Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council’ Category

dis·crim·i·na·tion

dəˌskriməˈnāSH(ə)n/

noun:

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things.

Synonyms: prejudice, bias, bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, unfairness, inequity, favoritism, one-sidedness, partisanship;

hyp·o·crite

ˈhipəˌkrit/

noun:

A person who indulges in hypocrisy (see: Legislature)

sub·ser·vi·ent

səbˈsərvēənt/

adjective

prepared to obey others unquestioningly.

Synonyms: submissive, deferential, compliant, obedient, dutiful, biddable, docile, passive, unassertiveInformal: under someone’s thumb (see: Legislators, Norquist)

What is it about this time of year that turns a group of men and women into blithering idiots, incapable of comprehending the inconsistencies they perpetuate in the name of good government?

Take House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and SB 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), for two prime examples. HB 418 SB204

Both bills, being pushed hard by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (read: Bobby Jindal), would abolish forbid payroll deductions for public employee unions.

Stephen Waguespack, who previously worked in Jindal’s 2007 campaign and later served as Jindal’s executive counsel and chief of staff, is president of LABI.

Jindal, looking more and more like Scott Walker with each passing day, apparently wants to emulate the Wisconsin governor who recently said if he were elected president, he would “crush” all unions. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/

“I feel it unethical for taxpayers to pay an individual to deduct union dues when they are not exactly sure what the union dues are for,” sniffed Bishop, apparently oblivious to approved payroll deductions for the Louisiana United Way which may support causes the donor might not wish to endorse. http://theadvocate.com/news/12063375-123/payroll-deduction-for-unions-under

Bishop may also have overlooked the question of ethics involved in his expenditure of $6,240 in campaign funds for LSU football tickets in 2012 and 2013. (Note: one of the entries for April 26, 2013 is a duplicate and should not be counted.)

http://ethics.la.gov/CampaignFinanceSearch/SearchResultsByExpenditures.aspx

Martiny, other than introducing SB 204, has been largely silent on the issue. Perhaps, unlike Bishop, he is hesitant to utter the word “ethical” in light of his own campaign expenditures which eclipse those of his House counterpart.

Campaign finance records show that that Martiny has dipped into $107,475 of his campaign funds to pay for such non-campaign-related expenditures as athletic events, meals, air travel, lodging and casinos.

Here is the breakdown on just the athletic events: Tickets for LSU football ($28,823), New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans ($22,680), New Orleans Saints ($22,670), the 2006 NCAA basketball regionals ($1,480), the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl ($600)—altogether, a combined expenditure of $76,252. Additionally, there were unspecified expenditures of $864 for “Augusta” (the Masters Golf Tournament, perhaps?) and $590 for Ticketmaster.

Other “campaign” expenditures for Martiny included $7,300 for furniture, $5926 for hotel and resort accommodations, $4,348 for air fare, $5,705 for nine meals, an average of $634 per lobster (mostly at Ruth’s Chris in Metairie), $1,500 for an apparent membership at Pontchartrain Yacht Club, and $5,000 at two truck stop casinos.

To be fair, he did chip in $4,500 for the Better Government Political Action Committee though it was unclear whose better government he was trying to promote.

In an incredible stretch, supporters of the measures linked union dues to abortion clinics when one supporter said the dues could end up supporting such organizations as Planned Parenthood.

Brigitte Nieland, LABI vice president for workforce development, said Louisiana taxpayers are supporting the automatic collection of dollars to go and fund projects that they say they do not support.”

But opponents say the bills are just measures to gut unions and to silence workers by handing more power to big corporations. “It is a way of getting unions out of the way of these large corporations and state political or legislative agendas that are not education or education-friendly,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

Voters might be able to conjure up a bit more respect for lawmakers if they would just be honest and say they are trying to destroy public employee unions.

But they just can’t seem to be able to admit that. Instead they create phantom arguments such as preventing members from being forced to spend dues on causes that they oppose and, most implausible, that it eases the burden on the state to collect the dues.

Unless you happen to be LABI member Lane Grigsby. Bob Mann recently had a post on his Something Like the Truth blog in which Grigsby said on video (since removed from LABI’s website—did LABI learn transparency from Bobby Jindal?), “When you cut off the unions’ funding, they lose their stroke.” http://bobmannblog.com/2015/05/06/labi-leader-caught-on-video-paycheck-protection-bill-is-fatal-spear-to-the-heart-of-teacher-unions/

Aha! We may at long last have found that honest man Diogenes went searching for with his lamp (until he hit the halls of the Louisiana Legislature at which point he found it necessary to search for his stolen lamp). Anyone seen Scott Walker lurking around the State Capitol?

Why would legislators single out just one payroll deduction when there are literally dozens that are approved by the state?

Approved plans include payroll deductions for savings programs, life insurance, disability insurance, dental insurance, health insurance, the United Way, Secretary of State employees’ Association, Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association, Louisiana State Police Honor Fund, Louisiana State Police Officers Association, Louisiana State Troopers Association, Louisiana Society of Professional Engineers, Fire Marshal Association of Louisiana, Deferred Compensation plans, Probation and Parole Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 50, and….well, you get the picture.

If you really want to know why it’s so important, you need only read the endorsement by none other than Grover Norquist of Washington, D.C., head of Americans for Tax Reform, the man and organization who gives the marching orders (read: no-tax pledge) to legislators and governors all across the country, including Louisiana. https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill

“HB 418 saves taxpayer dollars by taking the government out of the dues collection business,” Norquist says. “No more administrative or financial resources will be used by state government to funnel money to unions that, in turn, often use that very money to work against the interests of Louisiana taxpayers. If the unions want the money, they will have to ask for it themselves.”

And oh, such a financial burden it is for a completely automated, computerized and untouched by human hands system to deduct those nasty dues.

That’s selective reasoning at best.

The House Labor & Industrial Relations Committee, by a 9-6 vote, has approved Bishop’s bill which now goes to the full House for debate.

So now we know for certain that nine members of that committee are still taking their marching orders from Norquist and Jindal.

Here are the committee members. Talk about a stacked deck. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Cmtes/Labor.aspx

We share the sentiments expressed by Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) that the legislature has more important matters on its plate than spending time trying to inflict yet more punishment on the state’s teaching profession.

