Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

On any given issue today, there is one thing that you can count on with all certainty: someone is going to interject the intent of The Founding Fathers into the dialog. But does the average man or woman really know what those wealthy white slave owners wanted for the country? Just as Christianity has splintered into many disparate sects and beliefs, so has the idea of what The Founding Fathers desired for this country.

Could they, for example, have ever intended that 535 individuals in a steamy town named for our first President (and one of The Founding Fathers) really represent the interests of 315 million people? Could they have foreseen that control over the world economy would rest in the hands of a few mega-rich investment bankers who buy and sell elected officials in much the same manner as the commodities in which they trade daily?

Niki Papazoglakis of Baton Rouge doesn’t think so.

That is why she has launched an ambitious enterprise called Freagle (Freeom+Eagle), the Virtual Town Square.

To be sure, Freagle is a huge undertaking, but Papazoglakis is unafraid of a challenge. She’s been there before. She ran against Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2011 where she gained many of the insights for the platform.

So, just what is Freagle and how does it work?

Just as in any complex system, there are no easy answers. But basically, Freagle is described by its creator as an “online non-partisan town square for average citizens, politicos, and activists.”

Papazoglakis has 15 years’ experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She began her career with the Foster administration where she managed candidate registration and campaign finance reporting. From there she moved to the LSU Agricultural Center as legislative liaison. While serving in that capacity, she developed policy recommendations and lobbied the legislature successfully to create a comprehensive statewide water policy. She then spent 10 years as a sales executive with technology giants IBM, Unisys and Hewlett-Packard before becoming general manager for the Louisiana branch of a regional IT company.

“We cannot count on those within the broken political system to make the changes our nation needs,” she says. “It’s up to ‘We the People’ to restore accountability and trust to government.”

The problem in today’s political landscape, she believes, is the sheer size of government and the impossible demand on 535 members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to effectively represent the will of 315 million living souls in this country.

“We believe that is the root of the dysfunction in our political system and the same problems at the federal level trickle down to state and local levels, as well,” she said. “Elected officials have no truly effective tools for engaging with their constituents and understanding their interests. The average district size for a U.S. Representative is almost 700,000 people. Without the ability to fully understand and represent constituent interests, coupled with the extremely high costs of reaching voters, money and special interests have become more powerful than the will of the people.

“We are building an online non-partisan town square by pulling back the curtain to expose the good, the bad and the ugly of government,” she says. “We’re connecting the dots between votes, political contributions and influence; we’re shedding light on the revolving door that industry and the political class use daily to their advantage, not ours; and we are speaking truth to power regardless of party, ideology or industry.”

Freagle will track campaign contributions for candidates nationwide, from President all the way down to municipal office holders. Moreover, it will follow votes to determine if campaign money influences candidates to vote against the will of those they represent.

Subscribers will be able to track legislation and to gain access to information and tools for communicating with elected officials.

Papazoglakis and her team are leveraging crowd funding—a relatively new mechanism to raise the funds necessary to complete product development.

Readers may click on the link below and learn more about this revolutionary new way to stay current on campaign contributions, political issues from local zoning to statehouse bills to congressional acts and appropriations, and of course, voting records as well as support this effort to restore representation in democracy.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/freagle-the-virtual-town-square

Read Full Post »

As expected, the Louisiana Senate voted 25-11 on Friday to accept the House amendment to SB 459, which made the prohibition against governmental entities’ ability to seek redress from 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies for the damages inflicted on Louisiana’s erstwhile freshwater marshlands, effectively sealing the fate of efforts by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) to hold the companies accountable for their actions.

The amendment, passed earlier by the House in a 59-39 vote made SB 469 retroactive, which is tantamount to killing the SLFPA-E litigation, prompting Ret. Gen. Russel Honeré to observe, “The flag of the oil companies still flies over the Louisiana Capitol.”

But in passing SB 469, which Gov. Bobby Jindal is almost certain to sign into law, given his backing of the bill, the Louisiana Legislature may have pulled the proverbial rug from under Louisiana coastal city and parish governments, according to a five-page analysis of the bill by Robert R.M. Verchick of the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Also participating in drafting the report on the potential repercussions of the bill were Zygmunt J.B. Plater, professor, Boston College Law School and former Chairman of the State of Alaska Oil Spill Commission’s Legal Task Force; William Andreen, professor of law, University of Alabama School of Law, and Christine A. Klein, professor and director, LL.M. Program in Environmental & Land Use Law, Levin College of Law, University of Florida.

Among other the bill by Sens. Bret Allain and Robert Adley (who have received $632,000 in contributions from oil and gas interests—$597,950 for Adley and $34,140 for Allain), provides:

  • Except as provided in this Subpart [the state coastal zone management law], no state or local governmental entity shall have, nor may pursue, any right or cause of action arising from any activity subject to permitting under R.S. 49:214.21 et seq. [the state coastal zone management law], 33 U.S.C. 1344 [§ 404 dredge or fill permitting under the Clean Water Act][,] or 33 U.S.C. 408 [the Rivers and Harbors Act] in the coastal area as defined by R.S. 49:214.2, or arising from or related to any use as defined by R.S. 49:214.23(13), regardless of the date such use or activity occurred (emphasis theirs).

That provision of the bill would appear to again place the state at odds with federal statutes, specifically the congressional Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) which says, in part:

  • Notwithstanding any other provision or rule of law, and subject to the provisions of this Act, each responsible party for a vessel or a facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses the substantial threat of a discharge of oil, into or upon the navigable waters or adjoining shorelines or the exclusive economic zone is liable for the removal costs and damages…

Moreover, federal statute says that the list of recoverable costs and damages includes economic losses and natural resource damages incurred by state and local governments. Damages under the federal statute shall include:

  • Damages for injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of, natural resources, including the reasonable costs of assessing the damage, which shall be recoverable by a United States trustee, a state trustee, an Indian tribe trustee, or a foreign trustee;
  • Damages equal to the net loss of taxes, royalties, rents, fees, or net profit shares due to the injury, destruction, or loss of real property, personal property, or natural resources, which shall be recoverable by the Government of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof.
  • Damages for net costs of providing increased or additional public services during or after removal activities, including protection from fire, safety, or health hazards, caused by a discharge of oil, which shall be recoverable by a State, or a political subdivision of a State.

So what does all that have to do with local governmental entities?

Simply this: because SB 469 would limit the types of claims that state and local governmental entities may pursue, the report says. This means if BP should raise defenses of claims from the BP spill of 2010 based on SB 469 and even only partially succeed, “the results would needlessly deprive Louisiana and its communities of precious revenue and cause considerable embarrassment of state leaders” because it specifically excludes economic or natural resource damage claims under OPA, according to the report which was signed by Verchick.

