Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

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.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

 

Because of our limited staff (one, plus a few occasional contributors), we often fall behind in our efforts to keep up with the news of our misbehaving public officials. We try to keep up, but these guys are pretty slick and very resourceful in finding new ways to siphon off funds, whether they be state funds or contributions from campaign supporters.

So, today, we will highlight a couple of politicos who are very tight: Bobby Jindal and his director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), Troy Hebert (whose wife just happens to be the Jindal children’s pediatrician, we’re told).

We have an update on the status of Frederick Tombar III, who, like Hebert was appointed to a high-level position in the Jindal administration only to harass himself out of a job.

Tombar, it seems, has landed on his feet after leaving his $260,000 a year job as director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation because of some sexually explicit emails he sent to two female employees—one, a contract employee and the other an actual employee of the agency.

Both women attempted to put off Tombar’s advances because of fear of losing their jobs but eventually each filed complaints and Tombar left before he could be interviewed during an investigation by Ron Jackson, Human Resources Director for the Division of Administration.

Not to worry. We’re told by sources that Tombar, of New Orleans, had a soft landing at Cornerstone Government Affairs consulting company where he will work alongside two former state Commissioners of Administration, Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater. http://www.cgagroup.com/index.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/RainwaterPaul.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/mark_drennen.html

Efforts to reach both Drennan and Rainwater for comment were unsuccessful.

It’s not known what Tombar’s salary at Cornerstone will be, but we are willing to bet it doesn’t approach the quarter-million a year he was making as a Jindal appointee.

That other appointee mentioned earlier, Troy Hebert, of whom much has been written here, little of it good, recently sent a bill to former ATC agent Howard Caviness of West Monroe who now serves as Grambling State University chief of police. Well, actually, the bill was not from Hebert, but from the agency under which he serves, the Department of Revenue (LDR).

The invoice, for all of $123.59 is for an alleged overpayment to Caviness in Dec. of 2012, according to the letter dated April 29 which is stamped “2nd notice.” Supposedly, the $123.59, when collected, will go to help patch over Jindal’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. LDR letter

Attached to the letter is a time sheet for the two-week time period of Nov. 26—Dec. 9, 2012, with no explanation other than a hand-scrawled, “will leave a balance owed.” ATC timesheet

(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Caviness, contacted by LouisianaVoice, feels the action is in retaliation for his having testified on behalf of another former agent, Brett Tingle, who Hebert fired while Tingle was recovering from a heart attack.

Reprisals against a state employee by officials in the Jindal administration? Surely not!

But that would fit the modus operandi of Hebert and would give credence to a third former agent who revealed she was ordered to conduct an investigation of LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell (that would be me). That former agent admitted that she did indeed follow through on the investigation but found me “rather boring.” We’ll take boring any day.

But we did our own nosing around and found that Hebert played pretty fast and loose with campaign donors’ money while he was still a state senator—and even after he left office to take over operations at ATC after Jindal did a number on former ATC Director Murphy Painter.

At the top of the list, as with the case of so many office holders, was his $12,165 expenditure for the purchase of what seems to be the most sought-after perk of all state politicians: LSU football tickets—$4,930 of that well after he left the House of Representatives in 2010 to become head of ATC. It’s somewhat difficult to see how whose expenditures, especially the $4,930 spent after he left office, could be justified as being “related to the holding of public office,” as state campaign expense laws clearly dictate. related to a campaign  personal use  cannot use campaign funds for personal use

But, as they say in those cheesy TV commercials, “Wait! There’s more!”

Our boy Troy also shelled out the following amounts for other seeming unrelated purposes:

  • Nov. 11, 2014: All State Sugar Bowl tickets, $590 (again, quite a stretch in tying this to holding public office); SUGAR BOWL
  • April 22, 2009: Sullivan’s Restaurant, Baton Rouge, $2,323.10 for a fundraiser; RESTAURANTS
  • April 1, 2010: Delta Airlines, $691.80 (no explanation of any destination, but his House district was pretty small and probably didn’t require air travel to get around Iberia Parish; TRAVEL
  • April 1, 2010: Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., $1,505.70. Ah! There’s his destination for that Delta flight. But what was he running for in Washington? HOTELS
  • May 10, 2011: Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans, $500. About those two hotel bills: state regulations limit hotel rooms to a mere $120 per night. Perhaps someone should sent Hebert a bill for the difference. Oh, wait. The rooms were paid out of campaign funds, not the state treasury. So that makes it okay, we guess.  travelguide

Still, $15,452 in campaign expenditures which somehow just don’t pass the smell test for legitimate campaign expenditures, especially $5,520 of which was spent after he left office.

And then there’s Jindal.

Since 2009, a year after he first took office, he has racked up an eye-popping expenditure of $169,597 in hotel room costs alone. TRAVEL

Even more revealing, all but $30,000 of that ($139,660) has been since his re-election in October of 2011, evidence that he has spent precious little time in Louisiana performing the “job he always wanted,” and the job to which he was elected.

Jindal also spent more than $185,000 in campaign money since 2003 on air travel, his campaign expense records show. Because his travel expenses were about equally divided between pre- and post-re-election in 2011, it would indicate that much of his lodging was provided by organizations to whom he was speaking.

By running as an “undeclared” candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he was able to make free use of campaign funds he reaped while running for and serving as governor. That would explain why he is so cagey about his non-candidacy candidacy: the rules change and federal regulations kick in once he is a declared candidate. His self-serving claim to be “praying for guidance” over his decision has little or nothing to do with it; it’s all about the way he can spend the money.

Read Full Post »

Ask a typical Louisiana legislator about his compensation, and you’ll likely get the usual story that the part-time status assigned to lawmakers is a myth. You’re likely to hear all kinds of horror stories about how they have to travel to Baton Rouge, some from as far away as Shreveport, to tend to state business.

But for many legislators, there are conspicuous gaps in those tales of woe.

They will tell you those trips to the state capital are not limited to the legislative sessions (85 days in even-numbered years, 60 days in odd-numbered years), that they attend committee meetings year-round.

All that is true enough but when they do travel to Baton Rouge, they receive per diem that averages around $150 per day (the rate is tied to the federal reimbursement rate and fluctuates accordingly), plus mileage.

But as always when a politician is talking, it’s best to listen carefully to what he doesn’t say.

Bear in mind that they collect the $150 or so per diem for all 85 days in even years even though lawmakers rarely meet on Fridays and never on weekends or Memorial Day, meaning there are as many as 37 days in even years and 24 days in odd years on which they do not meet but are paid.

Still, they will tell you the $16,800 per year in salary is a pittance for the work they do. Never mind the $500 per month in vouchered expenses and $1,500 per month in unvouchered expense they receive, bring their total compensation to something a little north of $50,000 per year.

And granted, that’s not much when you consider the time they are required to take from their regular jobs.

But there’s a dirty little secret they don’t—and won’t—tell you.

And that is 27 of 39 current senators (69 percent) and 52 of 104 representatives (exactly half) access campaign contributions to elevate them to lifestyles the average person can only dream of.

You might think campaign funds would be used exclusively for campaign-related expenses but you would be wrong. Louisiana legislators (and many other office holders as well, including mayors, sheriffs and state officials) regularly spend campaign funds on such things as tickets to big-time athletic events, lavish meals, and extensive travel.

And then there’s the story of Sen. Sherri Buffington (R-Shreveport). In January of 2004, she was Sherri Smith Cheek and she and her then-husband, Jon Cheek, traveled to New Orleans to attend the NCAA national championship football game between LSU and Oklahoma but forgot his tickets.

No problem. Sherri Smith Cheek, a freshman senator, simply called State Police and arranged for a Pony Express-type relay by state troopers from Shreveport to New Orleans to deliver the six tickets. When word of the special deliver leaked out, she expressed her regret (don’t they always feel just awful—after they’re caught?) and said she would repay State Police $448.50, based on her computation of 12 hours of trooper pay. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1060246/posts

A check of her campaign expense records, however, revealed no such payment to State Police. That, however, does not preclude her having paid the money from personal funds.

But those same campaign expense records show that Sherri Smith Cheek Buffington (she has re-married) did spend $20,548 on LSU football tickets between 2009 and 2014.

In fact, 22 senators and 36 members of the House spent $577,839 on LSU tickets from 2003 to 2014, according to campaign expense records. The breakdown was 22 senators ($240,678) and 36 representatives ($337,161). LSU ATHLETICS

Buffington’s $20,548 was not the most spent on LSU tickets by a legislator, however. Not even close.

Nine others outspent her on tickets to Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. They include the $30,170 by Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), ($28,745 by Sen. Norby Chabert (R-Houma), $25,414 by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), $23,984 by Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), $23,026 by Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), $21,924 by Sen. Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan), $21,856 by Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston), $21,680 by Rep. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero), and $20,942 by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego).