Like a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

And yes, we are keenly aware that there were and still are abuses of power in the labor movement. But given the conditions of American labor before the birth of the union movement, I will opt for dealing with those abuses. I would rather not see women and children confined in sweat shops for 12 yours a day for starvation wages. I would rather not see those trying to stand up for their rights clubbed by goons hired by the robber barons. I would rather not see consumers sold rotten meat by the meat packing plants depicted in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Yes, of course there were abuses in the labor movement. There still are. And there’s not in the halls of government and on Wall Street? In case you haven’t been watching the pendulum has swung far back in the other direction—too far. Corporations wield far more power today than labor. Don’t believe it? Look at the campaign contributions. Compare what Labor gives to what corporations give to the PACs. Check out who has bought the most elections over the past 40 years. And don’t even try to play the corruption card.

But Grover’s will must be done for his is the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

Read Full Post »

Bobby Jindal has promised to find money to address the funding crisis facing Louisiana’s public colleges and universities but besides the obvious dire financial straits in which the state currently finds itself, two important obstacles must be overcome by our absentee governor: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist.

The odds of appeasing just one in efforts to raise needed funding for higher education will be difficult enough, given Jindal’s allegiance to the two. Obtaining the blessings of both while simultaneously distracted by the siren’s call of the Republican presidential nomination will be virtually impossible.

Higher education, already hit with repeated cuts by the Jindal administration, is facing additional cuts of up to $600 million, or 82 percent of its current budget, according to news coming out of the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/louisianas_higher_education_bu.html

Such a fiscal scenario could result in the closure of some schools and across the board discontinuation of programs.

Moody’s, the bond-rating service, has warned that Louisiana higher education cannot absorb any further cuts. http://www.treasury.state.la.us/Lists/SiteArticlesByCat/DispForm_Single.aspx?List=c023d63e%2Dac65%2D439d%2Daf97%2Dda71d8688dff&ID=884

Louisiana has already cut per student spending by 42 percent since fiscal year 2008 (compared to the national average of 6 percent), fourth highest in the nation behind Arizona, New Hampshire and Oregon. The actual cut in dollars, $4,715 per student, is second only to the $4,775 per student cut by New Mexico. To help offset those cuts, Louisiana colleges and universities have bumped tuition by 38 percent, 10th highest in the nation but still a shade less than half the 78.4 percent increase for Arizona students. http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-deep-state-higher-education-cuts-may-harm-students-and-the-economy-for-years-to-come?fa=view&id=3927

But that’s all part of the game plan for ALEC, the “model legislation” alliance of state legislators heavily funded by the Koch brothers which has as its overall objective the privatization of nearly all public services now taken for granted: prisons, pension plans, medical insurance, and education, to name but a few. http://www.cbpp.org/research/alec-tax-and-budget-proposals-would-slash-public-services-and-jeopardize-economic-growth?fa=view&id=3901

Jindal has already incorporated some of ALEC’s privatization proposals, namely state employee medical insurance and elementary and secondary education. He met with less success in attempts to initiate prison privatization and state retirement reform.

ALEC also proposes abolishing state income taxes, another proposal floated and then quickly abandoned by Jindal but pushed successfully by Kansas Gov. Brownback. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/21/vwelfap/

And then there is Norquist, the anti-tax Republican operative who founded Americans for Tax Reform and who somehow survived the Jack Abramoff scandal and thrived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abramoff_Indian_lobbying_scandal

What strange hold does he have over Jindal?

The pledge.

Jindal, as did a couple dozen Louisiana legislators, signed onto Norquist’s “no-tax” pledge—a promise not to raise taxes under any circumstances. The pledge even prompted Jindal to veto a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal in 2011 because in his twisted logic, it was somehow a new tax. The legislature had to adopt a last-minute constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent.

Undeterred, Jindal, through communications director Mike Reed, has said he would support a cigarette tax increase this year only if it is offset with a tax cut elsewhere. This despite estimates that a higher tax would not only generate needed income for the state, but would, by encouraging smokes to quit and teens to not start smoking, create long-term health care savings for the state. His veto also flew in the face of a 1997 article that Jindal authored while secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in which he said, “Society must recover those costs which could have been avoided had the individual not chosen the risky behavior only to prevent others from having to bear the costs.” http://theadvocate.com/news/11930951-123/lawmaker-proposes-154-state-cigarette

Not to be confused with the “no-go” zones of Jindal’s vivid imagination, the “no-tax” pledge apparently is a good thing for Republicans and tea partiers and is considered sacrosanct to those who have taken the oath even if it locks politicians into the impossible situation of trying to resolve a $1.6 billion budgetary crisis while not increasing revenue.

Jindal routinely runs proposed legislation by Norquist for his blessings, according to Jindal spokesperson Reed who admitted as much. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/in_jindals_world_tax_is_a_tax.html

Even U.S. Sen. David Vitter signed the pledge but has assured voters it won’t be binding on him as governor—a dubious promise that would make him unique among signers. After all, a pledge is a pledge and when one signs it, so what difference would it make which office he holds?

So, how does all this figure into the budget crisis for higher education in Louisiana?

In a word, privatization. Or, taking the “state” out of “state universities.”

While neither Jindal nor any legislator has dared breathe the word privatization as it regards the state’s colleges and universities, at least one Jindal appointee, Board of Regents Chairman Roy Martin of Alexandria, has broached the subject, speaking he said, strictly as an individual. http://theadvocate.com/news/11716059-123/regents-look-at-privatizing-public

The slashing of higher education budgets appears to be a pattern as governors attempt to wean colleges and universities from dependence on state funding, transitioning their status from state-supported to state-assisted to state-located. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/27/scott-walker-bobby-jindal-aim-to-slash-higher-ed-funding

Privatization of state colleges and universities would, of course, push tuition rates even higher, making a college education cost prohibitive for many. But that dovetails nicely with the ALEC agenda as income disparity continues to widen with ever more generous tax laws that benefit the super-rich while placing growing burdens on lower-income taxpayers. By winnowing out those who can least afford college, privatization necessarily enhances the selection process to serve the elite and at the same time, opens up additional revenue opportunities for those in position to take advantage of privatized services such as book stores, printing, food services, and general maintenance. http://gse.buffalo.edu/FAS/Johnston/privatization.html

There is already a backlog of nearly $2 billion in maintenance projects on state college and university campuses just waiting for some lucky entrepreneur with the right connections.

http://theadvocate.com/home/5997316-125/backlog-of-maintenance

States like Louisiana, by such actions as simply increasing our cigarette tax (third lowest in the nation) and being less generous with corporate tax breaks and initiatives, could have reduced the size of the spending cuts or avoided them altogether. Sadly, that was not done and those looking at someone to blame cannot point the finger only at Jindal; legislators have been complicit from the beginning and must shoulder the responsibility for the present mess.

