Deep Throat , during the cloak and dagger pursuit of the Watergate story by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, at one point advised Woodward to “follow the money.”
Nearly four decades later, that’s still good advice for any reporter attempting to develop a cause and effect angle to any political story.
That’s what LouisianaVoice has been doing for some time now with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign finance reports and it’s a long, convoluted path with numerous twists and unexpected changes of direction. But a pattern does appear to be emerging from this work in progress.
Take for example Jindal’s oft-repeated stand on gay rights.
He has consistently opposed expanded adoption rights for gays and way back in 2003 he made it clear he had no time to meet with a gay rights group.
As governor, he even created the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family which was designed to “propose programs, policies, incentives, and curriculum regarding marriage and family by collecting and analyzing data on the social and personal effects of marriage and child-bearing within the state of Louisiana.” One of his first appointees to the commission was Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge, president of the anti-gay advocacy group known as the Family Research Council.
But there’s that $5,000 campaign contribution in August of 2008 from Paul E. Singer of New York.
Singer is an enormously wealthy New York City hedge fund manager and prominent Republican donor.
Together, he and two other right-wing Republican donors from the financial district contributed nearly $1 million to a new coalition of gay rights organizations in New York.
Politics, it seems, does indeed make for strange bedfellows. Okay, that was too easy but you knew someone was going to say it.
In last fall’s congressional elections, Jindal campaigned vigorously for Republicans in other states but avoided U.S. Sen. David Vitter like the plague.
Some felt that Vitter’s admitted trysts with prostitutes did not square with Jindal’s family value core beliefs. How then, does he explain the $19,000 he accepted from former Congressman Bob Livingston between April 2003 and February of this year?
Perhaps he calculated that Livingston was flying well below reporters’ radar. But remember, Livingston admitted his own dalliance with another woman just prior to the impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton.
At the time Livingston was poised to become House Speaker but resigned from Congress instead.
Not that Jindal goes to any great lengths to vet his contributors.
We’ve already seen that he accepted $11,000 from the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA) in apparent violation of state and federal prohibitions against political contributions by non-profit taxpayer-supported bodies.
Actually, that $11,000 figure is from the Legislative Auditor’s office but CNS has documented $22,000 in LHBPA donations from November of 2003 through March of 2009. Apparently, the state auditor only more recent contributions.
The top two administrators of the association at the time are now awaiting trial on 29-count federal indictments of fraud, election rigging, and other charges.
Then there is the $2500 donation made to Jindal in December of 2008 by HCA of Nashville.
In 1997, eleven years prior to that donation, HCA became embroiled in the largest Medicare fraud investigation in history. HCA ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines.
The CEO of HCA at the time was a man by the name of Rick Scott.
Rick Scott is now the Republican governor of Florida for whom Jindal campaigned extensively last fall.
Just last Saturday, the Florida legislature passed a $69.7 billion budget that included Scott’s sweeping program to privatize at least 16 prisons, numerous annexes, juvenile correction facilities, road camps, and work-release centers in 18 counties.
The Florida privatization plan will result in the loss of 1700 jobs in the state prison system as well as reduced benefits for those lucky enough to keep their jobs—all for a promise by the private companies of an annual savings of $40 million, a promise State Sen. Mike Fasano finds vague and unconvincing.
State Rep. Paige Kreegel said the core mission of government is to protect good people from bad ones. “When we shirk our core mission, we lost our legitimacy to govern,” he said.
Both Kreegel and Fasano are Republicans.
Scott had his reasons for wanting to privatize, of course: 25,000 reasons, to be precise. GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based company, contributed $25,000 to Scott’s campaign in January, about the same time he took office.
GEO is the nation’s second-largest private prison operator is currently contracted to run the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder in Allen Parish.
The company contributed $10,000 to the Jindal campaign in separate $5,000 payments in 2007 and 2008.
Other private prison firms contributing to Jindal’s campaign include:
• Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) of Nashville, TN., the nation’s largest private prison firm–$13,000;
• Wackenhut Corrections of Palm Beach Gardens, FL.,–$10,000;
• LaSalle Management, formerly of Rayville but now headquartered in Ruston–$10,000;
• Emerald Correctional Management of Shreveport–$10,000;
• Waterproof Correctional of Shreveport–$2500;
• LCS Corrections Service of Baton Rouge–$2500;
• Richwood Correctional Center of Ruston–$2500, and
• Joseph Russell of Nashville, a member of the CCA board of directors–$2500.
CCA presently operates the state’s Winn Parish facility on a contractual basis while LaSalle runs state lockups in Claiborne Parish (Homer), Ouachita (Richwood), Catahoula (Harrisonburg), Jackson (Jonesboro), LaSalle (Urania), Lincoln (Ruston), and Concordia (Ferriday).
Emerald operates the West Carroll Detention Center in Epps and also operates facilities in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Wackenhut once ran the state juvenile detention facility in Jena but subsequently returned the facility to the state following claims of brutality by guards.
Abuse of juveniles by private prison concerns is not limited to Louisiana, of course.
Pennsylvania has been rocked by a scandal in which two judges funneled juveniles with only minor offenses into privately-run detention centers in exchange for monetary kickbacks from the companies.
All the controversy swirling around the private companies is of little apparent concern to Jindal, Scott, and Republicans in general, who appear determined to privatize state agencies.
If a little campaign money helps grease the skids, so much the better.
Prison privatization appears dead for this year’s legislative session but it’s pretty much a certainty that it will remain a high priority on Jindal’s agenda.
As we have observed before, he is half-right about his administration’s being the most transparent and ethical in state history.
He is certainly transparent enough but we’re still looking for the ethics.
And we’re continuing to follow the money.