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JINDAL PRAYER BREAKFAST(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

You’ve got to hand it to Gov. Bobby Jindal. If he ever knew when to shut up, he’s doing a dandy job of concealing that knowledge.

Team Jindal is an e-mail blast by an outfit calling itself Friends of Bobby Jindal providing those of us lucky enough to be on the mailing list a timely update on the governor’s travels, TV appearances, and op-ed writings. We’re not altogether certain how we managed to get on the mailing list but we’re glad we did.

Before we go any further, let the record show that there is no Google link to any such organization but there is a link at the bottom of the e-mail to this web page: www.bobbyjindal.com. It even has a prominent “Donate” button at the top of the page, just to right of the imposing—and more than a little official-looking—“Bobby Jindal Governor” banner.

As we said in an earlier post, we’re not sure why he needs donations given the fact that he is term limited and cannot run for governor for another five years and he remains an unannounced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination (though few doubt that is his intent).

But we digress.

Whoever sends out these e-mails does a much better job of keeping current than the person responsible for the web page. The e-mails come at least on a weekly basis while the last blog posting on www.bobbyjindal.com was on Aug 22 of this year. Given that, you’re just going to have to take our word for what we are about to quote Jindal on in the latest e-mail release.

Along with stories about Jindal’s most recent appearances on Fox News, there was a story about the governor’s welcoming Education Secretary Arne Duncan to New Orleans, a video of him promoting his upcoming prayer rally at the Pete Maravich Arena on the LSU campus, an announcement of a new plant to be built in Cameron Parish, a release about his executive order to better protect sexual assault victims, his participation in the opening of a new section of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and this quote from Jindal calling the CIA Report a partisan attempt to attack the record of President George W. Bush:

  • “It is clear that the Democrats wrote and released this report in an attempt to once again attack President Bush. I remain very proud to have worked for him, and proud that he kept America safe in the aftermath of 9/11. This report is one-sided and partisan. The Left hates the former President, they always have, and now, six years after he left office they are still campaigning against him. The undeniable truth of the matter is this – President Bush kept America safe after 9/11 from terrorists that wanted to kill us. This is simply a fact. President Bush is a good man and I am honored to have served in his Administration.”

Naturally, we were curious as to how the governor of Louisiana, who admittedly was smart enough to be a Rhodes Scholar but who has never served in the military, could be so knowledgeable about the methods employed to extract military intelligence from detainees.

So, fueled by that curiosity and lucky enough to catch Jindal in Baton Rouge between trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and the Fox News studios, we requested—and got—an interview with him. And anyone who knows of his reluctance to grant interviews to local media has to know what a journalistic coup that was.

We wanted to know his position on other controversial issues involving Republican presidents and he graciously agreed. Without bothering to go into lengthy explanations of our questions, we instead will simply list the name of the president (or other individual) and the issue most closely associated with him (in bold), followed by the governor’s take on that topic (in italics).

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation:

  • “Look, as much as everyone seems to think of Lincoln, he was really overrated as a president. Two things: First, he got us into an ugly war that produced more casualties than any other war in our history, a war that took years for us to recover from. He had Gen. Sherman burn Atlanta to the ground and what did Atlanta ever do to the country besides to give us Tara, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara? Second, he freed the slaves who already had good homes and were taken care of by their kindly masters. That was just another example of federal overreach. Look, Phil Robertson said it best when he said a year ago, and I’m quoting now: ‘I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person, not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.’ Now that’s Phil Robertson speaking, not Bobby Jindal, and we know how smart Phil is…” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/phil-robertson-black-people_n_4473474.html

Theodore Roosevelt and trust busting:            

  • “I just want to say this: Theodore Roosevelt was a RINO—a Republican in Name Only. He was the Democrats’ best friend. Make no mistake, he was a Roosevelt and a cousin to that other Roosevelt. And let me say this: Theodore Roosevelt was the true father of the welfare state. He is personally liable for the ill effects of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He had the audacity to try and browbeat a great American, J. P. Morgan, and even told Mr. Morgan right there in the Oval Office that any interest of his that had done anything wrong was in danger of being prosecuted. How can capitalism and American Exceptionalism function with that kind of pressure? http://www.ushistory.org/us/43b.asp 
  • And if you thought Roosevelt stopped there, you would be wrong. He had the taste of runaway power that only Washington can administer. He made Washington the nanny state for meat inspections just because a few pounds of bad hamburger meat made it to market. I say if you don’t like tainted meat, don’t eat it. That’s the American way.”

Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome scandal:

 Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression:

  • “Two things you have to understand: The Great Depression was unfortunate but those are the breaks. Stuff happens. And those displaced homeowners living in those Hoovervilles? What would you expect the President to do? Give them a handout and make them even more dependent on government? No! You have to make people self-reliant, instill pride in their determination to rise above their circumstances. There were New York stockbrokers to worry about; they’re the ones who make the country go. And while the situation with the Okies was certainly dire, the President must first concern himself with the captains of industry.” https://www.google.com/search?q=hoovervilles&hl=en&biw=1280&bih=607&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=WD-OVNwMw_OgBIfSgvAJ&sqi=2&ved=0CDYQsAQ

Sen. Joe McCarthy:

  • The liberal media killed him. He was a great American who had the commies in the State Department running scared until they framed him with that Edward R. Murrow interview.

Richard Nixon and Watergate:

  • “Two words: national security. Pentagon Papers. Nixon was a patriot. He was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee and brought down Alger Hiss.”

