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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

As we move toward the Nov. 4 election, we felt it important that our readers should know just who is backing each candidate. Because we have long been opposed to the dominance of big money in the electoral process, particularly on behalf of the best politicians money can buy, we decided to basically ignore the individual contributions in favor of shining the bright disinfecting light of sunshine on Political Action Committee (PAC) money.

It is, after all, PAC money that reduces the role of the individual voter to that of insignificant pawn even though it is that same individual voter/insignificant pawn who must ultimately go to the polls and pull the lever for these instruments of the special interests. In effect, we vote not for a particular candidate, but for the special interest or lobbyist of our choice when we cast that ballot. And yet, because we must, in the final analysis, be the ones who actually go through the process of voting, we delude ourselves into believing that our form of corrupt democracy actually works.

If you really believe that, can it be mere coincidence that the more that big money makes its way into our political structure, the more gridlocked Washington becomes? Now ask yourself this: who loses in this scenario? And who wins? A hint: have you heard a defense contractor, for instance, complain of being left out of the political process? An oil company? Wall Street? We didn’t think so.

If that lowers your self-esteem and destroys your belief in the democratic process, we’re sorry. We just report what we find. How many times have you placed your faith in a candidate only to see him sell his soul to those who, unlike us, can afford to buy influence? Need we even remind you of the pontifications on the “gold standard of ethics” by candidate Bobby Jindal as contrasted to the actual practices of post-election politician Bobby Jindal once in office?

And if the candidates we profile in the coming days and weeks (and we will make a sincere attempt to get to every candidate for each U.S. House District and each candidate for U.S. Senate) are offended or embarrassed by our revelations of the baggage those PAC contributions bring to their campaigns, so be it.

All we can say in response to your annoyance is: You took the money; you should’ve known better.

As promised, here are select PAC contributions, the good, the bad and the ugly, to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu:

AMERICA WORKS PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

  • In 2013, Brown proposed to break up consolidated banks and finance industry conglomerates, ending “too big to fail” by restoring the Glass-Steagall Act.
  • Brown opposed the Iraq War and voted against the Iraq Resolution as a House Representative. He voted against the $87 billion war budgetary supplement.
  • In 2008, Brown joined 91 other senators in voting for the Iraq and Afghanistan War Funding, Unemployment Benefits Extension, and GI Bill, which required the Department of Defense to provide a timetable for achieving security in Iraq.
  • Brown was the co-author and sponsor of a bill that would officially declare China a currency manipulator and require the Department of Commerce to impose countervailing duties on Chinese imports.

AMERIPAC: THE FUND FOR A GREATER AMERICA: $5,000

Affiliated with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland)

  • In March 2007, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Hoyer’s political action committee “raised nearly $1 million for congressional candidates [in the 2006 election cycle by exploiting what experts call a legal loophole.” The Center reported the following:
  • Campaign finance disclosure records show that the Maryland Democrat used his leadership political action committee—AmeriPAC—as a conduit to collect bundles of checks from individuals, and from business and union interests. He then passed more than $960,000 along to 53 House candidates and another quarter of a million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, data compiled from the Center for Responsive Politics Web site show. Federal law generally prohibits political action committees, including leadership PACs, which are run by politicians, from receiving more than $5,000 each year from a single donor or giving more than $10,000 to a single candidate ($5,000 each for the primary and the general election). But Hoyer collected as much as $136,000 from one labor union committee and distributed more than $86,000 to a single Congressional race.

BLUE HEN PAC:  $1,000

Affiliated with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware)

DAKOTA PRAIRIE PAC:  $5,000

Affiliated with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota)

  • Heitkamp was attacked in commercials for accepting campaign contributions from a trial lawyer, Jack McConnell, Jr., assigned by her to help North Dakota implement its settlement with tobacco companies when she served as state attorney general.
  • Heitkamp said she would support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution “with exceptions” that included wartime spending, Social Security, Medicare, and a ban on tax cuts for those making more than $1 million per year.
  • Heitkamp supports implementing the Buffett Rule via the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would require those making a gross income of $1,000,000 or more to pay at least a 30% federal tax rate.
  • Heitkamp said she supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it will create jobs, decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East, and help drive down the national debt. She also said many who oppose hydraulic fracturing have been exposed to “junk science” and do not know what it really is.

DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM PAC:  $8,740

  • Democrats for Education Reform claims that it “leads efforts to frame the fight that is playing out within the Democratic Party on education issues.” It tries to accomplish that by pushing aside teacher unions as education spokespeople or even as informed practitioners. The organization advocates for nonunion charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, curbs on tenure and removing teacher unions from almost any role in shaping curriculum or determining working conditions.
  • In just three years, DFER directed more than $17 million into political and grassroots advocacy for its version of education reform and for what Joe Williams, the group’s executive director and a former Daily News education reporter, credits as “creating momentum which has the potential to dominate education policymaking for years to come.”

FOLLOW THE NORTH STAR FUND: $2,500

Affiliated with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

  • The Winona Daily News described her as a “rare politician who works across the aisle.” Walter Mondale stated “She has done better in that miserable Senate than most people there.”

FRIENDS OF CHRIS DODD: $1,000

  • As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Dodd proposed a program in June 2008 that would assist troubled sub-prime mortgage lenders such as Countrywide Financial in the wake of the United States housing bubble‘s collapse. Dodd received mortgages from Countrywide at allegedly below-market rates on his Washington, D.C. and Connecticut homes. Dodd had not disclosed the below-market mortgages in any of six financial disclosure statements he filed.
  • On August 7, 2009, the Select Committee on Ethics said it found “no credible evidence” that Dodd knowingly sought out a special loan or treatment because of his position, but the panel also said in an open letter to Dodd that he should have questioned why he was being put in the VIP program at Countrywide. Dodd has since been called Wall Street’s “biggest booster, the most Machiavellian of United States Senators…” in Jeff Connaughton’s book, The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.
  • Dodd was involved in issues related to the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. At the time, it was estimated that the federal government would need to spend $25 billion on a bailout of the firms. During this period, Dodd denied rumors these firms were in financial crisis. He called them “fundamentally strong,” said they were in “sound situation” and “in good shape” and to “suggest they are in major trouble is not accurate.”
  • Dodd is the number one recipient in Congress of campaign funds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • From the fall of 2008 through early 2009, the United States government spent nearly $170 Billion to assist failing insurance giant, AIG. AIG then spent $165 million of this money to hand out executive “retention” bonuses to its top executives. Public outrage ensued over this perceived misuse of taxpayer dollars.
  • Dodd has received more than $223,000 from AIG employees for his political campaigns. Additionally, Dodd’s wife is a former Director for Bermuda-based IPC Holdings, a company controlled by AIG. Dodd’s wife served on a number of corporate boards, including the CME Group and could be earning as much as $500,000 annually for her service on said boards. On March 30, 2009, it was reported that former AIG Financial Products head Joseph Cassano personally solicited contributions from his employees in Connecticut via an e-mail in fall 2006 suggesting that the contributions were related to Dodd’s ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee.

FRIENDS OF SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-Michigan):  $2,000

  • He is a strong advocate for cost controls regarding military procurements.[22] He has also pushed for less secrecy in government, working to declassify many documents, particularly where claims of ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda are concerned.
  • Levin grew critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the Afghanistan War, saying in 2005 that they “took their eye off the ball when we decided to go after Iraq instead of al-Qaeda, the people who had attacked us on 9/11, and their leader.
  • Levin was an early opponent of using U.S. military force in Iraq, saying in August 2002 that “if Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he wouldn’t use them,” and that “he’s a survivalist, not a suicide bomber.”Levin was one of 23 Senators who voted against the Iraq Resolution. Levin has strongly argued that the War in Iraq was a diversion from the War on Terror. On CNN on November 14, 2005, Levin said that “before the war, the President was saying that you cannot distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Iraq. As a matter of fact, he said that so often that he tried to connect Saddam Hussein with the attackers on us, on 9/11, so often, so frequently and so successfully, even though it was wrong, that the American people overwhelmingly thought, because of the President’s misstatements that as a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein had participated in the attack on us on 9/11. That was a deception. That was clearly misinformation. It had a huge effect on the American people.”

