NEW ORLEANS – Call it a sign of the times for Louisiana's embattled governor: A chance to dine with Gov. Kathleen Blanco fetched a winning bid of $1 at a recent fundraising auction hosted by a group of business leaders.
The president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, in northeastern Louisiana, said she called Blanco's office Tuesday to apologize for a "poor joke gone awry."
"It's something we deeply regret," chamber president Sue Edmunds said Wednesday. "Our organization has worked very well with the governor. We have been pleased with her efforts on behalf of this community."
Dinner with Blanco was the last item up for bid at the fundraising auction last week. Edmunds said the bidding opened at $1,000 and dropped to $500 before the auctioneer accepted a $1 bid from bank executive Malcolm Maddox, a regional chairman for Capital One.
Others were trying to bid on the dinner when the bidding abruptly closed, according to Edmunds.
"We were all stunned," she added. "It was at the end of the auction, so there was no way to go back and amend that."
Edmunds said an apologetic Maddox came forward Monday to donate $1,000 to the chamber. He won't be dining at the governor's mansion, however. Edmunds said a chamber official will be going in Maddox's place.
Maddox didn't immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The embarrassing episode comes at a trying time for Blanco, who has faced withering criticism for her response to Hurricane Katrina.
This week, Republican lawmakers are poised to defeat a multimillion dollar spending package that the Democratic governor is trying to steer through a special session of the state Legislature.
Blanco spokeswoman Marie Centanni said the governor is too busy with the special session to be bothered by the apparent slight.
"She's really not even paying attention to it right now," Centanni said.
On Wednesday, Blanco's administration was struggling to break the impasse. Blanco wants additional money for state employee and teacher pay raises, road repairs, health care and to attract a steel mill, among other things.