Economic damages and damages from the loss of natural resources comprise the very basis of pending claims against BP, Verchick says.

In its OPA suit against BP, for example, Jefferson Parish has claimed that it has suffered, among other things:

  • Ecological damage;
  • Damage to the quality of life of its citizens;
  • Loss of sales tax revenues, use tax revenues, parish tax revenues, inventory tax revenues, hotel and motel tax revenues, severance tax revenues, royalties, rents and fees;
  • Increased costs of providing services to the citizens of Jefferson Parish;
  • Damage to the natural resources of Jefferson parish;
  • Increased costs for the monitoring of the health of its citizens and the treatment of physical and emotional problems related to the oil spill;
  • Increased costs for debt service;
  • Loss of fees for permits and licenses;
  • Loss of fines and forfeitures income;
  • Increased administrative costs.

State senators who represent Jefferson Parish who voted for SB 469 in its amended form and the amount of campaign contributions they have received from oil and gas interests (in parentheses) are:

  • John Alario, Senate President: $124,400;
  • David Heitmeier: $44,300
  • Jean-Paul Morrell: $87,800;
  • Gary Smith: $87,600.

TOTAL: $344,100 (Ave: $86,000 each).

Alario is a Republican while the other three are each Democrats, which illustrates that the money of big oil can purchases allegiances on each side of the aisle.

House members from Jefferson Parish who voted for the amended bill and their oil and gas contributions (in parentheses) include:

  • Bryan Adams: $9,000;
  • Robert Billiot: $32,800;
  • Jerry Gisclair: $3,750;
  • Cameron Henry: $30,000
  • Christopher Leopold: $29,800;
  • Nick Lorusso: $21,700;
  • Julie Stokes: $20,000.

TOTAL: $147,050 (Ave. $21,000 each).

GRAND TOTAL, HOUSE AND SENATE: $491,150 (Ave. $44.650 each).

“Because SB 469 works retroactively, it could undo all of these claims,” Verchick said.

If Jindal signs the bill into law, it would also apply prospectively. “So if, say, one of the supertankers offloading at the state’s offshore oil port caught fire and started pouring oil into Lafourche Parish, or if a major pipeline in Plaquemines Parish ruptured, or an oil rig anywhere in state coastal waters blew up, as BP’s Deepwater Horizon did, then no parish or city that was affected would be able to bring a claim for economic losses, not even if it cost taxpayers millions—or billions—of dollars,” he said.

Louisiana produces nearly 1.25 million barrels of crude oil per day. It hosts the world’s only offshore superport for oil and gas tankers and is crisscrossed by more than 100,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines. “Does Gov. Jindal really want to sign a law that could immunize the oil and gas industry from paying for economic losses caused by any oil spill (however reckless the behavior) in the state’s coastal zone?” Verchick asked in his report.

He said Jindal, in the opening week of hurricane season, should consider the terrible risk the law would impose on fragile communities along the Louisiana coast. “Whatever one thinks about SLFPAE’s lawsuit, such expansive action cannot be justified. It’s like bombing the Gulf of Mexico to catch a single snapper,” he said.

The report said the most significant risk could be the aftermath of future oil spill events that may occur wholly within Louisiana’s coastal zone, including potential ruptures in any of the more than 125,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in Louisiana or a spill occurring at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the largest point of entry for waterborne crude oil entering the U.S., or from a tanker rupture similar to the Exxon Valdez spill.

“We emphasize that this is a significant litigation risk faced by the state and local governments should SB 469 be signed into law,” he said. State and local governments will also have counter-arguments that they can raise, namely that SB 469’s prohibitions will trigger conflict-preemption such that OPA’s damages provisions will take precedence over the prohibitory language of SB 469.

“Implied preemption can also take the form of conflict preemption where complying with both federal law and state law is impossible or where the state law ‘creates an unacceptable “obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.”

Arguably, the application of SB 469 to prevent certain state or local governmental entities from pursuing the full panoply of damages available under OPA may present such an obstacle and could be found by a court to be conflict-preempted,” Verchick said.

“These open questions present a significant litigation risk to such governmental entity claims. A court could plausibly interpret SB 469 to dismiss or limit damage claims, now before the court, that the state and its subdivisions have brought against BP. Regardless of how the court ultimately rules, the very existence of these eventualities will devalue the plaintiffs’ settlement posture and perhaps lengthen the time those governmental entities will go without recompense for these categories of economic loss,” the report concluded.

But it isn’t very likely that much thought will be given to the implications cited by Verchick; legislators and Jindal will be far too busy counting the $6 million or so they have received in big oil campaign contributions to give the report anything more than a cursory perusal.

Here is the way the Senate voted on the amended version of SB 469 which kills the SLFPA-E litigation:

YEAS

Alario

Adley

Allain

Amedee

Buffington

Chabert

Claitor

Cortez

Donahue

Erdey

Gallot

Heitmeier

Johns

Long

Morrell

Morrish

Peacock

Perry

Riser

Smith, G.

Smith, J.

Tarver

Thompson

Walsworth

White

Total – 25

NAYS

Appel

Broome

Brown

Crowe

Dorsey-Colomb

Kostelka

Martiny

Mills

Murray

Nevers

Peterson

Total – 11

ABSENT

Guillory

LaFleur

Ward

Total — 3

As a refresher from our previous post, for a complete list of campaign contributions from oil and gas interests to our 144 current legislators as compiled by Moss Robeson, click here: Copy of Campaign Contributions

Read Full Post »

Well, the hue and cry over the transgressions of 5th District Congressman Vance McAllister appears to be finally fading to the back pages of the state’s newspapers.

With all the emotional maturity of a rutting high school sophomore, McAllister managed to attract the glare of a national spotlight that few freshmen in Congress manage—or desire.

McAllister was elected last October and sworn into office in November to fill the unexpired term of Republican Rodney Alexander. But despite his incredibly poor judgment, he nevertheless missed the chance to beat Democrat Donald Cazayoux’s Louisiana record for the shortest tenure in Congress.

Cazayoux was elected on May 3, 2008, to fill the unexpired term of Republican Richard Baker of Baton Rouge who callously left to head up a large hedge fund, in the process placing upon the State of Louisiana the financial burden of the necessity of holding a special election to name a successor for only six months at which time the winner would have run again. Cazayoux subsequently lost to Bill Cassidy who took office in January of 2009, giving Cazayoux only eight months in office. Assuming McAllister remains in office until his successor takes is sworn in next January, he will have served 14 months—almost twice as long as Cazayoux, who at least managed to leave office honorably and not in disgrace.

But as dumb as McAllister’s getting caught on camera deep kissing an aide in his Monroe office, it should pale in comparison to the deeds of the man who would be the next governor of Louisiana.