Republican deregulation agenda:

  • “The Dodd-Frank bill was a disaster. When you tie the hands of Wall Street, you tie the hands of the American economy. What could be more un-patriotic? The financial collapse of 2008 was all Obama’s fault; everyone knew he was running for the Democratic nomination and it caused a panic. Wall Street needs to be encouraged, not hog-tied. Wall Street is a microcosm of American capitalism. Where else can a CEO make $300 million a year and retire with a $200 million cash-out of his stock options and still draw $100 million a year. That’s the American dream.
  • Look, if it’s good for the Koch brothers, it’s got to be good for America. Why do you think they have invested so much of their personal fortunes into getting the right people elected? It’s because deep down, they care. Like former director of the Office of Management and Budget Gary Bass, I look at the current trend toward Republican control of Congress and the move toward deregulation and rollbacks of stifling regulation as the Contract with America on steroids. And that’s a good thing.

 President Obama’s energy policy:

Climate change:

(The last two quotes regarding Obama’s energy policy and climate change are verbatim utterances by Jindal—grammar, syntax and all.)

Thank you for your time, Governor.

“Any time. Well, not anytime…unless you’re Fox News.”

(Disclaimer: Although some quotes in this attempt at satire are accurately attributed, the actual interview never occurred and is not to be taken seriously. Do not read this while operating heavy machinery. May cause nausea, weak knees, enlarged ego, skin rash, or dizziness. Other possible side effects include rickets, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, temporary anger, swollen tongue, sudden increase or decrease in a desire for real news or unexpected or unusual stimulation of previously suppressed sense of humor. If you are up laughing more than four hours, consult a doctor. If you believed this was a real interview, see a shrink.)       

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“I’ll meet you over at confession on Saturday, if you want.”

—Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta, to Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops Associate Director Robert Tasman, apparently implying that Tasman was being untruthful in his testimony that the conference desired a reduction of rates charged inmates for telephone calls.

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At long last we have only three more days of those annoying—as in wanting to throw a brick through that expensive flat screen—TV campaign ads in which a leering U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy and a weary appearing incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu trade insults, barbs and outright lies about each other.

But there is another race to be decided Saturday that has flown under the radar of all but the residents in Public Service Commission (PSC) District 1, which encompasses all or parts of Orleans, Jefferson, Ascension, St. Bernard, Plaquemine, St. Charles, and the Florida parishes of Livingston, Tangipahoa, Washington, St. Helena and St. Tammany.

Even in those parishes, the tawdry Landrieu-Cassidy contest to determine the least undesirable candidate has overshadowed the runoff between PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta and challenger Forest Bradley Wright, both Republicans.

But it is an election of which voters in District 1 should certainly be aware.

In the November 4 primary, Wright polled 99,515 votes (38.44 percent) to Skrmetta’s 95,742 (36.98 percent), with Republican Allen Leone playing the spoiler role with 63,622 votes (24.58 percent) to force Saturday’s showdown.

For this race, LouisianaVoice has chosen to take a closer look at Skrmetta, by resurrecting a video of his bizarre, and certainly unwarranted behavior two years ago during the testimony before the PSC of a spokesman for the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A smug Skrmetta displayed unprecedented contempt for Robert Tasman who, through frequent interruptions and challenges from the chairman, attempted to read a statement on behalf of the conference which called upon the PSC to reduce exorbitant telephone rates for prison inmates.

Skrmetta claimed that he was told by an archbishop for the church that the church’s position was simply that rates not be increased. The exchange between Skrmetta and Tasman escalated to Skrmetta’s suggesting that Tasman should attend confession, presumably for attempting to mislead the commission. http://joule-energy.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c2265593d29be2a1d4f35bf12&id=9bacfdbffc&e=25b6a2fa99

Skrmetta’s rude behavior got so bad at one point that it provoked a challenge by fellow PSC member Foster Campbell who admonished the chairman, suggesting that he keep quiet until Tasman completed his testimony.

That only served to spark a heated verbal exchange between Campbell and Skrmetta.

The commission eventually worked out a compromise that even Skrmetta voted for. Regulators agreed to cut the rates by 25 percent for prisoner calls to family, clergy, and government officials. http://theadvocate.com/home/4666375-125/psc-rolls-back-prison-phone

So, what moved Skrmetta to such passion that he would challenge the veracity of an official of the Catholic Church?

Well, for openers, try $29,500.

That’s how much he has received in campaign contributions since 2009 from six companies and executives of two of the companies that provide inmate telephone services. Two of those, Securus Technologies of Dallas, and City TeleCoin Co. of Bossier City, combined to contribute $12,000 to Skrmetta’s campaign in separate contributions in December of 2013, nine months after the companies were cited by the PSC for charging extra fees in violation of the amended rates of December of 2012.

Global Connections of America of Norcross, Georgia, which contributed $5,000, was also in violation but was not cited.

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2013/03/psc_louisiana_prison_phone_rat.html

Other inmate telephone service companies that contributed to Skrmetta included:

  • Network Communications of Longview, Texas ($5,000);
  • William Pope, President of Network Communications ($2,500);
  • Gerald Juneau and his wife, Rosalyn, owners of City TeleCoin ($5,000 each);
  • ATN, Inc. of St. Mary, Georgia ($2,500);
  • Ally Telecom Group of Metairie ($2,500).