Nor were tickets to athletic events limited to LSU.

Other expenditures will be explored in more depth in subsequent posts. To give you an idea of how legislators develop a sense of entitlement while denying increases in the minimum wage, voting down equal pay for women bills, rejecting Medicaid that would provide expanded healthcare to the state’s lower income citizens and generally falling all over each other in an effort to be front and center in sacrificing higher education and state hospitals at the altar of Bobby Jindal, here’s a teaser on other campaign fund expenditures:

  • Six senators and three House members combined to spend $46,417 on New Orleans Saints tickets since 2003; NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
  • Seven members of the Senate and two representatives combined to shell out $37,093 on tickets to New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans NBA basketball games over the same time span; NEW ORLEANS HORNETS  NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
  • Twenty-two members of the Legislature (11 each from the House and Senate) combined to use $35,494 in campaign funds for Sugar Bowl football and NCAA basketball tournament tickets; SUGAR BOWL  NCAA REGIONALS
  • Twenty-seven members (eight from the Senate and 19 from the House) paid out $61,606 for out-of-state travel (even though none of the members were seeking office outside Louisiana); TRAVEL
  • Members of the two chambers managed to spend some $380,000 on meals—much of that for campaign supporters and workers, which technically, would be campaign-related and permissible, but a sizable chunk of which appears to be for less noble purposes. RESTAURANTS  MEALS

The State Ethics Board has issued several opinions on campaign fund spending limitations over the years and some of those opinions have specifically addressed the expenditure of campaign funds for personal use. Those opinions, which would seem to prohibit use of funds for athletic events, etc., will be discussed in upcoming posts.

Read Full Post »

dis·crim·i·na·tion

dəˌskriməˈnāSH(ə)n/

noun:

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things.

Synonyms: prejudice, bias, bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, unfairness, inequity, favoritism, one-sidedness, partisanship;

hyp·o·crite

ˈhipəˌkrit/

noun:

A person who indulges in hypocrisy (see: Legislature)

sub·ser·vi·ent

səbˈsərvēənt/

adjective

prepared to obey others unquestioningly.

Synonyms: submissive, deferential, compliant, obedient, dutiful, biddable, docile, passive, unassertiveInformal: under someone’s thumb (see: Legislators, Norquist)

What is it about this time of year that turns a group of men and women into blithering idiots, incapable of comprehending the inconsistencies they perpetuate in the name of good government?

Take House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and SB 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), for two prime examples. HB 418 SB204

Both bills, being pushed hard by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (read: Bobby Jindal), would abolish forbid payroll deductions for public employee unions.

Stephen Waguespack, who previously worked in Jindal’s 2007 campaign and later served as Jindal’s executive counsel and chief of staff, is president of LABI.

Jindal, looking more and more like Scott Walker with each passing day, apparently wants to emulate the Wisconsin governor who recently said if he were elected president, he would “crush” all unions. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/

“I feel it unethical for taxpayers to pay an individual to deduct union dues when they are not exactly sure what the union dues are for,” sniffed Bishop, apparently oblivious to approved payroll deductions for the Louisiana United Way which may support causes the donor might not wish to endorse. http://theadvocate.com/news/12063375-123/payroll-deduction-for-unions-under

Bishop may also have overlooked the question of ethics involved in his expenditure of $6,240 in campaign funds for LSU football tickets in 2012 and 2013. (Note: one of the entries for April 26, 2013 is a duplicate and should not be counted.)

http://ethics.la.gov/CampaignFinanceSearch/SearchResultsByExpenditures.aspx

Martiny, other than introducing SB 204, has been largely silent on the issue. Perhaps, unlike Bishop, he is hesitant to utter the word “ethical” in light of his own campaign expenditures which eclipse those of his House counterpart.

Campaign finance records show that that Martiny has dipped into $107,475 of his campaign funds to pay for such non-campaign-related expenditures as athletic events, meals, air travel, lodging and casinos.

Here is the breakdown on just the athletic events: Tickets for LSU football ($28,823), New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans ($22,680), New Orleans Saints ($22,670), the 2006 NCAA basketball regionals ($1,480), the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl ($600)—altogether, a combined expenditure of $76,252. Additionally, there were unspecified expenditures of $864 for “Augusta” (the Masters Golf Tournament, perhaps?) and $590 for Ticketmaster.