Because the act was captured on video and subsequently brought it into our living rooms in grainy black and white images, there was collective outrage and demands for his resignation from the upper echelons of the Louisiana Republican hierarchy, Gov. Bobby Jindal included.

He did, after all, kiss a woman who was not his wife, so off with his head!

But at the same time, we all know that U.S. Sen. David Vitter did a tad more than simply kiss a woman who was not his wife; he engaged in extra-marital sex with at least one prostitute—and most probably others, if their stories are to be believed, dating back to his days in the Louisiana Legislature. And why shouldn’t we believe them? With nothing to gain by lying about their exploits with the good senator, they certainly have as much credibility as Vitter.

Yet the Louisiana Republican establishment was strangely mute when it came to demanding that Vitter step down. Can you say two-faced, double-standard, duplicitous, hypocritical political opportunists?

Vitter, for his part, spent $127,000 in legal fees in successfully warding off efforts to force him to testify about his relationship with Debra Jean Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam. He even petitioned the Federal Election (gotta be care about that spelling) Commission to allow him to use campaign funds to pay for those legal efforts. Palfrey meanwhile, convicted of money laundering and racketeering, committed suicide.

Of course, we are acutely aware that the comparisons between McAllister’s crazy canoodling caper and Vitter’s hearty hooker habit have already been aired in abundance, so perhaps that’s enough said about the subject.

Instead, as our subject du jour, let’s discuss the conveniently all-but-forgotten Brent Furer.

Brent Furer was Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues (or maybe not, depending upon whom you choose to believe) who in 2008, violently turned upon his girlfriend when he discovered phone numbers for other men in her Blackberry, smashing her phone when she attempted to call 911. He then proceeded to hold her captive in his Capitol Hill apartment for 90 minutes, threatened to kill her, placed his hand over her mouth, threw her to the floor and cut her hand and chin with a knife. After he was arrested for the incident, it was learned that he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in Baton Rouge for drunk driving.

Vitter took firm and decisive action against his subordinate when he was arrested on charges of domestic violence. Coming down hard, he suspended Furer without pay for five whole days. Superior Court Judge Lee Satterfield meted out punishment almost as harsh: he handed down a suspended jail sentence of 180 days, dismissed the assault and weapons charges, ordered 40 hours of community service and treatment for drug and alcohol dependency, and gave Furer a “harsh warning.”

While the attack on his girlfriend occurred in 2008, it did not become public knowledge until ABC News broke the story in 2010. Vitter, the forceful advocate for women and an outspoken opponent of drunk driving, had allowed Furer to remain on his staff for more than two years until the story broke and only then did Furer resign on June 23, 2010.

It turned out that was not Furer’s first brush with the law. And while Vitter denied any knowledge of prior arrests, Furer, in 2003, following his conviction for drunken driving, performed community service under the supervision of a New Orleans pastor who also just happened to serve as Vitter’s regional director in Louisiana. That the upstanding senator was unaware of that arrest would seem to be quite incredulous, to say the least.

In fact, Vitter twice allowed Furer to travel to Louisiana on the taxpayers’ dime for court appearances in Baton Rouge to defend himself from the drunk driving charges, claiming that his travel to Louisiana was for official senate business. One of those trips just happened to coincide with his scheduled court appearance.

Prior to the 2008 incident with his girlfriend, Furer, an ex-Marine, already had three arrests for driving under the influence and once for cocaine possession. In one of those drunken driving episodes, in 2003, police pursued Furer’s swerving vehicle as they observed what appeared to be Furer fighting with a female passenger (again with the fighting with women? Some tough Marine.). He continued driving after she exited the vehicle and was finally pulled over. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was .132 percent, according to the arrest report—more than one and one-half times the legal limit of .08 percent for intoxication. Furer was “very verbally abusive toward the police,” the report said.

But the ugliest incident—the domestic violence incident with his girlfriend notwithstanding—also occurred the same year as his attack on his date. It was in late 2008 when Furer was en route to pick up medication from a Washington area pharmacy.

Furer, a veteran of the first Gulf War, became involved in a road rage incident with another former Marine, Gregory Blake. Furer chased Blake through Washington streets in their SUVs. During the chase, Furer struck a motorcyclist, throwing him to the pavement and fracturing his femur, according to a lawsuit pursuant to the incident. (Furer’s insurance company eventually settled out of court.)

When police arrived at the scene, Furer played the tired old Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am? card by flashing his Senate ID as he informed officers he worked for Sen. Vitter, apparently in the mistaken belief that congressional immunity extended to staffers.

“That guy should not be working for the U.S. government,” Blake said when he learned of Furer’s employment.

In a classic blame-the-messenger defense, retired Marine Gen. James E. Livingston said poor Furer witnessed “unspeakable tragedies” while serving in Kuwait and even went so far as to say the story of the incident with Blake was “clearly politically driven and it’s unfortunate that some are willing to ruin the reputation of a Marine veteran for a political story.”

Wow. Or backwards, wow. Nothing about the reputation of Blake, the other Marine veteran, General? Just how a retired Marine general uninvolved in the events managed to become part of the story remains unclear.

Gen. Livingston, however, wasn’t finished. “When faced with Brent’s troubles, Sen. Vitter could have chosen political expediency and allowed Brent to flounder on his own in a time of need,” he said. “Instead, he tried to allow Brent the best opportunity to seek help and get better while never downplaying the severity of the charges.”

How very noble of the junior senator from Louisiana.

Keep in mind that the road rage incident in which an innocent motorcyclist was struck and injured by Furer occurred after Furer had attacked his girlfriend, during which he asked her, according to the police report, “Do you want to die?” Still, Vitter kept Furer on his staff until ABC News broke the story more than two years later.

In fact, Vitter even offered an incredibly lame defense of the entire affair, claiming the story was inaccurate by denying that Furer worked on women’s issues in any way—as if that excused the physical attack on his girlfriend—even though records clearly showed that Vitter was lying through his teeth.

Several Beltway guides clearly identified Furer as the women’s issues point person in Vitter’s office. Moreover, Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said when she was in Washington immediately before the story about Furer and his girlfriend broke, she was personally informed that Furer was Vitter’s contact person on pending domestic violence legislation.

Vitter attempted to say (read: lie) that Tonya Newman and Nicole Hebert were the employees in his office who were assigned to women’s issues. Newman, however, was identified by Legistorm, one of those congressional staff guidebooks, as alternately Vitter’s Chief of Staff and Communications Director while moving between Vitter’s personal office and his Banking and Urban Affairs Committee office. Hebert, meanwhile, worked out of Vitter’s Lafayette, LA., office as a liaison on women’s issues—not as Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues in Washington.

So, in consideration of all the events described here, including Vitter’s oft-stated support of family values, women’s rights and his opposition to drunk driving, weighed against his flimsy explanations, we must keep asking two questions as we barrel headlong toward the 2015 gubernatorial election:

Can we really believe anything that Misogynist-in-Chief Vitter says?