As a result, state colleges and universities have already cut staff and eliminated entire programs to such a degree that Louisiana’s high school seniors already are considering options out of state and other states are obliging. https://lahigheredconfessions.wordpress.com/

Should the legislature adopt any measures to raise revenue for higher education, such measures likely would be vetoed by Jindal if he gets the message from Norquist to do so.

If that occurs, his palpable disregard for the welfare of this state as evidenced by his growing absence will be dwarfed by the affront of taking his cue of governance from a Washington, D.C. lobbyist as opposed to listening to his constituents who want real solutions and not political grandstanding.

But that certainly would be nothing new for Bobby Jindal.

Read Full Post »

A report by the Pew Research Center earlier this week indicated the wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households in America continues to widen to record levels. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pew-wealth-gap-20141217-story.html

Congress has just acted to ensure that that record gap between rich and poor continues to grow https://www.ifebp.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=72

And if you think we down here in Louisiana are insulated and unaffected, think again.

The Pew report, drawing on the latest data from the Federal Reserve, says the median wealth for high-income families was $639,400 last year—up 7 percent from three years earlier on an inflation-adjusted basis—while the median income for Louisiana households was reported at $39,622. The figure for Louisiana represented a drop of 19.7 percent from the state’s 1999 peak year of median earnings of about $48,400. http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Incomes-by-State.php

In 1983, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was a shade less than 50:1. Today that difference stands at 331:1 and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio is even more obscene at 774:1. http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014

There also is this: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0711/5-outrageous-ceo-spending-abuses-and-perks.aspx

And yet, even as corporate CEO pay and perks continue to reach stratospheric figures that the average employee can only imagine, Congress took a step last week that could actually lead to a major financial hit for retirees.

If that mammoth spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 11 escaped your scrutiny, perhaps you should have been paying closer attention. Included in that bill was an obscure amendment which will permit benefit cuts for retirees in one type of pension plan—multi-employer plans jointly run by unions and employers.

By definition, that would mean members of unions who work for several companies. That could conceivably include Teamsters, building trades, longshoremen and any other workers whose unions have working agreements with multiple companies. http://www.wsj.com/articles/pension-change-seen-as-setting-a-precedent-1418586647

Louis Reine, President of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, acknowledged the amendment was inserted as a means of keeping some pension plans that are on shaky footing afloat. At the same time, however, he warned that the move was a “slippery slope” and should be approved “with all due caution and deliberation.”

That’s because now that management has a foot in the heretofore impenetrable door protecting workers’ pensions, the table has been set for even more far-reaching legislation to strip away benefits in other areas, including the public sector.

Remember, it was on Jan. 25, 2012, just three years ago, that Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a speech to the Baton Rotary Club, outlined his plans to “reform the state pension system to keep the state’s promise to workers, protect critical services and save taxpayer dollars.” http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=3220

Among those plans to “protect the state’s promise to workers” was a revamp of the state pension system that would have gutted benefits for state employees. We have often cited here the example of the worker who, if she never received another pay raise, would be eligible to retire after 30 years with a retirement of $39,000 per year. But under Jindal’s plan to “protect” her, that $39,000 would be reduced to $6,000 per year—a $33,000 per year hit—and the employee was not eligible for Social Security or Medicare.

The courts, fortunately for state employees, declared the state’s pension plan a contract which could not be arbitrarily broken by the state, though the state was left free to offer new hires a defined contribution retirement plan as opposed to the defined benefit to which the employee we cited was entitled.

The Wall Street Journal called the amendment to the federal spending bill as a “model for further cuts,” and therein lies the real threat to workers and retirees alike.

Karen Friedman, Executive Vice President of the Pension Rights Center, said the measure would “set a terrible precedent” in that it could encourage similar cutbacks in troubled state and local pension plans and maybe even Social Security and Medicare.

That is a chilling prediction and in all probability, deadly accurate.

The thumbprints of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are all over the amendment and the Koch brothers-run organization isn’t about to stop with gutting the pensions of a few union retirees.

And before anyone tries to claim that business and industry does not have an organized union to represent their interests, we have three words for you: U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the U.S. Chamber is not only a member of ALEC, but is a major operative within ALEC. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/U.S._Chamber_of_Commerce

In 1971, an obscure corporate attorney named Lewis Powell authored what has come to be known as the Powell Manifesto. In it, he laid out a blueprint for a corporate legislative agenda to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Director of the U.S. Chamber. That memorandum by Powell, written only two months before President Nixon nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy, among others.

Powell’s memo has also served ALEC’s legislative agenda which includes, among other things, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

Is it merely a coincidence that Louisiana’s Right to Work law, supported by ALEC and the U.S. Chamber, was passed only five years after Powell’s memorandum and four years after the founding of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)?

So now, ALEC, the U.S. Chamber, and Republican leaders alike already have Social Security and Medicare in their crosshairs: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/republican-social-security-cuts so can other private pension plans be far behind? Will the individual states like Louisiana renew efforts to slash retirement benefits for state employees?

As Louis Reine said, it is indeed a slippery slope and once the momentum moves in that direction, it will be virtually impossible to reverse.

And it’s important to remember that while public employees’ retirement benefits are at risk, the opening salvo has been aimed at private pension benefits. If they can pull that off, the rest will simply be low-hanging fruit.

Are you willing to take to the streets to defend what is rightfully yours?

How much is your retirement worth to you?

These questions are not hypothetical.

Read Full Post »

Between U.S. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the man who wants to replace her, incumbents in five of the state’s six November congressional races have received more than $21.5 million in campaign contributions, of which more than $6.5 million has come from political action committees, or PACs, according to figures provided by the Federal Elections Commission.

The number of corporate dollars that have flowed into the races is somewhat deceptive, however, because money given by corporate officers and board members are listed as individual contributions and is not counted with the PAC money.

