Monday, June 30, 2008

BellSouth Lobbyist Resigns

BellSouth-AT&T Lobbyist/Jindal Legislative Ramrod Tommy Williams is going back to being a lobbyist again the T-P reports. No big surprise, that.

We've been watching Tommy's career ever since he was a BellSouth Louisiana Vice President during the fiber fight here in Lafayette. Tommy's son, John, was the BellSouth rep in Lafayette at that time. John was the one, you may recall, who first denied that BellSouth had anything to do with the infamous Lafayette push poll but later had to admit that BS had, in fact, come up with the idea, while complaining that, his father's standing not withstanding, he didn't know anything about a poll run in his area. Not an illustrious clan. Tommy left his job lobbying for BS and became an indpendent contractor for them back when AT&T bought up BellSouth and continued lobbying for the company right on through the transition—he still officially represents the phone company on the Broadband Advisory Council.

Williams senior is giving up his job as Bobby Jindal's Legislative Director. In that position he was responsible for making sure the administration's legislative agenda made it through the House and Senate.

The Times-Picayune article's take on the resignation emphasizes the tattered relationship between the legislature and Jindal in the wake of the last session--and it hit the net before Jindal flopped back to flip and vetoed the legislative pay raise after all this morining. Tattered is probably now a mild description of the legislature's pique at loosing that particular perk.

My perhaps cynical guess is, however, that the AT&T lobbyist had already managed to pass what his longer-term employers thought was most important, even if it wasn't particularly part of the Governor's agenda: passing the state-wide video franchise law.

Truth be told, putting a lobbyist in charge of the lobbying for an ethics package never made all that much sense. The judgment that the administration's legislative ethics package actually damages the cause of ethic's reform in the "gret state of Louisiana" has been coalescing since the resignation of 9 of the 11 members of the ethics board.

Williams didn't actually get much done for Jindal that Jindal he could be proud of. On the other hand, AT&T will surely be happy to have him back home. Practically speaking, spending much more time representing a governor's ethics program whose main thrust has turned out to be making sure that legislators bear the brunt of the public disclosure laws that Jindal thinks will heal our state's image (while opposing transparency for his own administration) will not endear him to the legislators that are his audience in his real job. As a lobbyist he needs to get back on the job of glad-handing and getting on the good side of his real constituency.

His resignation, breathless reporting aside, is no big surprise.

All in all though, his abscence has to be good for Lafayette's fiber project. As we've noted before, his presence in the governor's inner councils can't be a good thing for a project that he has vehemetly opposed.

(Tip o' the hat to Mike who sent in the pointer to this one.)

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