GENERAL ELECTRIC CO. PAC:  $1,000

  • According to the New York Times story, GE reported U.S. profits of $5.1 billion in 2010 (and $14.2 billion worldwide). “Its American tax bill?” asked the Times. “None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion,” an amount GE balanced out against other tax obligations. The company accomplished this, the story said, due to “an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”
  • Earlier this year, GE filed suit seeking a $658 million federal tax refund. That sum represents the $439 million in taxes and $219 million in interest GE coughed up in 2010 after Internal Revenue Service auditors disallowed a $2.2 billion loss it claimed from the 2003 sale of a small subsidiary, ERC Life Reinsurance Corp., to Scottish Re Group for $151 million.

GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP 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.

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 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.

GREEN MOUNTAIN PAC: $7,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)

HALLIBURTON CO. PAC: $2,000

  • Following the end of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991, the Pentagon, led by then defense secretary Dick Cheney, paid Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root Services more than $8.5 million to study the use of private military forces with American soldiers in combat zones. Halliburton crews also helped bring 725 burning oil wells under control in Kuwait.
  • In 1995, Cheney replaced Thomas H. Cruikshank, as chairman and CEO.
  • In the early 1990s, Halliburton was found to be in violation of federal trade barriers in Iraq and Libya, having sold these countries dual-use oil drilling equipment and, through its former subsidiary, Halliburton Logging Services, sending six pulse neutron generators to Libya. After pleading guilty, the company was fined $1.2 million, with another $2.61 million in penalties.
  • From 1995 to 2002, Halliburton Brown & Root Services Corp. (BRS) was awarded at least $2.5 billion to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations, as part of the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. This contract was a cost plus 13 percent contract and BRS employees were trained on how to pass GAO audits to ensure maximum profits were attained. Any mention in the Balkans of Cheney’s being CEO was grounds for termination. BRS was awarded and re-awarded contracts termed “noncompetitive” because BRS was the only company capable of pulling off the missions. DynCorp actually won the competitively let second contract, but never received any work orders in the Balkans.
  • In May 2003, Halliburton revealed in SEC filings that its KBR subsidiary had paid a Nigerian official $2.4 million in bribes in order to receive favorable tax
  • On January 24, 2006, Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and Root) announced that it had been awarded a $385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build “temporary detention and processing facilities” or internment
  • On May 14, 2010, President Barack Obama said in an interview with CNN that “you had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else” when referring to the congressional hearings held during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

HOLDING ONTO OREGON’S PRIORITIES: $5,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

  • Wyden was one of 23 Senators to vote against the authorization of military force in Iraq in 2002. In 2003, Wyden voted to bar excessive overseas deployments of members of the National Guard and Reserves. In 2006, Wyden was one of 13 Senators to vote to require the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by July 2007, and was one of 39 Senators to vote to call on the President to begin withdrawing forces from Iraq and establish a timeline for withdrawal.
  • In 2003 Wyden joined with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) to help pass the Bush Administration’s Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act. The Bush Administration is alleged to have forced officials to hide its true cost, which later was triple its original claim. The bill has been criticized as favoring pharmaceutical companies, as it prohibits the federal government from negotiating prescription drug rates.
  • During the global financial crisis of 2007-2010, Wyden voted against the financial bailouts backed by the Bush administration. He did not vote on the automobile industry bailout, though he said he would have voted for cloture if he had been present. Wyden added, “While I continue to have concerns about ensuring that taxpayers are protected if this loan is to occur, I believe that if the President can unwisely provide $750 billion of taxpayer money for the investment banks who took horribly unacceptable risks and helped trigger an economic collapse, we certainly have a duty to attempt to preserve a cornerstone domestic industry and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of working people whose personal actions are in no way responsible for the current economic crisis.”
  • Wyden was among several moderate Democratic senators who in early January 2009 criticized President-elect Barack Obama‘s stimulus plan, calling for a greater emphasis on “tangible infrastructure investments” and warning that an effort had to be made to differentiate it from the Bush bailouts Wyden had opposed.

HOOSIERS FIRST PAC: $4,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana)

  • As a member of the House before his election to the U.S. Senate, Donnelly was a member of Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate In March 2007, he was recognized as “Blue Dog of the Week” for his work on helping small businesses. He broke with the Democratic leadership on several budgetary issues, including the 2008 fiscal budget proposal. In June 2007, he was ranked as one of the ten most independent Democrats by a Congressional Quarterly report.

KELLEY DRYE & WARREN PAC:  $1,000

  • The Kelley Drye Law Firm played a leading role in defense of the Agent Orange litigation and defended Union Carbide following the Bhopal disaster. In 2002, the firm represented P. Morgan Chase in a lawsuit against insurance carriers seeking $1 billion in compensation for its Enron-related losses. In 2003, Kelley Drye negotiated a settlement on behalf its client and obtained nearly 60% of the $1.1 billion demanded.

LOBO PAC: $7,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich

  • Heinrich opposed legislation that would have re-instated the expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He supported bills that would create a national standard for the concealed carrying of firearms across state lines, and co-sponsored legislation that would ease the restrictions on the sales of firearms across state lines. The National Rifle Association endorsed Heinrich during the 2010 congressional election.
  • Heinrich has maintained strong opposition to the war in Iraq, and supports a swift end of combat operations in Afghanistan.
  • In 2011, he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act conference report because he objected to language requiring that suspected foreign terrorists be taken into custody by the military instead of civilian law enforcement authorities.

LONGLEAF PINE PAC: $5,000

Leadership PAC of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)

MERCK & CO.:  $5,000

  • A US Justice Department fraud investigation began in 2000 when allegations were brought in two separate lawsuits filed by whistleblowers who alleged that Merck failed to pay proper rebates to Medicaid and other health care programs and paid illegal remuneration to health care providers. In 2008, Merck agreed to pay more than $650 million to settle charges that it routinely overbilled Medicaid for its most popular medicines. The settlement was one of the largest pharmaceutical settlements in history. The federal government received more than $360 million, plus 49 states and Washington, DC, received over $290 million. One whistleblower received a $68 million reward. Merck made the settlement without an admission of liability or wrongdoing.
  • From 2002 through 2005 the Australian affiliate of Merck sponsored the eight issues of a medical journal, the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, published by Elsevier. Although it gave the appearance of being an independent peer-reviewed journal, without any indication that Merck had paid for it, the journal actually reprinted articles that originally appeared in other publications and that were favorable to Merck. The misleading publication came to light in 2009 during a personal injury lawsuit filed over Vioxx; 9 of 29 articles in the journal’s second issue referred positively to Vioxx. In 2009, the CEO of Elsevier’s Health Sciences Division, Michael Hansen, admitted that the practice was “unacceptable”.
  • In December 2013, Merck agreed to pay a total of $27.7 million dollars to 1,200 plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit alleging that the company’s osteoporosis drug had caused them to develop osteonecrosis of the jaw.

MISSOURIANS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY & CHANGE PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)

  • McCaskill has consistently been named by the National Journal as one of the ten most moderate Senators. In 2011, she was ranked exactly 50th on its scale of most-liberal to most-conservative. The Washington Post reported in 2012 that she was the second-most-likely Democratic Senator to vote against her party.
  • McCaskill has made herself known for being aggressive by questioning officials in the Department of Defense on their “loose” spending habits. McCaskill grilled top officials of the military’s auditing agencies for rewarding KBR for their Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract, a contract now valued at over $20 billion, despite audit reports indicating extreme contractor mismanagement and expansive overcharging of the U.S. government.[
  • As a member of the Senate Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, McCaskill supported Republican U.S. Representative Joseph Cao and fellow Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in their insistence on corrections of mismanagement of the New Orleans office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • On March 16, 2011, McCaskill told reporters that she was “embarrassed” about revelations that her office had used taxpayer money for the senator’s use of a private airplane she co-owned with her husband and friends. The plane was used for 90 flights taken between Washington, D.C., and her home in suburban St. Louis, as well as to numerous sites around the state of Missouri. According to McCaskill’s Senate office, all but 1 of the 90 flights in question were within Senate rules. As soon as the story broke, McCaskill sent a check for $88,000 to the S. Treasury as reimbursement for the flights. On March 21, 2011, Politico reported that McCaskill had failed to pay more than $280,000 in property taxes on the plane and was planning to sell it.

