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JINDAL’S CAMPAIGN (Thanks to Gary Brookins and Susie MacNelly, creators of SHOE):

Any effectiveness in bringing stories to our readers can be attributed not to any dogged pursuit of truth by LouisianaVoice (We are, after all, old and basically lazy), but to our readers who continue to feed valuable tips and documents to us.

One such example followed our publication of the Thursday story about the creation of the super PAC Believe Again on behalf of Gov. Bobby Jindal in an attempt to raise campaign cash for his efforts to secure the Republican nomination for president by former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, Chairman, and Treasurer Rolfe McCollister. McCollister is Baton Rouge’s defender of freedom of the press (Irony, folks: remember McCollister, the CEO of Louisiana Business, publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report, was part of the LSU Board of Supervisors that fought efforts to gain access to the list of candidates for LSU president).

One of our sharp-eyed readers noticed that we also ran a copy of a Jindal tweet about another of his organizations, www.standuptowashington.com and took it upon himself to try and see who owned the web domain (“not that we don’t already know,” he added).

The domain name itself, he said, was purchased through a company called Domains by Proxy,” a service that allows purchasers to obtain domains anonymously. “All information is hidden, so I pinged the domain and got the address: 50.56.48.143,” our reader said.

Now, of course, we have no clue what those numbers mean, but apparently he did.

“After that, I ran a search to see what other sites might be neighboring that one on the web server, and it turns out there are 62 domain names sharing that IP (internet provider) address.”

Our reader provided a list of the 62 domain names and we attempted to call each of the addresses and found that many were just purchased and held but no actual web page ever created (a common practice for those attempting to secure all similar-sounding names either in hopes of selling them or to protect a like-sounding web page they intend to use).

Besides the blank pages, we found a few that appeared to be legitimate and addressing such topics as health care, tax reform and one belonging to Warner Cable.

But we also found one belonging to OnMessage, the Virginia political consulting firm that has received more than $5 million in consulting fees from Jindal since 2007 and for which Jindal’s former campaign manager and chief of staff now works.

Also on the list was www.americanext.org, which is one of several non-profits created by Jindal to suck up donor contributions.

Several web page addresses were registered in the name of Florida Gov. Rick Scott for whom three of Jindal’s former campaign workers and former appointees now work. Known as the “Louisiana Mafia” in Florida, Melissa Sellers and husband and wife Frank and Meghan Collins figured in the rift over the Florida state police commissioner’s refusal to provide transportation in state vehicles for Scott campaign workers.

Only three of the 10 domain addresses owned by Scott were functional. Two were English and Spanish versions of the same page thanking Florida voters for returning Scott to office last fall. The other was simply www.letsgettowork.net.

Another was one belonging to unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Shane Osborne in which he thanked Nebraska voters who supported his failed candidacy.

One web address quickly became the subject of speculation. The web address www.believeinlouisiana.com is a “527” non-profit political organization launched by Jindal on Jan. 18, 2008, only days after he was inaugurated for his first term.

LouisianaVoice has published an extensive list of contributors to Believe in Louisiana who combined to pour more than $2.4 million into the organization, which reported spending $2.2 million, much of that to Teepell and OnMessage. http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/527/fresh-start-louisiana.asp

McCollister and David Roberts of Prairieville were listed by Louisiana Secretary corporate records as directors and its agent was David Woolridge, Jr., of the Baton Rouge law firm Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blache, Balhoff & McCollister. Records reflect that the last annual report filed was in 2014 and that the organization is no longer in good standing.

Its web page pretty much reflected the same thing. Unlike times past when it was easily accessible, when we clicked on the web address this time, we got only a blank page.

Its fund balance, if it actually had one (the contributions and expenditures we cited were a couple of years old), were probably shifted into either www.standuptowashington.com or Jindal’s newest fund-raising ploy, www.believeagain.com.

One thing is abundantly evident (or should we say “absolutely”?) is the same tired old names keep bobbing to the surface every time Jindal floats a new .com.

But the presence of Livingston is a curious one. Jindal once worked for Livingston when the latter was in Congress. That was before Livingston was tabbed as the next House Speaker, only to resign in the wake of revelations he’d had an extra-marital affair even as the House was bringing impeachment charges against President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Livingston has moved on to form an influential lobbying office in Washington, so it’s somewhat perplexing as to why he would become involved in a campaign that had gotten “absolutely” no traction.

Meanwhile, back in Baton Rouge, the state’s financial condition continues to spiral out of control. Jindal is in town only to attend his prayer meeting at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus tomorrow and then he’ll be off again, probably back to Iowa to court his tiny cadre of supporters.

As Jindal turns his attention more and more to the GOP president nomination, higher education is facing cuts of up to $370 million and on Thursday, we learned that the Department of Health and Hospitals may undergo mid-year cuts of $700 million.

It will be very interesting to see what positive spin Jindal will try to put on that turn of events. No doubt, he’ll attempt to take credit for reducing the size of government and cutting unnecessary expenses—all while chasing the Islamic hordes out of Europe.