Taking campaign contributions from regulated industries, while posing the obvious risk of conflicts of interest and even influence-buying, is not at all unusual. Utilities and trucking companies which are regulated by the PSC contributed to commission members just as insurance-related companies contributed to campaigns for Louisiana Insurance Commissioner in a practice some equate to little more than not-so-subtle bribery.

Skrmetta, however, has taken the practice to art form status; he has received substantially more campaign money from regulated industries than any other member of the PSC.

In all, he has received a whopping $482,800 in individual contributions of $500 or more from regulated industries, attorneys and PSC contractors just since 2009. That was a year after he was first elected to the PSC. Only two campaign contributions totaling $1,200 are listed on his campaign reports prior to 2009.

Scores of representatives of Entergy contributed at least $30,800 since 2009 and the New Orleans law firm Stone-Pigman and several of its attorneys chipped in another $29,750—$17,000 on the same day that Skrmetta made the motion during a PSC meeting to approve an additional $220,000 in consultant fees and expenses for the firm’s defense of litigation filed against the commission by Occidental Chemical Corp.

Skrmetta, it should be noted, opposed the ban on fundraisers within 72-hours of PSC meetings—understandable in hindsight. A 72-hour ban be damned; he took the money on the same day of the commission’s meeting and its approval of the amendment which bumped the law firm’s contract up to $468,000 in fees and $39,600 in expenses.

Wright, Skrmetta’s opponent in Saturday’s runoff election was critical of Skrmetta’s taking the contributions from Stone-Pigman on the same day as the PSC meeting—and on the same day as the contract amendment.

“The issue is integrity, which is undermined when a public service commissioner takes a cut off the top from the contracts they authorize in the form of campaign contributions,” he said. “We pay the price from these bad dealings, not only in dollars but also in the erosion of trust that happens all too frequently when elected leaders put themselves and their own power before the interest of the public.”

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Former Gov. Edwin Edwards said on Tuesday that he intends link his opponent to Gov. Bobby Jindal just as Congressman Bill Cassidy has linked U.S. Sen. Landrieu and President Obama.

“Representative Cassidy has built his entire campaign on running against Obama instead of Mary Landrieu and though I believe in running on issues instead of personal attacks, I will launch my television ads next week by showing that Garret Graves will be nothing more than an extension of the Bobby Jindal administration,” Edwards told LouisianaVoice.

That shouldn’t be too difficult to do, given that Garret’s former assistant and more recently his successor has publicly endorsed Garret in his campaign against Edwards to succeed Cassidy as Louisiana’s 6th District congressional representative.

Jerome “Z” Zeringue, who once served as Garret’s assistant and then was named to succeed him as Gov. Jindal’s coastal advisor, has endorsed his old boss in the Dec. 6 runoff against Edwards.

That action brought instant criticism from another former coastal advisor to the governor. Len Bahr, Ph.D., wrote on his internet blog:

“As a former holder of Graves’ and now Zeringue’s position in the governor’s office, I’m offended that neither of these gentlemen is concerned that the person who oversees state coastal policy should be involved in a highly partisan political struggle. I realize that the law that restricts state civil servants from political activities does not apply to unclassified positions but the basis for the law is obvious, going back to the days of Huey Long when state employees were pressured to support specific elected officials. http://lacoastpost.com/blog/?p=47063

Bahr’s indignation notwithstanding, Edwards already had a pretty good arsenal to unload on his opponent.

He previewed one of his upcoming TV advertisements for LouisianaVoice. As expected, he zeroed in on the $130 million in contracts that Graves’ father’s company received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the younger Graves’ tenure as president of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and director of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities.

Edwards, at a Monday appearance before the Baton Rouge Press Club, also noted that the Graves’ father also subcontracted $66 million of that $130 million to some 18 other companies who have since contributed $250,000 to Graves’ campaign and $360,000 to Jindal.

Those points were brought by another candidate in the first primary, State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) but Edwards added a new twist during the press club appearance when he revealed that Graves’ brother-in-law stood to gain financially from a deal involving CPRA.

He said the Water Campus office complex and research center under construction in Baton Rouge, will house the agency Graves once headed. The leasing agent for office space in the facility, Edwards said, is Randy White, Graves’ brother-in-law. “They’re going to lease one million square feet of office space at probably $25 to $50 per square foot,” he said. “At a commission of 2 or 3 percent, that’s a $1 million a year.”

The former governor also expressed his disappointment at Graves’ tactic of sending out letters leading up to the Nov. 4 first primary in which he hinted that Republican candidate Paul Dietzel, III was gay. “He (Graves) repeated over and over that Dietzel had never married, lives with his grandmother, and had performed work on behalf of gay organizations,” Edwards said. “There is no place in today’s society for that type of attack.”

Edwards said the motive for Graves’ attack was obvious. “Up to the time those letters went out, he and Dietzel were neck and neck for the second spot in the runoff against me. It was the act of a desperate man and a man who was hand-picked by our governor to continue the policies put in place by Jindal.

“Jindal’s approval rating is every bit as deplorable as Obama’s,” Edwards said. “And a vote for Graves is a vote to continue down the same road that Jindal has taken the state during his administration. Personally, I don’t think this state can afford a continuation of those policies.”

