MoveOn keeps tourism slogan

A pro-Medicaid expansion group rejected Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s demand Thursday it stop using the state’s tourism marketing slogan as part of its campaign.

Dardenne sent a cease-and-desist letter to lawyers about a billboard that incorporates the award-winning Louisiana: Pick Your Passion message as it criticizes Gov. Bobby Jindal for rejecting Medicaid expansion.

The billboard, on Interstate 10, outside of Baton Rouge. states: “Louisiana! Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal is denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”

Dardenne said the slogan is registered as a trade service for Louisiana’s tourism campaign and cannot be used. He said its use by MoveOn creates confusion and detracts from state marketing efforts.

MoveOn Communications Director Nick Berning said the billboard is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

“MoveOn will not back down in the face of baseless legal threats. If Republican officials don’t want to be criticized for keeping hundreds of thousands of Louisianians from accessing Medicaid, there’s a simple solution — they should stop preventing Louisianans from accessing Medicaid,” Berning said.

“Neither Gov. Jindal nor Lt. Gov. Dardenne will silence MoveOn members,” Berning said.

“Instead of wasting our time and theirs with a pathetic attempt to suppress criticism of the state government, state officials should focus on helping nearly 245,000 Louisianians access Medicaid. If he is truly concerned about Louisiana’s image, Lt. Gov. Dardenne’s time should be spent getting people health care, not trying to take down a billboard.”

States have the option of expanding government health insurance coverage to residents whose income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Jindal has nixed state participation because he says the state cannot afford it.

Dardenne said Thursday he has not heard from MoveOn. He said legal options would be discussed once the response from MoveOn lawyers is received.

“They are free to put anything they want to say as long as they are not using a registered service mark,” said Dardenne.

He said his effort is geared at “protecting the brand that we have created and in which we are heavily invested.”

“They clearly have protected free speech rights and can say whatever they want to criticize an elected official as long as it does not violate our registered service mark,” he said.

On Wednesday, Dardenne said use of the slogan would create confusion that “we are the ones calling on the governor to take that action.”