LouisianaVoice has always maintained that political clout no longer belongs to the citizenry, but to special interest groups like corporations and corporate officers who pour money into political campaigns, in the process drowning out the voice of individual voters.

In two of the congressional races, PAC contributions to incumbents actually outpace those of individuals—Reps. Charles Boustany of the 3rd District ($984,000 to $769,000) and Cedric Richmond of the 2nd District ($723,000 to $278,000).

Even more alarming, each candidate we’ve reported on thus far has accepted money from PACs connected to corporations that have serious legal and ethical issues. Those issues include, among others, insider trading, influence peddling, environmental pollution, and fraud.

It might be of no real consequence if these were isolated occurrences, but they’re not. The same companies keep turning up in report after report is what has become a dangerous trend of corporate control of the entire Congress as the welfare of the American people has been all but crowded out of the picture and excluded from the national dialog.

Following is a partial list of some of Richmond’s PAC contributions:

ALTRIA GROUP PAC: $1,500

  • Altria Group, Inc. (previously named Philip Morris Companies Inc.) The name change alternative offers the possibility of masking the negatives associated with the tobacco business,” thus enabling the company to improve its image and raise its profile without sacrificing tobacco profits,
  • According to the Center for Public Integrity, Altria spent around $101 million on lobbying the U.S. government between 1998 and 2004, making it the second most active organization in the nation.
  • Altria also funded The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition which lobbied against the scientific consensus on climate change.
  • Daniel Smith, representing Altria, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND CO.: $1,000

  • On December 20, 2013 the SEC announced that it had charged ADM for failing to prevent illicit payments (bribes) made by its foreign subsidiaries to Ukrainian government officials in violation of federal statutes. ADM agreed to pay more than $36 million to settle the SEC’s charges.
  • In 1993, the company was the subject of a lysine price-fixing investigation. Senior ADM executives were indicted on criminal charges. Three of ADM’s top officials, including vice chairman Michael Andreas were eventually sentenced to federal prison in 1999. Moreover, in 1997, the company was fined $100 million, the largest antitrust fine in U.S. history at the time.
  • One hundred percent or more of overcharges resulting from price fixing are passed through to consumers.
  • The company has been the subject of several major federal lawsuits related to air pollution. In 2001, it agreed to pay a $1.46 million fine for violating federal and Illinois clean-air regulations at its Decatur feed plant and to spend $1.6 million to reduce air pollution there.
  • The company paid $4.5 million in penalties and more than $6 million to support environmental projects. In addition, ADM agreed to eliminate more than 60,000 tons of emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, organic volatile chemicals and other pollutants from 42 plants in 17 states at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

AT&T PAC: $6,000

  • AT&T is the second-largest donor to United States political campaigns, and the top American corporate donor, having contributed more than US$47.7 million since 1990, 56% and 44% of which went to Republican and Democratic recipients, respectively. Also, during the period of 1998 to 2010, the company expended US$130 million on lobbying in the United States. A key political issue for AT&T has been the question of which businesses win the right to profit by providing broadband internet access in the United States.
  • Bobby Jindal rejected an $80 million federal grant for the expansion of broadband internet service in rural Louisiana even as AT&T was contributing $250,000 to the Foundation run by Jindal’s wife Supriya after Gov. Jindal signed SB- 807 into law (Act 433) in 2008 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and the State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act removed from local and parish governments their authority and responsibility to negotiate cable franchise agreements with companies that relied largely on locally-owned public infrastructure such as utility poles. The bill also allows AT&T to sell cable television service without the necessity of obtaining local franchises.
  • Bill Leahy, representing AT&T, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORP. PAC: $2,000

  • Former Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon borrowed $1.1 billion against his stake in thousands of company wells. The loans, undisclosed to shareholders, were used to fund McClendon’s operating costs for the Founders Well Participation Program, which offered him a chance to invest in a 2.5 percent interest in every well the company drills. McClendon in turn used the 2.5 percent stakes as collateral on those same loans. Analysts, academics and attorneys who reviewed the loan documents said the structure raised the potential for conflicts of interest and raised questions on the corporate governance and business ethics of Chesapeake Energy’s senior management. The company disagreed that this is a conflict of interest or a violation of business ethics.
  • Current CEO Doug Lawler was responsible for laying off over 800 employees—roughly 16 percent of the workforce—within a few months of taking the position. Lawler released waves of employees over the course of a few months. All of the layoffs culminated in October of 2013 when Lawler released a staggering 800 employees nationwide, 640 of whom were from the corporate office in Oklahoma City.
  • In June of 2014, the state of Michigan filed felony fraud and racketeering charges against Chesapeake Energy, alleging that the company canceled hundreds of land leases on false pretenses after it sought to obtain oil and gas rights. Chesapeake Energy disputed all charges.

CHEVRON EMPLOYEES PAC: $4,500

  • In 2003 a class action lawsuit against Chevron was sued in Ecuadorian court for $28 billion for making residents ill and damaging forests and rivers by discharging 18 billion US gallons of formation water into the Amazon. Chevron claimed that agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempted the company from any liabilities.
  • In 2011, Ecuadorian residents were awarded $8.6 billion, based on claims of loss of crops and farm animals as well as increased local cancer rates. The award was later revised to $19 billion on appeals, which was then appealed to the Ecuadorean National Court of Justice. Chevron described the lawsuit as an “extortion scheme” and refused to pay the fine.
  • Chevron’s activities at its century-old Richmond refinery have been the subject of ongoing controversy. The project generated over 11 million pounds of toxic materials and caused more than 304 accidents. The Richmond refinery paid $540,000 in 1998 for illegally bypassing waste water treatments and failing to notify the public about toxic releases. Overall, Chevron is listed as potentially liable for 95 Superfund sites, with funds set aside by the EPA for clean-up.
  • Chevron’s operations in Africa have also been criticized as environmentally unsound. In 2002, Angola became the first country in Africa to levy a fine on a major multinational corporation operating within its borders when it demanded $2 million in compensation for oil spills allegedly caused by Chevron.
  • On October 16, 2003, Chevron U.S.A. settled a charge under the Clean Air Act, which reduced harmful air emissions by about 10,000 tons a year. In San Francisco, Chevron was ordered to spend almost $275 million to install and utilize innovative technology to reduce nitrogen and sulfur dioxide emissions at its refineries. In 2000, after violating the Clean Air Act at an offline loading terminal in El Segundo, California, Chevron paid a $6 million penalty as well as $1 million for environmental improvement projects.