Bahr, his blog, included a link to Louisiana Civil Service rules on public employees’ participation in political campaign and though the rules are different for classified and unclassified employees like Zeringue, Bahr said he nonetheless felt it wrong for Zeringue to interject himself into partisan politics. http://www.civilservice.louisiana.gov/files/general_circulars/2011/gc2011-020.pdf

One of Bahr’s readers added this comment to his blog:

“A key part of Graves’ legacy is the degrading of CPRA’s standing as a supposedly objective body. Pushing them to pass a resolution opposing the SE La Flood Protection Authority lawsuit was a key step. Using the meeting for theatrics attacking the feds every month was another. CPRA has continued on this path in his absence by passing a resolution opposing the EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” designation, with no real discussion of the actual rule/regulation. In the bubble that Louisiana inhabits, no one is supposed to see this for what it is. That bubble will be popped when the state sees how national support for restoration has been eroded.”

So while Edwards has been relatively quiet up to this point (as opposed to the incessant barrage of attack ads from both Landrieu and Cassidy), that will change beginning next Tuesday—just in time for his only scheduled head-to-head debate with Graves in Denham Springs that same day.

If he is successful in linking Graves to his former boss, Jindal’s low poll numbers coupled with the animosity Jindal has single-handedly created between himself and teachers, state employees and higher education officials during almost seven years as governor, it could spell trouble for Graves. And Edwards, the sly old warrior that he is, might yet have a trick or two up his sleeve.

To paraphrase actress Bette Davis in the movie All About Eve, Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Attorneys for the E.I Du Pont have filed a motion in limine which seeks to block plaintiffs in the pending litigation against the Ascension Parish plant from citing reports of prior leaks and regulatory proceedings against DuPont “not related to the gas leaks” at the Burnside facility.

DuPont’s motion is particularly timely in that it was filed only four days after the deaths of four DuPont workers following a toxic gas release at a Du Pont plant in La Porte, Texas.

Limine (lim-in-nay) is Latin for “threshold,” and is a motion made at the outset of a trial that requests that the presiding judge rule that certain evidence may not be introduced in trial.

A 22-year employee of DuPont’s Burnside plant filed a confidential lawsuit in the Middle District Federal Court in Baton Rouge two years ago which became known only last March that claims the plant has consistently been experiencing toxic gas leaks on almost a daily basis for more than two years without reporting the leaks to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as required by the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/31/whistleblower-claims-duponts-burnside-plant-has-been-leaking-carcinogenic-sulfer-trioxide-more-than-two-years/

Plaintiff Jeffrey M. Simoneaux, an Ascension Parish native who served for 14 years as chairman of the plant’s Safety, Health and Environmental Committee, also claims he was harassed, intimidated and denied promotions after he said he complied with DuPont’s own internal procedures for reporting a leak of sulfur trioxide (SO3) gas, a known carcinogen which is regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 and was reprimanded for doing so.

The case, should it go to trial, would be heard by Federal District Judge Shelly Dick and Magistrate Judge Stephen Riedlinger.

Simoneaux, who filed his suit under the 151-year-old False Claims Act (FCA), has listed as trial exhibits documents pertaining to leaks and releases at other DuPont plants, some of which have resulted in settlements with the government. He also has listed documents as yet to be obtained from various EPA offices through Freedom of Information Act requests that seek information about enforcement actions against DuPont.

“Because the exhibits regarding other leaks and enforcement actions do not relate to the leaks at the Burnside facility, (Simoneaux), his counsel and witnesses should be prohibited from mentioning, in any manner in the presence of the jury, such leaks, releases or regulatory proceedings,” said DuPont attorneys Monique Weiner and Lori Waters of the New Orleans firm of Kuchler, Polk, Schell, Weiner & Richeson in their memorandum that accompanied the actual motion.

“Evidence of leaks at other DuPont facilities and/or regulatory action against DuPont arising from situations not involving the gas leaks at the Burnside facility is irrelevant to the issues for determination by the jury in this case,” the motion says.

“DuPont will object to the introduction of such exhibits at trial as they are sought to be used or introduced,” it says. “But in advance of trial, DuPont seeks an order that counsel and the witnesses may not refer to these matters in questioning, testimony, during opening statement or in closing argument.”

The motion cited United States v. Beechum, a 1978 case which the defense attorneys say “requires a showing that the prior acts sought to be introduced are ‘relevant to an issue other than the defendant’s character. At the heart of this relevance inquiry is a question of similarity: ‘The relevance…must be determined with respect to the particular issue…”

The motion said that even if the court determines there is relevance, “the evidence would be confusing, prejudicial and a waste of time.”

A seven-member team of investigators from the Chemical Safety Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Chemical Safety Board have already begun looking into the La Porte deaths of the four men, including two brothers. Among the first discoveries:

  • The men had been trapped for an hour by the poisonous methyl isocyanate for an hour before anyone at the plant called 911 at 4:13 a.m.;
  • It is unclear if the workers killed had any advance knowledge or warning of the degree of toxicity inside the unit;
  • Methyl isocyanate (MIC) is the same chemical that escaped a Bhopal, India, plant in 1984, killing more than 2,200 people;
  • Workers lacked quick access to breathing equipment that would have given them a chance at survival;
  • No DuPont official contacted a special emergency industrial response network called the Channel Industries Mutual Aide (CIMA), a nonprofit set up to deal with just such disasters;
  • It took 12 hours before DuPont confirm the four deaths;
  • DuPont never disclosed the size of its toxic inventory in reports filed annually with the La Porte emergency management officials;
  • Volunteer firefighters from nearby Deer Park who responded to the company’s 911 call were forced to rely on word-of-mouth to confirm quantities of the chemical leaked from the plant.