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There is a company called 24/7 Wall St. which publishes more than 30 articles per day, many of them about economic trends such as automobile models or long established stores that won’t be around much longer, or even the most and least popular beers in America.

The company is not an investment advisor despite the presence of “Wall St.” in its name and its editors do not own securities in companies that they write about. When other writers do have positions in companies, that fact is disclosed in their articles.

Another regular feature of 24/7 Wall St. is its regular rankings of states in everything from obesity to poverty rates to educational achievement to employment to median income.

Invariably, Louisiana finds itself at or near the bottom in these rankings, often held out of the worst ranking by neighboring Mississippi.

A couple of recent surveys released by 24/7 Wall St. were on the worst run states in America,, the most violent states, states with the best and worst schools and on states where the middle class is dying. A sampling of the rankings that include Louisiana:

  • 6th worst run state in America: With the nations’ 4th largest budget deficit and the 17th highest debt per capita ($4,045), the 8th lowest median household income ($42,944) and the 3rd highest percentage of its citizens living below the poverty line (19.9 percent), there wasn’t much room for our political leaders to brag. Still, that did not seem to stop Gov. Bobby Jindal from trying to put a positive spin on the state economic condition.
  • The most violent state in the U.S.: Finally, a survey that ranks Louisiana as number 1—but alas, it’s the wrong list. Despite having the highest incarceration rate per 100,000 population (867) in a nation with the highest incarceration in the world (686—giving Louisiana the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world), Our murder rate, 11.2 killings per 100,000 population is worst in the country and violent crime rate exclusive of murder of 537.8 per 100,000 population is 8th most in the nation even though we have the highest number of police officers per 100,000 (542.8). The total cost of violent crime in Louisiana is nearly $10 billion, or about 40 percent of the state budget. On Wednesday, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, Jr., was critical of Jindal’s histrionics about the so-call “no-go” zones in England and France where non-Muslims are said to be afraid to enter. Cannizzaro said the fact that law enforcement officials in England and France refrain from entering certain Islamic neighborhoods in favor of letting “the residents police their own” is not so different from the situation in New Orleans. He said Jindal, instead of trying to curry favor among supporters with his anti-Islamic rhetoric, should give consideration to staying in Louisiana and addressing Louisiana’s “urban terrorists.”

http://www.wafb.com/story/27905246/orleans-da-blasts-jindal-says-urban-terrorists-in-his-own-backyard

  • 8th worst school system in America: Despite having the 19th highest per-pupil spending in the nation ($12,375), Louisiana has the 5th lowest high school graduation rate (72 percent versus the national rate of 81 percent) and the second lowest percentage (20.8 percent) of 8th graders proficient in math or reading. The report said that 11th and 12th grade students in Louisiana were among the least likely to excel on Advance Placement tests. These factors combined to give Louisiana a state score of 68.5 percent, or an overall grade of D+.
  • 6th worst middle income growth (-4.9 percent, as in a negative growth): The shrinkage of Louisiana’s middle class was surpassed only by Washington State (-5.0 percent), Rhode Island (-5.6 percent), Maine (-5.8 percent), Vermont (-5.0 percent), and California (-6.9 percent). The reason you don’t see Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee on this list is because the income disparity was not as great. Louisiana uncharacteristically (for a poor state) somehow made the list as the gap between the very rich and the middle class continued to widen.

Despite this plethora of negatives, we have a governor who has gone from gallivanting all over the nation spreading misrepresentations about all his wonderful accomplishments as governor to taking his message abroad and spewing hysterical rhetoric on topics about which he is woefully unqualified to speak.

The reason for his chronic absenteeism from the job for which he was elected—governor of Louisiana? He harbors a desperate, obsessive desire to be president, to do to the nation what he has done to Louisiana for the past seven years. To that end, he either is delusional, an insufferable egomaniac, or he has advisers like Timmy Teepell and Rolfe McCollister whispering in his ear that he is true presidential timber in the mold of Lincoln or Reagan—or all of the above. It didn’t help that columnist Michelle Malkin and Rash Limburger began building up for the ultimate fall way back in 2008.

So now, flush with his bold stand against the evils of Islam and emboldened by all that success in pulling Louisiana out of the doldrums of economic and cultural ruin he has given the go-ahead for the creation of Believe Again, a super PAC created to attract big money and to boost his flagging image in the already crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/bobbys-believers-conservatives-launch-draft-jindal-pac/article/2559070

Organizers of Believe Again are former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, chairman, and McCollister, treasurer. Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s campaign manager in his 2011 gubernatorial re-election campaign, apparently is odd man out in favor of Washington Republican operative Brad Todd as the PAC’s primary consultant.

While federal election laws bar Jindal from being directly associated with Believe Again or coordinating directly with Believe Again, that didn’t stop Jindal from sending out a tweet plugging the new super PAC created on his behalf—and most likely, at his direction:

  • “Sign our petition to demand liberals stop their shameless attacks against Conservatives,” the tweet said. (Just as Teepell had done in an email blast on Wednesday, Jindal lower-cased the “l” in liberals but capitalized “Conservatives.”)