CH2M HILL COMPANIES: $1,000

  • CH2M HILL used nearly $10 million in stimulus funding to design the elaborate Solyndra solar panel facility in Fremont, California. While CH2M HILL is in no danger of suffering the same bankruptcy plight, they also languish in a pool of mismanaged taxpayer funds. The firm has a history of fraud, kickbacks, violations, and cover-ups, not to mention one particular parallel with the Solyndra scandal—layoffs. This, despite receiving almost $2 billion in stimulus funding.
  • CH2M Hill has agreed to pay a total of $18.5 million in 2013 after admitting to defrauding the public by engaging in years of widespread time card fraud in its contract with the Department of Energy.

COMCAST: $5,000

  • Comcast’s customer satisfaction often ranks among the lowest in the cable industry.
  • With $18.8 million spent in 2013, Comcast has the seventh largest lobbying budget of any individual company or organization in the United States. Comcast employs multiple former U.S. congressmen as lobbyists.
  • Comcast also supports lobbying and PACs on a regional level, backing organizations such as the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association and the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC. Comcast and other cable companies have lobbied state governments to pass legislation restricting or banning individual cities from offering public broadband service. Municipal broadband restrictions of varying scope have been passed in a total of 20 US States, including Louisiana.

DELOITTE & TOUCHE PAC: $5,000

  • Deloitte has delayed payments to hundreds of thousands of unemployed in the State of California.
  • The firm has been working on a statewide case management system for California courts which originally had a budget of around $260 million. Almost $500 million has already been spent and costs are expected to run as high as $2 billion. No single court is yet fully operational. California’s Judicial Council terminated the project in 2012 citing actual deployment costs associated with the project and California’s budget concerns

DUKE ENERGY: $5,000

  • In 1999 the EPA initiated an enforcement action against Duke Energy for making modifications to old and deteriorating coal-burning power plants without getting permits under the Clean Air Act.
  • In 2002, researchers identified Duke Energy as the 46th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with roughly 36 million pounds of toxic chemicals released into the air annually. Major pollutants included sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, chromium compounds, and hydrogen fluoride. The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Duke Energy 13th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States.

EMPLOYEES OF NORTHROP GRUMMAN PAC: $5,000

  • From 1990-2002, Northrop Grumman contributed $8.5 million to federal campaigns. The company gave more than $1 million to federal candidates in 2005-2006 election cycle, compared to $10.6 million given by all defense contractors in the same cycle. This was behind only General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin in the defense industry. Former Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems chief James Roche served as Secretary of the Air Force for two years under George W. Bush. Roche was eventually nominated to head the Army, but was forced to withdraw his nomination among accusations of mismanaging a contract with Boeing and of failing to properly handle the Air Force sexual assault scandals of 2003. At least seven former officials, consultants, or shareholders of Northrop Grumman held posts in the Bush administration.
  • Northrop Grumman has dealt with multiple scandals during its history. In 1995, Robert Ferro, an employee for TRW, a company acquired by Northrop Grumman, discovered that satellite components manufactured for the U.S. Air Force were faulty and likely to fail in operation. TRW allegedly suppressed Ferro’s report and hid the information from the Air Force, even after a satellite in space equipped with the faulty components experienced serious anomalies. Ferro later sued Northrop Grumman in federal court under the federal whistle-blower law. In April 2009 Northrop Grumman agreed to pay $325 million to settle the suit. Ferro was awarded $48.8 million of the settlement.
  • The company was sued in 1999 for allegedly knowingly giving the Navy defective aircraft. This suit sought $210 million in damages. Then in 2003, the company was sued for allegedly overcharging the U.S. government for space projects in the 1990s. Northrop Grumman paid $111.2 million to settle out of court.
  • In 2010, Virginia’s computer operations experienced a week-long computer outage. Northrop Grumman operated these systems under a $2.4 billion contract. As a result, as many as 45,000 citizens could not renew their driver’s licenses prior to their expiration. Computer systems for 26 of the state’s 89 agencies were affected and some data may have been permanently lost.

EXXON MOBIL CORP. PAC: $2,500

  • ExxonMobil has drawn criticism from scientists, science organizations and the environmental lobby for funding organizations critical of the Kyoto Protocol and seeking to undermine public opinion about the scientific conclusion that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Mother Jones Magazine said the company channeled more than $8 million to 40 different organizations that have employed disinformation campaigns including “skeptical propaganda masquerading as journalism” to influence opinion of the public and of political leaders about global warming and that the company was a member of one of the first such groups, the Global Climate Coalition, founded in 1989. ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations has drawn criticism from the Royal Society, the academy of sciences of the United Kingdom. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in 2007 accusing ExxonMobil of spending $16 million, between 1998 and 2005, towards 43 advocacy organizations which dispute the impact of global warming. The report argued that ExxonMobil used disinformation tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry in its denials of the link between lung cancer and smoking, saying that the company used “many of the same organizations and personnel to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue.” These charges are consistent with a purported 1998 internal ExxonMobil strategy memo, posted by the environmental group Environmental Defense, which said:

“Victory will be achieved when

  • Average citizens [and the media] ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the conventional wisdom;
  • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy;
  • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear out of touch with reality.”

 

  • In 2003, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that J. Bryan Williams, a former senior executive of Mobil Oil Corp., had been sentenced to three years and ten months in prison on charges of evading income taxes on more than $7 million in unreported income, including a $2 million kickback he received in connection with Mobil’s oil business in Kazakhstan. Documents filed with the court said Williams’ unreported income included millions of dollars in kickbacks from governments, persons, and other entities with whom Williams conducted business while employed by Mobil. In addition to his sentence, Williams must pay a fine of $25,000 and more than $3.5 million in restitution to the IRS, in addition to penalties and interest.

GLAXOSMITHKLINE PAC:  $1,000

  • In July 2012 GSK pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to a pay $3 billion to settle the criminal charges as well as civil lawsuits in the largest settlement paid by a drug company at the time. The criminal charges were for promoting Paxil and Wellbutrin and for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about Avandia:; GSK paid $1 billion to settle the criminal charges. The remaining $2 billion were part of the civil settlement over unapproved promotion and paying kickbacks, making false statements concerning the safety of Avandia; and reporting false prices to Medicaid. GSK also signed an agreement which obligated it to make major changes to the way it did business.