One other fact that could be crucial to Simoneaux’s case should Judge Dick deny the motion in limine and allow testimony about safety concerns at other plants:

The unit where the La Porte workers died had been shut down for five days before the Nov. 15 accident and workers had for months reported persistent maintenance problems, including inadequate ventilation in the unit.

Around 3:15 a.m., Gilbert Tisnado, 48, called his wife on his cell phone to tell her something had gone wrong in the unit. When he learned that his younger brother, Robert, 39, was among four men trapped in the unit, he grabbed an “escape pack” and entered the unit. Both brothers were among the four who subsequently died.

Firefighters found three bodies but only two tanks and masks inside the plant. Each was equipped with only five minutes of air—time for an emergency escape but not for a rescue mission.

Though the 911 call from DuPont was made at 4:13 a.m., more than two hours went by before “fenceline” air monitoring was conducted to learn if hazardous levels of chemicals had escaped the plant, leaving the community dependent upon DuPont to know if it was safe to go outside.

It also was unknown if DuPont even had any comprehensive toxics fenceline monitoring, said Adrian Shelley, director of the Air Alliance Houston advocacy group.

The refining industry, especially, has balked at calls for continuous fenceline monitoring, which provides streams of data about what gases are leaving a plant but can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, Shelley said. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that would require such systems at refineries is under review. Even if adopted, it wouldn’t apply to the DuPont plant because it doesn’t refine fossil fuels.

Simoneaux filed his lawsuit more than two years ago, on April 16, 2012, but because it was filed under seal, meaning it was not released to the media, its existence, along with DuPont’s October 2013 answers to discovery, has only recently been made public.

Simoneaux said DuPont identified gas leaks to which it will respond “only by visible assessment and (it) has no monitors at equipment sites.”

DuPont, headquartered in Wilmington, Del., was ranked 72nd on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and reported 2012 profits of nearly $2.8 billion, down more than 19 percent from 2011, according to a report by CNN Money.

Despite profits from its worldwide operations which employ 60,000 people, DuPont has for years avoided paying any federal income taxes.

The company has contributed more than $21,000 to various state politicians since 2003, including $4,500 to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Its plants in Burnside and in St. John the Baptist Parish have been granted more than $21 million in various state tax credits.

Those included, in order, the project, the year, parish, total investment, tax exemption and number of new jobs created:

  • Plant expansion, 2010, St. John the Baptist, $93 million $1.4 million five-year tax credit, 11 new jobs;
  • Plant expansion, 2008, St. John the Baptist, $58.8 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $10.9 million, five new jobs;
  • Retrofit project, 2010, Ascension, $72.2 million, 10-year property tax exemption, $541,000, three new jobs;
  • Miscellaneous capital addition, 2010, St. John the Baptist, $1.3 million, 10-year property tax exemption, no new jobs;
  • Plant addition, 2009, St. John the Baptist, $6.7 million, 10-year property tax exemption of $1.2 million, no new jobs;
  • Plant addition, 2009, Ascension, $45 million, 10-year property tax exemption, no new jobs.

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The good people of Alabama need not fear the corruptive influence of former Gov. Donald Siegelman. Women and children may emerge from hiding, confident they are now safe and no longer must be protected from his treachery.

Siegelman is securely incarcerated at Oakdale’s federal lockup, the same facility that once housed another former governor—Louisiana’s very own Edwin W. Edwards—and from all accounts Sweet Home Alabama is the better for his prolonged absence.

The man, after all, took a $500,000 contribution from a member of the state board for hospital oversight, one Richard Scrushy, CEO of HealthSouth.

But wait. The half-million bucks didn’t go to Siegelman, after all. The money was contributed by Scrushy instead to help underwrite a campaign to convince the voters of Alabama to vote in favor of a state lottery, the proceeds of which would provide funds for Alabama youth to attend state colleges for free.

The referendum was controversial in that owners of the Indian casinos next door in Mississippi were somewhat skittish about Alabamans spending their gambling money at home to fund, of all things, education—not to mention that free college sounds a bit socialistic.

Suddenly, major players entered the picture—players like Karl Rove and notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who would soon face his own legal problems. No matter. Abramoff led the fight, pouring money into the campaign to oppose the referendum which ultimately lost.

And what did Scrushy get in return? Siegelman reappointed him to the Certificates of Need Review Board where he had been serving without pay for the previous 12 years.

The prosecution of Siegelman has been heavily criticized by legal experts and columnists across the nation. https://madmimi.com/p/940b05?fe=1&pact=23974859063

Even the award-winning CBS news magazine 60 Minutes weighed in on the issue. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-ex-alabama-governor-get-a-raw-deal/

Siegelman, a Democrat with Jewish and Catholic roots, had won every state office in Alabama by 1998, including attorney general and lieutenant governor. In 2002, having already served one term as governor, he was heavily favored to win election over incumbent Gov. Bob Riley, the man who had defeated him four years earlier. But then the state’s top Republican operative, Bill Canary, contacted the nation’s top Republican operative, Rove, and the Justice Department’s investigation of Siegelman—led by Canary’s wife, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary—was launched.

With rumors swirling about alleged wrongdoing, Siegelman suddenly found himself in a tight race with Riley. On election night, Siegelman went to bed after having been declared the winner only to awake the next morning with Riley claiming victory.