MONSANTO CO. CITIZENSHIP FUND:   $2,000

  • In 2003, Monsanto reached a $300 million settlement with people in Alabama affected by the manufacturing and dumping of the toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  • In 2004, Monsanto, along with Dow and other chemical companies, were sued in a US court by a group of Vietnamese for the effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the US 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.
  • In 2011, Monsanto spent about $6.3 million lobbying Congress and the 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 cycle through its PAC.
  • Monsanto spent $8.1 million opposing the passage of Proposition 37 in the US state of California, making it the largest donor against the initiative. Proposition 37, which was rejected by a 53.7 percent majority in November 2012, would have mandated the disclosure of genetically modified crops used in the production of California food products.
  • The Monsanto Company Citizenship Fund has donated more than $10 million to various candidates since 2003.
  • 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.

MORGAN STANLEY:  $2,000

  • In 2003, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $125 million in order to settle its portion of a $1.4 billion settlement brought by Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York, the National Association of Securities Dealers (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)), the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, (SEC) and a number of state securities regulators, relating to intentionally misleading research motivated by a desire to win investment banking business with the companies covered.
  • Morgan Stanley settled a sex discrimination suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $54 million on July 12, 2004. In 2007, the firm agreed to pay $46 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by eight female brokers.
  • In July 2004, the firm paid NASD a $2.2 million fine for more than 1,800 late disclosures of reportable information about its brokers.
  • In September 2004, the firm paid a $19 million fine imposed by NYSE for failure to deliver prospectuses to customers in registered offerings, inaccurate reporting of certain program trading information, short sale violations, failures to fingerprint new employees and failure to timely file exchange forms.
  • The New York Stock Exchange imposed a $19 million fine on January 12, 2005 for alleged regulatory and supervisory lapses, the largest fine ever imposed by the New York Stock Exchange at the time.
  • In 2005, a Florida jury found that Morgan Stanley failed to give adequate information to Ronald Perelman about Sunbeam thereby defrauding him and causing damages to him of $604 million. In addition, punitive damages were added for total damages of $1.450 billion. This verdict was directed after the firm’s attorneys infuriated the court by failing and refusing to produce documents, and falsely telling the court that certain documents did not exist. The ruling was overturned on March 21, 2007.
  • Morgan Stanley settled a class action lawsuit in 2006 by both current and former Morgan Stanley employees for unfair labor practices instituted to those in the financial advisor training program. Employees of the program had claimed the firm expected trainees to clock overtime hours without additional pay and handle various administrative expenses as a result of their expected duties. A $42.5 million settlement was reached and Morgan Stanley admitted no fault.
  • In May the firm agreed to pay a $15 million fine after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the firm of deleting emails and failing to cooperate with SEC investigators.
  • FINRA announced a $12.5 million settlement with Morgan Stanley in 2007 over charges that the firm’s former affiliate, Morgan Stanley DW, Inc. (MSDW), failed on numerous occasions to provide emails to claimants in arbitration proceedings as well as to regulators. The company had claimed that the destruction of the firm’s email servers in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center resulted in the loss of all email before that date. In fact, the firm had millions of earlier emails that had been retrieved from backup copies stored in another location that was not destroyed in the attacks. Customers who had lost their arbitration cases against Morgan Stanley DW Inc. because of their inability to obtain these emails to demonstrate Morgan Stanley’s misconduct received a token amount of money as a result of the settlement.
  • In July 2007, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for incorrectly charging clients for storage of precious metals.
  • In August 2007, Morgan Stanley was fined $1.5 million and paid $4.6 million in restitution to customers related to excessive mark-ups in 2,800 transactions. An employee was charged $40,000 and suspended for 15 days.
  • Under a 2008 settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, the firm agreed to repurchase approximately $4.5 billion worth of auction rate securities. The firm was accused of misrepresenting auction rate securities in their sales and marketing.
  • In April 2010, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced the firm agreed to pay $14 million related to an attempt to hide prohibited trading activity in oil futures.
  • The Department of Justice sought a $4.8 million fine from Morgan Stanley for its part in an electricity price-fixing scandal. Con Edison estimated that the crime cost New York state consumers about $300 million. Morgan Stanley earned revenues of $21.6 million from the fraud.
  • Morgan Stanley agreed to pay a $5 million fine to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and an addition $1.75 million to CME and the Chicago Board of Trade after employees improperly executed fictitious sales in Eurodollar and Treasury note futures contracts.
  • On August 7, 2012, it was announced that Morgan Stanley would have to pay $4.8 million in fines in order to settle a price fixing scandal, which has been estimated to have cost New Yorkers $300 million. Morgan Stanley made no admission of any wrongdoing; however, the Justice department commented that they hoped this would “send a message to the banking industry.”

NARRAGANSETT BAY PAC: $7,600

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

  • Reed has generally followed the Democratic line by supporting increased Medicare funding, enrolling more Americans into programs that help the uninsured, allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada, and negotiating bulk medication purchases for Medicare in order to lower costs.
  • Reed has supported fair trade policies over similar ones advocating free trade. He has also been a strong supporter of unionizing workers, and he has criticized government and business interference with these groups. He also supports increasing the minimum wage and unemployment compensation.
  • Reed supports limiting American oil use and expanding alternative energy. He opposes Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling and federal subsidies for oil exploration, while favoring a 40 percent reduction in oil use by 2025 and funding for hydrogen automobiles.
  • Reed has continuously voted against limiting lawsuits on gun manufacturers and has favored expanding gun control. He voted against loosening background checks at gun shows. The NRA has given Reed an F rating on gun control.
  • Reed has made it a point to maintain liaisons within his office specifically to interact with discharged veterans of the Armed Services. These liaisons often help veterans enter the Department of Veteran Affairs, ensuring that these former servicemen and servicewomen can receive medical care.
  • Reed was one of 23 US senators to vote against the use of force against Iraq in 2002. In 2007, Reed elaborated on his sentiments, saying, “It was a flawed strategy that diverted attention and resources away from hunting down Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.”

NEW MILLENNIUM PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)

NEWS AMERICA HOLDINGS, FOX PAC: $1,000

  • In 1999, The Economist reported that NewsCorp, parent company of News America, paid comparatively lower taxes and NewsCorp Investments specifically had made $20.1 billion in profits over the previous 11 years but had not paid net corporation tax. It also reported that after an examination of the available accounts, NewsCorp could normally have been expected to pay corporate tax of approximately $350 million. The article explained that in practice, the corporation’s complex structure, international scope and use of offshore tax havens allowed News Corporation to pay minimal
  • In July 2011, NewsCorp closed down the News of the World newspaper in the United Kingdom due to allegations of phone hackings. The allegations include trying to access former Prime Minister Gordon Brown‘s voice mail, and obtain information from his bank accounts, family’s medical records, and private legal files. Allegations of hacking have also been brought up in relation to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Royal Family.

NISOURCE, INC. PAC: $6,500

  • In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized NiSource for spending $1.83 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008-2010, instead getting $227 million in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $1.4 billion, and increasing executive pay by 33 percent to $11.2 million in 2010 for its top 5 executives.