Jindal also attached a YouTube link to the super PAC:image001

But at the bottom of the tweet was the disclaimer that the message was “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” image002

(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Moreover, the super PAC’s web page contained a prominent photo of Jindal but no other potential candidates. http://www.standuptowashington.com/

Super PACs, unlike leadership PACs, are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of funds, thanks to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

The Washington Examiner noted that Jindal’s supporters believe his record of achieving conservative reform is what voters and campaign contributors are looking for in a candidate.

“Republican voters are tired of empty rhetoric from the same old politicians,” said Livingston. “They want a full-spectrum conservative who has the courage and bandwidth to make large scale reforms. If Gov. Jindal runs, he will be the kind of candidate who makes Republicans able to believe again,” he said.

But those supporters may be overlooking a key fact: there’s a world of difference between “conservative reform” and real achievement. Jindal’s conservative reform agenda has done precious little toward solving ever-increasing budget deficits, solving a soaring crime rate, improving education, lifting Louisiana citizens out of choking poverty or improving low income citizens’ access to health care.

Oh, there is one last ongoing survey in which Louisiana ranks dead last:

Jindal consistently holds down the anchor position among Republican presidential aspirants in poll after poll, trailing even Sarah Palin.

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When it comes to making a distinction between the duties of official public servant and campaign worker during the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the lines are often blurred as individuals move back and forth between state and campaign payrolls seamlessly and with few apparent changes in their duties.

Jindal deftly juggled the payroll of his closest advisers between his campaign payroll and taxpayer-funded salaries as part of his staff in his two successful runs for the governor’s office in 2007 and 2011, civil service and campaign records show.

At least three of those moved just as easily from the governor’s office in Louisiana to the re-election campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 and Timmy Teepell moved from Jindal’s 2007 campaign manager to his chief of staff once Jindal took office and he later left briefly to work for the national Republican Governors Association as brother Taylor Teepell moved from advisor to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to first deputy legislative director and later deputy chief of staff for Jindal.

Timmy Teepell left Jindal’s office following the 2011 election to head up the southern office of OnMessage, a political consulting firm out of Maryland to which Jindal has paid more than $5 million from 2007 through the end of 2013.

Jindal’s campaign paid Teepell $110,000 in 2007 and $120,000 for four months during 2010 (Aug. 1 through Nov. 4) and five months during 2011 (July 1 through Nov. 30) but from Jan. 14, 2008 through July 30, 2010 and from Nov. 5, 2010, through July 1, 2011, he worked as Jindal’s chief of staff at a salary of $165,000 per year—paid by Louisiana taxpayers.

Teepell did receive one payment of $3,880 from Jindal’s campaign on Nov. 11, 2010—10 days after he begin his second stint as Jindal’s chief of staff but the overlap was probably a delayed payment for campaign work done before he re-joined the governor’s staff.

Taylor Teepell, worked for six months in Jindal’s 2007 campaign, earning $29,000 before going to work for former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who was serving as president of the Republican Governors Association.

Taylor Teepell entered Jindal’s office on Nov. 21, 2011, as older brother Timmy was departing. He first came on board as deputy legislative director at $90,000 but in less than a year, on Oct. 16, 2012, was named deputy chief of staff and given a raise to $130,000, the same salary Jindal makes. This was in the middle of a period in which state classified workers have received no pay raises.

Other attempts by Jindal to shuttle supporters back and forth between campaign and public payrolls are almost laughable in their transparent efforts to make everything appear to be above board.

Take the case of Melissa Sellers who received $35,600 from the Jindal campaign between March 30 and Nov. 8, 2007 and another $12,860 in two separate payments of $6,430 on Oct. 14 and Oct. 24, 2011. Jindal won re-election to his second four-year term on Oct. 22, 2011.

Civil Service records show that Sellers began as a state employee in the governor’s office as press secretary on Jan. 15, 2008—the day after Jindal was inaugurated for his first term—at a salary of $85,000. After being promoted to director of communications and given a raise to $90,000, she resigned on Oct. 7, 2011 but returned to the governor’s office in the same role only 18 days later, on Oct. 25. The campaign payments were during her brief hiatus from the governor’s office.

That means she pulled in $12,860 for working 18 days for Jindal’s campaign—a pay scale of more than $300,000 per year. But if the Oct. 24 represented a 10-day pay period (the first paycheck was on Oct. 14), then her first pay period would have extended at least as far back as Oct. 4—three days before her resignation from her state job. In any case, it appears there may well have been some overlap between the time she started working for the campaign and the date she resigned from the governor’s office.

More significant than her salary, however, was the timing of the move. By that time, Jindal and everyone else in the state knew he would win re-election easily over only token opposition, so what was the purpose of her taking an 18-day break from the governor’s office to work in a campaign that was already in coasting mode?

But then, upon returning to the governor’s office on Oct. 25, she remained barely more than a month, leaving again on Dec. 1, ostensibly to enroll in seminary to study for the ministry—a commitment that apparently did not last very long.

Instead, she next turned up in the re-election campaign of Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and now serves as his chief of staff. Along the way, she managed, along with two other Jindal campaign workers, to become involved in a scandal that resulted in Scott’s firing of popular Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

The three—Sellers and husband and wife team Frank and Meghan Collins—managed to acquire the dubious identity of “The Louisiana Mafia” for the heavy-handed manner in which they attempted unsuccessfully to jerk Bailey around.

