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On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

On Monday (June 8, 2015) Salon published an excellent piece by Lamar White about Bobby Jindal and his political machine.  Here is a link to that article:

http://www.salon.com/2015/06/08/capture_the_duggar_base_bobby_jindals_desperate_home_school_hail_mary_is_2016s_strangest_strategy/

Months ago, I joked that Bobby Jindal was not running for President, but rather for Pat Robertson’s job as host of The 700 Club.  Lamar’s piece has made me believe the concept underlying my joke may, in reality, be at the core of Bobby Jindal’s ostensible campaign for President.

The 700 Club takes its name from a Pat Robertson telethon in 1963 to energize and support a fledgling religious broadcasting station via pledges of $10 per month by 700 people. From this humble beginning, an empire emerged.

Though started by Robertson, the first permanent host of The 700 Club was Jim Bakker who, along with his wife Tammy Faye, later created the hugely (albeit temporarily) successful PTL Club. I became fascinated with Jim and Tammy Bakker in the early 1980s. It was absolutely amazing to me that they could rake in enough money through their television “ministry” to support lives of open excess and build the 3rd largest theme park in the United States, Heritage USA. Not only were they able to achieve personal wealth, they put many old line preachers, gospel singers and others to work.

Ultimately, Bakker was the victim of his own greed and corruption, as were his followers.  He did a stint in federal prison on fraud and conspiracy convictions. This followed the exposure of his affair with (or rape of) a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, who later appeared nude in Playboy. But, I digress.

Bakker is out of prison now and he and his new wife host a millennial/survivalist themed televangelism program broadcast on a couple of Christian television networks. They now live on a 600 acre property near Branson and are apparently doing pretty well despite the rumor Bakker still owes millions to the IRS.

A former Baptist minister, Pat Robertson is now more a politician and conservative commentator than televangelist. He clearly makes a good living from The 700 Club and other enterprises by appealing to a loyal group of supporters. He has founded several large organizations, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, the ABC Family Channel and Regents University. He makes money. His employees make money. His viewers get reinforcement for their beliefs.  Though his politics are extreme, he is apparently not engaging in illegal activities like his former protégé’ Bakker. He fought hard for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988, no doubt broadening his base of support in the process.

Whether he has tanked or not, Bobby Jindal and his handlers have made a lot of money from his supposed Presidential aspirations. He has become phenomenally well-known and is developing a base of devout supporters around the country. Could it be that he and his inner circle are achieving their real goals even as we speak? Governor Jindal has proven, via stunt after stunt, that gaining as much attention as possible is at the forefront of his interests. Timmy Teepell and others have made good money engendering that attention and acting as Jindal’s sycophants.

The type of things we may consider stunts made Jim Bakker a multi-millionaire. He blew it, but, incredibly may be on his way back. Robertson endures and makes radical proclamations regularly. You may remember he implied Katrina could be God’s retribution for America’s abortion policy and was possibly tied in some way to 9/11. His views on Islam and other issues are essentially the same as Jindal’s.

Robertson only needed about $7,000 per month from 700 believers to get his empire going. That wouldn’t cut it today, but if Jindal could get his own 700,000 club going, it would certainly be a good start for him, generating $7 million a month even at the old subscription fee of $10.

If there are approximately 55 million registered Republican voters in the U. S. [sources give varying numbers, the party was in decline in 2014], 700,000 equals slightly more than 1.2% of them. All things considered, it is not unrealistic to expect Jindal could attract a loyal following of that number, if he hasn’t already.

My point is obvious. Was my original joke a joke, or has the real joke always been on us? In other words, have we mistaken a coldly calculated prosperity plan for tomfoolery aimed at genuine Presidential aspirations?

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Additional checks by LouisianaVoice into the expenditure of campaign funds after leaving office has revealed that Troy Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was something of a piker in what appear to be his inappropriate expenditures of $39,000 in campaign contributions long after he left the Louisiana Senate in November of 2010.

Campaign reports examined by LouisianaVoice show that two former governors combined to spend more than $600,000 on what would appear to be such non-allowable expenditures as clerical salaries, club memberships, consulting fees, federal taxes, internet fees, office equipment, and something called “constituent relations” long after there were no longer any constituents. shall not be used for any perso

Three other former legislators who, like Hebert, now serve in other appointive capacities in state government were also checked at random and found to have combined for a little more than $22,000 in post-office-holding expenditures that appear to be for purposes specifically disallowed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

But former governors Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster have made generous use of their leftover campaign bank accounts by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for similarly disallowable purchases and expenditures.

Campaign expenditures for former governors Buddy Roemer and Edwin Edwards were not available on the State Ethics Board’s web page.

At the same time, we found one former legislator who has not spent a penny of his leftover campaign funds—for anything. Democrat Dudley “Butch” Gautreaux of Morgan City has spent none of his campaign funds—for any purpose—since leaving office in January of 2012. We sincerely hope there are others.

Foster, a Republican, accounted for more than $201,000 in apparent non-allowable expenditures from his campaign fund. He had the following expense items listed in his campaign expenditure report:

  • $3,000 for internet service;
  • $66,675 for clerical payroll;
  • $70,000 for copiers and other office equipment and maintenance contracts;
  • $9,400 in dues to the Camelot Club and City Club, both in Baton Rouge;
  • $4,300 in workers’ compensation insurance premiums for office staff;
  • $25,000 for bookkeeping services;
  • $9,800 in federal income tax payments on office staff;
  • $13,500 for “constituent services”;
  • $403 in payments to M.J. Foster Farms—an apparent reimbursement to himself for unknown expenditures.

In addition, Foster contributed to numerous causes, including $1,000 to a lamppost restoration drive in his hometown of Franklin and other charitable civic and church organizations and several political candidates. Only his contributions to political candidates and to the Louisiana Republican Party appeared to have been allowable under Ethics Board regulations.

Democrat Blanco easily eclipsed Foster with more than $400,000 in expenditures described in various Ethics Board opinions as not allowable for purposes “related to a political campaign or the holding of a public office.”

Some of her questionable expenditures included:

  • $188,000 for communication consulting;
  • $88,000 in clerical salaries;
  • $67,000 in donations to various causes;
  • $64,500 in tech support;

To be fair, however, there was brief speculation that Blanco would oppose Jindal in his re-election campaign of 2011 until health considerations took her out of that race. Any funds spent in exploration of a possible run would probably be looked upon favorably as campaign-related. Charitable contributions are allowed under certain conditions, such as in the cases of pro-rata refunds of unused contributions but otherwise such use of campaign funds for charitable donations is not allowed. We found an Ethics opinion that addresses that very issue: James David Cain

Like Foster, she also contributed generously to several political candidates as well as to the Louisiana Democratic Party, all allowable under Ethics Board regulations.

Former Sen. Anne Duplessis (D-New Orleans), now a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors ($13,440), former Rep. Kay Katz (R-Monroe), now a member of the Louisiana Tax Commission ($7,700), and former Rep. and former Sen. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro), now Chief Deputy Commissioner of Insurance ($1,300), each also had combined expenditures from their respective campaign funds totaling about $22,400 for purposes not allowed, according to Ethics Board regulations.

Small as those expenditures were when contrasted to Blanco, Foster or even Hebert, however, the samplings of more than $662,000 in questionable expenditures found by LouisianaVoice for only six former office holders—and the many examples of misuse of campaign funds by current officer holders—illustrates the critical lack of oversight of the manner in which office holders and former office holders alike live the good life off, what for many of them, is tax-free income most times in the tens of thousands of dollars but in some cases, six figures.

Campaign funds are contributed by donors, such as lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests who want something in return, like a favorable vote on a key issue. And because the politicians generally oblige, the donors couldn’t care less how campaign funds are spent. The funds are donated for the wrong reasons, so why should they care if they are spent for the wrong reasons?

That in a nutshell is what is wrong with our political system today. Far too much quid pro quo, a few winks, a couple of drinks over steak or lobster and donors look the other way as the recipient enjoys nice restaurants, club memberships, luxury car leases and tickets to college and pro athletic events and perhaps the occasional hooker.

Two things can occur to rein in this abuse:

The Louisiana Legislature, in a rare (and we do mean rare) moment of integrity and soul-searching, could enact binding laws governing who can contribute to campaigns (such as tracking the federal elections laws prohibiting corporate contributions), limiting PAC funds and spelling out in detail how campaign funds may and may not be spent.

But don’t look for that to happen in this or any other lifetime. Like corporations and banks, politicians just aren’t going to self-regulate without including a gaggle of hidden loopholes in any legislation that might happen to address the issue. You can bet any legitimate attempt will either be killed outright or amended to death in committee.

The other—and this, sadly, is just as unlikely—the voters of Louisiana will, in unity, say “ENOUGH!” They will, like Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, scream out their windows, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” and they will turn out of office any legislator who so much as buys the first ticket to a football game or dines at a fine restaurant or leases a luxury auto with campaign funds. And in equal unanimity, they will demand reimbursement of all funds wrongly spent by current and former office holders alike.

But a final word of caution: That would be in a perfect world so don’t hold your breath.

 

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By the content of that comment from the writer calling himself Earthpapa, we figured we must have hit a nerve with our report about Troy Hebert’s “campaign” expenditures on hotels and LSU tickets after he left office.

But the fact is, an apology is in order. We said he spent $4,930 in campaign funds on LSU tickets after he left office.

On double checking our figures, we find the actual amount is $4,991.

But the lengthy comment by Earthpapa appeared to have Hebert’s footprints all over it and the strident tone of his missive indicated to us that we had scored a direct hit, or very close to it.

And while we’re not saying with any definitiveness that Hebert was the author of the comment, it was enough to send us diving back into his campaign report for other expenditures incurred after he left the Louisiana Senate in November of 2010 to become head of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC).

(As an aside, the State Ethics Board has said that if campaign funds are not to be used for the purpose of campaigning or holding office, they are to be returned to the donors on a pro rata basis. Accordingly, if 100 donors give $1,000 each and $50,000 is left over and not to be used, then theoretically, the 100 donors would receive refunds of 50 percent of their contributions, or $500 each.)

But Hebert, apparently playing by his own rules, has continued to spend campaign funds at least through last December on such things as Christmas cards, advertising, postage, office supplies, stationery, flowers, food, newspaper advertising, subscriptions, gifts, clerical salaries for his New Iberia office and, of course, those LSU tickets—all expenditures not allowed under state campaign regulations.

Specifically, the Ethics Board says, “Funds must be expended for a use related to a political campaign or the holding of a public office.” (Emphasis by the Board.) But Hebert has not held office nor has he sought political office since becoming ATC director. shall not be used for any perso  may not be used for any personal use unrelated to holding of public office

In all, Hebert (aka Earthpapa?) has shelled out more than $36,300 in non-campaign-related expenditures since December of 2010, according to his own campaign finance records. TROY HEBERT CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES POST-SENATE

A breakdown of expenditures, in addition to the $4,991 in LSU tickets, includes:

  • $3,539 on newspaper advertising;
  • $14,454 on souvenirs (logo hats and shirts) and office supplies;
  • $1,785 for postage, Christmas cards and newspaper, magazine and cable subscriptions;
  • $1,250 on ornaments, gifts and lunches;
  • $8,500 in political contributions to other candidates (which is allowable);
  • $4,500 in salaries to two clerical employees in a New Iberia office from December of 2012 (the month after he left office) through December of 2013, two years after he left office.

There was no explanation as to why the ATC director needed an office in New Iberia or why his campaign funds had to be used to pay office staff salaries.

In November and December of 2014, three years after leaving office, he spent $3,585 at Erin Oswalt Photography for Christmas cards and in December of 2010, he spent $492 with Oswalt on postcards, campaign expense reports reveal.

His campaign also purchased $1,028 in postage between December of 2010 and December of 2014—not counting the eyebrow-raising $676 in campaign funds spent in December of 2014 for Christmas card postage.

Again, it’s difficult to conceive why the director of a state agency would need to purchase more than $1,700 in postage stamps over a four-year period using campaign funds long after he left office in open violation of campaign regulations.

Perhaps Hebert Earthpapa will contact us and explain the use of campaign funds for non-campaign purposes.

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Because of our limited staff (one, plus a few occasional contributors), we often fall behind in our efforts to keep up with the news of our misbehaving public officials. We try to keep up, but these guys are pretty slick and very resourceful in finding new ways to siphon off funds, whether they be state funds or contributions from campaign supporters.

So, today, we will highlight a couple of politicos who are very tight: Bobby Jindal and his director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), Troy Hebert (whose wife just happens to be the Jindal children’s pediatrician, we’re told).

We have an update on the status of Frederick Tombar III, who, like Hebert was appointed to a high-level position in the Jindal administration only to harass himself out of a job.

Tombar, it seems, has landed on his feet after leaving his $260,000 a year job as director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation because of some sexually explicit emails he sent to two female employees—one, a contract employee and the other an actual employee of the agency.

Both women attempted to put off Tombar’s advances because of fear of losing their jobs but eventually each filed complaints and Tombar left before he could be interviewed during an investigation by Ron Jackson, Human Resources Director for the Division of Administration.

Not to worry. We’re told by sources that Tombar, of New Orleans, had a soft landing at Cornerstone Government Affairs consulting company where he will work alongside two former state Commissioners of Administration, Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater. http://www.cgagroup.com/index.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/RainwaterPaul.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/mark_drennen.html

Efforts to reach both Drennan and Rainwater for comment were unsuccessful.

It’s not known what Tombar’s salary at Cornerstone will be, but we are willing to bet it doesn’t approach the quarter-million a year he was making as a Jindal appointee.

That other appointee mentioned earlier, Troy Hebert, of whom much has been written here, little of it good, recently sent a bill to former ATC agent Howard Caviness of West Monroe who now serves as Grambling State University chief of police. Well, actually, the bill was not from Hebert, but from the agency under which he serves, the Department of Revenue (LDR).

The invoice, for all of $123.59 is for an alleged overpayment to Caviness in Dec. of 2012, according to the letter dated April 29 which is stamped “2nd notice.” Supposedly, the $123.59, when collected, will go to help patch over Jindal’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. LDR letter

Attached to the letter is a time sheet for the two-week time period of Nov. 26—Dec. 9, 2012, with no explanation other than a hand-scrawled, “will leave a balance owed.” ATC timesheet

(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Caviness, contacted by LouisianaVoice, feels the action is in retaliation for his having testified on behalf of another former agent, Brett Tingle, who Hebert fired while Tingle was recovering from a heart attack.

Reprisals against a state employee by officials in the Jindal administration? Surely not!

But that would fit the modus operandi of Hebert and would give credence to a third former agent who revealed she was ordered to conduct an investigation of LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell (that would be me). That former agent admitted that she did indeed follow through on the investigation but found me “rather boring.” We’ll take boring any day.

But we did our own nosing around and found that Hebert played pretty fast and loose with campaign donors’ money while he was still a state senator—and even after he left office to take over operations at ATC after Jindal did a number on former ATC Director Murphy Painter.

At the top of the list, as with the case of so many office holders, was his $12,165 expenditure for the purchase of what seems to be the most sought-after perk of all state politicians: LSU football tickets—$4,930 of that well after he left the House of Representatives in 2010 to become head of ATC. It’s somewhat difficult to see how whose expenditures, especially the $4,930 spent after he left office, could be justified as being “related to the holding of public office,” as state campaign expense laws clearly dictate. related to a campaign  personal use  cannot use campaign funds for personal use

But, as they say in those cheesy TV commercials, “Wait! There’s more!”

Our boy Troy also shelled out the following amounts for other seeming unrelated purposes:

  • Nov. 11, 2014: All State Sugar Bowl tickets, $590 (again, quite a stretch in tying this to holding public office); SUGAR BOWL
  • April 22, 2009: Sullivan’s Restaurant, Baton Rouge, $2,323.10 for a fundraiser; RESTAURANTS
  • April 1, 2010: Delta Airlines, $691.80 (no explanation of any destination, but his House district was pretty small and probably didn’t require air travel to get around Iberia Parish; TRAVEL
  • April 1, 2010: Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., $1,505.70. Ah! There’s his destination for that Delta flight. But what was he running for in Washington? HOTELS
  • May 10, 2011: Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans, $500. About those two hotel bills: state regulations limit hotel rooms to a mere $120 per night. Perhaps someone should sent Hebert a bill for the difference. Oh, wait. The rooms were paid out of campaign funds, not the state treasury. So that makes it okay, we guess.  travelguide

Still, $15,452 in campaign expenditures which somehow just don’t pass the smell test for legitimate campaign expenditures, especially $5,520 of which was spent after he left office.

And then there’s Jindal.

Since 2009, a year after he first took office, he has racked up an eye-popping expenditure of $169,597 in hotel room costs alone. TRAVEL

Even more revealing, all but $30,000 of that ($139,660) has been since his re-election in October of 2011, evidence that he has spent precious little time in Louisiana performing the “job he always wanted,” and the job to which he was elected.

Jindal also spent more than $185,000 in campaign money since 2003 on air travel, his campaign expense records show. Because his travel expenses were about equally divided between pre- and post-re-election in 2011, it would indicate that much of his lodging was provided by organizations to whom he was speaking.

By running as an “undeclared” candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he was able to make free use of campaign funds he reaped while running for and serving as governor. That would explain why he is so cagey about his non-candidacy candidacy: the rules change and federal regulations kick in once he is a declared candidate. His self-serving claim to be “praying for guidance” over his decision has little or nothing to do with it; it’s all about the way he can spend the money.

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