OPPORTUNITY & RENEWAL PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)

  • Merkley has accumulated a progressive record during his Senate career. In late February 2010, Merkley again made headlines when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Republican colleague Jim Bunning of Kentucky to drop his objection to passing a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans.
  • Merkley became the first Democratic member of the Senate to announce that he’d vote against the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, citing Bernanke’s failure to “recognize or remedy the factors that paved the road to this dark and difficult recession.” As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Merkley helped pass the Wall Street reform bill. Along with Michigan Senator Carl Levin, he successfully added an amendment which banned high-risk trading inside commercial banking and lending institutions.
  • Merkley and Carl Levin have led an effort to crack down on proprietary trading at depository banks and other critical financial firms. The Dodd-Frank Act included the Merkley-Levin amendment to implement the Volcker Rule. The rule is premised on the notion that banks should not make risky, speculative bets while enjoying government deposit insurance.[
  • In March 2008, Merkley endorsed the Responsible Plan to End the War In Iraq.[

OXBOW CARBON & MINERALS: $5,000

  • Oxbow CEO William Koch—the “other” Koch brother along with David and Charles—was recently sued by a former senior executive at his Oxbow Carbon for false imprisonment. The allegations are that Koch lured the former executive to his Colorado ranch and then held him against his will to intimidate him from going public with concerns over an illegal tax avoidance scheme being pursued by Oxbow.
  • Koch denies that such an event took place, claiming instead that the executive was part of a scheme to defraud Oxbow, by taking bribes from competitors and participating in various other unsavory business practices.
  • So either William Koch held an executive hostage in order to intimidate him from exposing an illegal tax scheme…or…a substantial number of Oxbow executives were taking bribes and colluding with competitors. Either way, there’s some shady business going on at Oxbow.
  • The product it sells is the dirtiest of the dirty; its business practices are unsavory at best, dangerous and illegal at worst; and they use their money to buy politicians to allow them keep making obscene profits doing all of the above.

PAC FOR A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: $2,600

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

  • Warren voted as a Republican for many years in the belief “that those were the people who best supported markets”. In 1995 she began to vote Democratic because she no longer believed that to be true, but she says that she has voted for both parties because she believed that neither party should dominate.
  • Warren is a champion of a beleaguered middle class that she says “has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered. People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged.” Warren said that Wall Street CEOs “wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs” and that they “still strut around congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”[
  • To no one’s surprise, Warren has encountered significant opposition from business interests. In August 2012, Rob Engstrom, political director for the United States Chamber of Commerce, claimed that “no other candidate in 2012 represents a greater threat to free enterprise than Professor Warren.”
  • In May 2013, Warren introduced her first bill, the Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, which would allow students to take out government education loans at the same rate that banks such as Goldman Sachs and P. Morgan Chase pay to borrow from the federal government. Suggesting that students should get “the same great deal that banks get,” Warren proposed that new student borrowers be able to take out a federally subsidized loan at 0.75 percent, the rate paid by banks, compared with the current 3.4% student loan rate. Endorsing her bill days after its introduction, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders stated: “the only thing wrong with this bill is that [she] thought of it and I didn’t.”

PEOPLE’S VOICE PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)

  • On August 1, 2007, Baldwin cosponsored bills proposing articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “Although some constituents say I have gone too far, others argue I have not gone far enough,” she said of her effort to hold the Bush administration accountable for its actions.
  • Baldwin lent her support to such initiatives as the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which criminalized and outlined prosecution guidelines and punishments for wage discrimination based on sex. She received a grade of 100 from the League of Women Voters as of 2007.
  • Baldwin has advanced what she sees as stronger enforcement of laws against sexual violence and violence against women. She is a supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed victims of sexual violence and other sexual crimes to take their cases to federal courts and provided funding for various anti-sexual violence initiatives and programs.

PFIZER, INC. PAC: $4,000

  • 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 S. Department of Justice in the previous ten years.

PHARMACEUTICAL RESEARCH & MANUFACTURERS OF AMERICA (PhRMA): $2,000

  • Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana) resigned from Congress and began work as the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, a powerful trade group for pharmaceutical companies.
  • Two months before resigning as chair of the committee which oversees the drug industry, Tauzin played a key role in shepherding through Congress the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, a bill which had been criticized by opponents for being too generous to the pharmaceutical industry. The switch from regulator to lobbyist was widely noted.
  • This link was explored at great length in an April 1, 2007 interview by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes. The report, Under the Influence, pitted Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) against Tauzin and accused him of using unethical tactics to push a bill that “the pharmaceutical lobbyists wrote.” Along with Tauzin, many of the other individuals who worked on the bill are now lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.

SEARCHLIGHT LEADERSHIP FUND: $5,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid

  • Fugitive fundraiser Norman Hsu donated $1,000 to the Searchlight Leadership Fund, a political action committee associated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. On the same day, Searchlight received a $1,000 contribution from Winkle Paw, described by Hsu’s lawyer as a business associate of Hsu. Also donating $1,000 to Searchlight that day was Paul Su of Dilini Management Group, a company Hsu listed on a form while making a political contribution to Senator Dianne Feinstein.
  • These donations to Searchlight expose a funding conduit reaching to the heart of Harry Reid’s political machine. The financial trail stretches back to Reid’s hometown, his longtime business associate Jay Brown, and his Nevada gambling industry patrons; and it connects the Hsu affair to scandal-ridden lobbyists William Oldaker and Jack Abramoff, Reid’s financial consigliore Claude Zobell, and a political action committee targeting freshmen Congressmen.
  • While continuing to receive support from its initial gambling patrons, Searchlight soon sought donors outside Nevada, striving to tap the rich vein of the lobbying channels flowing through Washington, DC.
  • Oldaker had a history of scandal dating back to 1973, when he was demoted and suspended for falsifying records submitted to US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officials. Despite this setback, he worked his way up to general counsel to the FEC from 1976 to 1979. At the FEC he was supposed to be investigating a complaint by President Carter against Senator Edward Kennedy, but instead he used his position to get a job as general counsel and treasurer to Kennedy’s 1980 Presidential campaign, setting what became a characteristic pattern of using insider status to gain leverage with his employer’s political opponents.
  • Like Abramoff, Oldaker applied his lobbying leverage to numerous Congressmen and Senators. For instance, he lobbied for appropriations-related interests while collecting $30,000 for Washington Democrat Patty Murray, who sat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • However, the Searchlight Leadership Fund continued to maintain Oldaker as an unpaid “trusted adviser.”
  • April 2007 FEC documents list Searchlight Leadership Fund as having an address of 607 14th Street NW, Suite 800 in Washington, DC, the same Perkins Coie addresses used by the Democratic Freshmen PAC.
  • Thus, when Hsu, Paw, and Su made their donations to Searchlight in May 2007, they had singled out a fund with a pipeline to one of the most powerful lobbying networks in Washington, connected directly to the keeper of Harry Reid’s personal pocketbook.

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.

TO ORGANIZE A MAJORITY PAC: $5,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

  • Harkin has faced criticism for claiming that he had flown combat missions over North Vietnam. In a 1979 round table discussion with other Congressional military veterans, Harkin said of his service as a navy pilot: “One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions.” After subsequent inquiries by The Wall Street Journal, Harkin clarified that he had been stationed in Japan and sometimes flew recently repaired aircraft on test missions over Vietnam.
  • Harkin has also been active in combating the worst forms of child labor.

UBS AMERICAS, INC. PAC: $2,500

  • In early 2007, UBS became the first Wall Street firm to announce heavy losses in the subprime mortgage sector as the subprime mortgage crisis began to unfold. UBS announced in April 2008 that it was writing down a further US$19 billion of investments in subprime and other mortgage assets.

VALERO ENERGY PAC: $7,000

  • Valero was the biggest financial backer of the failed 2010 California Proposition 23, and contributed more than $4 million by August 2010. Had it passed, Proposition 23 would have delayed action on greenhouse gas emissions in the state of California, by delaying current implementation of the California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 until the state attained an unemployment rate of 5.5% for one full year.

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Because The Hayride political blog that tilts slightly to the right of Attila the Hun appears to be fixated on Edwin Edwards and those who contribute to his congressional campaign, we thought it only fair to offer the identities of a few contributors to the U.S. senatorial campaign of Congressman Bill Cassidy, the man Edwards is trying to succeed.

Cassidy, meanwhile, is attempting to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Unlike The Hayride, we opted not to concentrate on individual contributors (though we are reserving that as an option) but rather to peel the cover back on contributions of political action committees, or PACs.

The reason for this is simple: Small donors make good press but big donors get you reelected and PACs tend to be far more generous than individual donors.

