Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

The numbers just don’t add up.

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

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

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

I repeat. Not a single word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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By the time the dust from the gubernatorial primary election had settled late Saturday night, there were several conclusions that can be drawn from the results, all of which can be traced back to one overriding fact:

David Vitter is in trouble. And it shows.

Moreover, based on what transpired in the campaign leading up to Saturday’s voting, we can reasonably predict that the next four weeks before the Nov. 21 General Election will see more of the same attack ads by David Vitter, this time aimed at State Rep. John Bel Edwards.

Edwards entered the race with little name recognition outside the Florida parishes of Louisiana. He was pitted against three Republican incumbents: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, popular Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and the state’s senior U.S. Senator David Vitter who had—and still has—more money than his three opponents combined, thanks to a Super PAC formed on his behalf. That Super PAC, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, ironically is headquartered not in Louisiana, but in Washington, D.C.

But Vitter had that enormous negative—his reputation as a whoremonger who reportedly cavorted with prostitutes in Washington and New Orleans.

But despite the lack of name recognition and a campaign war chest that nowhere approached that of Vitter, Edwards, a state representative from Tangipahoa Parish, still managed to pull in 40 percent of the vote to only 23 percent for Vitter.

Granted, Edwards was the only major Democratic candidate in the primary but still, fully 77 percent of those who voted preferred someone other than Vitter as our next governor.

Angelle received 19 percent of the vote while Dardenne got 15 percent.

Vitter led or won outright in 10 parishes while Angelle won a majority or plurality in nine. Edwards won or led in the remaining 45.

That leaves Edwards needing only another 11 percent from Angelle’s and Dardenne’s 34 percent and the 3 percent that went to three other minor candidates to put him over the top while Vitter needs to pick up 28 percent.

There’s no love lost between Vitter and his two Republican opponents.

In fact, on Saturday, the campaigns of both Dardenne and Angelle campaigns sent out emails to supporters calling attention to the arrest of a private investigator working on behalf of the Vitter campaign. http://www.jaydardenne.com/vitter-staffer-arrested/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sp&utm_campaign=20151024_23829285_Jay%20Dardennne&utm_content=body_txt_directlink&action=email_click&ha1=

Vitter’s campaign has paid J.W. Bearden & Associates of Dallas $135,000 since August of 2014 and on Friday, an employee of the firm, Robert Frenzel of Dallas, was arrested for secretly recording Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, a Dardenne supporter, and State Sen. Danny Martiny of Metairie.

Bearden acknowledged that Frenzel worked for the firm but Vitter campaign spokesman Luke Bolar said the intent was to conduct surveillance on an Edwards supporter and not Normand. Oh, well, that’s different.

When arrested, Frenzel was found to have in his possession a dossier on New Orleans blogger Jason Brad Berry who recently has been publishing a series of interviews with prostitutes who claim to have had sexual relations with Vitter, including one who says Vitter fathered a child by her in 2000.

The email from Dardenne’s campaign said of Frenzel’s arrest, “I hope that you will share this with every one of your family and friends. We’re no strangers to political corruption, but usually these crooked politicians wait until after they get elected to betray our trust. We now know the real David Vitter.” Dardenne added, “He’s cheated, he’s lied and now he’s been caught spying.”

Likewise, Angelle said, “A man who has been unfaithful to his wife and (who has) been caught spying on Louisiana citizens does not have the moral character to be governor of our great state.” Angelle, like Dardenne, did not endorse anyone in the runoff.

So, why is it that two Republicans who failed to make the runoff have thus far refused to endorse fellow Republican Vitter?

For that, Vitter has no one but Vitter to blame. His onslaught of negative ads—he had more than twice as many TV ads as Angelle, his nearest competitor—had to leave a sour taste in Angelle’s and Dardenne’s mouths. Vitter relentlessly attacked the records and characters of both men which could force each of them to simply sit on the sidelines with no indication to supporters on whom to support.

Vitter’s ads against the two were particularly vitriolic in their content and now that he has disposed of them, he will no doubt turn his guns on his Democratic opponent. But Edwards made it clear on Saturday night that he was prepared.

