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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

Two emails popped up on our computer on Wednesday that we simply could not ignore and while the messages concern men who have an intense dislike for each other, the emails are nevertheless related in ways that should offend every voter citizen in Louisiana.

If you were not already turned off by Bobby Jindal and David Vitter, these should do it. If not, then you are part of the problem.

The first is a response to one of our readers from U.S. Sen. David Vitter, the odds-on favorite to become Louisiana’s next governor.

Our reader had written Vitter to ask for his support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that said corporations and unions may not be restricted from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections, in effect giving corporations the same rights as citizens. (The exception is that citizens may be sentenced to prison terms for white collar crimes while corporations may only be fined—usually in amounts far less than the financial gains realized from the criminal activity.)

Anyone who still does not see the manner in which money buys elections in this country—from legislators all the way up to president of the United States—either is a special interest lobbyist, a corporatist power broker, or someone who lives under a rock.

Vitter, in his response, somehow managed to morph the request for the regulation of campaign finance to the muzzling of free speech. “Thank you for contacting me in support of a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and states to regulate campaign finance and political speech,” he said.

“As you know,” he said, “more than 40 Senate Democrats are supporting an amendment to the Constitution to allow regulations on political speech during federal elections. This proposal comes in response to multiple United States Supreme Court cases upholding the free speech protections enshrined in the First Amendment.”

Right away, he manages to turn it into a Democrat vs. Republican rather than a bipartisan issue. Somehow, when they get to Washington, they just have to make everything an us vs. them fight—like it would kill them to ever admit anyone in the other party might have a good idea. No wonder Congress has such a low approval rating, right down there with televangelists. And we just as quickly get the feeling that Vitter isn’t going to be very sympathetic to any suggestion of campaign reform. Not that’s any real surprise; a special super political action committee was set up on Vitter’s behalf earlier this year to help catapult him into the governor’s office. That PAC, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, immediately funneled more than $3 million into his campaign.

But back to his email:

“Proponents of the amendment argue that corporations and individuals should be limited in their ability to indirectly support or oppose federal candidates, but the amendment would grant Congress power to pass new statutory limitations on political speech that could impact anyone,” he said.

Oh, please.

“I fear that its adoption would allow Congress to regulate everyone from the Sierra Club to the National Rifle Association, pro-life and pro-choice groups, and could even suppress publishers and producers from releasing new books and movies that pertain to a candidate.”

What unmitigated B.S.

“Moreover, nothing in this amendment is limited to corporations or billionaires; it could easily include limitations on the rights of every American. A free society must engage in robust discourse in search of truth,” he continued in his self-serving gooneybabble.

“Objectionable speech should be confronted in the free marketplace of ideas where the best ideas win out, not through government regulations.

“Never in the history of the Constitution have we amended the Bill of Rights. I firmly disagree that we should do so now, especially not a right so fundamental to who we are as a nation. Although we disagree, rest assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind.”

So the bottom line is Mr. Vitter, who desires to be our next governor, wants corporations, lobbyists and special interest organizations with the financial clout to continue to buy access while drowning out our voices—to club our ideas, letters, emails and small (read: meaningless) contributions into so much pulp with their millions of dollars.

Mr. Vitter’s version of free speech—speech that favors those who are connected and who have the financial resources to purchase elections and politicians—is precisely what is wrong with the political system in the United States—and Louisiana.

The plain truth is Vitter is trying to purchase the governor’s office with his PAC and well-heeled political supporters who are contributing to his campaign not in the interest of good government but in the expectation of some quid pro quo in the form of contracts or favorable legislation. In other words, the buddy system wins, the state of Louisiana loses.

That email is just the sort of thing that State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) should plaster all over every newspaper and television station in the state to show the real manner in which David Vitter views democracy and free speech.

And those views have nothing to do with representative government. They are to be used as a vehicle to roll over honest, hard-working citizens and, in the process, to make them think he’s doing them a favor. It’s all about convincing the great unwashed to vote against their own best interests by waving the flag and finding new enemies to hate.

The other email was a report in Wednesday’s online edition of the Baton Rouge Business Report, edited by Rolfe McCollister, a Jindal appointee to the LSU Board of Supervisors and who served as campaign treasurer of Jindal’s gubernatorial campaign and who now serves a treasurer of his presidential campaign.