Overnight, an unexpected redistribution of gubernatorial votes in Baldwin County, which includes the city of Daphne and part of Mobile Bay, reduced Siegelman’s total votes by 3,000, giving Republican Riley the governorship. Republican Attorney General Bill Pryor denied a recount of the paper ballots. No votes for any of the other offices being contested were changed. (Can you say hanging chads?)

And who was running Riley’s re-election campaign? That would be Bill Canary, husband of federal prosecutor Leura Canary. Well, no conflict of interest there.

Canary’s first efforts, carried out by assistant U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, were unsuccessful. Federal District Judge U.W. Clemon threw out the indictment for lack of evidence, saying the prosecution “was completely without legal merit” and “the most unfounded criminal case over which I presided in my entire judicial career.”

Canary was successful on her second try, however, obtaining a conviction on one of the 23 counts on which Siegelman was indicted. Presiding over that trial was Federal Judge Mark Fuller, who omitted a key legal requirement when giving the jury its instructions before it retired to deliberate: the need for an explicit promise of understanding in accepting the $500,000 from Scrushy.

Fuller, an appointee of President George W. Bush, would later have his own legal problems as well. In August of this year, he was arrested for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/federal_judge_mark_fuller_a_ti.html but unlike Siegelman, was able to get the record expunged. http://crooksandliars.com/2014/09/don-siegelman-trial-judge-weasels-out

So what has all this to with the price of eggs in Louisiana?

Well, we just thought it would be interesting to compare the single transgression that got Siegelman a ticket to Oakdale with certain activities in Louisiana—and to ask somewhat rhetorically why no investigative agency is taking a closer look at some of the tactics of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Take, for example, the case of Richard Blossman, Jr., of Lacombe and his Central Progressive Bank.

Blossman, while CEO of Central Progressive, “gave” each of his 11 board members a $5,000 bonus. The reality is (to borrow a favorite Jindal phrase), however, none of the $5,000 bonus payments ever went to the board members, according to Raphael Goyeneche, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission. Instead, immediately after the bonuses were “announced” by Blossman, 11 individual checks of $5,000 each were sent to Jindal’s 2007 campaign in the names of the individual—and oblivious—board members.

“The defendant (Blossman) well knew the ‘bonus’ was to funnel illegal political contributions and was not a bonus, as he caused to be inscribed in the board minutes,” prosecutors said in June of 2012.

“That is a felony,” Goyeneche added.

This revelation came on the heels of word from the Louisiana Board of Ethics in May of 2012 that Jindal received $40,000 in campaign contributions from landfill company River Birch, Inc. of Metairie when the company formed six “straw man entities” to launder illegal donations to Jindal.

So, did Jindal’s campaign return the $95,000 in ill-gotten gains?

Well….no. “We accept every contribution in good faith and in accordance with the law,” said Timmy Teepell, who ran Jindal’s 2007 campaign. Asked if Blossman received anything in exchange for his contributions, Teepell sniffed, “Absolutely not. Everyone who donates to our campaign gets the same thing and that is good government.”

Wow. Perhaps Earl Long was correct when he once said, One of these days, the folks in Louisiana will get good government “and they ain’t gonna like it.”

Jindal’s campaign and his Believe in Louisiana organization also accepted $158,500 in contributions from Iowa, LA., businessman Lee Mallet, his family members and several of his companies. Jindal then appointed Mallett, a college dropout, to the LSU Board of Supervisors and also had the Department of Corrections issue a directive to state parole and probation officers to funnel offenders into Mallett’s halfway house in Lacassine.

ATS LETTER

No quid pro quo there, right?

Mallett and his son were major contributors to other Republican candidates and the National Republican Party as well.

Carl Shetler of Lake Charles also received an appointment from Jindal—to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors—after contributing $42,000 to Jindal’s campaign. Shetler, a Lake Charles car dealer, some years before had singlehandedly gotten McNeese State University placed on athletic probation by the NCAA when it was learned that he’d paid money to McNeese basketball players.

In fact, Jindal’s campaign received $1.8 million in contributions from people he has appointed to state boards and commissions, some of whom delivered their checks only days or weeks after their appointments, according to Nola.com. Virtually the entire memberships of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Commission) and the LSU Board of Supervisors are comprised of major contributors to Jindal political campaigns.

In 2008, Jindal accepted $30,000 from Florida attorney Scott Rothstein, his law firm and his wife. Rothstein was later disbarred after his conviction for running the largest ($1.4 billion) Ponzi scheme in Florida history.

Jindal also accepted $10,000 from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) and later gave ACS employee Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy, a state job with the Division of Administration.

Jindal took $11,000 from the medical trust fund of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA). The LHBPA board president, Sean Alfortish, was subsequently sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiring to rig the elections of the association and then helping himself to money controlled by the association.

The association also was accused of paying $347,000 from its medical and pension trust funds to three law firms without a contract or evidence of work performed. A state audit said LHBPA improperly raided more than $1 million from its medical trust account while funneling money into political lobbying and travel to the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Costa Rica and Los Cabos, Mexico.

The association, created by the Louisiana Legislature in 1993, is considered a non-profit public body and as such is prohibited from contributing to political campaigns.

And then there is Tony Rudy.