They first demanded that state police provide transportation for Scott campaign workers but Bailey refused, explaining that he was obligated by law to provide transportation for the governor and his wife, but not campaign aides.

Next, the Florida Republican Party attempt to foist a $90,000 check onto the FDLE as payment for shuttling campaign workers but Bailey again said no, that it would be inappropriate for his department, which is supposed to be independent of partisan politics, to accept money from a political party.

Scott, or those representing him, then attempted to bring Bailey into a conference call to discuss Scott’s platform for the coming four years but again Bailey declined to involve his department in partisan politics.

And when he complained to Scott’s chief legal counsel, that he had received solicitations for campaign contributions to Scott on his state computer, the attorney, Pete Antonacci, advised him to “just delete” the emails—in violation of Florida law prohibiting the destruction of state records.

And then there is Frank Collins, one of the “Louisiana Mafia,” who should still be smarting from his experience in Jindal’s office.

Paid only $7,500 to work four months in Jindal’s 2007 campaign, he eventually succeeded Sellers as press secretary, but at $65,000—which was $20,000 less than Sellers made for the same position three years earlier. He left on Oct. 6, 2012, and like Sellers and wife Meghan, eventually ended up with Scott’s re-election campaign and now works as Scott’s deputy chief of staff while Meghan Collins is a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education.

Jonathan Ringo is a $110,000-a-year director in the governor’s office who once told Robert Burns—but then denied that he ever said it—that the Office of Inspector General “concurred” in Burns’ removal from the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board. Before bellying up to the public trough, however, he was paid more than $18,000 by Jindal’s 2007 campaign.

Matthew Parker has been director of legislative affairs for the governor’s office at $120,000 per year since Oct. 16, 2012. Before that, from Nov. 28, 2011 until being named to his current position, he was director of intergovernmental affairs at $95,000 per year.

But other than Timmy Teepell, Parker was the highest-paid Jindal campaign staffer, knocking down nearly $35,000 in seven months in 2007 and more than $79,400 in the first 11 months of 2011 for a grand total of more than $114,000.

Perhaps it’s only coincidence that Parker is Timmy Teepell’s brother-in-law.

The two lowest-paid employees in the governor’s office who also worked for his campaign at least have the consolation of getting frequent rides in state police helicopters.

Tyler Brey, who received $18,500 for working for seven months in the 2011 campaign, went on the state dime on March 11, 2013 as a $33,000-per-year external affairs liaison, whatever that fancy title entails. Last Oct. 1, even as state classified employees were going without a pay increase for a fifth consecutive year, Brey received a $1,300-per-year raise to $34,300. Brey also made 42 trips on the state police ‘copter, always accompanying Jindal as his sycophant, to such exotic getaways as Monroe, Springhill, Ruston, Jena, Winnfield, Delhi, and Mansfield, among others.

One of those trips Brey made with Jindal and communications director Kyle Plotkin, was to Minden on Feb. 3, 2013, eight days before he officially became a state employee.

The other frequent flyer was Daniel Kirk, who was paid $24,000 by the Jindal 2007 campaign before joining the governor’s office on Jan. 14, 2008, the same day Jindal was inaugurated for his first term.

He started as a $35,000-a-year administrative assistant and four months later was named a program manager at the same salary. But on Feb. 22, 2010, he was named a director in the governor’s office. It wasn’t altogether clear what a director does, but it must be pretty impressive considering he got a $30,000 bump in pay—to $65,000 but still $45,000 less than fellow director Ringo.

Kirk got to visit some of the same locales as Brey and got the added treat of flying to Georgetown in LaSalle Parish and Kinder in southwest Louisiana. He and Jindal also made a hop to Columbia, home of State Sen. Neil Riser, just about the time U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander was getting ready to announce his retirement so that Riser could run for his seat—unsuccessfully, it turned out.

In all, Kirk made 49 trips with Jindal in the state police helicopters, 19 of those during the 2011 election year and the other 30 in 2010, the year leading up to Jindal’s re-election run.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty that Jindal and his campaign-workers-turned-state-employees were using the state helicopters for campaign purposes, but with Jindal making nearly 200 ‘copter trips in 2010 and 2011, often accompanied by Sellers, Kirk or Timmy or Taylor Teepell or Brey, compared to only 86 during the next three years combined, one has to wonder.

And with the controversy sparked by Sellers and Meghan and Frank Collins in Florida in their attempts to commandeer state vehicles for campaign purposes, one also has to wonder if the “Louisiana Mafia” was only trying to repeat in Florida what they may have done with impunity in Louisiana in 2010 and 2011.

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We really don’t like clichés and while it may be the pot calling the kettle black, a rose by any other name should be avoided like the plague. And at the end of the day, we like to think outside the box and avoid the low hanging fruit.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Take, for example, the latest twist in the saga of Walter Monsour, erstwhile Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority (RDA), an agency responsible for the redevelopment of blighted areas of East Baton Rouge Parish.