That story said Jindal, who announced he was a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination just a week before the close of the second quarter fundraising period, raised $578,758 in that first week.

In all, he has raised more than $9 million, with the bulk of that (more than $8.6 million) raised through super PACs—the American Future Project, Believe Again, and the America Next non-profit—which only reinforces what we said above about the unlevel playing field created by PACs.

The report said that 87 percent of Jindal’s campaign donors contributed $100 or less.

That’s the same kind of garbage he once tried to feed us about the contributions to his governor’s campaign. Trouble is, readers should not listen to what he says but rather to what is not said.

In poring over his initial presidential campaign report (yes, we do that), we found 180 contributors gave the maximum $2,700. That included multiple members of the same household, or in the case of the Madden Construction family in Minden, eight separate Maddens contributed $2,700 each.

The 180 individual donors combined to account for $486,000 of that $578,758. Two of those donors were listed as giving additional checks of $5,400 each (which exceeds federal limits, but we’ll leave that to the Federal Elections Commission). Moreover, an organization identified as the Smoke Bend Political Action Committee ponied up another $5,000.

That runs the subtotal to $501,800.

Continuing down the list, we find that 14 individuals gave $1,000 each, 21 gave $500 each, 42 contributed $250 each, five gave $350 and two more chipped in $300 each.

Altogether, that comes to $538,800, or 93 percent of the total $578,758 and it leaves only about $40,000 for that 87 percent who gave $100 or less. Don’t listen to what they say; hear what they’re not saying.

So the point is, the big money donors simply overwhelm the small donors and to say that most of his donors were small donors is deliberately misleading and disingenuous.

But just for argument’s sake, let’s take a look at a few of major donors.

  • Rolfe McCollister (LSU Board of Supervisors member) and Gene McCollister of Baton Rouge, $2700 each;
  • Hank Danos (LSU Board) and Rodlyn Danos of Larose, $2700 each;
  • Jack Lawton (LSU Board) and Holly Lawton of Lake Charles, $2700 each;
  • Jim McCrery (LSU Board), $2700;
  • Robert Yarborough (LSU Board) and Marsha Yarborough of Baton Rouge, $2700 each;
  • Chester Lee Mallett (LSU Board) and son Brad Mallett of Iowa, LA., $2700 each;
  • James Moore (LSU Board) and Lynn Moore of Monroe, $2700 each;
  • Scott Ballard (LSU Board) and Kristi Ballard of Covington, $2700 each;
  • Blake Chatelain (LSU Board) of Alexandria, $2700;
  • David Madden, Connie Madden, Sharon Madden, Lydia Madden, James Madden, John Madden, Melissa Madden and Douglas Madden, all of Minden, $2700 each;
  • Former Congressman Robert Livingston and Bonnie Livingston of Alexandria, VA., $2700 each;
  • Former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater of Baton Rouge, $2700;
  • Louisiana Department of Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield and Nan Barfield of Baton Rouge, $2700 each;
  • Publisher of Baton Rouge Business Report Julio Melara of Baton Rouge, appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, $2700;
  • Robert Bruno of Covington, appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, $2700;
  • J.E. Brignac of Prairieville, appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, $2700;
  • William Windham of Bossier City, appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, and Carol Windham, $2700 each;
  • Former Jindal Executive Counsel Jimmy Faircloth of Pineville, $2700.

Those are just a few, but they account for $94,500. Not too much in the way of contributions outside Louisiana. Apparently the price of being appointed to a prestigious board or commission is not only to vote the way you’re told (see LSU board’s vote on firing presidents, doctors and attorneys, and on giving away state hospitals) but to pony up campaign funds when the boss comes calling.

Conspicuously absent (with only a couple of exceptions), however, were the names of Indian-Americans who practically lined up to contribute to his gubernatorial campaigns of 2003, 2007 and 2011 before watching in dismay as he began to distance himself from his Indian heritage, claiming that he did not believe in hyphenated-Americans.

 

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PLEASE MOVE TO THE END OF THE LINE(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of her questionable expenditures included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two things can occur to rein in this abuse:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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