwear, and so Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, debuted his 2012 neckwear at this year’s event.

The new beads, designed by his wife, include red, white and blue beads, four rippling Acadian flags, and a heavyweight plastic pendant that declares, “Landry for Louisiana: Proud to be Cajun,” a wording that works regardless of whether Landry decides to go against fellow incumbent Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, to try to stay in Congress, or forgoes that race for a 2014 run for U.S. Senate, or, for that matter, any other contest in the state.

With all of the talk of hard times, and tightening our belts, and spiraling deficits, and record-low congressional approval ratings, why are these people still partying?

This isn’t about being the fun police, it’s about showing some respect for the massive difficulties regular Louisianians are facing every day. You know the kind of people that can’t afford the weekend of boozing in DC, or the tickets to exclusive Mystick Krewe of Louisianians events, or a corporate lobbyist to build a replica of Bourbon Street in their suite at the Washington Hilton.

So, how long will the voters let the good times roll for Louisiana’s politicians. Who has the courage to stand up to this disastrous example of cronyism and corruption. To expect that the corporate powers paying for these events expect nothing in return, or don’t see this as a business opportunity, is to attempt extreme mental gymnastics.

Your government bought and sold, over Mardi Gras bacchanalia.

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