Rudy once headed up an influence-peddling organization called the Alexander Strategy Group and through that firm, he pulled in tens of thousands of dollars in the 2004 and 2005 election cycles on behalf of Jindal from such donors as UPS, Eli Lilly, Bellsouth, R.J. Reynolds, Microsoft, Fannie Mae, Koch Industries, DuPont, AstraZeneca (a biopharmaceutical company), the National Auto Dealers Association, the Property Casualty Insurers Association, the American Bankers Association, and Amgen (biotechnology and pharmaceutical company).

Alexander Strategy Group was one of Washington’s premier lobbying operations before it was shut down in January of 2006 after its ties to DeLay and Abramoff, became known.

Rudy, a former aide to DeLay, worked for Abramoff before joining Alexander Strategy Group. Rudy’s wife also ran a political consulting firm that received $50,000 in exchange for services Rudy performed while working for DeLay. Delay was indicted in 2005 on money-laundering charges. Abramoff pleaded guilty in early January of 2006 to fraud and conspiracy charges.

One of Abramoff’s clients was the Chitimacha Indian Tribe of Louisiana that contributed at least $1,000 to Jindal who since has claimed to have given that money to charity.

Abramoff also received $32 million from the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to help promote and protect their gambling interests. The legal counsel for the Coushattas was one Jimmy Faircloth who once served as Jindal’s executive counsel and who has pulled in well over $1 million in representing Jindal in lost causes in various courts in Louisiana. Faircloth advised the tribe to sink $30 million in a formerly bankrupt Israeli technology firm for whom his brother Brandon was subsequently employed as vice president for sales.

And most recently, courtesy of Manuel Torres of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Lee Zurik of WVUE-TV in New Orleans, we have learned that Jindal has spent more than $152,000 of state campaign funds on trips that bear a suspicious resemblance to federal campaign activity. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/11/louisiana_gov_bobby_jindals_tr.html

State Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said the state’s campaign finance law grants considerable latitude as to how money may be spent but that the law prohibits the expenditure of funds on the office of president or vice president of the U.S. and Congress, presidential electors and party offices.

“When I read these provisions together, the conclusion is that you are a candidate for a state race and the money you raise can be used only for (a state) campaign or for exercise of that office,” Allen told Torres and Zurik.

There are other activities of the Jindal administration which have little to do with campaign contributions or appointments but which are nonetheless are questionable as to their motives:

  • Efforts to enhance State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement by as much as $55,000 per year. Because of our story, that unconstitutional attempt by our governor and his allies in the State Senate and the Department of Public Safety was thwarted.
  • Major pay increases given unclassified employees in the Jindal administration at the same time rank and file state employees have been denied raises for five years.
  • Generous tax incentives, exemptions and other favorable treatment given corporations that are costing the state some $3 billion per year even as repeal of the Stelly plan has cost the state $300 million per year.
  • Widespread abuses by the State Board of Dentistry and the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board.
  • Bruce Greenstein’s initial refusal in testimony before a Senate committee to name the winner of a $200 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals and his eventual admission that the contract went to his former employer—testimony that eventually led to his indictment on nine counts of perjury.
  • Attempts by the Department of Education to enter into a data sharing agreement whereby sensitive personal information on students in the state’s public schools would be made available to a company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox News.
  • Funding sources for Jindal’s political organization Believe in Louisiana—sources who have received major concessions and political appointments from the Jindal administration.
  • The real reason for the firing and indictment of former head of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy Painter: Painter’s refusal to crater to demands from the governor’s office that favored New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, a major contributor to Jindal’s political campaigns (Painter was subsequently acquitted of all charges and the state was forced to pay his legal expenses of some $300,000).
  • Efforts by Jindal to force retirees out of the Group Benefits health program with irresponsibly unaffordable increases in co-pays and deductibles, a story that eventually prompted hearings by the House Appropriations Committee.
  • The subsequent revelation that a document cited by DOA and the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) representative as the basis for the health benefits changes in reality said just the opposite of what was testified to.

And while all this goes on unabated in Louisiana, the former governor of Alabama, who did nothing more than accept a contribution to fund a referendum to benefit education, remains in Oakdale, victim of a prosecution with far more questions about the participants and their surreptitious activities than answers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bennett-l-gershman/bribery-cases-_b_1590284.html

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In reading Destiny’s Anvil, a novel about Louisiana politics by New Orleans writer Steven Wells Hicks, one sentence near the end of the story was so profound that it jumped off the page at us:

  • The responsibility for building and maintaining our way of open and honest government belongs in the hands of those who elect our leaders and not the leaders themselves.

The very simplicity of that one sentence, so succinct and straightforward a summation of what our government should aspire to, should be the credo which dictates the acceptance of every campaign contribution, every promise made and every action carried out by every elected official in America.

Sadly, it does not. And most certainly, it does not in Louisiana, especially where generous donors to the campaigns of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Florida, R-Anywhere by Louisiana) are concerned.

LouisianaVoice has learned that one major donor and its principals not only benefitted from several contracts worth more than $240 million, but also appear to have been given preferable treatment in the purchase of a state building at a bargain price at the expense of taxpayers.

The electorate of this state has capitulated in that responsibility, choosing instead to acquiesce to backroom deals fueled by campaign contributions and to actions concealed in secrecy and carried out for political expedience or personal gain instead of for the common good of the citizenry.

Remember last month when we wrote that Timmy Teepell in 2010 issued a directive to Tommy Teague, then the CEO of the Office of Group Benefits that a request for proposals (RFP) be crafted in such a way as to favor a specific vendor and that then-Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis resigned shortly thereafter?

