- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - From 2009 to 2012, Louisiana politicians used more than $310,000 in campaign contributions to ride in Mardi Gras parades and attend or sponsor krewe balls, according to a review of campaign records by NOLA.com ‘ The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News.

That politicos are drawn to Carnival should come as no surprise. Mardi Gras parades are a perfect metaphor for politics, after all.

Powerful folks in sparkly suits waving to the masses - that’s campaigning.

Powerful folks tossing treasure to the commoners below, that’s trickle-down economics.

When you catch something, that’s good government. When you don’t, that’s government as usual.

If you laugh at the goofy stuff written on a float, that’s a platform.

When the folks in the street gratefully accept tossed treasure, only to realize later that it’s not worth as much as they thought when they first got it, that’s inflation. If they come back to the same spot next year, that’s re-election.

When you can’t get around the jerks that have camped out on the median, that’s gerrymandering. When a float breaks down, that’s filibustering.

When a bunch of people on the curb yell, “Throw me somethin’ mister,” that’s a constituency. When one of the disguised people on the float yells, “Throw ME something” that’s soliciting a contribution.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the Mystic Krewe of Louisianians in Washington, D.C., is the number one magnet for politician campaign spending, receiving $130,340 between 2009 and 2012. The krewe organizes the annual Washington Mardi Gras.

Among regional organizations, Metairie’s Krewe of Argus received the lion’s share of campaign contributions: $83,229. And the biggest contributor of campaign funds to Argus was Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. The sheriff unburdened his campaign chest of $42,608 to support the krewe. Normand gave Argus $14,000 in 2012 for advertising and promotion. He was King Argus that year. His face is on the doubloon.

In a telephone conversation Friday, Normand explained that, “Argus is the centerpiece of the Mardi Gras celebration in Jefferson Parish.”

It’s an economic driver, he said, and parish politicians donate to help it continue to flourish.

But riding isn’t entirely altruistic. Normand said that Argus is an opportunity to “market myself.”

“That’s what campaign contributions are for,” he said.

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