HONEYWELL PAC: $5,000

  • The EPA says that no corporation has been linked to a greater number of Superfund toxic waste sites than has Honeywell. Honeywell ranks 44th among U.S. corporations causing air pollution. The firm released more than 9.4 million pounds of toxins per year into the air. In 2001, Honeywell agreed to pay $150,000 in civil penalties and to perform $772,000 worth of reparations for environmental violations.
  • In 2003, a federal judge in New Jersey ordered the company to perform an estimated $400 million environmental remediation of chromium waste, citing “a substantial risk of imminent damage to public health and safety and imminent and severe damage to the environment.” In the same year, Honeywell paid $3.6 million to avoid a federal trial regarding its responsibility for trichloroethylene contamination in Illinois. In 2004, the State of New York announced that it would require Honeywell to complete an estimated $448 million cleanup of more than 165,000 pounds of mercury and other toxic waste dumped into Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.

LOCKHEED MARTIN EMPLOYEES’ PAC: $5,000

  • Lockheed Martin received $36 billion in government contracts in 2008, more than any company in history. It does work for more than two dozen government agencies from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s involved in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Security Agency (NSA), The Pentagon, the Census Bureau and the Postal Service.
  • Lockheed is listed as the largest U.S. government contractor and ranks third for number of incidents, and 21st for size of settlements. Since 1995 the company has agreed to pay $606 million to settle 59 instances of misconduct.
  • Through its political action committee (PAC), the company provides low levels of financial support to candidates who advocate national defense and relevant business issues. It was the top contributor to House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-California), giving more than $50,000 in the most recent election cycle. It also topped the list of donors to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee before his death in 2012.
  • Lockheed Martin Employees Political Action Committee is one of the 50 largest in the country. With contributions from 3,000 employees, it donates $500,000 a year to about 260 House and Senate candidates.
  • In March 2013, Maryland State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, while he was said to be dating a Lockheed Martin lobbyist, cosponsored a resolution which would give Lockheed Martin tax rebate worth millions of dollars related to hotel taxes paid at its CLE facility in Bethesda, MD. This was after Montgomery County Council refused to pass a similar resolution.

MARATHON OIL EMPLOYEES PAC: $10,000

  • Marathon gave $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration promptly awarded Marathon subsidiaries $5.2 million in state funds.

MICROSOFT CORP. PAC: $4,500

  • One of Microsoft’s business tactics, described by an executive as “embrace, extend and extinguish,” initially embraces a competing standard or product, then extends it to produce their own version which is then incompatible with the standard, which in time extinguishes competition that does not or cannot use Microsoft’s new version. Various companies and governments have sued Microsoft over this set of tactics, resulting in billions of dollars in rulings against the company.
  • Microsoft has been criticized for its involvement in censorship in the People’s Republic of China. Microsoft has also come under criticism for outsourcing jobs to China and India. There were reports of poor working conditions at a factory in southern China that makes some of Microsoft’s products.
  • To avoid providing stock options and medical and retirement benefits to employees, Microsoft hires thousands of temporary workers (temps) for the designing, editing and testing of its software. When a federal judge (upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) outlawed the hiring of temps for longer than six months, Microsoft got around the ruling by laying off its temps for 100 days and then rehiring them.

MONSANTO CO.: $4,000

 

  • In 2003, Monsanto reached a $300 million settlement for manufacturing and dumping of the toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Alabama.
  • In 2004, Monsanto, along with Dow and other chemical companies, were sued by a group of Vietnamese for the effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. The case was dismissed.
  • In 2005, the US DOJ filed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which Monsanto admitted to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and making false entries into its books and records. Monsanto also agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine. The case involved bribes paid to an Indonesian official.
  • The Monsanto Company Citizenship Fund has donated more than $10 million to various candidates since 2003. In 2011, Monsanto spent about $6.3 million lobbying Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about regulations that would affect the production and distribution of genetically engineered produce.
  • US diplomats in Europe have worked directly for Monsanto.
  • Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election.
  • Monsanto spent $8.1 million opposing the passage of Proposition 37 in California, making it the largest donor against the initiative. Proposition 37, which was rejected in November 2012, would have mandated the disclosure of genetically modified crops used in the production of California food products.
  • More recently, as of October 2013, Monsanto and DuPont Co. are backing an anti- labeling campaign with roughly $18 million so far dedicated to the campaign.

 

PFIZER, INC. PAC: $2,500

 

  • In September 2009, Pfizer pleaded guilty to the illegal marketing of the arthritis drug Bextra for uses unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and agreed to a $2.3 billion settlement, the largest health care fraud settlement at that time. Pfizer also paid the U.S. government $1.3 billion in criminal fines related to the “off-label” marketing of Bextra, the largest monetary penalty ever rendered for any crime. Called a repeat offender by prosecutors, this was Pfizer’s fourth such settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in the previous ten years.

 

RAYTHEON CO. PAC: $7,500

  • In March 1990, Raytheon pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegally obtaining classified Air Force budget and planning documents. U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan, Jr. imposed a $10,000 criminal fine for one felony count of “conveyance without authority” and $900,000 in civil penalties and damages. The documents allegedly gave Raytheon an unfair advantage against its competitors in bidding for weapons contracts. Although the plea only involved 1983 Air Force documents, U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson said Raytheon also illegally obtained a wide range of secret Pentagon documents.
  • In October 1994, Raytheon paid $4 million to settle a U.S. government claim that it inflated a defense contract for antimissile radar. The PAVE PAWS (Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry Phased Array Warning System) system was designed to detect incoming submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The government claimed in a federal lawsuit that Raytheon inflated a contract to upgrade two of four PAVE PAWS sites by proposing to hire higher-skilled employees than were necessary for the job.
  • Just one year earlier, on October 14, 1993, Raytheon paid $3.7 million to settle allegations that it misled the U.S. Department of Defense by overstating the labor costs involved in manufacturing Patriot missiles. “The recovery of this money is yet another warning to contractors that the Truth in Negotiations Act’s information disclosure requirements will be strictly and sternly enforced,” Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger said.
  • The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the U.S. Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war.