At the time, Teepell was Jindal’s Chief of Staff. The RFP was for vendors to provide health care coverage to state workers primarily in northeast Louisiana. Vantage Health Plan of Monroe subsequently landed the 26 month, $70 million contract, effective July 1, 2010. Six months later, on Jan. 1, 2011, a second one-year contract of $14 million awarded to Vantage to provide a Medicare Advantage plan for eligible OGB retirees and on Sept. 1, 2012, Vantage received yet another four-month $10 million contract under an emergency rule to provide an HMO plan to OGB members.

Since Jindal took office in January of 2008, Vantage has been awarded six contracts totaling nearly $242 million.

In addition to the claim of the 2010 directive to Teague to “write a tightly-written” RFP, LouisianaVoice has learned the Jindal administration may have deliberately circumvented the usual procedure for selling state property in order that Vantage could purchase a six-story state office building in Monroe last year.

By legislative fiat, the administration was within its legal rights to sell the State Office Building in Monroe to a chosen buyer without going through the bid process but it may have done so at a cost to state taxpayers.

Senate Bill 216 of 2013 by Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Neil Riser (R-Columbia) and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) passed overwhelming in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Jindal as Act 127, clearing the way for the sale of the former Virginia Hotel at 122 St. John Street.

By law, if a legislative act is passed, the state can legally bypass the public bid process but there are several indications that the administration may well have gone out of its way to accommodate Vantage and its President, Dr. Patrick Gary Jones through the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (LED).

The cooperative endeavor agreement between Vantage and the state was executed by Vantage Executive Vice President Mike Breard and LED Undersecretary Anne Villa on Aug. 28, 2013.

Vantage paid the state $881,000 for the six-story, 100,750-square-foot building and an adjoining 39,260-square-foot lot and one-story office building. The cost breakdown was $655,000 for the hotel and $226,000 for the adjoining property.

The Virginia Hotel was constructed in 1925 at a cost of $1.6 million and underwent extensive renovations in 1969 and again in 1984, according to documents provided LouisianaVoice by DED.

But LouisianaVoice has learned that there was at least one other potential buyer interested in the Virginia Hotel/State Office Building and indeed, documents obtained from LED contained no fewer than three references to fears by Vantage officers that if the building were put up for public auction, the bids might make the costs prohibitive to Vantage.

Melody Olson and husband Kim purchased the nearby Penn Hotel for $341,000 and poured $2 million into converting it into condominiums.

The late Shady Wall, a colorful state representative from Ouachita Parish, lived in the Penn’s penthouse. (Wall once wedged a pencil between a stack of books and the “yes” button at his House desk and went home for the day, officially casting “yes” votes on every matter that came up in the chamber after his departure.) The Olsons now reside in that same penthouse.

Melody Olson told LouisianaVoice that she and her husband wanted to purchase the Virginia and convert it into a boutique hotel but were never given the opportunity.

“It was sold through the Department of Economic Development and never was offered for public bid,” she said. “We never got the chance to make an offer.”

One internal LED memorandum said that Vantage Health Plan (VHP) “approached LED to help arrange the sale in order to avoid typical State surplus real property requirements of public bidding. VHP fears that public bidding would allow a developer utilizing various incentive programs to pay an above market price that VHP would find hard to match.” (Emphasis added.) IMAG0379

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Another document appears to be an internal memorandum that provides an overview of a 2012 meeting about the sale. It indicates that LED Secretary Stephen Moret, Sen. Walsworth, LED Legislative and Congressional Liaison Mandi Mitchell and LED Director of Contract Performance Shawn Welcome were in attendance on behalf of the state and Dr. Jones and his son-in-law Michael Echols, Director of Business Development, representing Vantage.

Under a heading entitled Company Issues/Concerns there were these two notations:

  • “Developers have purchased and converted some downtown Monroe buildings into mixed use buildings (by) taking advantage of federal and state restoration tax credits.”
  • “Concern: Vantage is worried that if SB (state building) is offered through regular channels, developers using federal tax credits could outbid Vantage.” IMAG0377

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Finally, there was a handwritten note which described another meeting on Nov. 1, 2012. Besides the notation that “Sen. Riser supports,” there was this:

  • “Problem is option of auction—if auction comes there is possibility of tax credits allowing a bidder to out-bid.”

IMAG0378

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Finally, there was a hand-scrawled notation at the bottom of a typewritten page containing employment estimates by Vantage through 2024 which directed that an “approach” be written “specific to Vantage.”

And while Vantage repeatedly cited concerns about other potential buyers obtaining state and federal incentives which they might use to thwart their purchase plans for the building, Vantage was not shy about seeking incentives from the state for its own benefit.

Documents obtained from LED show no fewer than 20 applications or notices of applications for various state incentive programs, including Enterprise Zone, Quality Jobs Program and property tax exemptions for renovations to existing offices in Monroe or expansion into new offices in Shreveport, Mangham, West Monroe, New Orleans and even into Arkansas.

Nor were Vantage and its corporate principals shy about flashing cash for political campaign contributions.

Campaign finance records show that Vantage its affiliate, Affinity Health Group, their corporate officers and family members combined to contribute more than $100,000 to various political campaigns, including $22,000 to Jindal and $11,000 to three of the four Senators who authored the bill authorizing the sale of the Virginia Hotel to Vantage: Thompson ($5,400), Walsworth ($4,500), and Riser ($1,000.

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