Questionnaire for State Senator Neil Riser

Dear State Senator Neil Riser,

The Louisiana Republican Party is prepared to issue an official endorsement for your candidacy. We thank you for your willingness to offer yourself as a candidate, and we fully understand and sympathize with the difficulty of this life-changing decision.  We are more than happy to extend to you the full panoply of Republican services, including expert psychiatric care, a veritable boatload of cash, and, when it’s all said and done, a week’s vacation at Musket Cove in Fiji.

The Louisiana Republican Party remains in constant communication with our donors, our loosely affiliated and friendly concentric circles of 527s, 501(c)4s, PACs, and SuperPACs, and as you likely appreciate, time is of the essence.

In order to properly shore up necessary commitments from our partners, we need you to answer the following questions, and we respectfully request that you send your responses back within the next twelve hours. Again, time is of the essence. Thank you so much for your understanding. We look forward to working with you, and we are confident that if you are elected, Louisiana will never be the same again. No doubt about it.

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1. When did you decide to run for this election? Was it before or after Congressman Alexander resigned? (Quick editorial aside: Neil, buddy, we’d never use this against you. Trust us. This is completely off-the-record. Next time, though, we’d prefer to know in advance about this stuff, so we can avoid these intrusive and admittedly amateurish questionnaires. No offense).

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2. Less than 24 hours after Congressman Alexander resigned, you launched a website. We know you didn’t do that yourself, as wily and clever as you are. Seriously, Neil, how long had you been preparing for this election? Six months, right? We’ve heard six months.  Either way, you’ve been planning this stunt for quite some time, huh? That’s awesome, man! (Again, Neil, off-the-record: If this ever happens again, will y’all give us more than a day’s notice? There’s a guy on our team who specializes in animated GIFs, and he had this great one ready to go that involved Nancy Pelosi and a birthday cake. It would have been great).

3. Considering your tangential involvement in these backdoor negotiations, do you feel any responsibility for the modestly-paid public servants who were all terminated without warning or recourse? (Sorry. Maybe I spoke too soon. I just re-read your website, Neil. Maybe I should ask you the more direct question, so let me rephrase: Do you feel any responsibility for colluding with Bobby Jindal and Rodney Alexander in order to facilitate the sudden terminations of “federal government bullies”? The bullies who worked for Rodney Alexander for years, right? It’s ironic in a way, because Congressional staffers like to complain about their jobs being thankless. You stuck it to those bullies).

4. You’ve already announced your intention to hire Timmy Teepell. Between us (I’m going to give it to you straight, Neil), I hope you’re not paying too much, because Timmy’s not only an uneducated sycophant who has built his entire career by hitching his wagon to Bobby Jindal’s dimming star, he’s also an insensitive, impetuous, and tone-deaf provocateur who most recently responded to legitimate criticisms about Governor Jindal over-purchasing $17 million worth of unused ice during Hurricane Isaac by posting harrowing images of displaced and distraught African-American families huddled together after Hurricane Katrina.

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This is all comic relief for Timmy Teepell, dystopia as political theater. If someone accuses his boss of over-purchasing ice (really not that big of a deal), he trots out photos of post-Katrina mayhem, as if those experiences are nothing more than a prop for Jindal, as if Governor Blanco was somehow single-handedly responsible for the entirety of government negligence and dereliction, notwithstanding the fact that Jindal was a sitting United States Congressman who belonged to the same party as the President of the United States.  Only a fool or a paid hack would blame Governor Blanco for the federal government’s dereliction of duty; it requires a special type of intellectual dishonesty to believe something like that and a special strain of hubris to want to re-litigate Katrina on Bobby Jindal’s terms, but, to be fair to Teepell, Jindal apparently has strung him around for so long that he now brags about himself as a “road scholar.” One day, Bobby Jindal or even David Vitter may finally tell Teepell that his whole “road scholar” shtick isn’t cute; it’s stupid. And on this particular issue, I’d forgive both of them for being dismissively elitist, because, unlike Timmy Teepell, a homeschooled kid whose wealthy family ensured that he never really needed to receive an actual education, both Vitter and Jindal went to Ivy League schools and both became real Rhodes Scholars.  Timmy Teepell is currently successful for only one reason: He’s made a personal fortune leading Bobby Jindal’s goon squad.

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Anyway, back to Riser:  When did Timmy Teepell first engage you on running for this election? Month, day, year.  How much are you paying him? And what do you say to those who suggest that you’re nothing more than a useful idiot for Teepell and Jindal, a tool in their shed? (Neil, I know that may seem cruel, but someone needs to tell you).

