The best thing about blogging is that we are not bound by the constraints of pseudo-objectivity as are the reporters for your local daily. Every post for us is an op-ed piece in which we are free to express our disgust with or enthusiasm for people and events.
At this stage of the 2014 legislative session in Baton Rouge, we tend to get a little confused so excuse us if we can’t quite remember if it was Billy Wayne Shakespeare or Forrest Gump who said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Despite the rapid onset of CRS Syndrome, we have no trouble or hesitancy in calling something—or someone—stupid if that is the way we perceive it.
And sometimes we are willing to go a step further in injecting words like “corruption,” “duplicity,” “sleaze” (we especially like that one), or even “malfeasance.”
And so it is that after receiving a heads-up from our friend and fellow blogger C.B. Forgotston, we employ each of these adjectives in describing the actions of the Senate Finance Committee on Sunday after 10 of its 11 members (Sen. Dan Claitor was the lone member to cling to his principles) discarded their oaths of office—their sworn duty to protect the interests of the people of Louisiana—in favor of political expedience of the very lowest sort by ripping $4.5 million from the budget for Louisiana’s developmentally disabled and allocating the money for a Verizon IndyCar Series race at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish.
It’s bad enough that this state, thanks to the idiotic fiscal foolishness of Gov. Bobby Jindal, is so deep into the financial dumpster but still places a priority to lavishing millions of dollars on things like something called an IndyCar Series race, but to take that money from developmentally disabled citizens who so desperately need state services just to survive is nothing short of criminal.
Jindal, while traipsing all over the country with his goofy grin, rejects expansion of Medicaid that might alleviate some of the suffering, and after vetoing last year’s appropriation of extra funding to help shorten the waiting list for services for the developmentally disabled, now displays the sheer callousness, or stupidity, of committing to find the money for facility and track improvements. http://www.auctioneer-la.org/Disable_to_Racetrack.mp3
That’s correct. He made a commitment to the owners of the facility to drop $4.5 million on them. And who benefits from this largesse? The state? Teachers? Health care? State employees?
You can check those boxes no, no, no and no. A privately owned auto racetrack would be the correct answer.
Our first impulse was to plunge into the campaign contributions of campaign fund abuse poster boy Republican Sen. John Alario of Westwego in Jefferson Parish, president of the Senate. The whole deal just had that smell to it.
But, no, that was not the connection. His contributions from the principals were negligible in the overall scheme of things—something in the area of $3,500. That’s not enough to pay for one of Alario’s legendary meals at a fancy New Orleans eatery or to pay for one of his luxury boxes at the Superdome.
Nor were there any contributions to any of the Finance Committee members from NOLA Motor Club, LLC., operators of the raceway.
Our next step was to check in with the Secretary of State’s web page and conduct a corporations search for NOLA Motor Club, LLC. Voila! Whose name should pop up as one of the principals? Laney Chouest, that’s who.
So, who is Laney Chouest, you ask?
Well, he also showed up as an officer in a few other corporations run by the politically active Chouest family of Galliano. Their main business is in shipbuilding and marine transportation and Laney Chouest was listed as an officer in Edison Chouest Offshore, Inc., Alpha Marine Service Holdings, LLC., and Beta Marine Services, LLC., to name only three.
So, armed with that information we did a campaign contribution search of only the last name of Chouest and we hit the mother lode.
Between 2007 and 2010, members of the Chouest family and their various businesses contributed a whopping $106,500 to Jindal.
Laney Chouest was active in the political arena during that same period, contributing tens of thousands of dollars to minor candidates, but he was smart—or lucky—enough to stay away from Jindal and members of the Senate Finance Committee, thus making the direct link difficult.
The question then becomes why the hell is the state bailing out this family, which can well afford to make its own updates and repairs to the racetrack? Why indeed.
To take money from Louisiana’s very most unfortunate citizens and hand it to the Chouest family on a silver platter is not only unconscionable, reprehensible, irresponsible, immoral, or whatever other appropriate word you may wish to invoke in condemning this classic example of political corruption, it should be criminal and should carry the same penalties as embezzlement, public bribery or child abuse.
Instead of retreating to reality TV, those of us fortunate enough to have mentally and physically healthy children, siblings, parents and spouses should take a few minutes and consider the plight of our neighbors who are not so fortunate. They are the ones who can never enjoy dining out in a restaurant, going to a movie, taking family vacations or watching your reality shows because providing care to family members in dire need is a full time job without the downtime of cheering for LSU, Southeastern or ULL in this year’s regionals, super regionals or College World Series.
Extreme? Strident? Outraged? Damn right, hell yeah on all three.
The oath of office our elected officials take comes with a huge responsibility to place the welfare of our citizens uppermost above all else. Jindal and 10 members of the Senate Finance Committee have turned their backs on that promise by once again knuckling under to our absentee governor (and demanding this appropriation on his part) and in so doing, have committed the most disgraceful form of malfeasance.
Accordingly, here are the names of the 11 members of the Senate Finance Committee, how they voted on the amendment to take the $4.5 million away from the developmentally disabled, and their email addresses—just in case you might have something to add to what’s already been said here.
|Sen. Jack Donahue (Chairman) (YES)R-Mandeville firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Norbèrt N. “Norby” Chabert (Vice-Chairman) (YES) R-Houma email@example.com|
|Senator R.L. “Bret” Allain, II (YES) R-Franklin firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Sherri Smith Buffington (YES) R-Keithville email@example.com|
|Senator Dan Claitor (NO) R-Baton Rouge firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Ronnie Johns (YES) R-Lake Charles email@example.com|
|Senator Eric LaFleur (YES) D-Ville Platte firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Fred H. Mills, Jr. (YES) R-New Iberia email@example.com|
|Senator Edwin R. Murray (YES) D-New Orleans firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Senator Gregory Tarver (YES) D-Shreveport email@example.com|
|Senator Mack “Bodi” White (YES) R-Baton Rouge firstname.lastname@example.org|