The problem was that RDA was operating on a shoestring budget of $847,000 and from that meager allocation, Monsour was drawing down $365,000 in salary and benefits—about 43 percent of the agency’s total budget.

On top of that, his son’s law firm was getting about $190,000 in contract payments from firms that received contract payments from RDA.

Mayor-President Kip Holden had earlier rejected RDA’s request for $3 million in funding from the city-parish and funding from federal tax credit programs had been drying up.

Under fire for his salary, Monsour resigned in November. In his resignation letter, he said he made his decision to leave in order to “extend the financial life of the RDA.”

Of course that’s not the end of the story. Things just don’t end that way in the realm of Louisiana politics and the politically connected.

Monsour, it turns out, has landed on his feet. He has been hired by CSRS, Inc., a self-described firm of engineers, architects, planners, surveyors and fund-sourcing experts.

Monsour joins the Baton Rouge-based firm’s “senior leadership team” and will lead a newly-formed private sector development business unit, according to an announcement by CSRS.

If the name CSRS seems familiar, perhaps it’s because we included them in our recent post about state contracts and campaign contributions to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In that post, we discussed Jindal’s executive order to cut back on state contracts and speculated whether or not those cuts would apply to those who contributed generously to his various political campaigns.

We noted that CSRS had a $5 million contract with the state—to provide landman services on an “as-needed” basis—and that the company and its principals had contributed $10,000 to Jindal.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It turns out CSRS has been awarded 11 contracts totaling $15.2 million during Jindal’s administration and the campaign contributions total $20,000.

There were, besides the $5 million contract, which began on July 1, 2013 and will end on June 30, 2016, two others which combined to account for the bulk of that $15.2 million.

The first was a contract with the Office of Coastal Restoration for $4.1 million that ran from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2011 that called for the firm to “augment” existing professional engineering staff. Upon expiration, it was immediately renewed for $4.2 million.

As for Monsour, he may have been thrown under the bus but he’s got his game face on and it looks like a win-win situation for him as he steps up to the plate with his boots on the ground for this cash cow and you can bet he won’t leave any money on the table.

And that’s the elephant in the room.

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           As 2014 winds down, we decided that everyone else does a year-end wrap-up of the year’s significant events, so why not us?

            Accordingly, here is our review of the first six months of LouisianaVoice installments. The last six months will appear on Wednesday (Dec. 31).

JANUARY

IT Contractor linked to Obamacare, other problems:

A company holding two contracts with the State of Louisiana worth $32.8 million was the lead IT contractor of the ill-fated Affordable Health Care enrollment web page rolled out late last year.

CGI Technologies and Solutions, headquartered in Quebec, has experienced problems with other contracts in Canada and the U.S. even before the Obamacare debacle.

CGI Technologies and Solutions was awarded a $32.5 million contract with the Office of Community Development’s (OCD) Disaster Recovery Unit (DRU) on March 2, 2012 to provide computer software hosting, support and training for OCD’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), small rental programs.

That contract is scheduled to run out on March 1, 2015.

CGI executives have been involved with at least 20 other troubled government IT projects, including one contract to automate retirements for millions of federal employees that went $60 million over budget and despite $2.3 billion in contracts with two dozen federal agencies, the company was rejected by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) because of “performance issues” in carrying out an earlier contract.

HGI ties to Jindal, Christie:

MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal have begun focusing attention on a Louisiana firm with more than $200 million in contracts with both the Chris Christie and Jindal administrations for federally-funded relief to hurricane victims.

Hammerman & Gainer, Inc., or HGI, of Lutcher, was awarded a $68 million contract in May of 2013 to oversee two programs distributing $780 million in federal money to Sandy victims. That contract was cancelled only six months later, on Dec. 6, 2013, because of mounting complaints about delays in processing claims.

New Jersey homeowners say they have been unable to get answers, paperwork has been misplaced and HGI employees, most of whom are temporary employees, could not be reached by phone and that the company’s recovery centers change rules midstream and that no reconstruction program grants to thousands of applicants already approved have yet been awarded.

HGI also just happens to hold a $60 million contract with the Louisiana Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit to administer the state’s Road Home Program. That contract began on March 20, 2012, and ends on March 19, 2015. Prior to that contract, HGI had a similar contract for $83.3 million which ran from March 20, 2009 to March 19, 2012. The $83.3 million contract replaced a $912 million contract with ICF Emergency Management Services of Baton Rouge.

In New Jersey, HGI hired Glenn Paulsen, former chief of the Burlington County Republicans, as its legal counsel when it submitted its bid to run the two Sandy relief programs. Paulsen’s law firm Capehart Scatchard, made a $25,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association which Christie now heads.

HGI contributed $15,000 to Jindal in three equal contributions in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The company also gave $7,500 to Robert Wooley ($2,500 in 2003 and $5,000 in 2002), $5,000 to the Republican Party of Louisiana, $5,000 in 2011, to New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin in March of 2006, only months after Hurricane Katrina, and $7,500 to his successor Mitch Landrieu in equal contributions of $2,500 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In addition, HGI President Larry Oney gave $5,000 to Jindal’s campaign in 2008.

