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Louisiana governor a cheap date? Don't bid on it

December 14, 2006|Ann M. Simmons | Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS — What was meant to be a joke became an embarrassment for a bank executive and one city's chamber of commerce, when the executive bid $1 in a fundraising auction for dinner with Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco -- and won.

The incident happened in Monroe, a city of about 56,000 people in northern Louisiana.

Sue Edmunds, president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, said that Malcolm Maddox, regional chairman for Capital One, offered $1 -- and before anyone else had a chance to give a nod, the deal was sealed.

"The auctioneer closed the bid very rapidly," Edmunds said. "Several others wanted to bid, but they didn't have the opportunity to do so."

Edmunds said that Maddox immediately regretted his action, and the next day he gave the chamber a letter of apology and a check for $1,000.

"He is also sending a letter to the governor," Edmunds said.

A receptionist in Maddox's Monroe office said he was not available for comment.

Blanco has been criticized for what opponents say was ineffective leadership after Hurricane Katrina.

Marie Centanni, a Blanco spokeswoman, said the governor did not hear about the incident until Wednesday afternoon.

Centanni said Blanco had raised tens of thousands of dollars across the state over the last three years at such fundraisers.

"One prankster cannot take away the value of the good works done with my contributions of these dinners," Centanni quoted Blanco as saying. "And the Monroe Chamber is now $1,000 ahead for these efforts."

Edmunds said that the $1,000 that Maddox ultimately paid for the dinner was the highest amount ever given for dinner with a Louisiana governor in the decade that the annual fundraising event has taken place. Until now, the highest winning bid had been $600, she said. Twenty-five couples will join the winner at the event.

Centanni said that Blanco was good-natured about the incident and was "trying to track down the bidder to tell him that the blue-plate specials start at $5" at the governor's mansion.

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ann.simmons@latimes.com

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