BOEING CO. PAC.: $2,000

  • In 2003, Lockheed Martin sued Boeing for industrial espionage to win the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) competition. Lockheed Martin claimed that the former employee Kenneth Branch, who went to work for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, passed nearly 30,000 pages of proprietary documents to his new employers. Lockheed Martin argued that these documents allowed Boeing to win 19 of the 28 tendered military satellite launches.
  • In July 2003, Boeing was penalized, with the Pentagon stripping seven launches away from the company and awarding them to Lockheed Martin. Furthermore, the company was forbidden to bid for rocket contracts for a twenty-month period, which expired in March 2005. Boeing settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $615 million.
  • On September 15, 2010, the World Trade Organization ruled that Boeing had received billions of dollars in illegal government subsidies.

DOW CHEMICAL EMPLOYEES PAC: $10,000

  • Dow was one of several manufacturers who began producing the napalm B compound under government contract from 1965. After experiencing protests and negative publicity, the other suppliers discontinued manufacturing the product, leaving Dow as the sole provider. The company said that it carefully considered its position, and decided, as a matter of principle, “its first obligation was to the government.” Despite a boycott of its products by anti-war groups and harassment of recruiters on some college campuses, Dow continued to manufacture napalm B until 1969. The USA continued to drop napalm bombs on North Vietnam until 1973.
  • Until the late 1970s, Dow produced DBCP (1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane), a soil fumigant, and nematicide, sold under the names the Nemagon and Fumazone. Workers at Dow’s DBCP production plants were made sterile by exposure to the compound. These effects were consistent with animal experiments showing that DBCP sterilized rabbits. The workers successfully sued the company, and most domestic uses of DBCP were banned in 1977.
  • Areas along Michigan’s Tittabawassee River, which runs within yards of Dow’s main plant in Midland, were found to contain elevated levels of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin in November 2006. In July 2007, Dow reached an agreement with the EPA to remove 50,000 cubic yards of sediment from three areas of the riverbed and levees of the river that had been found to be contaminated. In November 2008, Dow Chemical along with the EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality agreed to establish a Superfund to address dioxin cleanup of the Tittabawassee River, Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay.[48]
  • According to the EPA, Dow has some responsibility for 96 of the United States’ Superfund toxic waste sites, placing it in 10th place by number of sites.

GOLDMAN SACHS PAC: $5,000

  • A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc director Rajat Gupta, one of the biggest successes in federal prosecutors’ long-running probe to stop insider trading on Wall Street.
  • Federal prosecutors and Securities and Exchange Commission officials also investigated whether a senior Goldman investment banker, Matthew Korenberg, fed inside information to a Galleon Group portfolio manager named Paul Yook, according to separate reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

 

HOME DEPOT PAC: $2,500

  • In July 2005, former employee Michael Davis filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Home Depot, alleging that his discharge was in retaliation for refusing to make unwarranted backcharges against vendors. Davis alleges that the Home Depot forced its employees to meet a set quota of backcharges to cover damaged or defective merchandise, forcing employees to make chargebacks to vendors for merchandise that was undamaged and not defective.
  • In the settlement of the litigation, Home Depot changed some of its corporate governance provisions. Home Depot also agreed to pay the plaintiff’s counsel $6 million in cash and $8.5 million in common stock.

WALMART STORES PAC: $6,000

  • Wal-Mart is the beneficiary of $96.5 million in economic development subsidies in Louisiana and $1.2 billion in tax breaks nationwide. Yet, in 2011, Walmart, four of whose owners are among the 11 richest Americans, decided to roll back health care coverage and to increase premiums for its employees. Wal-Mart still boasted that 90 percent of its employees had health coverage, neglecting to mention that more than half of those got their coverage through their spouses’ group coverage. The company provides no health coverage at all for new part time employees despite the company’s 24.7 percent gross profit martin that same year.
  • An April 2012 New York Times investigative report revealed that a former Walmart executive alleged that, in September 2005, Walmart de Mexico paid bribes throughout Mexico in order to obtain construction permits, information, and other favors. Concerns were raised that Walmart executives in the United States concealed the allegations. Reportedly, bribes were given to speed up construction permits, which gave Walmart a substantial advantage over its business competitors. A follow-up investigation by The New York Times published December 17, 2012, revealed evidence that regulatory permission for siting, construction, and operation of 19 stores were obtained through bribery.
  • A paper published in Farm Foundation in 1997 found that some small towns can lose almost half of their retail trade within ten years of a Walmart store opening.
  • A 2004 paper by two professors at Penn State University found that counties with Walmart stores suffered increased poverty compared with counties without Walmarts due to displacement of workers from higher-paid jobs in retail stores which customers no longer choose to patronize. A study in Nebraska looked at two different Walmarts, the first of which had just arrived and was in the process of driving everyone else out of business by cutting their prices to the bone. In the other Walmart, “they had successfully destroyed the local economy, there was a sort of economic crater with Wal-Mart in the middle; and, in that community, the prices were 17 percent higher.”
  • The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 2001 and 2006, Walmart’s trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs. Another study found that a new store increases net retail employment in the county by 100 jobs in the short term, half of which disappear over five years as other retail establishments close.
  • Walmart has been criticized by labor unions, community groups, grassroots organizations, religious organizations, environmental groups, and even Walmart’s own customers and employees. They have protested against the company’s policies and business practices, including charges of racial and gender discrimination. Other areas of criticism include the corporation’s foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, employee compensation and working conditions, environmental practices, the use of public subsidies, the company’s security policies and slavery. Wal-Mart denies doing anything wrong and maintains that low prices are the result of efficiency.

Read Full Post »

As legal setbacks begin to mount for Gov. Bobby Jindal with the indictment of a former Jindal cabinet member coupled with an attorney general’s opinion that recently announced changes to state employee group health plans are most probably illegal, one political observer intimated to LouisianaVoice that Jindal’s political career “may be coming unraveled” even as he remains fixated on the White House.

The attorney general’s office on Tuesday (Sept. 23) released a legal opinion that could signal a devastating blow to the administration’s plans to overhaul health benefit plans offered through the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to some 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.

The opinion was requested on Sept. 9 by State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), who wrote, “…The Office of Group Benefits proposes to make major plan changes, effective Jan. 1, 2015, which changes conflict with existing provisions contained in the Louisiana Administrative Code.”

