Lt. Gov. Dardenne suing MoveOn over tourism slogan
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne filed a lawsuit Friday against a pro-Medicaid-expansion group over its use of the state's tourism slogan in a billboard campaign.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge. At issue is the use of the state's "Pick Your Passion" tourism message by the group MoveOn, which opposes Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to expand Medicaid in Louisiana under the federal Affordable Care Act.
A MoveOn ad on an Interstate 10 billboard near 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 in a news release that the state has invested millions of dollars in the tourism campaign. He said organizations should not be allowed to use the brand for "partisan political purposes."
"MoveOn.org has every right to attack Gov. Jindal, the state's refusal to accept Medicaid or, for that matter, me personally. But they do not have the right to use our protected service mark, which is used solely for the purpose of promoting and marketing Louisiana," said the statement from Dardenne, who, as lieutenant governor, heads up state tourism efforts.
MoveOn says the billboard message is protected by the First Amendment. It launched a TV ad this week that includes a shot of the billboard while an announcer asks, "Why are Louisiana Republicans trying to take down this billboard?" Dardenne and Jindal are Republicans.
"We have yet to receive a legal complaint, but if press reports are accurate, it is very sad to see the state spend taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit instead of providing health care to the people of Louisiana," MoveOn said in a statement released Friday evening. "Once our lawyers receive and have a chance to fully review the complaint we will have more to say."