And can we trust a state Republican organization headed by Jindal and State Party Chairman Roger Villere who scream for McAllister’s resignation while conveniently ignoring Vitter’s far more serious betrayal of the public trust? Not to defend his brain-dead lapse in judgment, but the moment Jindal and Villere opened their hypocritical mouths McAllister should have called a press conference and issued a statement along these lines:

“I shall resign from Congress precisely 30 seconds after Sen. Vitter resigns.”

The silence from Vitter’s sanctimonious enablers would have been deafening.

Read Full Post »

It has been a little over four years since democracy officially died in this country and sufficient time has passed to safely proclaim that you, the American voter, are no longer relevant. You have gone the way of the Edsel and the 8mm movie camera.

If indeed, your voice ever really was heard in the halls of Congress and in the 50 state legislatures, it has been officially muted by the U.S. Supreme Court which, on Jan. 21, 2010, officially handed over the reins of government in this country to corporate entities and power broker billionaires like the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Sheldon Adelson and the Walton family.

And yes, we were exposed to enough civics and American history in school to know that we do not live in a democracy but rather a representative republic which, by definition, is a representative government ruled by law—in our case, the U.S. Constitution.

But the question must be asked: representative of whom or more accurately, representative of whose interests?

To illustrate how elected officials react to the jingle of loose lobbyist change as opposed to the real needs of constituents, let’s bring the story up close and personal as we consider the story of Billy Tauzin.

Remember Billy Tauzin, the Louisiana Democrat turned Republican from Chackbay?

Tauzin, you may recall, was Louisiana’s congressman from the 3rd Congressional District from 1980 to 2004.

In a move that should cloud the rosiest of rose colored glasses, Tauzin in 2003 helped draft the bill that created a Medicare drug benefit but which, at Tauzin’s insistence, barred the government from negotiating drug prices. In other words, whatever the pharmaceutical firms wanted to charge for prescription drugs for Medicare patients was what they got. No discounts as when Medicare discounts physician and hospital charges. Pharmaceutical prices were set in stone.

Then, in December of 2004, Tauzin abruptly resigned from Congress to become president of….(drum roll, please)…the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

As if that were not egregious enough, Tauzin in his role as PhRMA President, later cut a deal with President Obama in which PhRMA volunteered to help cover the uninsured and to reduce drug prices for some senior citizens in exchange for a promise from Obama that the administration block any congressional effort to allow the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices. The deal was Tauzin’s effort to concede a few bucks on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry in exchange for a guarantee that a much more lucrative—and long-term—deal would remain intact.

Except it didn’t. And only when the deal unraveled did we learn the sordid details of the aborted agreement.

Ironically enough, it was the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the very committee that Tauzin chaired when he cut his original deal to prevent negotiating drug prices in 2004 that ultimately torpedoed him by amending the health reform bill to allow Medicare drug negotiation.

“Who is ever going to go into a deal with the White House again if they don’t keep their word?” sniffed the man who sold his soul—and his office—to PhRMA.

Should we feel betrayed by Tauzin? Should we be outraged?

Why should we? The little episode just described is only one of hundreds upon hundreds of cases of greed-driven deceit carried out by virtually each of the 535 members of Congress. In short, what he did is only symptomatic of a much larger problem in Washington and which filters down to every one of the 50 state legislatures and assemblies.

Whoever coined the phrase “Money talks, B.S. walks” should be enshrined in some kind of exclusive (as in its only member) philosopher’s hall of fame—and dual membership in the political hall of fame as well.

It’s been that way for more than a century now of course, but on Jan. 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made it official with its 5-4 ruling on Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. All that ruling did was open the floodgates for corporate money to flow on behalf of any member of Congress who might be for sale. (And just in case it may still be unclear, make no mistake that the word “any” in this case is synonymous with “all.”)

The Citizens United decision said that the government had no business regulating political speech—even by corporations which were—and are—still prohibited from contributing directly to federal campaigns but were now free to pour unlimited funds into political action committees (PACs) which in turn could purchase political advertisement on behalf of or in opposition to any issue or candidate.

Those PACs, more accurately described as “Super PACs,” proliferated overnight, cluttering the landscape with TV ads baring nothing more than a tiny “paid for” line at the bottom of the screen to identify the origins of the attack ads.

Like her or not, Hate or love the Affordable Care Act, it should gall every Louisiana citizen to know that it is one of those Super PACs that is buying all of those TV attack ads trying to tie Sen. Mary Landrieu to President Obama. It should nauseate television viewers in this state to know (of course they don’t tell you) that all those TV ad testimonials from Louisiana citizens that tell how Obamacare has devastated their lives and wrecked their homes come from actors—none of whom are Louisiana citizens. That is deceptive advertising in every sense of the word and yet it’s perfectly legal—all the illegitimate child of Citizens United.

So, what exactly is Citizens United? We hear the word bandied about but no one tells us just what it is. Well, here it is in all its ugly trappings:

Citizens United was founded as a PAC in 1988 by Washington political consultant Floyd Brown. More important than the founder’s identity was is the fact that the bulk of the organization’s funding comes from none other than the infamous Koch brothers, the moving force behind the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

So, on the one hand, the Koch brothers financially underwrite favorable federal candidates to the tune of millions of dollars through Citizens United. On the other hand, at the state level, ALEC conducts training sessions to develop “model legislation” for state legislators to take back to their home states for passage—legislation, for example, that keeps the minimum wage down, denies medical coverage for the poor, insures the continued existence of those payday loan companies, privatizes prisons and other services for the profit of member companies who run them, establishes “education reform” through charter schools and online virtual schools, and opposes employee unions while gutting employee pensions.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Kochs are members of the Walton family, Bill Gates and Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate to whom all the 2016 Republic presidential hopefuls, Bobby Jindal included, paid the requisite homage recently by making the pilgrimage to Vegas to bow and scrape before his throne in the hope that he would anoint one of them as the Republican candidate for President. (It must have been a sickening sight to watch those sycophants suck up to him like so many shameless American Idol audition hopefuls.)

As the Super PACs proliferated, so, too, did the money poured into political spending. Comparing the last two presidential election years, we see that Super PAC spending on all federal races went from nearly $40 million in 2008 to almost $90 million in 2012.

Being realistic, suppose that you, a citizen, contribute $1,000 to a congressional candidate who at the same time benefits from hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on his behalf by a Super PAC representing, say, a large pipeline company owned by someone like, say, the Koch brothers. That pipeline is projected to run right across prime cattle grazing land that you own and you aren’t too keen on the idea. So you contact your congressman to voice your opposition. Now, just who do you think has his ear—you and your $1,000 contribution or that Super PAC and its hundreds of thousands of dollars? That’s what we thought.

All these Super PACs were formed as either 501(c)(4) or 527 organizations—both tax exempt but with one major difference.

Tax-exempt 527s must make available the names of all their contributors while 501(c)(4) PACs can keep their donors’ identities a closely held secret, thus giving birth to the term “dark money” in political campaign vernacular. When Jindal formed his Believe in Louisiana as a 527 several years ago, for example, he dutifully listed all contributors, as well as all expenditures, as required. That may have embarrassing after LouisianaVoice published a lot of the names of both contributors and expenditures, including millions paid Timmy Teepell and OnMessage.

When Jindal formed his new America Next PAC earlier this year, it was formed as a 501(c)(1), meaning he could keep the names of his donors confidential so as to continue to promote his transparency doctrine as he gads about the country in his attempt to grab the brass ring. He apparently learned a lesson about forming as a 527 and about true transparency.

So, we reiterate: you the voting citizen of Louisiana and America are no longer relevant. Your vote has already been decided by those 527s, the 501s and the political consulting firms that will package the TV ads purchased by the PACs to present to you, the pawns in a huge chess game, so you can validate those ads by obediently trekking to the polls to pull the lever in an election whose outcome will have already been pre-ordained. Oh, there will be some upsets along the way just to keep up the appearance of democracy in action but in the long run, it won’t matter one whit.

The voice of the candidate whose passion is sincere, who is concerned about the issues, who cares for the voters, and who holds the ideals of fairness and constituents’ interests close to his heart, will never be heard. His appeals to justice and equality and a promise of an office that will not be for sale will be drowned out by anonymous actors flickering across your TV screen who pretend to be one of you—but really aren’t—and who will pound into your brain the truth as determined by corporate interests—a message that will resonate with you despite the efforts of that obscure candidate who would, if he only could, be an example of everything that should be good about this country.

That is the sad epitaph for the American representative republic (b. July 4, 1776; d. Jan. 21, 2010).

And if this doesn’t make your blood boil, shame on you.

Read Full Post »

The Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda, as we have shown here on numerous occasions, promotes unyielding opposition to any legislation that smacks of benefits to workers, the unemployed and the poor.

Among other things, ALEC, led by the Koch brothers, pushes legislation that:

  • Opposes an extension of unemployment benefits;
  • Undermines the rights of injured workers to hold their corporate employers accountable
  • Promotes for-profit schools at the expense of public education;
  • Opposes consumers’ right to know the origin of food we consume;
  • Opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage;
  • Limits patient rights and undermines safety net programs including, of all things a call to end licensing and certification of doctors and other medical professionals.

While the effort to end licensing and certification of medical professionals might play into the hands of State Sen. Elbert Guillory (R-D-R-Opelousas) and his affinity for witch doctors, such a move probably would not work to the benefit of the average patient.

http://louisianavoice.com/2013/12/30/louisianas-chameleon-legislator-sen-elbert-guillory-republicandemocratrepublican-is-candidate-for-lt-gov/

And while ALEC vehemently opposes any legislation that might remotely resemble benefits to the poor or which might invoke that hated word welfare, the organization’s agenda remains something of a paradox when one takes a step back and examines the spate of corporate welfare programs enacted by willing accomplices in the highest reaches of Louisiana politics.

Generous tax exemptions, credits, and incentives have proliferated to an extent not even imagined by the injured or unemployed worker trying to provide for his family—while generating few, if any, real benefits in the way of new jobs.

Probably the most glaring abuse of the incentives offered by our Office of Economic Development are the absurd tax dodges meted out to the movie industry and for what—being able to boast that we’re now recognized as Hollywood East.” That offers little encouragement to the guy trying to pay for a mortgage, a car payment, education of his kids, and health care if he’s hurt or can’t find a job.

By contrast, LouisianaVoice has found a few federal farm subsidy payments to several “persons of interest” which may come as a surprise to Louisiana’s great unwashed. Then again, maybe not.

For example, we have former legislator (he served in both the House and Senate) Noble Ellington, two years ago appointed to the $130,000 per year position of Deputy Commissioner of Insurance despite his having no experience in the field of insurance.

Ellington, a Republican from Winnsboro, also served until his retirement from the legislature as ALEC’s national president and even hosted the organization’s annual convention in New Orleans in 2011 so it stands to reason that he would, on principle alone, reject out of hand any form of welfare—even such as might be to his own financial benefit.

Not so much.

From 1995 to 2012, Ellington received $335,273 in federal farm subsidies while sons Ryan Ellington and Noble Ellington, III, received $89,000 and $25,223, respectively—nearly $450,000 for the three.

Granted, the senior Ellington made his fortune as a cotton merchant so we suppose that qualifies him to the subsidies—except for his position as National President of ALEC which is diametrically opposed to welfare. Oops, we forgot; that’s diametrically opposed to welfare for all but the corporate world. Our bad.

And then there’s Ellington’s successor to the Louisiana House, Rep. Steve Pylant (R-Winnsboro), who introduced a bill during last year’s session that would have required the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to “adopt rules and regulations that require all public high school students beginning with those entering ninth grade in the fall of 2014, to successfully complete at least one course offered by a BESE-authorized online or virtual course provider as a prerequisite to graduation.”

If that’s not corporate welfare, in that it guarantees a constant revenue stream in the form of state payments to private concerns offering those Course Choice courses, we will shine your shoes free for a year.

During the same time period, 1995 to 2012, Pylant received nearly $104,400 in federal farm subsidies.

His occupation prior to his election to the Louisiana House? He was sheriff of Franklin Parish.

Another ALEC member, State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi), also received $472,952 in federal farm subsidies for the same time period as Ellington and Pylant.

Thompson holds an Ed.D. Degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University) and lists his occupation as educator and developer.

Other ALEC members, their occupations and federal farm subsidies received between 1995 and 2012:

  • Bogalusa Democratic Sen. Ben Nevers—electrical contractor, $20,000;
  • State Rep. Andy Anders (D-Vidalia)—salesman for Scott Equipment, $34,175;
  • Rep. Jim Fannin (R-Jonesboro)—Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “independent businessman” and also has a background in education, nearly $2600—a pittance by comparison but still indicative of the mindset of the ALEC membership when it comes to applying a heaping helping of double standard to the public trough.

To be completely fair, however, it should be pointed out that Nevers introduced a bill this session (SB96) that called for a constitutional amendment that would make health care available under Medicaid to all state residents at or below 138 per cent of the federal poverty level—an effort that sets him apart from those who parrot the standard ALEC position on medical care for the poor. Of course his bill failed in committee by a 6-2 vote today (April 23) after Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) moved to defer action.

Perhaps voters will remember Claitor’s compassion for those without health care in this fall’s (Nov. 4) congressional election.