LouisianaVoice has learned that word of the request was leaked to the administration after seeking and receiving a copy of the request through a public records request and Jindal dispatched Executive Counsel Thomas Enright to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office to lobby the state’s chief legal officer to issue an opinion favorable to the administration.

When it became evident that Caldwell’s opinion would not be favorable to the administration, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols capitulated in advance when she said last Friday that the state would go through the rule-making process spelled out in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

“But they’ve already put the changes out there,” Edwards said. “They implemented changes in the prescription drug co-pay in August without observing the proper legal procedure and would be deemed null and void if challenged in court. It will be impossible to do this (the remaining proposed OGB changes) by Jan. 1. The process would have had to have been started as early as June and as late as July of this year in order to become effective by the time the new plans will go into place.

Edwards was not the only legislator to voice criticism of the administration just two days before the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday to hear comments on the proposed health care coverage changes.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs), a member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, said he has consistently opposed the governor’s intervention into the operations of OGB both in committee and on the House floor.

“The heavy hand and somewhat sleight of hand of the Jindal administration to make such a drastic change to the health care benefit program that will impact some 230,000 people in Louisiana is a disgrace and a slap in the face for the many who have contributed to this health care program and expected it to provide basic healthcare coverage,” he said.

Pope urged those affected by the proposed changes to attend Thursday’s 10 a.m. meeting in the State Capitol to provide comments and to ask questions.

Former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D-Morgan City) also weighed in on the latest development. Gautreaux, who served on the OGB board of directors during his final term in the Senate, said he felt as though Jindal privatized the agency because he “couldn’t be embarrassed by the best managed and most cost effective health insurance department in all 50 states.”

Gautreaux said the OGB board began asking for answers as soon as Jindal indicated his desire to privatize the agency. “When the board couldn’t get the administration to a board meeting, I called a special meeting of the Senate Retirement Committee, again asking the governor to inform us of his intentions,” he said. “Paul Rainwater (then Commissioner of Administration) attended reluctantly but could only tell us that government had no business in running a health insurance agency. He couldn’t tell us why because the logical answer would be cost savings but the opposite was the truth. Our complaints fell on deaf ears because the business was already promised.”

Gautreaux said the “corruption began when Timmy Teepell (Jindal’s original Chief of Staff) instructed Tommy Teague (the OGB Executive Director until teagued by Jindal when he balked at the privatization of OGB) to write a tightly written RFP (request for proposal)…for northeast Louisiana so that only one company could meet the (bid) criteria.”

“Jindal’s OGB mess goes much deeper than we thought,” Edwards said. “The mismanagement of the $500 million OGB fund balance is just the beginning. Jindal’s mean-spirited solution to this self-created is being forced down the throats of state workers illegally.

“I believe this failure to comply with the APA speaks volumes about the quality of the plans. This administration knows that they are unfairly shifting the costs to state workers and teachers. Why else would they go to such great lengths, even breaking the law, to avoid public input and legislative oversight?”

Of the belated decision by the administration to comply with the law, Edwards said, “It’s too little, too late, from an administration that has consistently disregarded its legal obligations and fiscal duties to the people of our state.”

Under the APA, the procedure for the adoption of rules requires a minimum of 100 days which puts the administration under the gun to meet a tight deadline. Other requirements include:

  • Notice of the intended action and a copy of the proposed rules at least 90 days prior to taking action on the rule;
  • A statement, approved by the Legislative Fiscal Office, of the fiscal impact and the economic impact of the intended action;
  • The name of the person within the agency who has responsibility for responding to inquiries (in this case, Ansafone temporary phone bank workers in California and Florida);
  • The time when, the place where, and the manner in which interested persons may present their views;
  • A statement that the intended action complies with statutory law, including a citation of the enabling legislation;
  • A statement concerning the impact on family stability, on child, individual or family poverty;
  • Publication of a notice at least once in the Louisiana Register containing the full text of the proposed rule at least 100 days prior to the date the agency will take action on the rule;
  • Upon publication of the notice, copies of the full text of the proposed rule shall be made available upon written request within two working days;
  • Notice of the intent to adopt, amend or repeal any rule and the approved fiscal and economic impact statements shall be mailed to all persons who make timely requests of the agency no later than 10 days after the date the proposed rule change is submitted to the Louisiana Register;
  • All interested persons must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to submit data, views, comments or arguments—orally or in writing.

For a complete list of requirements of the APA, go here: apa

The attorney general opinion said the significant changes proposed by the administration “constitute a modification of the health care plans set forth in Title 32 and also has the effect of repealing and/or rendering many of the rules contained in Title 32 obsolete without following the required procedures established by the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act.”

The APA “requires that agencies comply with the rulemaking procedures set forth in the act when adopting rules,” it said, adding if OGB failed to follow APA procedures which specify that no rules adopted on or after Jan. 1, 1975, is valid unless adopted on substantial compliance with APA, “then the validity of the plans becomes questionable.”

Additionally, the opinion said, “Louisiana jurisprudence has found that rules unlawfully adopted are invalid and unenforceable.”

The opinion noted that the Legislative Fiscal Office found that significant changes to the health plans include:

  • Increasing out-of-pocket maximum for health plan options;
  • Increasing deductibles for all health plan options;
  • Increasing co-pays 100 percent for proposed health plans with co-pays;
  • Increasing the out-of-pocket maximum for the prescription drug benefit by $300—from $1,200 to $1,500 (a 20 percent increase);
  • Subjecting the prescription drug benefit to categories that will result in an increased cost for preferred and brand name drugs and a decreased cost for generic drugs;
  • Implementing other various prescription drug benefit changes including high compound management, over utilization management and the exclusion of medical foods;
  • Requiring prior authorizations for certain medical procedures;
  • Eliminating the out-of-network benefit for some health plan options;
  • Application of standard benefit limits for skilled nursing facilities, home health care services and hospice care services;
  • Removing all vision coverage;

For a copy of the complete attorney general opinion, go here: ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINION

While we have not been in discussion with Gov. Jindal or Kristy Kreme regarding the latest legal setback, we feel we can safely predict that Jindal will call the opinion “Wrong-headed,” while Kristy Kreme will put on a happy face and assure us that everything is just fine and there’s nothing to worry about.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,898 other followers

%d bloggers like this: