Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

The numbers just don’t add up.

  • $130,000: The annual salary for the Louisiana governor;
  • 48,014: The number of broadcast TV ads for the four major candidates for governor through Nov. 16, 2015;
  • 24,007: The number of minutes of TV ads we were subjected to through Nov. 16 (at an average length of 30 seconds per ad);
  • 400: The total number of hours of TV ads for governor through Nov. 16;
  • 16.67: The number of days it would have taken you to watch every single ad through Nov. 16;
  • $17,333,920: The total cost of the 48,014 TV ads for the four major gubernatorial candidates (No wonder that Baton Rouge TV station fired the reporter who dared ask Vitter about his prostitution scandal; the station stood to lose lucrative ad revenue from the Vitter camp);
  • 13,654: The number ads purchased directly by David Vitter’s campaign (6,827 minutes, 113.8 hours, 4.7 full days of ads;
  • $3,816,660: Total cost of TV ads purchased by Vitter’s campaign;
  • 6,771: Number of ads purchased by Fund for Louisiana’s Future on behalf of Vitter (and make no mistake, while super PACs are prohibited from planning strategy or even consulting with a candidate, they can trash opponents freely and FLF trashed everyone but Vitter—3,385 minutes, 56 hours, 2.4 days);
  • $3,185,640: The cost of TV ads purchased by FLF through Nov. 16;
  • 9,259: Number of ads purchased by John Bel Edwards campaign (4,629 minutes, 77 hours, 3.2 days)
  • $2,675,600: Cost of TV ads purchased by John Bel Edwards;
  • 2,315: Number of TV ads purchased by Gumbo PAC on behalf of Edwards (1,157 minutes, 19.3 hours, .8 days)
  • $1,204,010: Cost of TV ads purchased by Gumbo PAC, the bulk of which was purchased after the Oct. 24 open primary;
  • 4,679: Number of TV ads purchased by Scott Angelle through Oct. 24 (2,340 minutes, 39 hours, 1.6 days)
  • $1,528,340: Cost of TV ads purchased by Scott Angelle;
  • 3,968: Number of TV ads purchased by Jay Dardenne through Oct. 24 (1,984 minutes, 33 hours, 1.4 days)
  • $1,285,380: Total cost of TV ads purchased by Jay Dardenne;
  • 7,368: Total number of TV ads purchased by smaller PACs (3,684 minutes, 61.4 hours, 2.6 days)
  • 0: The number of ads, the minutes, hours and days and the cost of TV ads in which any of the four candidates actually discussed their plans for resolving the multitude of problems facing Louisiana in public education, higher education, health care, prison reform, employment, coastal restoration and preservation, the environment, the economy, the state budget, or infrastructure.

And therein lies the real shame of the 2015 gubernatorial election.

With so much at stake for the state and with more than 16 full days of TV ad time in which to address our problems, not a word was said by any candidate about what he intended to do to turn this state around after eight years of the amateurish experimental governance of one Bobby Jindal that has brought us to the brink of ruin.

I repeat. Not a single word.

Instead, we were treated to a never-ending barrage of:

  • David Vitter is a snake for his tryst(s) with one or more hookers and is not only despised in the U.S. Senate but is largely an ineffective senator;
  • David Vitter betrayed his family 15 years ago but has been forgiven by his wife and has fought valiantly in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Louisiana’s citizens;
  • John Bel Edwards is joined at the hip with President Obama and desires to turn 5,500 hardened Angola convicts loose to prey on our citizenry;
  • John Bell Edwards has an unblemished record of achievement as evidenced by his graduation from West Point and his subsequent leadership role in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne and has fought Bobby Jindal’s disastrous programs for eight years.

As the voters of this state who have to make a decision tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 21), we are tired—tired of the negative campaigning, tired of the distortions of records and outright lies about opposing candidates, tired of the endless succession of robocalls that give us not a live person with whom we can debate issues, but a recording that pitches one candidate’s positives over another’s negatives. (It’s just not the same when we curse and scream our frustrations at a recording.) We deserved better from all the candidates. We got a campaign long on accusations, name-calling and finger-pointing and one woefully short on solutions.

And lest readers think I am directing all of my disdain at the gubernatorial candidates, let me assure you I am not. I have equal contempt for the legislature, PACs and corporate power brokers.

