Our Views: A PR gift for MoveOn.org

If Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s unsuccessful lawsuit against a political billboard shows anything, it is that defense wins championships in federal court.

The lawsuit was a gift for the public awareness of MoveOn.org, a national liberal group promoting expansion of Medicaid insurance coverage for the working poor.

Dardenne is the state’s chief tourism official, and he went to federal court to demand MoveOn.org stop using the state’s tourism marketing slogan as part of its campaign.

U.S. District Judge Suzie Morgan rightly rejected the lawsuit, noting the First Amendment broadly protects free speech even if it satirically picks on legitimate messages.

The MoveOn billboard, on Interstate 10 in West Baton Rouge Parish, states: “Lou!siana! Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. (Bobby) Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”

We’re as fond of the state’s hospitality industry as anybody. “Pick your passion!” is the latest ad slogan for state marketing efforts. Dardenne recently led a commendable effort by the state and local tourism bureaus to have Louisiana become only the second state internationally certified for its visitor services and promotion.

But if you’ve got a high-profile slogan, it’s only natural a high-profile political issue will result in people picking up on it and using it. The lieutenant governor, a lawyer, might more appropriately have protested but not taken MoveOn.org to court, where it almost inevitably won — and reaped the PR benefit therein.

And Dardenne, something of an expert on Louisiana history, should know two lessons: Politics is indeed one of our passions; and when the state collides with the First Amendment in federal courts, the state usually loses.