On Thursday, longtime Republican and Lifezette TV host Colonel (Ret.) Rob Maness dropped out of the Republican Party, citing the party’s support of Eddie Rispone’s run for Governor against John Bel Edwards.
In a resignation letter that he turned into the St. Tammany Parish Republican Executive Committee, Maness stated that he has “a moral obligation” to support Republican nominees as an elected member of the Committee. However, according to Maness, Rispone “represents to me everything that is wrong with politics in our state.”
The letter references Rispone’s association with GOP donor Lane Grigsby. According to Maness, Grigsby “openly bragged in the media … about trying to illegally influence an election in Baton Rouge with his power and money.”
“This brazen public pronouncement of illegal activity is appalling and unfortunately, not the first time I’ve come across political corruption in Louisiana,” Maness said. “I have reported illegal actions like this to the authorities before and it has negatively impacted my family.”
On Wednesday, Grigsby confirmed to the media that he offered Franklin Foil financial support in a future run for judge if he would drop out of the race for Senate District 16 after Foil tied with Steve Carter, Grigsby’s preferred candidate.
“I have been a Republican Party member my whole life, but it is my duty to oppose illegal activities and corruption, regardless of the consequences or what political party they come from,” Maness said.
Maness also claimed that Rispone, together with Grigsby, “is responsible for our current failing education system in Louisiana.” Rispone is a staunch supporter of Louisiana’s school voucher program – a program that even Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a huge supporter of “school choice” initiatives has called a failure.
“I would just say that the Louisiana program was not very well-conceived,” DeVos said in May. “It has encouraged some schools that probably would not have been parents’ first choices if they’d been given a full range of choices.”
According to a report by the Bayou Brief, Rispone’s motivation for supporting the program is purely financial. Rispone had a central role in creating Louisiana’s Tuition Donation Credit Program, which helps Rispone to zero out his state income tax liability, as well as drastically reducing his federal tax exposure by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It is for this reason that Maness chose to leave the Republican party and become an independent rather than support Rispone’s run for Governor. He has not definitively said that he will vote for Gov. John Bel Edwards, who he also describes as a “bad choice.”
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_