Consider for a moment how approximately $31 million (that’s the total cost of this year’s governor’s race when all media advertising—radio, newspaper, robocalls and mail-outs, along with campaign staff and assorted expenses—are factored in) could have been put to better use. http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/13971699-123/louisiana-governor-race-spending-close

True, $31 million isn’t much when the state is looking at yet another $500 million budgetary shortfall, but every little bit helps. These donors, so concerned about the governor’s race, could, for example, feed a lot of homeless people or purchase quite a few text books for our schools. I’m just sayin’….

Most of that money, of course, is from PACs, the single worst plague ever visited upon a democratic society. PACs, with their unrestricted advertising expenditures, along with large corporate donors who also manage to circumvent the campaign contribution ceilings, remove the small contributors and the average citizen from the representation equation.

And why do they pour money into these campaigns? For benevolence, for the advancement of good, clean, honest government.

You can check that box no. It’s for the same reason they pay millions of dollars to lobbyists.

If you really want to know their motivation, just take a look at the list of state contracts http://wwwprd.doa.louisiana.gov/latrac/contracts/contractSearch.cfm or the impressive list of appointments to state boards and commissions.

Our thanks to the Center for Public Integrity for providing us with the television advertising cost breakdowns for the candidates and the various PACs. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/10/01/18101/2015-state-ad-wars-tracker


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Now that Bobby Jindal has confronted reality and “suspended” (as opposed to terminated; the two terms are not the same) his moribund presidential campaign, several questions linger about his future and that of his hangers-on, not that anyone in Louisiana—or Iowa—really cares anymore.

There are also questions about how he will dispose of the approximately $261,000 remaining in his mostly depleted campaign fund. http://www.fec.gov/fecviewer/CandidateCommitteeDetail.do

Contributions had slowed to a mere trickle in the last quarter of his campaign which, combined with his inability to climb above 1 percent in the polls, prompted him to finally admit what everyone has known for some time now: “This is not my time.” Hell, even his kids knew that when he staged that creepy announcement to them that he put up on this campaign web page back in June and then immediately took down after national ridicule of the awkwardness of the entire video.

Campaign manager Timmy Teepell apparently remains flummoxed as to why his boy was banished to the standup comedy/concert equivalent of warmup act in the Republican debates. Well, Timmy, it shouldn’t have been a secret to anyone with a clue. Bobby simply had nothing to bring to the table.

So, what does Timmy do now? Given his disastrous handling of a disastrous campaign for a disastrous candidate, it would seem his options in future political endeavors are seriously limited.

As for Bobby, he probably won’t miss a beat. In fact, the rhetoric is not likely to be altered one iota as he eases back into his role as head of America Next, his nonprofit think tank.

He started America Next as a vehicle for all those self-righteous op-eds to support his ultra-right wing exclusionary philosophy that he attempts to pass off as policy papers on issues ranging from immigration to health care to lowering taxes for the rich and for corporations.

Which brings us to the question of what he will do with that $261,000 hanging around in his campaign bank account.

Time was a retiring office holder or losing candidate for office could simply convert leftover campaign funds to his personal bank account provided he reported the money as income and paid income taxes on the money.

No more. But other than that one prohibition, the rules are pretty loose as to what a politician can do with surplus funds.

He can hold on the money in case he ever decides to seek office again or he can contribute to his party or other candidates.

Or he can “donate” the extra campaign cash to his own nonprofit organization. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/22/ex-politicians-keeping-100-million-in-private-slush-funds.html

Like America Next. http://believeagain.gop/

Or leadership political action committees (PACs) http://classroom.synonym.com/left-over-campaign-funds-after-elections-17435.html

Like Believe Again. http://believeagain.gop/

Both the brainchildren of Bobby Jindal, America Next and Believe Again basically serve the same purpose—to promote the aspirations and agenda of Bobby Jindal.

And, like Dave Vitter’s Fund for Louisiana’s Future (FLF) and Vitter’s campaign committee, the two share a key player. With Vitter, it is Courtney Guastella Callihan who serves as his campaign finance director and as head of FLF.

With Jindal, it’s Jill Neunaber who ran the day-to-day operations of America Next and Believe Again.

“When I say super PAC, how many people think of a nameless, faceless, shady organization that bombards your television with commercials?” Neunaber asked, adding that Believe Again was a “different kind of super PAC.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inching-up-in-iowa-bobby-jindal-leaves-no-room-on-his-right/2015/10/17/0aea955e-745c-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html

But aren’t nonprofits like America Next supposed to leave the politics to PACs like Believe Again?