Two other legislators and two political appointees of Gov. Bobby Jindal who are not members of ALEC also combined to receive nearly $561,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012, records show. They are:

  • State Rep. Richard Burford (R-Stonewall)— dairy and beef farmer, $38,000;
  • State Rep. John Morris (R-Monroe)— attorney, $11,625;
  • Robert Barham of Oak Ridge—Secretary, Department of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, $489,700;
  • Lee Mallett of Iowa, LA.—member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, $21,600.

All but Burford and Mallett reside in the 5th Congressional District formerly represented by Rodney Alexander (R-Jonesboro), who now heads the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 5th District includes the Louisiana Delta which make up one of the largest row crop farming communities of any congressional district in the nation.

Accordingly, the $289,000 paid out to recipients in 2012 was easily the highest of Louisiana’s six congressional districts, more than double the 4th District represented by John Fleming and accounting for 50.6 percent of the statewide total.

For the period of 1995-2012, the 5th District also ranked highest in federal farm subsidies with the $23.7 million paid out representing 31.2 percent of the total and ranking slightly ahead of the 3rd Congressional District of Charles Boustany, which had $21.1 million (27.8 percent).

Of the $292.5 billion paid in subsidies nationwide from 1995-2012, the top 10 percent of recipients received 75 percent of all subsidies, or an average of slightly more than $32,000 per recipient per year for the 18-year period reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA records also reveal that 62 percent of all farms in the U.S. received no subsidy payments.

Read Full Post »

“Loyalty to Joe Aguillard apparently would include a requirement to ignore unlawful and unethical behavior…”

“The reports by Timothy Johnson to Louisiana College obviously had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with personal and institutional integrity and honesty.”

—Statements by Tim Johnson in his Mar. 11 lawsuit against Louisiana College and college President Joe Aguillard. Tim Johnson, son-in-law of Rev. Mack Ford, is said to have removed a girl from the New Bethany Home for Girls after she recorded Ford’s sexual assault of her more than 30 years ago. Johnson, whose son served for a decade as State Director for former Congressman Rodney Alexander, was appointed Wednesday to a $55,000-a-year job with the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs which Alexander heads.

Read Full Post »

OIL*

*(Only in Louisiana).

A man with direct ties to a defunct church-operated home for girls and boys in Bienville Parish—and to the Baptist minister accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls at the facility—has been hired by former Congressman Rodney Alexander as an administrative program manager at the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Louisiana Civil Service records indicate that Tim Johnson was given the somewhat vague title and began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs today (Wednesday, April 16) at a salary of $55,016 per year.

No explanation was given as to why his employment started in the middle of the week and only two days before Good Friday, a state holiday.

Timothy Johnson’s hiring is the latest wrinkle in the ongoing saga in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.

Johnson, of Choudrant in Lincoln Parish, was fired last May as executive vice president at Louisiana College in Pineville after leading an unsuccessful coup against President Joe Aguillard. Johnson had served briefly as acting president of the college and there was speculation at one time that he would be named permanent head of the school.

He filed a lawsuit against Aguillard and Louisiana College little more than a month ago, on March 11. In his suit, he claims his termination last May was in retaliation for his whistleblower complaint alleging misconduct by Aguillard. https://www.thetowntalk.com/assets/pdf/DK219640311.PDF

He claims he followed established policy when he reported to college trustees that Aguillard had misappropriated funds in such a manner that a major donor terminated gifts of about $2 million a year to the school. He further claimed that Aguillard lied to both donors and trustees about the financial matters.

He is married to the daughter of Rev. Mack Ford who ran New Bethany Home for Girls and Boys for several decades south of Arcadia in Bienville Parish and served on the New Bethany board until its closure.

One source said New Bethany was closed in 1996 but the facility was not officially closed until 2001 when the board, on motion of Timothy Johnson, voted to dispose of all of New Bethany property by transferring all physical property and bank accounts to New Bethany Baptist Church. Board records show that both Timothy and Jonathan Johnson attended the June 30, 2001, board meeting.

A support group comprised of female former residents of the New Bethany facility who say they each were physically, mentally and sexually assaulted claims that one girl who was assaulted by Ford managed to record the attack and was subsequently whisked away from the school by Timothy Johnson in an effort to protect his father-in-law. The tape, which the women say was turned over to home officials, subsequently disappeared. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/09/16/neil-riser-campaign-worker-linked-to-defunct-church-girls-home-accusations-of-sexual-abuse-by-father-in-law-minister/

Despite this incident and despite his serving on the board and making the motion to sell the home’s assets at a 1996 board meeting, Tim Johnson is said to have insisted in a conversation with an employee at Louisiana College that he had never heard of New Bethany.

More recently he and his son were active in the unsuccessful campaign of State Sen. Neil Riser to succeed Alexander for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District seat.

The winner of last November’s election, Vance McAllister, has his own problems after a video recording of him kissing a married woman in his office recently surfaced.

Tim Johnson performed volunteer work on behalf of Riser who was endorsed by Alexander after Alexander suddenly retired last fall with a year still left on his term. His son, Jonathan Johnson, Ford’s grandson, worked for about a decade as State Director for Alexander at $75,000 per year and worked as a paid employee of the Riser campaign.

When Alexander announced last August that he would retire in a matter of weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal immediately announced Alexander’s hiring as head of the State Office of Veterans Affairs at $150,000 per year, a job that will provide a substantial boost (from about $7,500 per year to $82,000 per year) to Alexander’s state retirement over and above his federal retirement and social security benefits.

The state’s entire Republican hierarchy, with the notable exception of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, immediately endorsed Riser as Alexander’s heir apparent and two of Jindal’s top campaign aides actively worked on behalf of Riser’s campaign.

And now we have Alexander, in his new position, appointing the father (Timothy Johnson) of his former state director (Jonathan Johnson)—a son-in-law and a grandson, respectively, tied to a fundamentalist Baptist preacher who is said to have preyed on teenage girls for several decades, both of whom served on the preacher’s board and both of whom worked in Riser’s campaign—to something called an administrative program manager at $55,000 per year right smack dab in the middle of Jindal’s spending freeze.

Folks, you can’t make this kind of stuff up. The only thing needed to make this story complete is for Jimmy Faircloth to serve as Timothy Johnson’s attorney in his litigation against Louisiana College and Aguillard.

OIL.

Read Full Post »

Apparently lost in all the jibber jabber about Vance in his pants McAllister and the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation he and aide Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock recently administered to each other is why on earth Monroe’s Christian Life Church pastor Danny Chance inserted himself into this steamy little affair—without, we might add, having been invited to the party.

Chance, in case you’ve been on vacation in the Ukraine, took it upon himself to reveal to the world (at least that part of the world that really gives a hoot in hell) that it was McAllister’s Monroe District Office manager Leah Gordon who leaked the video of McAllister and Peacock engaged in lascivious lip locking.

