By Stephen Dinan and Joyce Howard Price
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu sent $10 gift certificates for food to 108 service members in Louisiana just before Thanksgiving, leading some critics to accuse her of trying to buy military votes.
"This is like trying to buy military votes with a $10 gift certificate, and I think that's outrageous," said Gen. George Peyton Cole Jr., who retired in 1994 as commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base outside of Shreveport.
A spokeswoman for Barksdale said the Landrieu campaign gave them 20 certificates to distribute to needy airmen at Thanksgiving time. Eighty-eight gift cards were also distributed to service members throughout the state, including Fort Polk, Louisiana's other major military base.
"We did an investigation and found that she had given 20 gift certificates, worth $10 each, that were good at Wal-Mart," Sgt. Barbara Lavigne, a spokeswoman at Barksdale, said in an interview.
The certificate, which says it is from "the Armed Services Foundation and Sen. Landrieu," thanks the troops for their service and tells them to use the $10 card "for a turkey and trimmings."
The Armed Services Foundation is a small organization based in New York City that provides scholarships to the children of service members.
Jimmy Gorab, executive director of the foundation, said the gift cards had nothing to do with politics and were planned well before Mrs. Landrieu found herself in the runoff election tomorrow against Republican challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell.
"Senator Landrieu is on the honorary board of the Armed Services Foundation and is one of two senators who hosted our golf tournament in October," Mr. Gorab said.
He said that Mrs. Landrieu, Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican; along with Reps. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat; Susan A. Davis, California Democrat; James H. Saxton, New Jersey Republican; and Duncan Hunter, California Republican, all were given cards to distribute.
Mr. Gorab said Mr. Hunter distributed 500 of the cards to service members in San Diego.
In all, Mrs. Landrieu was given 108 of the approximately 2,000 cards distributed by the group.
"This was way before her primary or anything else. This had nothing to do with her primary," Mr. Gorab said.
Bob Biersack, spokesman for the Federal Election Commission, said it "would not be a violation" of federal election law for a candidate for Congress to donate gifts to troops in her state.