There are three types of PACs:

  • Connected PACs are established by businesses, labor unions, trade groups or health organizations. They receive and raise money from a “restricted class,” usually sharing a common interest. Of the 4,600 connected PACs, 1,598 are registered corporate PACs, 995 are trade organizations and 272 are related to labor unions.
  • Non-connected PACs consist of groups with an ideological mission, single-issue groups and members of Congress and other political leaders. These organizations may accept funds from any individual, connected PAC, or organization.
  • Leadership PACs are set up by elected officials and political parties and may make independent expenditures, provided the expenditure is not coordinated with the other candidate. Unlike the other types, spending by leadership PACs is not limited. A leadership PAC may not use funds to support the official’s own campaign but can fund travel, administrative expenses, consultants, polling and other non-campaign expenses.

Cassidy has received $77,500 from 11 of those leadership PACs, including $5,000 from U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s Louisiana Reform PAC. Vitter, who apparently was able to find some spare change that was not be used for social contacts in Washington or New Orleans, is a candidate for governor in 2015.

Of the 11, only two, Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have exhibited any willingness to work with Democrats on legislation, records show.

He also receive about half a million dollars from a cluster of connected PACs, mostly medical professional groups, according to campaign finance records.

In all, Cassidy has received more than $4.7 million through Aug. 2, about 40 percent of which came from PACs, records show.

Other contributions from leadership PACs include:

  • $5,000 from the 21st Century Majority Fund of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia). Besides voting in favor of the war on Iraq as a member of the U.S. House, he even gave a speech on the House floor in which he said he had personally considered the facts and felt it essential that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction be destroyed. A 1990 supporter of abortion rights, he soon swerved to the right, becoming a pro-life candidate a decade later.
  • $10,000 from the Alamo PAC of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of “Big Oil’s 10 favorite members of Congress,” according to MSN Money. Cornyn has received more money from the oil and gas industry than all but six other members of Congress. Cornyn once compared the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear arguments for sustaining Terri Schiavo’s life with the murders of two judges, a statement that received widespread condemnation and for which he later apologized.
  • $5,000 from the Bluegrass Committee of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). McConnell, among other things, voted against a bill that would help women earn equal pay for performing the same job as men, opposed a Senate bill that would have limited the practice of corporate inversion by U.S. corporations seeking to limit U.S. tax liability, attempted twice to get federal grants for Alltech, whose president made subsequent campaign contributions to McConnell, to build a plant in Kentucky for producing ethanol from algae, corncobs and switchgrass, only to criticize President Obama in 2012 for twice mentioning biofuel production from algae, and requested earmarks for defense contractor BAE Systems while the company was under investigation for alleged bribery of foreign officials.
  • $5,000 from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s Defend America PAC. Shelby (R-Alabama), who in 2000, took a hard line on leaks of classified information, in 2002, revealed classified information related to the 9-11 attacks to Fox News.
  • $5,000 from the Freedom Fund PAC of U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Crapo, who claimed to be a Mormon who abstained from using alcohol, pled guilty to DWI in 2013, was fined $250 and received a one-year suspension of his driver’s license. That same year, he voted against passage of a bill that would have expanded background checks for all gun buyers.
  • $2,500 from Lindsey Graham’s Fund for America’s Future. The South Carolina Republican described himself in 1998 as a veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm when in reality, he never left South Carolina. He did, however, serve in Iraq for a few weeks in 2007 and during the Senate’s August recess in 2009. In 2010, he alleged that “half the children born in hospitals on our borders are the children of illegal immigrants.” A Pew Foundation study, however, gave that number as only 8 percent. In 2009, he supported a climate change bill, calling for a green economy. A year later, he flipped, saying, “The science about global warming has changed. I think they’ve oversold this stuff.” He added that he would vote against the climate bill that he had originally sponsored.
  • $10,000 from the Heartland Values PAC of U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota). A name to watch, Thune was considered as John McCain’s running mate in 2008 but lost out to Sarah Palin (ouch!). He was also considered a possible candidate for president in 2012 (because he “looked presidential”) but opted out. He also was considered to be on the short list for Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 but lost out again, to Paul Ryan.
  • $10,000 from Next Century Fund PAC of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina). Burr voted against the financial reform bill of 2010 which regulates credit default swaps and other derivatives, saying, “I fear we’re headed down a path that will be too over burdensome, too duplicative, it will raise the cost of credit….The balance that we’ve got to have is more focus on the products that we didn’t regulate….more so than government playing a bigger role with a stronger hand.” During the financial crisis of 2008, he told his wife he wasn’t coming home for that weekend and instructed her to withdraw as much as the ATM would allow. “And I want you to go tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday (and do the same thing).” He said he was convinced “that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine (sic) the last thing you were going to get was cash.” Apparently he now keeps his money in his PAC.
  • $5,000 from Responsibility and Freedom Work, the leadership PAC of U.S. Sen. Roger S. Wicker (R-Mississippi). Wicker appears to be one of the few in Congress willing—and able—to work across the aisle with Democrats. He served as a member of the Helsinki Commission monitoring human rights and helped to pass a bill imposing tough penalties on Russians accused of violating human rights and he also supported the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 aimed at improving the public’s ability to enjoy the outdoors. In July of 2013, a letter addressed to Wicker tested positive for the poison ricin.
  • $10,000 from Tenn PAC operated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee). Considered one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, Alexander received a letter a year ago from 20 Tennessee tea-party groups calling on him to retire in 2014 because “our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous.” Among his bipartisan votes were two to confirm Harold Koh as legal adviser to the State Department and for President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

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Does Scott Angelle have his eye on the 2015 governor’s race?

The Public Service Commissioner, Democrat-turned-Republican, former interim lieutenant governor, erstwhile Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and one time member of the LSU Board of Supervisors would seem to be rounding out his resumé while carefully moving up the pecking order in Louisiana politics.

The governor’s race isn’t until 2015 and Angelle isn’t up for re-election to a new six-year on the PSC from the Second District until 2018. He was first elected in 2012 to succeed Jimmy Fields who retired after 16 years.

But an Internet web page created by an outfit calling itself Friends of Scott Angelle and apparently chaired by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s favorite fundraiser Allee Bautsch certainly looks like that of a candidate considering his options for higher office as opposed to that of one running for re-election to the PSC this far out. In other words, just another political opportunist who ducked out of his DNR responsibilities at the height of the Bayou Corne sinkhole crisis.

Scott Angelle

There is some speculation that Angelle may opt to run for lieutenant governor instead of governor. He is expected to announce next month. Qualifying for this year’s elections ends a week from today (Aug. 22). If he draws no opposition for his PSC seat, then his options are wide open without jeopardizing his current position.

A lieutenant governor candidacy, with the full backing of the governor, would be a smack-down double cross of State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas) who has faithfully served as Jindal’s lap dog and now wants his treat: the lieutenant governor’s office for himself.

Bautsch, it should be noted, also worked in the unsuccessful 5th Congressional District race of State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) last year. She also served as treasurer of the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children, the foundation of Jindal’s wife that attracted considerable national media attention because of the corporate donors who seemed to receive special treatment from the Jindal administration.

Friends of Scott Angelle contains two pages devoted to Angelle and his vision that Louisiana’s best days “are ahead of us,” followed by a third page that consists of campaign contributor information. That information includes blanks for the name, address, phone numbers and credit care information for potential donors and twice emphasizes that the $5,000 campaign contribution limit applies to each individual and company and that each member of a contributor’s family and each of his or family members’ corporate entities may give the $5,000 maximum.

It also includes the telephone number and email address of Bautsch.

The verbiage of the entire message is literally dripping with overblown praise for Angelle and ends with mom and apple pie flag-waving rhetoric worthy of a schmaltzy Lifetime Network movie:

“It is important that we, friends of Scott, send out a clear message and work to keep him in a position to serve Louisiana. He is one of the few that puts people before party, puts Louisiana before Washington, and focuses on the next generation, not the next election. Our state, more than ever, needs leaders at the highest levels that (sic) have prepared themselves to help the 18th great state of our union, and its people, reach its full potential. Scott is certainly one of those with the skills, the passion and the preparation to make a difference. Let’s show Scott we support his hard work to make Louisiana great!”

So just where would an Angelle gubernatorial run leave U.S. Republican Sen. David Vitter or Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards?