Chance apparently violated a ministerial duty of confidentiality when he shared with us a purported statement by Gordon that she was taking the video to State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) and Jonathan Johnson, former aide to retired Congressman Rodney Alexander and who worked in the campaign of McAllister’s opponent, State Sen. Neil Riser. Both men, by the way, have denied any involvement in receiving or circulating the video.

“I just feel like there is a conspiracy to bring Vance down and destroy him,” the good reverend said. “For someone on his staff to do that is wrong.”

And speaking of wrong, how about a minister violating an apparent confidence by going public with something like a confession, as it were, that an individual (Gordon) planned to forward the video to political operatives? Is that not equally egregious?

Someone recently, perhaps only half joking, suggested that Heath Peacock, erstwhile best friend of Congressman Vance McAllister and husband of McAllister’s paramour/legislative aide, might want to consider running against his former friend this fall for the Fifth District congressional seat.

That would be fun to watch, but we don’t feel it goes quite far enough. We have an idea to extend it to its logical conclusion.

How about if McAllister resigns his congressional seat (there is already pressure from that moral standard bearer, the Republican Party, that he do so), thus opening the door for Peacock’s congressional candidacy? McAllister, naturally would then run for governor next year against…..David Vitter.

Now that would be a match made in hell and could conceivably even launch a new reality show: Duck Dynasty Dilemma.

There would be no debates between the candidates, of course: only the congenial sharing of notes and frat boy exchanges of stories of romantic conquests.

To keep viewers’ interest alive during lulls in the dialogue, lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Elbert Guillory (R/D/R-Opelousas) could promote three-round chicken boxing matches. That would allow bookies to handicap both the governor’s race and sporting events simultaneously.

But the scenario gets better—or worse, depending upon your tastes—and considerably more muddled. To keep up, you may need a pen and paper and perhaps even an abacus and a few highlighters for purposes of color coding. A chart of some type might also help.

Obviously we couldn’t allow Heath Peacock to waltz into Congress unopposed as representative of the good people of Louisiana’s 5th District. He must earn his stripes. For that reason, we have tapped the Hon. Chet Traylor of Monroe as his most worthy opponent.

Remember Chet Traylor?

Way back in 1996, Trayor, then living in Winnsboro, defeated incumbent Ruston’s Joe Bleich to win a 10-year term on the Louisiana Supreme Court. While serving on the state’s high court, he would have occasion in 2000 to write the majority opinion upholding the constitutionality Louisiana’s anti-sodomy laws, thus validating a morals code for everyone to follow.

Traylor, following a divorce from his first wife, married Peggy Marie McDowell Ellington, who was previously married to Noble Ellington, II, of Winnsboro, then a state representative but since retired and subsequently appointed as second in command of the State Insurance Department at a six-figure salary.

The Ellingtons had two sons, Noble Ellington, III, and Ryan Ellington, both of Winnsboro.

The senior Ellington has been quoted as saying that Traylor was “significantly involved” in his divorce.

We may never know the details of the history between Traylor and Peggy Ellington because not long after her marriage to Traylor, she died.

Soon after her death, Traylor, the good Methodist that he is, began yet another relationship—this one with Denise Lively, estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington.

Now that’s a family man to the core.

And bringing this entire saga full-circle, we have Traylor receiving less than 10 percent of the votes in his 2010 U.S. Senate election campaign against….David Vitter.

All of which goes to prove two points:

  • Politics, especially in Louisiana, does make for strange bedfellows, and
  • If you followed all this, you have far too much time on your hands.

Read Full Post »

Without belaboring the obvious, several things are simultaneously clear—and puzzling—about the sordid little spittle-swapping episode involving Fifth District Congressman Vance McAllister and his married aide Melissa Peacock, wife of one of McAllister’s erstwhile close friends:

    • Elected on Nov. 16 and sworn in on Nov. 21, it took him only a month and two days—Dec. 23—to get busted in his own office by his own security camera. That has to eclipse any record for infidelity by U.S. Sen. David Vitter and shows that McAllister is dumber than a duck.
    • While some deep smooching doesn’t begin to compare to Vitter’s pillow talk with prostitutes, McAllister has pretty much been deep-sixed in his re-election bid while Vitter somehow remains the odds-on favorite to become Louisiana’s next governor. Vitter’s romps were in the abstract, only written about, while McAllister’s indiscretion was caught on video for all to see in its fuzzy, grainy quality—which only served to make the whole affair a little seamier and a bit more distasteful.
    • Because the video of McAllister and Peacock was taken inside McAllister’s Monroe office, this obviously was an inside job.
    • As pointed out by political analyst Bob Mann, the most aggressive Louisiana journalist today (Lamar White) is a college student living in Texas. Shame on the rest of us. http://cenlamar.com/2014/04/08/why-the-real-scandal-isnt-congressman-vance-mcallisters-philandering/

All of which raises several equally obvious questions, to wit:

    • How was it that The Ouachita Citizen was chosen to break the story on its web page? Citizen Publisher Sam Hanna, Jr., said the video was sent anonymously to his office. But why not the much larger-circulation Monroe News-Star where the story would have received much wider circulation?
    • Why did the anonymous video donor wait more than three months to send the package to Hanna?
    • Was this video shot from a surveillance camera or a cellphone positioned for the sole purpose of entrapping McAllister?
    • Were any federal laws broken by the person or persons who made the video and/or removed it from the office of a U.S. congressman?
    • Who would stand to gain the most from shooting the video—and releasing it at this particular point in time?

Taking the last question first, the most obvious answer would be a potential Democrat positioning himself to run against McAllister next fall. But how would such a person have access to McAllister’s office to either plant or remove the video? And how would that person know of the supposed relationship between McAllister and Peacock?

There is some speculation that the fingerprints of Timmy Teepell, the OnMessage guru of Gov. Bobby Jindal, were all over this little operation. Jindal, after all, supported State Sen. Neil Riser to succeed former Congressman Rodney Alexander who was appointed by Jindal to head the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. McAllister has embraced—sort of—the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that must surely have rankled the Jindalites who have been adamantly opposed to Obamacare since day one.

McAllister retained several of Alexander’s staff members, including Alexander’s former Chief of Staff Adam Terry who admitted he was “crushed” and “pained” that his former boss retired halfway through his term and did not anoint him as heir-apparent, choosing instead to endorse State Sen. Neil Riser. Terry is now McAllister’s chief of staff and some observers say he has never taken his eye off the brass ring—the goal of one day occupying Alexander’s old House seat.

Throwing a monkey wrench into all the speculative machinery is McAllister’s minister who points the finger at McAllister’s Monroe District Officer manager Leah Gordon, also a former member of Alexander’s staff.

The minister, Danny Chance, claimed that Gordon said she was going to take the video to State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), a Jindal ally, and to Jonathan Johnson, who previously worked for Alexander. Both men campaigned for Riser and both have denied any involvement with the video’s release. Gordon also has denied Chance’s allegation.

Chance made his claim to the Monroe News-Star. http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20140408/NEWS01/304080023/Pastor-says-McAllister-staffer-leaked-video

It would appear, as reported by White on cenlarmar.com, that the footage was obtained by the strategic placement of a cellphone camera directed at the office’s surveillance video monitor, a tactic that would have required careful planning and forethought. Left unanswered, however, is how the perpetrator knew that McAllister and Peacock would pause at the exact spot where the camera would catch them in their amorous embrace. And knowing that a cellphone can video only for short durations, the timing here for starting the recording is key.

Speaking of which, if one watches the video closely, there are a couple of suggestions of a staged act; as the couple reaches the strategic spot for the video, it appears that it is Peacock who makes the first subtle move toward McAllister, not vice-versa. Not that this in any way excuses McAllister for his stupidity or for his lack of judgment, but it all seems just a bit too contrived to be purely coincidental.

To the question of whether or not any laws were broken, the answer is quite clear: it is a felony to bug a federal office. Period.

As for why the video was leaked to The Ouachita Citizen, suffice it to say that Hanna, in his publication, endorsed Riser in last fall’s election and has made no secret of his opposition to Obamacare and by association, McAllister.

And the timing of its release should be obvious: it’s an election year in Louisiana.

One other question remains: how are the Robertsons over at Duck Dynasty, who actively promote an image of family and church above all else and who endorsed and campaigned for McAllister, going to handle this latest PR gaffe?

Read Full Post »

The controversy over that 55,000-acre 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 intent of the project is to patch, cold plane and overlay the existing roadway with 3.5 inches of asphaltic concrete and is expected to take about 50 working days to complete.

The project is being financed by state and federal funding, according to an announcement last September by Jindal. He said at the end of each federal fiscal year (Sept. 30 of each year), the U.S. Department of Transportation gathers funds that some states will not spend and reallocates the funding to states that are successful in obligating their full federal highway funding allotment during the fiscal year.

As a result of that, DOTD recently received $34.2 million in additional federal highway funding to use for projects and the Winn Parish project was one of 12 projects totaling $34.2 million announced by Jindal.

Resident Gary L. Hatten said he did not feel LA 127 was in need of repairs nearly as much as LA. 125, the Olla-Winnfield Highway, and he feels the LA. 127 work is nothing more than political payback to Riser, whose state senatorial district includes the hunting lodge, and to Jindal.

A search of political campaign contributions would appear to support that theory. Last Nov. 4, Busbice and his wife, Beth Busbice, each contributed the maximum allowable $2,600 ($5,200 total) to Riser’s campaign for the 5th Congressional District seat won by Vance McAllister.

Jindal also picked up $20,000 from Busbice and from Busbice’s father-in-law Alfred Lippman of Morgan City, the registered agent for Olla Productions, LLC., one of Busbice’s many business enterprises.

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.

LA. 127 runs for 54.7 miles south from a point east of Kitterlin Bay in La Salle Parish to LA. 126 in Winn Parish but the construction project includes only a 10th of that distance and conveniently runs right up to the camp’s entrance and stops at the property of TV reality show Swamp People star Troy “Choot ‘em” Landry, whose campsite is located within the hunting camp, said Hatten, a fact that some residents find particularly convenient and more than a little galling.

Lippman is Landry’s attorney and Landry was king of this year’s Krewe of Hepaestus, the premier Mardi Gras organization in Morgan City of which Lippman is a longtime member. Lippman also was master of ceremonies for former Gov. Mike Foster’s first inaugural party in 1996.

Busbice began purchasing some 55,000 acres in the three parishes, mostly in Winn, after Louisiana-Pacific shut down its operations at Urania in 2002. Louisiana-Pacific initially sold the forest land to Barrs & Glawson Investments of Atlanta, GA, to Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. and to Martin-Urania Corp. for $74 million. Barrs & Glawson re-sold tracts totaling 50,383 acres in Winn, 6,068 acres in LaSalle and 4,800 in Caldwell to Six-C Properties, headed by Busbice.

Since purchasing the land, Busbice has erected eight-foot fencing around the property and constructed a hunting lodge on the land that caters to high rollers who don’t mind ponying up a few thousand dollars for the privilege to hunt deer.

The hunting lodge, a participant in the state’s Dear Management Assistance Program (DMAP), is owned by William “Bill” Busbice of Broussard and has been a bone of contention with property owners in Winn, LaSalle and Caldwell parishes who claim that the Busbice has fenced off the 55,000 acres, thus entrapping deer and other game at the expense of area residents who claim they have been deprived of their hunting rights.

Two residents were arrested for trespassing on hunting camp property and the two, Wyndel Earl Gough and Hatten, promptly filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit against Busbice, hunting camp overseer Terry Carr and wildlife agent Rusty Parry.

Another local resident, Michael Atkins, sued Busbice and his company, Six-C Properties, after Busbice erected a fence completely surrounding 10 acres of land owned by Atkins. His lawsuit, which he won at the trial court level but which was overturned in part on appeal, contended that the fence not only prevented him from hunting but also blocked access to his property.

Names that have surfaced in what has become a conspiracy-laden story include imprisoned former Winn Parish Tax Assessor A.D. “Bodie” Little (now in federal prison for drug possession with intent to distribute), former Gov. Mike Foster and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

An Alexandria Town Talk investigation revealed that several of Little’s friends benefitted from under-assessments. Among those was Six-C, which was the beneficiary of an assessment that was $351,800 low, according to one local resident.

Under the $20 per acre forestland value, Six-C was billed $98,601 on its Winn Parish properties, then consisting of 31,600 acres. Winn Parish resident Grady McFarland, however, said Six-C should have paid taxes based on an $88.90 per acre value, or $450,410.

Landowners, including the Goughs, maintain that Foster hosted Cheney on a hunting trip in 2002 and shortly afterwards a federal grant came through Foster’s administration which was used to purchase the land which eventually came under the control of Busbice and Six-C.

Efforts by LouisianaVoice to confirm that allegation have been unsuccessful, though an entry of more than $87.86 million was included on page 29 in Foster’s fiscal year 2003-2004 executive budget under the column heading of Federal Funds.

Marty Milner, fiscal officer for the Office of Facility Planning and Control, said in a 2008 email to investigator Art Walker that he had found the $87.86 million but some projects were funded through the Department of the Military and the Department of Transportation and Development but his office did not handle the accounting for those departments. Accordingly, he said, he was unable to determine the disposition of the money.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,366 other followers