Alvarez & Marsal gets fat at state trough:

Jindal also awarded a four-month contract to Alvarez & Marsal for a tad more than $5 million that called for the firm to deliver $500 million in savings to the state.

A & M’s cozy if disastrous relationship with state government goes back further than Jindal. In December of 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board adopted Resolution 59-05 on the advice of the consulting firm.

The resolution, passed in the aftermath of disastrous Hurricane Katrina was specifically cited in the ruling earlier this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal that upheld a lower court decision the school board was wrong to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006.

Then-State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard chose Alvarez & Marsal to prevail upon the school board to replace acting parish Superintendent Ora Watson with an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

So, Watson was replaced, 7,500 teachers were fired, the teachers sued and won, leaving the Orleans School Board and the state liable for a billion-five and the firm that started it all is hired by Jindal to find a $500,000 savings.

Alvarez & Marsal is specifically cited—by name—no fewer than six times in the first 51 pages of a 2009 report calling for the privatizing the state’s charity hospital system. Alvarez & Marsal performed that bit of work under a $1.7 million contract that ran for nine months in 2009, from Jan. 5 to Sept. 30.

The firm also received a $250,000, contract of a much shorter duration (10 days) from Jindal on April 9, 2013, to develop Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state income taxes in favor of other tax increases. That plan was dead on arrival during the legislative session and Jindal quickly punted before a single legislative vote could be taken.

The obvious next step for Jindal was to

Problems continue at OGB:

Charles Calvi and Patrick Powers are out at the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Susan West, late of the Office of Risk Management has been named Interim CEO—the fourth person to head OGB in less than three years.

Meanwhile, that $540 million reserve fund balance OGB had on hand to pay benefits at the time of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s infamous raping of the agency now sit at $240 million and is dwindling at a rate of $20 million per month, no doubt the result of Jindal’s 7 percent premium reduction six months before the January 2013 takeover of OGB by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Louisiana.

FEBRUARY

Adley’s not-so-hidden agenda:

State Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) filed Senate Bill 79 which was designed to give Jindal even more power by giving him greater freedom in appointing members of a levee board, specifically the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities of both the east and west banks.

The bill was a counteroffensive to attempts by the east bank authority to push for a historic lawsuit that would hold oil and gas companies responsible for damages to coastal wetlands.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East (SLFPAE) was attempting to force the oil and gas companies to pay for the state’s coastal restoration efforts.

The lawsuit claimed that the companies destroyed the state’s coastal wetlands by dredging canals that contributed to erosion. The marshes had served as a natural buffer that mitigated storm surge. The suit, if successful, could cost the companies billions of dollars.

Adley’s bill should come as no surprise, given his opposition to the lawsuit but some might question why Adley would oppose the legal action against the companies in the first place.

One consideration could be that he has owned pelican Gas Management Co. since 1993, was president of ABCO Petroleum from 1972 to 1993, is affiliated with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and has been the recipient of more than $150,000 in campaign contributions over the years from companies, political action committees, and individuals affiliated with or controlled by oil and gas interests.

Adley’s bill was assigned to the Senate Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee. The chairman of Transportation, Highways & Public Works?

Robert Adley.

Jindal tantrum goes national:

Jindal’s outburst upon exiting a meeting between the nation’s governors and President Barack Obama Monday was a petulant display of immaturity that only served to underscore his disgraceful scorn for Louisiana’s working poor in favor of pandering to the mega-rich Koch brothers in the apparent hope that some of their Americans for Prosperity (AFP) money might find its way into his campaign coffers.

His shameless promotion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project coupled with his criticism of Obama’s push for a minimum wage increase comes on the heels of word that Jindal is literally stealing from the blind in drawing down more than half of a trust fund established to assist blind vendors in state buildings to purchase equipment, to pay for repairs and to pay medical bills.

That trust fund shrank from $1.6 million to about $700,000, apparently because of yet another lawsuit the administration found itself embroiled in over the delivery of food services at Fort Polk in Leesville that sucked up $365,000 just for the state’s 21 percent share of attorney fees.

Jindal said of Obama’s push for an increase in the minimum wage that the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” and that Obama’s economy “is now the minimum wage economy.”

CIA kidnap accomplice locates in Bossier City

A photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

CSC customers, meanwhile, were being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA.

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and Cyber Research Park are nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.

MARCH

Jindal contributor benefits from state road work

The controversy over that 55,000 hunting lodge that straddles three central Louisiana parishes has taken a new and curious twist as the result of a $1.7 million highway resurfacing project that conveniently runs right past the entrance to the lodge that is owned by a major contributor to Gov. Bobby Jindal and to unsuccessful congressional candidate State Sen. Neil Riser.

The overlay of LA. 127, also known locally as the Olla-Sikes Highway, started on Feb. 20 at the Caldwell Parish line and run 5.5 miles east in Winn Parish to LA. 1238, according to an announcement by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD).

The LA. 127 project ends at the camp entrance and at the property of TV reality show Swamp People star Troy “Choot ‘em” Landry, whose campsite is located within the hunting camp.

A search of political campaign contributions show that camp owner Bill Busbice and his wife, Beth each contributed the maximum allowable $2,600 ($5,200 total) to State Sen. Neil Riser’s campaign for the 5th Congressional District seat won by Vance McAllister.

Jindal also picked up $20,000 from Busbice and Alfred Lippman of Morgan City, the registered agent for Olla Productions, LLC., one of Busbice’s may business entities.

Busbice contributed $5,000 to Jindal in April of 2009 and Beth Busbice gave another $5,000 in December of that same year, while Lippman contributed $5,000 in October of 2003, $3,500 in April of 2009 and his firm, Lippman, Malfouz, Tranchina & Thorguson of Morgan City gave another $1,500 in September of 2010.

Additionally, one of Lippman’s law partners, David Thorguson and his wife contributed $1,300 to Jindal, Jindal campaign records show.

Appel’s shrewd investments:

State Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) purchased Discovery Communications stock in 2010 a week before a major announcement of a partnership between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Capitol News Service has learned.

On Dec. 7, 2010, Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, announced that Louisiana and Indiana had joined Oregon in adopting the Discovery Education Science Techbook as a digital core instructional resource for elementary and middle school science instruction.

Appel is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and was in a unique position to know not only of the pending deal between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) but also of the company’s recent agreement with Indiana and Oregon, as well as Texas and Florida.

Appel’s financial disclosure form obtained from the State Board of Ethics indicates his Discovery Communications stock purchase was for “between $5,000 and $24,999.”

Discovery Communications is traded on NASDAQ and on the date of Appel’s purchase, the company’s shares opened at $40.96 and closed at $40.78.

And while there was no significant movement in the stock’s prices on the date of and on the day’s following Discovery’s announcement of the agreement with BESE, the stock hit a high of $90.21 per share on Jan. 2 of this year, meaning Appel’s on-paper profit after a little more than three years was in excess of 100 percent. The stock closed on March 27 at $75.72, still an 85 percent gain for Appel.

Appel’s 2012 financial report reveals that he also purchased between $5,000 and $24,999 of Microsoft stock on June 4, 2012, the same date that the Louisiana Legislature adjourned its 85-day session.

Ten days earlier, on May 25, the Louisiana Legislature approved the implementation of Common Core in Louisiana after a major push by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which poured more than $200 million to develop, review, evaluate, promote and implement Common Core.

APRIL

Deputy Sheriff dabbles in private background checks:

A former DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputy may have violated state law by using his office to run background checks for a company in which he owned a major interest, according to a report by the Legislative Auditor’s office in Baton Rouge.

Lagniappe and Castillo Research and Investigations ran 41,574 background checks through the sheriff’s office during an 11-month period between April 1, 2012, and February 28, 2013, the report says. Robert Davidson, retired chief investigator for the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, is 50 percent owner of Lagniappe and Castillo. He was employed by DPSO from 1980 until his retirement in May of 2013.

The report, released on Monday, also noted that three DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office (DPSO) employees were paid nearly $2,000 by Lagniappe and Castillo Research and Investigations for running the background checks between January 2011 and May 2013, duties they would normally perform as part of their jobs with the sheriff’s office.

The company charged its customers $12 for each background report and paid the sheriff’s office $3 for each report. That represents an income of more than $374,000 and a profit of more than $372,000 for owners Robert Davidson and Allan Neal Castillo.

Extortion claimed on state highway project:

A six and one-half-year-old lawsuit took a dramatic turn following a Mangham contractor’s claim that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) denied payments for work performed by his company because he resisted shake-down efforts by a DOTD inspector.

Jeff Mercer owner of the now-defunct construction company that bears his name, worked as a subcontractor to several prime contractors on six different projects for which he has not been paid. He first filed his lawsuit against DOTD on Sept. 7, 2007, in state district court in Monroe, claiming that the state owes him nearly $9 million for actual work done for which he was never paid, plus interest and delay costs which bring the total to more than $11.6 million.

The $500 million savings report by Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) was finally released on Monday only minutes before adjournment of the 2014 legislative session.

The 425-page report, produced under a $5 million contract, while projecting a savings of $2.7 billion over five years (an average of $540 million a year).

Most of the projected cost savings were based on assumptions for which A&M offered little or no supporting data other than arbitrary estimates and suppositions that could have been produced at a fraction of the report’s $11,760 per-page cost.

MAY

It pays to play I:

If there are any lingering doubts that politicians are beholden to the special interest who bankroll their campaigns, consider the money that has been spread among our state lawmakers—just from the oil and gas interests:

  • The 144 incumbent legislators have received more than $5.8 million in campaign contributions by a single special interest group—oil and gas. That comes to an average of $40,357 per legislator.
  • For the 39 current members of the Louisiana Senate, the aggregate is a little north of $2.8 million, or $51,100 each.
  • A total of $2.99 million was distributed among the 105 House members—an average of $40350 each, the figures show.

So, by obtaining a dismissal of litigation that could conceivably cost oil companies several hundred million dollars—before it ever goes to trial or even to the discovery stage—by spreading $5.8 million around represents a nice return on investment.