First, it’s important to note that Angelle would be Jindal’s hand-picked candidate, as evidenced by Bautsch’s involvement in his campaign just as Riser was Jindal’s man in the ill-fated 5th District congressional race.

Second, it’s pretty well known there’s no love lost between Jindal and Vitter. Still, Jindal stopped far short of demanding Vitter’s resignation from the Senate following his links to the Washington, D.C. Madam and claims of similar associations with a New Orleans prostitute while waxing indignant over Congressman Vance McAllister’s kissing an aide in his Monroe office and repeatedly demanding his resignation. (McAllister, by the way, is the one who defeated Jindal’s boy Riser, which could explain the personal rancor on Jindal’s part.)

So, if Jindal throws his ever-weakening political strength behind Angelle (something candidates may dread, given his abysmal success rate in past elections), and, depending on whether or not State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere aligns himself and the party with Jindal or Angelle, it could split the Republican vote and Edwards could stroll into the runoff.

In the event of such a scenario, either Republican candidate would be so bloodied from the inter-party fighting that Edwards, with no political baggage and possessing a calm, thoughtful demeanor, could stand as an attractive option to voters.

All that speculation of course, hinges on whether or not Angelle commits to the 2015 governor’s race or to lieutenant governor, or decides to cool his jets for eight years.

But there’s still that Friends of Scott Angelle web page…

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“Japs need not apply.”

That was the remark Japanese-American Rodger Asai overheard on the telephone during a call to a representative of Imperial Fire & Casualty of Opelousas while trying unsuccessfully to resolve a dispute with his insurer after tenants destroyed his rent home in Livingston Parish.

Asai, whose father and two uncles were among those recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal for their military service during World War II even as his father’s own parents and other family members were being held in internment camps, has been fighting Imperial for more than a year now over damages inflicted by unauthorized individuals who had taken occupancy of the home from the original tenants unbeknownst to Asai.

The original tenants had moved from the home because they were unable to afford the $1500 per month rent, Asai was told when he came to Louisiana from his home in Oregon to check on the house because the original tenant had fallen behind on his rent.

Asai was forced to obtain a court-ordered eviction notice to get the previously unknown occupant, Michael Wayne Keller, to leave the property.

Among other things, Keller, a man who served 19 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for manslaughter and felony theft, apparently kept a pit bulldog in a room where it was forced to relieve itself on the floor. Elsewhere in the house, flooring was ripped up, holes torn or punched in walls, ceiling fans ripped down, coolant drained from the central air conditioning unit until the unit’s motor seized up, cabinet doors ripped off their hinges, and electrical wiring cut—all part of normal wear and tear, according to Imperial’s claims adjuster.

Imperial’s adjuster refused to acknowledge the damage was caused by vandalism, describing it instead as “wear and tear” and inept remodeling efforts.

That “wear and tear” cost Asai $45,680 to repair—with him doing much of the work himself—and his mortgage and other bills for the past year added another $60,000 to the tab, he says.

Imperial originally set the rebuild cost of the house at $270,000 but after the vandalism claim was filed, downgraded the rebuild cost to $150,000 and ended up paying Asai only $4,672.01, which included the $3,000 policy limit for stolen equipment. Net payment by Imperial for property damage? $1,672.01.

Even more insulting, the insurance company initially paid only $672.06—and even that payment came with 46 cents postage due.

And the Louisiana Department of Insurance, which likes to boast that it serves the public, has been all but invisible.

http://ldi.louisiana.gov/consumers/miscellaneous_pubs.html

http://ldi.louisiana.gov/consumers/misc_pubs/HowToFileAnInsuranceComplaint.pdf

But then Imperial did make a point of spreading around more than $50,000 in campaign contributions to several politicians, including Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, Gov. Bobby Jindal and key legislators.

The trend in insurance companies’ tactic to delay and deny claims has its roots in a 1992 decision by Allstate Insurance to retain the services of McKenzie and Co. to revamp its business model that tilted the scales from favoring the policy holder to favoring the stockholder. From 1996, the year the McKenzie plan was fully implemented, until 2006, Allstate’s operating income jumped from $820 million to $27.4 billion, a 3,335 percent increase.

In 2004, the casualty insurance industry as a whole had total assets of $412.6 billion. In 2007, two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when claims should have held down profits, the industry’s total assets totaled $1.18 trillion, or more than a third of the entire federal budget for that year.

What does Asai’s fight with Imperial have to do with Allstate and McKenzie?

Plenty.

When other insurance companies, beginning with State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Farm Bureau, etc., saw the results to Allstate’s bottom line after implementation of the McKenzie plan, they all joined in lock step to adopt the same methods of dealing with claims: delay, deny, litigate.

The plan was revealed in a single slide (among some 12,500 slides obtained by New Mexico attorney David Berardinelli) developed by McKenzie which, among other things, listed “redefinition of claims benefits and payment approach” as its criteria to boosting insurance companies’ profits.

The next step was the development of a software program that could be tweaked by insurance managers to reflect the desired percentage reduction in claim payments in order to keep the bottom line healthy.

Former Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti filed lawsuits against Allstate, State Farm, Allstate, and three other companies in 2007, claiming the insurers were skewing home repair estimates with programs like Xactimate and IntegriClaim, in order to boost profits. Insurers, he said, use the programs to deliberate underestimate building and rebuilding claims.

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/11/attorney_general_files_lawsuit.html

http://www.farmersinsurancegroupsucks.com/lawsuit/louisiana_state_v_farmers_insurance.pdf

The lawsuit was dismissed the following year.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/features/2009/01/11/157520.htm

The business plan originated by McKenzie reaped huge rewards in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita as unpaid or underpaid homeowners claims left entire neighborhoods ravaged and rotting.

If, for example, an Allstate adjuster found that wind caused damage, Allstate would have to pay the claim. If, however, the adjuster could attribute the damage to flooding, then the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), underwritten by American taxpayers, would have to foot the bill.

So, by changing the engineering reports, Berardinelli said, Allstate was able to deny claims altogether when the policyholder had no flood coverage.

Moreover, Allstate also devised two different formulae for pricing damage repair costs, thanks to an arrangement the company had with NFIP which paid Allstate fees for handling flood claims. That fee depended on the gross amount of the claim.

Ergo, if Allstate wound up on the hook for wind damage, it set the payment under the customer’s homeowner policy for, say, removing and replacing drywall at 76 cents per square foot.

If, however, the damage was attributed to flood waters and the taxpayers picked up the tab, the price was set at $3.31 per square foot. Allstate wins either way—by keeping claims costs down on wind damage and collecting inflated costs on taxpayer-financed flood damage repair.

So, now, we come to the inspection report by Imperial Fire & Casualty’s contract adjuster Paul A. Scull of Alexandria.

Scull, who works for American Delta Insurance (and apparently a second independent adjusting firm, according to records provided by the Secretary of State’s office), and whose previous experience was that of owner of a limousine service in Alexandria, attributed the torn up wooden parquet flooring and carpeting to shoddy remodeling efforts and added, “It is not reasonable to believe that someone intentionally removed or broke one or two ceiling fan blades, or precariously removed the ceiling fans or fixtures with the intent to harm someone or damage or destroy.”

Apparently Scull has never visited rent homes where tenants went on a destructive tear on the way out the door. There was one home in Denham Springs several years ago—what had been a reasonably upscale home—in which the tenants had ripped out all the electrical wiring, torn down all the ceiling fans and light fixtures, destroyed appliances and had thrown it all, along with assorted pieces of furniture, into the backyard swimming pool.

But that was most probably normal wear and tear.

As for the “Japs need not apply” comment overheard by Asai in his call to Imperial claims representative Billy Durel (and to be fair, Asai said he is not sure if the comment was made by Durel or someone in his office), we would most likely attribute that to pure bigotry.

Bigotry and ignorance.

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On any given issue today, there is one thing that you can count on with all certainty: someone is going to interject the intent of The Founding Fathers into the dialog. But does the average man or woman really know what those wealthy white slave owners wanted for the country? Just as Christianity has splintered into many disparate sects and beliefs, so has the idea of what The Founding Fathers desired for this country.

Could they, for example, have ever intended that 535 individuals in a steamy town named for our first President (and one of The Founding Fathers) really represent the interests of 315 million people? Could they have foreseen that control over the world economy would rest in the hands of a few mega-rich investment bankers who buy and sell elected officials in much the same manner as the commodities in which they trade daily?

Niki Papazoglakis of Baton Rouge doesn’t think so.

That is why she has launched an ambitious enterprise called Freagle (Freeom+Eagle), the Virtual Town Square.

To be sure, Freagle is a huge undertaking, but Papazoglakis is unafraid of a challenge. She’s been there before. She ran against Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2011 where she gained many of the insights for the platform.

So, just what is Freagle and how does it work?

Just as in any complex system, there are no easy answers. But basically, Freagle is described by its creator as an “online non-partisan town square for average citizens, politicos, and activists.”

Papazoglakis has 15 years’ experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She began her career with the Foster administration where she managed candidate registration and campaign finance reporting. From there she moved to the LSU Agricultural Center as legislative liaison. While serving in that capacity, she developed policy recommendations and lobbied the legislature successfully to create a comprehensive statewide water policy. She then spent 10 years as a sales executive with technology giants IBM, Unisys and Hewlett-Packard before becoming general manager for the Louisiana branch of a regional IT company.

“We cannot count on those within the broken political system to make the changes our nation needs,” she says. “It’s up to ‘We the People’ to restore accountability and trust to government.”

The problem in today’s political landscape, she believes, is the sheer size of government and the impossible demand on 535 members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to effectively represent the will of 315 million living souls in this country.

“We believe that is the root of the dysfunction in our political system and the same problems at the federal level trickle down to state and local levels, as well,” she said. “Elected officials have no truly effective tools for engaging with their constituents and understanding their interests. The average district size for a U.S. Representative is almost 700,000 people. Without the ability to fully understand and represent constituent interests, coupled with the extremely high costs of reaching voters, money and special interests have become more powerful than the will of the people.

“We are building an online non-partisan town square by pulling back the curtain to expose the good, the bad and the ugly of government,” she says. “We’re connecting the dots between votes, political contributions and influence; we’re shedding light on the revolving door that industry and the political class use daily to their advantage, not ours; and we are speaking truth to power regardless of party, ideology or industry.”

Freagle will track campaign contributions for candidates nationwide, from President all the way down to municipal office holders. Moreover, it will follow votes to determine if campaign money influences candidates to vote against the will of those they represent.

Subscribers will be able to track legislation and to gain access to information and tools for communicating with elected officials.

Papazoglakis and her team are leveraging crowd funding—a relatively new mechanism to raise the funds necessary to complete product development.

Readers may click on the link below and learn more about this revolutionary new way to stay current on campaign contributions, political issues from local zoning to statehouse bills to congressional acts and appropriations, and of course, voting records as well as support this effort to restore representation in democracy.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/freagle-the-virtual-town-square

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Gov. Bobby Jindal, with the signing of House Bill 799, has continued his assault on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E), underscoring the importance and power of special interest money over the welfare of the state.

HB 799, authored by Rep. Stuart J. Bishop (R-Lafayette), bars the Louisiana attorney general from hiring plaintiff attorneys on a contingency-fee basis to pursue litigation against corporations like Chinese dry wall manufacturers responsible for millions of dollars in damages to new homes in Louisiana, pharmaceutical companies accused of price fraud at the wholesale level and of selling pharmaceutical products not approved by the federal government, companies found to be improperly handling underground storage tanks, or tobacco companies whose seven top executives (to evermore be known as the “seven dwarves”) lied under oath to Congress in saying nicotine was not addictive.

Bishop cited fees of $51.4 million paid state-contracted attorneys in a case against the pharmaceutical industry that resulted in a $285 million verdict. That computes to a fee of about 18 percent as compared to the 30 percent norm usually charged by attorneys hired on contingency.

A $235.7 million settlement of another pharmaceutical case resulted in attorney fees of $46.6 million, or 19.7 percent. The Coalition for Common Sense, a group describing itself as committed to a fair legal climate said another portion of that settlement went to repay two-thirds of the state’s Medicaid expenses. The coalition said that bumped the legal fees up to 34.2 percent, but without further clarification, it seems difficult to equate Medicaid fees to legal fees. That would seem to come under the purview of Jindal’s continued mismanagement of the state’s Medicaid program.

In yet another case, attorneys, including Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s campaign treasurer and other contributors, received $4 million in fees, or 9.4 percent, of a $42.5 million case.

Granted, it doesn’t look good for Caldwell’s campaign treasurer to receive a contract but the obvious question is how is that any different than Jindal’s former executive counsel Jimmy Faircloth getting contracts to represent the state in one losing case after another—at fees which now exceed $1 million?

Jindal’s penchant for protecting the oil companies, who have contributed more than $1 million to his various campaigns, is by now well-known. His largesse has even extended to BP which may have negated pending claims against the company for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill that killed 11 men and pumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

The fact that the governor’s brother works for BP, of course, had nothing to do with Jindal’s decision to sign Senate Bill 469 by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) which killed the SLFPA-E lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies for damages inflicted to Louisiana’s coastline and marshlands. SB 469 also made the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was nipped in the bud.

(Allain, by the way, was the one who slipped that $2 million appropriation into the 2013 Capital Outlay Bill to renovate the third floor of an old elementary school in Franklin for conversion to a museum to house the archives of former Gov. Mike Foster who will now become the only governor in Louisiana history to have his archives housed in something other than a university library.)

Jindal, in signing SB 469 into law, said the law would stop “unnecessary frivolous lawsuits.”

Allain, also invoking the “frivolous lawsuit” catch phrase, also said if allowed to stand, it would “hurt jobs.”

Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton), who lobbied for the bill and who has been the beneficiary of more than $600,000 in oil and gas campaign contributions, said, “This bill keeps a rogue agency from misrepresenting this state and trying to raise money through illegal actions.”

Perhaps Sen. Adley should take a long inward look at misrepresenting the state and raising campaign money through legal but questionable means.

Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs called Jindal’s signing of the bill “a huge victory for the oil and gas industry.”

You think?

What all three men seem to have overlooked is that when companies that traditionally reap billions in quarterly profits each year walk away from their responsibilities to repair damage they inflict on the environment in their non-stop quest for even more profits, then sometimes those “greedy lawyers” need to step up and hold these companies accountable.

And of course there was SB 667 which neutered the so-called “legacy lawsuits” over environmental damage from oil and gas companies’ tendency to walk away from well sites on private property without bothering to restore the property to its original condition.

And let’s never forget that a priority of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is to oppose environmental protections, be they EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases or legacy lawsuits. At the top of ALEC’s membership list in leading the fight against environmental laws, and the rights to hold corporations legally accountable are such familiar corporations as Exxon/Mobil, BP, Chevron, Shell and, of course, Koch Industries.

At least two of those legacy lawsuits succeeded before SB 667 was signed into law by Jindal.

  • The first, a $76 million award, was litigated by Lake Charles attorney J. Michael Veron on behalf of family members whose property was heavily polluted—and subsequently abandoned—by Shell Oil. Veron authored a book entitled Shell Game about the litigation. In the book, he describes in detail how he was called into then-Gov. Foster’s office and lectured to like a misbehaving schoolboy. Despite the heavy pressure from Foster, Veron persisted and eventually won.

Foster, of course, is the one responsible for our present predicament: he discovered Jindal—“the smartest man I ever met,” he said—and appointed him head of the Department of Health and Hospitals at the tender age of 24.

  • The second case was that of Bill Doré, retired chairman of Global Industries of Sulphur. Doré made a fortune from the Southwest Louisiana oil patch but when he purchased Cameron Meadows in Cameron Parish with the intent of constructing a hunting lodge, he discovered the land had been polluted by oil companies to such an extent that alligator, fish and other wildlife populations had dwindled significantly and that wherever he stepped on the property, oil and brine would ooze to the surface. He sued Exxon/Mobil whose executives promptly summoned him to Houston for a come to Jesus meeting at which they informed him that if he continued on his quixotic quest, he would lose valuable Exxon/Mobil business. He more or less told the Exxon/Mobil suits what they could do with their business, which amounted to some $37 million over the years. He reminded them that because Exxon, the richest company on earth, insisted on such rigid contract firms by forcing vendors to accept smaller margins as the cost of doing volume business with them, Global had actually lost $7 million on its Exxon/Mobil business. Represented by New Orleans attorney Gladstone Jones, the same attorney representing SLPFA-E, Doré won a $57 million judgment against the giant oil company.

In an interesting side bar to the story, a small Cameron café catered the meals for both sides and the jurors during the protracted Doré trial. Attorneys for both sides agreed to split the cost of having meals for both sides. Following the two-week trial and after each side had paid its share of the costs, Doré’s legal team gave the café’s staff a $1,000 tip. The tip from attorneys for Exxon/Mobil was $20—almost as if the café’s staff was responsible for the adverse verdict.

So now, it comes full circle.

The SLPFA-E board, stacked with Jindal appointees after he replaced rebel John Barry, the leading proponent of the litigation, voted 4-4 last week on a motion to withdraw the suit. While a majority was required for passage, it appears to be academic. Jindal’s signing of SB 469 would seem to ring the death knell for any future legal action.

So now, the state is virtually powerless to seek remediation for damages done to our coastline such as that depicted in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaW1DomWRk4

Greedy lawyers? Frivolous lawsuits?

So, where does all that special interest money we alluded to in the first paragraph come in?

Well, LouisianaVoice has already provided an itemized list of oil and gas industry contributions to each of the state’s 144 legislators that totals more than $5.2 million and we earlier cited contributions to Jindal in excess of $1 million from the same industry.

But how did the contributions break out on the House and Senate votes on the infamous SB 469?

We’re glad you asked. We’ve done the math for you.

In the senate, the 25 senators who voted in favor of the bill killing the SLPFA-E litigation received $1.99 million from oil and gas interests, or an average of $79,664 each.

The 11 who voted against killing the lawsuit combined to receive $591,000, or $53,769 each—a difference of nearly $26,000 each.

Now let’s stroll across the Capitol Rotunda to the House side where vote-buying is a little less expensive, more economical if you will.

The 59 members who voted in favor of SB 469 combined to rake in $1.885 million, or just a tad under $32,000 each while the 39 nay votes took in $889,281 between them, or an average take of $23,402, a difference of about $9,600 each.

Moreover, during debate on SB 469, the State Capitol was swarming with lobbyists from BP, which stood to benefit mightily from passage of the bill.

So, you see, it’s really pretty evident that money—lots of it—tends to flow freely in the Capitol and its influence is completely out of kilter with the intent of a democratic republic. We no longer have a representative government for the people but a representative government for those who can wave the most money under the noses of our elected officials.

As one legislator who, for obvious reasons, shall remain anonymous as to his name, the area of the state he represents and even the chamber in which he sits, said in a recent email to a constituent:

“When a fella has the oil and gas lobbyists, the LABI lobbyists, and the governor’s office all on the same team and wanting you to be on the same team, well, it was a challenging last few days of the session.  I thought then, and I still hold the belief, that this is a bad bill (now a law since Gov. Jindal has now signed it) and sets a horrible precedent.  Again, this administration has assured another legal challenge to a law it supported and I expect a lawsuit to be filed before long.

“I appreciate your taking time to send me your email.  When I was down there surrounded by many who were interested in me only for the vote of the moment, expressions such as yours remind me of my commitment to the good people of the district I serve and confirms that, in the face of all those present in the Capitol during the session, I was sent there to represent those who can’t be there.”

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Gov. Bobby Jindal’s head cheerleader, the Baton Rouge Business Report, keeps churning out those feel good blurbs about the various surveys that put Louisiana in a good light.

That’s understandable, of course. After all, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister served as Jindal’s campaign treasurer, then as chair of Jindal’s transition team, later as director of Jindal slush fund organization Believe in Louisiana, and finally as treasurer for Jindal’s Stand Up to Washington PAC.

As reward for his loyal services, Jindal appointed McCollister to the LSU Board of Stuporvisors where he promptly proceeded to vote with the remainder of the board in the decision—dictated by Jindal, of course—to fire LSU President John Lombardi, to resist the release of candidates for LSU president—so much for the Fourth Estate standing up for the public’s right to know—and to allow Jindal to give two LSU hospitals to a fellow LSU board member. As an added bonus, Jindal appointed McCollister associate Julio Melara, Business Report President, to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board of Commissioners.

And we won’t even discuss campaign contributions to Jindal from McCollister and Melara.

That should be sufficient assurance of objectivity and even handedness, so why should anyone question all those wonderfully warmed-over success stories about business climates, job growth, economic development, etc.?

So when the Business Report recently ran a story that proclaimed to the world that Thumbstack.com’s third annual Small Business Friendliness Survey ranked Louisiana as fifth in the nation in the all-important overall friendliness with a grade of A+, we were appropriately ecstatic.

But then on June 12, came the report from 24/7 Wall Street that identified the top 10 states in economic growth.

Louisiana was a no-show on that list.

While the U.S. economy grew at a rate of only 1.9 percent, down from the 2013 growth rate of 2.9 percent, the 10 states experienced growth rates of between 3 percent (Nebraska) and 9.7 percent for North Dakota.

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/06/12/10-states-with-the-fastest-growing-economies/?utm_source=247WallStDailyNewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=JUN122014A&utm_campaign=DailyNewsletter

Louisiana? Our economy grew by a whopping 1.3 percent, according to the Associated Press, .6 lower than the national rate.

You would never know that to hear our esteemed presidential candi…er, governor, boast about the great strides our state has taken under his mostly absentee leadership.

But leave it to our friend Stephen Sabludowsky, publisher of the blog Bayou Buzz, to call Jindal out on his misrepresentations with his post, “Louisiana GDP facts: ‘Jindal miracle’ or mirage.’”

http://www.bayoubuzz.com/buzz/item/685147-louisiana-gdp-facts-jindal-miracle-or-mirage

Sabludowsky noted that Jindal told CNBC’s Jim Cramer (appropriately, a former hedge fund manager) that Louisiana is “doing what Washington, D.C. is not doing.” Jindal said, “Our economy is growing 50 percent faster than the national economy.”

On a roll, he continued: “Louisiana’s state GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008 and it’s growing at nearly twice the rate of our nation’s GDP.”

Sabludowsky, not impressed, noted that economic numbers released by the federal government did not square up with Jindal’s claim.

“Every chance he gets,” he said, “whether on national TV, while campaigning for President or while sharing broiled chicken with the Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal touts the Louisiana economy—as glowing and out performing almost all competition. Some conservative commentators have described the state’s economic ascendency as the ‘Jindal miracle.’”

Conservative commentators. There is your key. Jindal is very careful to spew his rapid-fire statistics—with little or no basis in reality—in interviews held only in the friendliest of environments where they are accepted at face value and are never challenged. You will never—we repeat, never—see him venture into hostile territory where such claims can be vetted.

Not that anyone in the media would ever challenge him. Where are the old-fashioned, cynical reporters who, like Peter Falk’s character Columbo, always asked one more question, never satisfied with hearing what politicians say but who listen instead to what isn’t said? Where are the journalists who challenge authority—like the late David Halberstam who, as a reporter for the New York Times, called out the American generals for lying when they repeatedly insisted we were winning in Vietnam? His audacity resulted in attempts by the U.S. military to demonize him and to have him thrown out of Vietnam and off his war coverage beat—a distinction he bore with honor.

Sadly, those guys just don’t exist anymore. They are all too busy rewriting press releases and never asking probing questions that might lead to real answers.

What reporters practice today is what Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place to Hide, his book about Edward Snowden, calls “an obvious pretense, a conceit of the profession.”

That’s how Jindal became governor: not one reporter asked the questions that needed to be asked when he ran in 2003 or again in 2007. By 2011, it didn’t matter; he was too firmly entrenched.

And that’s precisely how he plans to get elected President if not in 2016, then in 2020 or 2024.

All he has to do is schmooze a few more news executives.

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