Well, yes and no. So, how does one draw the line distinguishing the two?

Nonprofits like America Next which generally support a single candidate have proliferated since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. They perform a variety of functions from helping develop polity to underwriting the costs of advertising.

They differ from candidates’ own campaign committees or super PACs in one major aspect: They are not required to publicly disclose their donors.


Even so, the Center for Public Integrity learned that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) last year contributed $50,000 to America Next. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/17/18867/drug-lobby-gave-50000-pro-jindal-nonprofit

So, while Jindal the presidential aspirant has faded into oblivion, Jindal the opportunist is alive and well, poised to write even more op-eds that promote the tax, health, education, and economic policies that made his eight years as governor such an unqualified success and which established him as a presidential candidate to be reckoned with and an inspiration to Republicans everywhere.

The obvious next step for him, according to longtime political observer Stephen Winham, is to move for a hostile takeover of The 700 Club from fellow failed Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson. There may be more than a grain of truth in Winham’s prognostication. After all, he has already gotten his foot in the door with multiple appearances on Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) http://www.cbn.com/tv/1386878899001?mobile=false#





We heard a rumor that on one of his appearances, he admonished Robertson’s audience to “stop being the stupid Christians,” but we were unable to locate that link. Nor were we able to find the link to a video taken of Jindal and his family from an overhanging tree limb as he told his children of his plans to succeed Robertson.


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A government employee must not be influenced by extraneous factors when making decisions and “never accept for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of governmental duties.

—Code of Ethics for Government Service.

Senators may not hold government officials captive by tying their personal finances or benefits to their official acts.

—Senate Ethics Manual.

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As predicted, David Jitter Vindal Vitter has unleashed his first attack lie ad against State Rep. John Bel Edwards in their runoff campaign for governor.

Unlike the distortions and lies perpetrated against fellow Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle leading up to last Saturday’s primary election, this ad was paid for the Vitter campaign and not his Washington, D.C.-based super PAC Funds for Louisiana’s Future (FLF).

Nevertheless, lies are lies and Vitter has shown himself to be not only shameless, but a damned cowardly liar as well.

Vitter’s newest ad has all the warmth and charm of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.

For a man with the sordid past of David Vitter, it seems a bit ironic that he would ever approve an ad attacking the character and integrity of another candidate. But hey, that’s Vitter who is rumored to have once asked Rosie O’Donnell if she had ever been mistaken for a man only to have her reply, “No, have you?” (How’s that for an attack ad?)

And events of last Friday (the arrest of his “investigator,” and the auto accident where he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his campaign finance director Courtney Guastella Callihan whose home address coincidentally just happens to be the Louisiana address of FLF (although the Secretary of State’s corporate records contain no listing for FLF).

The Federal Election Commission has no authority over super PACs in state elections. Even if it did, the board is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats and never the twain shall meet. Any oversight is left to state ethics commissions but everyone knows what Bobby Jindal did to the Louisiana Ethics Commission back in 2008, so there’s no help there.

But just in case you might be wondering, a reader has researched the criteria for coordinated communications and independent expenditures:

  • In order to satisfy the payment prong, the communication need only be paid for, in whole or in part, by someone other than a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, a political party committee or an agent of the above.
  • Content – names the candidate.
  • Conduct – If the person paying for the communication employs a common vendor to create, produce or distribute the communication (Emphasis ours).

Guas­tella has been paid $55,476 by Vit­ter’s Sen­ate com­mit­tee since the be­gin­ning of 2013 and $97,273 by the su­per PAC.

FLF paid for media that names the candidate. She is a vendor common to both Vitter and FLF as evidenced by the payments listed above and as campaign finance director and she was responsible for creating communications for the Vitter campaign.

As for that “Willie Horton” ad, one of the things claimed by Vitter was that Edwards advocates releasing 5,500 hardened criminals from prison and that he “voted for taxpayer-funded pensions for convicts.” The ad cited HB 224 as its source without providing a year for the bill.

Well, we went into the Legislature’s web page and called up House Bill 224 for 2015. That bill, it turns out, was filed by Rep. Frank Hoffman and called for the levy of an additional tax on cigarettes and never made it out of committee.

So, we moved on to 2014. That bill called for a prohibition against installers of satellite television from installing satellites on leased premises. Filed by Rep. Thomas Carmody, it was withdrawn before any action could be considered.

Rep. Paul Hollis filed HB 224 in 2013 and provided for the removal of a school bus driver for violations of certain DWI offenses. That bill passed and was signed into law by Jindal.

On to 2012. HB 224 of that year was filed by Rep. James Armes and dealt with enforcement of child support. It, too, was passed and signed into law.

Act 224 of 2011by Rep. Rick Nowlin also passed and was signed into law by Jindal. But it only increased court costs in criminal cases in the 10th Judicial District.

Only after we went all the way back to 2010 did we find the HB 224 cited by the ad. And no, the bill did not provide for “taxpayer-funded pensions for convicts.” Instead, the bill, authored by Rep. Kevin Pearson, would have required “suspension of public retirement benefits during incarceration.”

As for Edwards’s plan to release prisoners upon the helpless citizens of Louisiana, he did no such thing. Instead, he suggested a comprehensive plan to address Louisiana’s ranking as the number one state in the nation when it comes to per capita incarceration. (The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world so Louisiana, with the highest rate in the U.S., necessarily has the highest incarceration rate in the world.)

And there you have a clear illustration of how the meanings of words can be twisted and distorted in a political campaign. And yes, John Bel Edwards did vote against the bill.

So did 55 other House members as the bill failed, 56-42, with five members absent.

If 56 members voted against the bill, there must have been a reason.

There was.

A public employee pays into the retirement system his entire career and that money is earned. If the employee commits a crime within the scope of his employment, there might be an argument to be made for revoking the employee’s pension.

But suppose the employee is convicted of a crime that has nothing to do with his job? Let’s say, for example, he loses control of his vehicle and kills an innocent bystander and is convicted of negligent homicide. And it turns out he was drunk. Certainly, it would not make the employee a saint but neither should it negate his state retirement that he earned through his years of service. That’s constitutionally protected.

HB 224 of 2010 had nothing to do with providing “taxpayer-funded pensions for convicts.” It was about a blanket denial of earned retirement benefits. There’s a huge difference and that’s why John Bel Edwards and 55 other House members correctly voted to kill the bill. The real shame was that it even made it out of committee. Both the claim that Edwards wants to free hardened convicts and that he wants to provide pensions for pensions for convicts are pitifully pathetic attempts to tie Edwards to President Obama because that’s all the arrows Vitter has in his quiver.

Vitter can only resort to blatant lies to bolster his chances.

But then he has never been above lying and character assassination.

He has no integrity and we’ve already had eight years of that.

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency” (U.S. Army Chief Counsel Joseph Nye, on June 8, 1954, to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings, but which could well apply today to David Vitter)

Here’s the ad. You watch it and decide for yourself if you really want someone like David Vitter operating by his own depraved code of ethics for the next four years.


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Folks, this incestuous relationship between David Vitter’s campaign and his Super PAC, Fund for Louisiana’s Future (FLF), just keeps getting more and more entangled and you have to wonder how long it’s going to take for the Louisiana Board of Ethics to become involved.

(Before I go any further, I would like to thank yet another sharp-eyed reader who steered me to the latest plot twist with a brief email on Monday morning.)

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, we posted a story about Baton Rouge attorney/lobbyist Jimmy Burland’s email of Oct. 20 “To the Louisiana Lobbyist Community” in which he solicited lobbyists’ attendance (and $5,000 checks) at a string of receptions across the state in the days following Saturday’s primary election.

“We need to raise more than $3 million for the runoff and we hope you will join us in maxing out $5,000 contributions from you and each of your clients,” he wrote, “bundling as much as possible as soon as possible!”

There are more than 800 lobbyists who work the Capitol in Baton Rouge and while some represent a single client, most of them have several clients. So if a lobbyist receiving Burland’s email has, say, five clients, Burland is asking the lobbyist to not only chip in $5,000, but to coerce all five clients into also ponying up the $5,000 maximum, thus allowing the lobbyist to “bundle” a cool $30,000. If any of the clients happens to have a political action committee (PAC), other companies under its corporate umbrella, and the client company’s CEO is married and has children, the $5,000 contributions can increase exponentially.

Pretty soon at that rate, you’re talking about real money—money that gets a politician’s ear when the chips are on the legislative line. Need a bill granting a special tax break for one of your clients? If you bundled several multiples of $5,000 at one of the eight receptions, the governor will see to it that floor leaders in the House and Senate carry the water for you.

But here’s the kicker with Burland’s email (to which our anonymous friend alerted us): “Please make check(s) payable to David Vitter for Louisiana and bring to one of his events or mail to 6048 Marshall Foch St., New Orleans, LA 70124. You may also contact Ms. Courtney Guastella for more information at 504-615-2083 or (email) at courtney@davidvitter.com.” (Bold emphasis Burland’s, italic emphasis ours.) http://louisianavoice.com/2015/10/21/baton-rouge-attorneylobbyist-tries-to-strongarm-lobbyists-on-behalf-of-david-vitter-via-email-for-5000-contributions/

Courtney Guastella is actually Courtney Guastella Callihan, wife of Capital One Bank director Bill Callihan and she is Vitter’s campaign finance director.

But the Callihan’s residence is also the address of the Fund for Louisiana’s Future (FLF), Vitter’s Super PAC.

By law, there is supposed to be an arm’s length relationship between candidate and Super PAC. While communications are allowed, discussions of campaign strategy between the two are strictly forbidden.

And the Justice Department has been increasing scrutiny of the cozy relationship between candidates and Super PACs. A Virginia campaign operative was convicted in February of this year. Tyler Harber was sentenced to two years in prison for illegal coordination between a campaign and a purportedly independent ally (read: Super Pac).

Harber admitted in court that he helped create a Super PAC and arranged for it to purchase $325,000 in ads to help the campaign of 2012 unsuccessful congressional candidate Chris Perkins.

“The opportunity to commit the crime (of campaign strategy coordination) has increased dramatically,” said U.S. Justice Department spokesperson Peter Carr. At the same time, however, he said, “Illegal coordination is difficult to detect.”

The Justice Department’s increasing presence in prosecuting such cases comes as complaints to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) have stalled. The FEC has failed to move ahead with coordination investigations since the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court triggered an explosion of big money PACs. For state elections, the responsibility for investigation lies with the State Board of Ethics which was gutted by Bobby Jindal in 2008. So, in effect, there is little to no oversight over PACs in state elections.

This is yet another unseen consequence of the Citizens United decision which removed citizen participation in the political process and placed it in the hands of multi-national corporations, Wall Street, big pharma, big business, and big oil by allowing them to purchase the politicians of their choice.

On close examination, FEC regulations say that campaigns (candidates) may convey needs (as in contributions) to Super PACs. Those regulations are generally tracked by the State Board of Ethics. Operatives on both sides may communicate to each other directly so long as they do not discuss campaign strategy. A PAC may also confer with a campaign about “issue ads” featuring a candidate, prompting some legal experts to believe that a Super PAC could even share its entire paid media plan as long as no one on the candidate’s team responds.

Lee Goodman, a Republican appointee to the FEC, said the courts have said that friendships and knowledge between Super PAC and candidate cannot be prohibited. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/here-are-the-secret-ways-super-pacs-and-campaigns-can-work-together/2015/07/06/bda78210-1539-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html

But where do you draw the line of separation between candidate and Super PAC?

FLF claims it has nothing to do with Vitter’s campaign and that “written confidentiality and firewall policies are in place to ensure that Fund for Louisiana’s Future will in no way coordinate its political communications or activities with any candidates, their committee or their agents.” http://dailykingfish.com/tag/fund-for-louisianas-future/

And yet, the address of Vitter’s campaign finance director and FLF are one and the same.

Where is the line of separation?

And Opensecrets.org shows that Vitter’s campaign has infused at least $890,000 into FLF. http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/contrib_all.php?cycle=2014&type=A&cmte=C00541037&page=1

Where is the line of separation?

Likewise, Courtney Callihan, nee Guastella, made 25 contributions totaling $148,381 to FLF between March of 2013 and November of 2014. Guastella, Courtney

Where is the line of separation?

On Friday, the day before the primary election, Vitter and Callihan were involved in a minor traffic accident in Metairie. Callihan was driving and Vitter was the passenger when Callihan hit a second vehicle. Vitter was quickly transported from the scene by a campaign staff member. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/10/25/minor-auto-accident-could-further-undermine-vitter-bid-for-governor-federal-campaign-finance-law-violations-possible/

On the one hand, Vitter was riding with his campaign finance director. On the other, he was riding with the person who shares an address with FLF.

Where is the line of separation?

Does anyone really believe that Vitter never discusses campaign strategy with Callihan?

Likewise, does anyone believe that Callihan never consults with FLF on campaign strategy?

Where is the line of separation?

Where is the Louisiana Board of Ethics?

Where is the Attorney General’s Office?

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