And make no mistake about it: campaign contributions are just that—investments.

It pays to play II:

The Senate Finance Committee on Sunday (Sen. Dan Claitor discarded their oaths of office—their sworn duty to protect the interests of the people of Louisiana—in favor of political expedience of the very lowest sort by ripping $4.5 million from the budget for Louisiana’s developmentally disabled and allocating the money for a Verizon IndyCar Series race at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish.

LouisianaVoice conducted a search of the Secretary of State’s web page to learn the identities of the NOLA Motor Club corporate officers and whose name should pop up as one of the principals? Laney Chouest, that’s who.

So, who is Laney Chouest, you ask?

Well, he also showed up as an officer in a few other corporations run by the politically active Chouest family of Galliano. Their main business is in shipbuilding and Laney Chouest was listed as an officer in Edison Chouest Offshore, Inc., Alpha Marine Service Holdings, LLC. and Beta Marine Services, LLC., to name only three.

So, armed with that information we did a campaign contribution search of only the last name of Chouest and we hit the mother lode.

Between 2007 and 2010, members of the Chouest family and their various businesses contributed $106,500 to Jindal.

JUNE

Legislator’s firm cited for environmental infractions:

A citation and a cease order issued to Dual Trucking Co. by the Montana Department of Environmental Equality for dumping oilfield radioactive waste from the nearby Bakken Oilfield, it turns out, is not the only problem State Rep. Gordon Dove (R-Houma) has experienced with environmental authorities, Capitol News Service has learned.

Vacco Marine, Inc., a company owned by Dove, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, has been the subject of several investigations, negative reports, citations, and compliance orders by and from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) over a period of several years, records show.

Last week, while presiding over a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee, he joined 12 other members in passing an amendment to SB 469 that made the prohibition against suing oil companies for damages to the state’s wetlands and marshes retroactive.

Dove also serves as a member of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Lobbyists swarm to protect BP:

By now, most people who have followed the bill authored by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) but inspired by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) know that big oil poured money and thousands of lobbying man hours into efforts to pass the bill with it accompanying amendment that makes the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was thwarted.

Most followers of the legislature and of the lawsuit also know that up to 70 legal scholars, along with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, strongly advised Jindal to veto the law because of the threat to the pending BP litigation.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators received more than $5 million and Jindal himself received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests. Allain received $30,000 from the oil lobby and Adley an eye-popping $600,000.

So, when BP lobbyists began swarming around the Capitol like so many blow flies around a bloated carcass, the assumption was that BP somehow had a stake in the passage of SB 469 and that infamous amendment making the bill retroactive.

John Barry, a former SLFPA-E who was given the Jindal Teague Treatment but who stuck around to pursue the lawsuit, said, “During the last few days of the session, we were very well aware that the BP lobbyists were extraordinarily active. They were all over the place. We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

Blogger Lamar White, Jr. observed that former Gov. Edwin Edwards spent eight years in a federal prison for accepting payments from hopeful casino operators for his assistance in obtaining licenses—all after he left office. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was similarly convicted of using his position to steer business to a family-owned company and taking free vacations meals and cell phones from people attempting to score contracts or incentives from the city.

So what is the difference between what they did and the ton of contributions received by Adley and Jindal? To paraphrase my favorite playwright Billy Wayne Shakespeare, a payoff by any other name smells just as rank.

And while big oil money flowed like liquor at the State Capitol (figuratively of course; it’s illegal to make or accept campaign contributions during the legislative session), what many may not know is that Jindal may have had an ulterior motive in going against sound legal advice to sign the bill into law, thus protecting the interests of big oil over the welfare of Louisiana citizens who have seen frightening erosion of the state’s shoreline and freshwater marshes.

The Washington, D.C., law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is one of the firms that represented BP in negotiating a $4.5 billion settlement that ended criminal charges against the company. Included in that settlement amount was a $1.26 billion criminal fine to be paid over five years.

An associate of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has defended clients in government audit cases and in several whistleblower cases is one Nikesh Jindal.

He also is assigned to the division handling the BP case.

Nikesh Jindal is the younger brother of Gov. Piyush, aka Bobby Jindal.

Suddenly, John Barry’s words take on a little more significance: “We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

By now, most people who have followed the bill authored by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) but inspired by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) know that big oil poured money and thousands of lobbying man hours into efforts to pass the bill with it accompanying amendment that makes the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was thwarted.

Most followers of the legislature and of the lawsuit also know that up to 70 legal scholars, along with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, strongly advised Jindal to veto the law because of the threat to the pending BP litigation.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators received more than $5 million and Jindal himself received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests. Allain received $30,000 from the oil lobby and Adley an eye-popping $600,000.

So, when BP lobbyists began swarming around the Capitol like so many blow flies around a bloated carcass, the assumption was that BP somehow had a stake in the passage of SB 469 and that infamous amendment making the bill retroactive.

John Barry, a former SLFPA-E who was given the Jindal Teague Treatment but who stuck around to pursue the lawsuit, said, “During the last few days of the session, we were very well aware that the BP lobbyists were extraordinarily active. They were all over the place. We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

 

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