5. Were you aware that Congressman Alexander, in accepting a job with Jindal, increases his state pension plan exponentially?

6. Did you ever consider the actions or implicit promises of Governor Jindal and Rodney Alexander as a quid pro quo? (On a personal note: Did this ever make you feel uneasy? You don’t have to answer that).

7. Have you ever written a good law? Seriously.

8. You wrote a statute that makes it almost impossible for convicted felons to be denied the right to possess a high-powered semi-automatic weapon. Even though he signed it, Governor Jindal has now spoken out against your law; it’s been ridiculed in the state, national, and international media. It’s also held up as evidence of your complete lack of oversight, your impulsive partisanship, and perilously sloppy draftsmanship as a lawmaker. Is that fair? If not, why?

9.  How much money do you expect to raise and from whom do you expect to accept it?

10. In one of the poorest districts in the country, you seem to care more about gun paranoia, denying gay and lesbian couples from accessing fundamental civil rights, and fighting against a phantom class of hispanic immigrants (who are now apparently invading Northeast Louisiana). Please explain how those platform issues of yours substantively affect Louisiana. Why are you more concerned with criticizing and judging our neighbors for WHO they are and not focused on WHAT they desperately need?

To me, that seems perverted, vacuous, and dishonorable. It’s as if you purchased your campaign from some sort of mad lib catalog. Again if you haven’t already, tell Timmy Teepell that you want your money back.

11. You claim to be about the free market. The people of Louisiana voted for the Stelly Plan through a statewide referendum. You, Neil Riser, designed its defeat in the State Senate, and because of you, Louisiana has lost out on hundreds of millions in dollars in critically-needed revenue every year since. Knowing what you do today, would you change your approach on Stelly?

12. Finally, Neil, I know this is personal (and this is not a question), but your kids seem pretty rad. You didn’t have to do this to them. You didn’t have to run as the anti-gay, anti-woman, xenophobe. (Is it OK that I blame Jindal and Teepell for corrupting you?) I don’t believe, for a second, that you wrote the unconstitutional legislation on guns, and I don’t think you were principally responsible for the Stelly repeal. I just think– with all due respect here– that you’re weak, malleable, and corruptible, and it infuriates me. You should never represent the people of Central and Northeast Louisiana in the United States Congress because you don’t give a shit about Congress or Louisiana. I’m not sure why you’re even in politics, unless you think there’s the promise of fame and fortune…. and if that’s what you’re after, pick another profession. Too many people rely on their Congressman, and maybe you don’t quite understand that because you live in a town of less than 500 people and your understanding of politics is filtered down through a dimwitted, uneducated political hack of Bobby Jindal, a man who has failed Louisiana more than anyone else, including several felons, and your news comes from Fox and e-mail chains…. and for some stupid reason (well golly-gee), you’re now running for Congress, but you have no idea what you’re doing… so instead of the issues affecting the district, you’ve outsourced your entire political identity to a homeschooled kid living out of a basement in Washington, D.C. ).

I’m a life-long resident of Louisiana’s fifth Congressional district. Our issues aren’t gays, guns, and God, and anyone who makes the election about those things is a stupid coward. Because our district is impoverished. Because our district is under-educated. Because our district is underfunded and over-incarcerated. Neil Riser, you may be a nice man, and unfortunately, you may very well become my next Congressman. But you’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it. You’re not professional, and we need professional help. We can no longer afford complacency or laziness or, least of all, someone who is merely programmed to regurgitate tired talking points about the existential threats of people who look or love differently.  Mr. Riser, I’d bet good money that your positions on social issues are deeply offensive to your own children (because you’ve raised righteous millennial kids), and I’d bet good money that you don’t actually believe half of what you ostensibly espouse.

I get it, though. Politics can be sexy. Politics can be empowering. Politics can even make some folks a lot of money. But there’s a difference between politics and the actual work of governing. For the last eleven years, the people of Louisiana’s fifth Congressional district were represented by Rodney Alexander, a man who loved politics but hated governing, a man who, despite his seniority in the majority,  barely made a blip in the national news when he announced his retirement. And when he finally “retired,” he actually was just making a lateral move to the Jindal administration, all the while acknowledging that his tenure in Congress was an utter disaster and blaming everyone but himself for his own poor performance. The simple truth is: Rodney Alexander, like Neil Riser, never cared about his actual job; he had other people to do that for him. He cared about the vainglorious sport of electoral politics. We can no longer afford to be held hostage by this charade. We’re too poor. We’re too underfunded. Too many of our sons and daughters and our neighbors are bereft. This isn’t some game; it’s time to get serious.