“This is going to be a real tough runoff to watch unfold on TV,” he told supporters. A West Point graduate, Edwards referenced the West Point Honor Code which says, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” He then said to a chorus of cheers, “David Vitter wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point. He’s desperate and all he offers are lies.”

Edwards predicted that Vitter would do everything possible to link him to President Obama and Vitter didn’t let him down. In his own address to supporters following Angelle’s concession, Vitter said, “Voting for John Bel Edwards would be like voting for Barack Obama to be governor of Louisiana.”

Edwards, calling Vitter “Jindal on steroids,” noted that all four candidates supported “in some form or other,” expansion of Medicaid for Louisiana so that more low-income families can have health care.

Saying that he had avoided negative ads, Edwards then fired a shot across Vitter’s bow when he said, “If David Vitter wants to talk about who we associate with, I’m more than ready to do that.”

From hookers to private investigators illegally intercepting others’ communications, Vitter’s obnoxious behavior goes back at least to 1993 when then-State Rep. Vitter physically assaulted a woman who questioned his vote against killing a bill that would protected gays and lesbians from employment discrimination. http://cenlamar.com/2015/03/24/in-1993-david-vitter-physically-assaulted-woman-accusing-him-of-supporting-gay-rights/

Not only does Vitter have The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a Super PAC, but Baton Rouge lobbyist and attorney Jimmy Burland, writing on Vitter’s behalf, sent an email last week to several hundred state lobbyists in which he solicited individual $5,000 contributions from each in a series of Vitter meet-and-greet events which began today (Sunday, Oct. 25). He said in his email that the Vitter campaign needed to raise $3 million.

It didn’t take long to get a reaction to that brazen pay-to-play proposal. The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) on Oct. 23, two days after LouisianaVoice published news of the email solicitation, announced that it had severed all ties with the Burland and Associates lobbying and political affairs group, effective immediately.

“The parting of ways comes in light of a recent letter distributed by the firm’s owner, James Burland, soliciting contributions for the David Vitter campaign. LAE President and LAE-FCPE Chair Debbie Meaux said the move is troubling, as it is a blatant contradiction of the whole foundation of the firm’s business focus,” LAE said in a news release.

So now it comes down to choosing between a graduate of West Point and platoon leader of the Army’s 82nd Airborne who fought Bobby Jindal for eight years or a man who spies on opponents, cheats on his wife, physically attacks women who question him, avoids answering questions about his records, avoids debates or appearing at venues at which he does not have pre-screened questions and who has any reporter who questions him fired.

That’s the choice, folks. Forget about the Democrat and Republican labels and for once, let’s vote for leaders, for character, for trustworthiness. For all you people out there who puff up your chests and proclaim that you “don’t vote for the party but for the best candidate,” now is the time to put up or shut up.

If Vitter wins this election, LouisianaVoice will be watching his every move.

If Edwards wins and the Republican legislature attempts to block his programs which we believe would be best for the state, we will track campaign contributions, contracts and legislative votes that benefit large donors like banks, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms, nursing homes and insurance companies like never before. Votes on equal pay for women, anti-discrimination, higher education and health care will be scrutinized and chronicled for all to see.

If an Edwards administration becomes a smaller version of Congress where Republicans use parliamentary moves to block good legislation or if they try to tack on amendments like the infamous Mike Edmonson retirement enhancement amendment, we will by-God subject you to more exposure than you ever dreamed possible.

You are on notice.

One more thing: The Fund for Louisiana’s Future and all other out-of-state PACs need to stay the hell out of Louisiana politics. Forever. We don’t need outside money telling us how we should vote. We’ve seen what big money does to politics: it amplifies the voices of the special interests while muting our own.

And we don’t like that.

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“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” (Mahatma Ghandi)

“If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.” (Comedian John Fugelsang, sometimes mistakenly attributed to former President Jimmy Carter)

“A bunch of rich people convincing poor people to vote for rich people by telling the poor people that other poor people are the reason they’re poor.” (NOLA.com comment, Oct. 14, 2015)


By guest columnist Earthmother

           Not being an economist, there is much I do not understand about macro-economics.  But as an observer, I have some questions that I hope some of you who do understand economic structure can help me comprehend.