Other “campaign” expenditures for Martiny included $7,300 for furniture, $5926 for hotel and resort accommodations, $4,348 for air fare, $5,705 for nine meals, an average of $634 per lobster (mostly at Ruth’s Chris in Metairie), $1,500 for an apparent membership at Pontchartrain Yacht Club, and $5,000 at two truck stop casinos.

To be fair, he did chip in $4,500 for the Better Government Political Action Committee though it was unclear whose better government he was trying to promote.

In an incredible stretch, supporters of the measures linked union dues to abortion clinics when one supporter said the dues could end up supporting such organizations as Planned Parenthood.

Brigitte Nieland, LABI vice president for workforce development, said Louisiana taxpayers are supporting the automatic collection of dollars to go and fund projects that they say they do not support.”

But opponents say the bills are just measures to gut unions and to silence workers by handing more power to big corporations. “It is a way of getting unions out of the way of these large corporations and state political or legislative agendas that are not education or education-friendly,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

Voters might be able to conjure up a bit more respect for lawmakers if they would just be honest and say they are trying to destroy public employee unions.

But they just can’t seem to be able to admit that. Instead they create phantom arguments such as preventing members from being forced to spend dues on causes that they oppose and, most implausible, that it eases the burden on the state to collect the dues.

Unless you happen to be LABI member Lane Grigsby. Bob Mann recently had a post on his Something Like the Truth blog in which Grigsby said on video (since removed from LABI’s website—did LABI learn transparency from Bobby Jindal?), “When you cut off the unions’ funding, they lose their stroke.” http://bobmannblog.com/2015/05/06/labi-leader-caught-on-video-paycheck-protection-bill-is-fatal-spear-to-the-heart-of-teacher-unions/

Aha! We may at long last have found that honest man Diogenes went searching for with his lamp (until he hit the halls of the Louisiana Legislature at which point he found it necessary to search for his stolen lamp). Anyone seen Scott Walker lurking around the State Capitol?

Why would legislators single out just one payroll deduction when there are literally dozens that are approved by the state?

Approved plans include payroll deductions for savings programs, life insurance, disability insurance, dental insurance, health insurance, the United Way, Secretary of State employees’ Association, Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association, Louisiana State Police Honor Fund, Louisiana State Police Officers Association, Louisiana State Troopers Association, Louisiana Society of Professional Engineers, Fire Marshal Association of Louisiana, Deferred Compensation plans, Probation and Parole Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 50, and….well, you get the picture.

If you really want to know why it’s so important, you need only read the endorsement by none other than Grover Norquist of Washington, D.C., head of Americans for Tax Reform, the man and organization who gives the marching orders (read: no-tax pledge) to legislators and governors all across the country, including Louisiana. https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill

“HB 418 saves taxpayer dollars by taking the government out of the dues collection business,” Norquist says. “No more administrative or financial resources will be used by state government to funnel money to unions that, in turn, often use that very money to work against the interests of Louisiana taxpayers. If the unions want the money, they will have to ask for it themselves.”

And oh, such a financial burden it is for a completely automated, computerized and untouched by human hands system to deduct those nasty dues.

That’s selective reasoning at best.

The House Labor & Industrial Relations Committee, by a 9-6 vote, has approved Bishop’s bill which now goes to the full House for debate.

So now we know for certain that nine members of that committee are still taking their marching orders from Norquist and Jindal.

Here are the committee members. Talk about a stacked deck. http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Cmtes/Labor.aspx

We share the sentiments expressed by Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) that the legislature has more important matters on its plate than spending time trying to inflict yet more punishment on the state’s teaching profession.

Like a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

And yes, we are keenly aware that there were and still are abuses of power in the labor movement. But given the conditions of American labor before the birth of the union movement, I will opt for dealing with those abuses. I would rather not see women and children confined in sweat shops for 12 yours a day for starvation wages. I would rather not see those trying to stand up for their rights clubbed by goons hired by the robber barons. I would rather not see consumers sold rotten meat by the meat packing plants depicted in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Yes, of course there were abuses in the labor movement. There still are. And there’s not in the halls of government and on Wall Street? In case you haven’t been watching the pendulum has swung far back in the other direction—too far. Corporations wield far more power today than labor. Don’t believe it? Look at the campaign contributions. Compare what Labor gives to what corporations give to the PACs. Check out who has bought the most elections over the past 40 years. And don’t even try to play the corruption card.

But Grover’s will must be done for his is the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,884 other followers

%d bloggers like this: