According to The Advocate, MoveOn.org's lawyers have received a cease-and-desist letter from state of Louisiana officials over a billboard that criticizes Governor Bobby Jindal for not expanding Medicaid in his state under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The billboard is part of a campaign started just days ago targeting republicans over Obamacare Medicaid expansion. It's a takeoff on the state's tourism slogan, "Pick Your Passion."
And there's the rub, according to Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, who said, "It's a registered trade service in Louisiana for our department."
"We have invested too much time and money to create a positive message to promote Louisiana," Dardenne said. "I'm not going to let partisan Washington politics infringe on the brand we have created to market our state."
More below the squiggle.
The billboard is located on Interstate 10, outside of Baton Rouge, and states: "Lou!siana Pick your passion! But hope you don't love your health. Gov. Jindal is denying Medicaid to 242,000 people."
Dardenne said that the same typeface is used in the state's "Pick Your Passion" ad and the MoveOn ad.
MoveOn Communications Director Nick Berning acknowledged receipt of the cease-and-desist letter and released the following response:
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 Louisianans from accessing Medicaid, there's a simple solution -- they should stop preventing Louisianans from accessing Medicaid.
Neither Governor Jindal nor Lt. Governor Dardenne will silence MoveOn members. This billboard is protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. 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 Louisianans 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.
MoveOn has also taken the position that the threatened lawsuit is an attack on free speech in an email to their members asking for contributions.
Now, the Republican lieutenant governor of Louisiana wants us to take down a billboard criticizing Governor Jindal--who has presidential ambitions--because it's a takeoff on the state's tourism slogan, "Pick Your Passion." This is a blatant attack on free speech. A state government isn't entitled to use trademark law to censor citizens who want to criticize the state for its heartless and stupid policies.
The good news is, legal action like this can be a dream when it comes to focusing press coverage on the need for Medicaid expansion. If we take this on from a position of strength, unapologetically doubling down on our Medicaid campaigning right now--while preparing to vigorously defend ourselves against a potential lawsuit--we can score a big win.
At issue is the Medicaid expansion provision under Obamacare. It expands Medicaid coverage for incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government pays 100 percent of the expansion costs the first three years and no less than 90 percent in the years thereafter.
Governor Jindal (and other Republican governors) have steadfastly opposed the expansion, under the pretense that they do not want to add to an already broken Medicaid system, and that it might turn out to be too costly down the road.
It seems obvious that this campaign is already getting under the skin of the Republicans. That gives all the more reason for MoveOn (and the rest of us) to push harder. Pressure them until they break or flee.
EDIT: Added link to HoundDog's March 3rd diary on the start of the MoveOn campaign.