Louisiana’s lieutenant governor is telling an activist organization to take down a billboard advertisement (above) criticizing the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid by parodying the state's tourism campaign.  

MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, says it received a cease-and-desist letter from Louisiana officials yesterday, following public statements from Lt. Gov Jay Dardenne denouncing the group’s campaign. The advertisement borrows from the state’s “Pick Your Passion” tourism promotion campaign (below).

The MoveOn campaign uses a similar-colored font for the word “Louisiana” but alters the style and characters. It calls out Gov. Bobby Jindal by name for his resistance to expanding Medicaid to more low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act.     

The ad reads: “Louisiana! Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal is denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”

Cease-and-desist letters are often used in accusations of copyright infringement and can act as a legal rationale for a future lawsuit. Dardenne told The Advocate of Baton Rouge that he believes people will mistakenly think the state government sanctioned the ad. “No matter what side of the issue you are on, it confuses the issue,” Dardenne said. “We think it’s going to create confusion that we are the ones calling on the governor to take that action.”

MoveOn, in response, called the cease-and-desist letter a “baseless” legal threat, saying the billboard is clearly protected by the First Amendment.  

“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,” the group wrote in a statement. “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.”

A poll released last May by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found strong popular support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana and the South more broadly. In Louisiana, 62.6 percent of people surveyed had a favorable view of Medicaid expansion. 

Louisiana remains among the 24 states that have either refused to expand Medicaid or are still deciding.