(Disclaimer: I am not an ascetic and have not followed Jesus’ teaching to sell all that I have and give the proceeds to the poor. We’ve worked hard, have a nice home and nice things, way more than we need.  I try to remember that money is not the root of evil—the love of money is. In most ways I’m no different from any other middle class American.)

I get the thinking behind the desire of the “one percenters/oligarchs” (or whatever we choose to call the wealthy ultra conservatives) for a poor educational system for the masses while their own children attend outstanding non-public schools. This creates a latter day feudal, Dark Ages situation where people who are kept ignorant and uneducated are easier to control, and provide an unending source of cheap labor. With no critical thinking skills, the disadvantaged vote as they are told by overlord politicians and the hate media….never realizing that they themselves are members of “The Other” that the hatemongers are telling them are the reason their lives are difficult. (Here’s a sad little rabbit trail—to a suggestion that a woman speak to her school board member, she replied in fear, “Am I allowed to speak to elected people?  Will I get fired from my job or punished?”)

Several journeys to Third World type countries make one highly sensitive to socio-political trends that could result in similar conditions in this great country of ours. Here’s a brief, firsthand glimpse of what a nation looks like when the wealthy can afford all the luxuries the world offers while the majority of the population cannot afford the basic necessities of life.

With a minimal tax base and small government, there are few government services, and those are often corrupt.  Many streets are littered with garbage; people live in housing sometimes made of scraps, cardboard and tin—with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Children and adults, dressed in rags, beg for food or change, eat from garbage dumps, and root through trash for anything of use. People who get sick or injured often die because they are unable to afford basic healthcare; there is no government “safety net.”

People of all ages walk for a day to see a missionary doctor in a schoolhouse, then walk for a day back home. People bathe in and drink from polluted streams of water; they are infested with parasites, and die from infections that could be prevented with over-the-counter medicines but which are out of their reach.

When you’ve bought food for toddlers abandoned to the streets because the parents cannot afford to feed them, worked in an orphanage and talked to children who were rescued as army personnel and fun-loving civilians rid neighborhoods of “vermin” street children, you cherish you own kids more and pray such things could never happen at home.  (Google “street children shot” if you think this is melodramatic.) Women have babies they can’t afford to feed, in patriarchal societies where women have few rights and no access to birth control and family planning services, and are beaten if they say no. Men abandon their families en masse either to work far away or just to avoid their responsibility. Women have little education or job skills to be able to support themselves and their children. Even scarce jobs in skilled labor areas such as welding and construction pay paltry wages, leading to illegal immigration.

Louisiana already looks much like a Third World country in many ways. The litter problem is a startling similarity. We have cities with neighborhoods with lovely homes, world class restaurants and attractions, sprawling university campuses that turn out graduates who go on to lucrative careers in prestigious fields.

But we are also a national leader in several less attractive quality-of-life areas: poverty, chronic disease, AIDS and STDs, violent crime and income inequality, and we remain near-last in education and literacy, health care accessibility and outcomes, life expectancy and economic parity. There is a possible correlation between Louisiana’s high poverty rate and poor education, etc., and the fact that we also have the highest percentage of the population incarcerated in the U.S., which has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, gives us the dubious distinction of being the prison capital of the entire world.

Add an unfair, regressive  tax system, wages kept low so that people at the top can take home more, a criminal justice system that appears designed to perpetuate poverty,  uncaring and/or ineffective leaders, all agenda-driven and backed by a sophisticated and effective propaganda machine, and we have a Third World-style society in the making.

So finally to my questions: Since the one-percenters already have more money than they can spend in several lifetimes, and the servant class is already sufficient in number to care for them, how does it benefit them to impoverish large numbers of people and create a huge underclass? With no money to buy things, the poor can’t purchase the goods and services to keep the wealthy wealthy.

Why inflict the unpleasant sights of abject poverty on their families?  (Seeing these things is very disturbing if one has a heart at all.) Often the “let them eat cake” people don’t notice the poor and disadvantaged in our midst. No one has explained that people who are hungry, poorly nourished with non-nutritious foods, and chronically ill, are not good students or employees.

If not motivated by altruism, what about the purely pragmatic idea that throwing a bone to the underclass keeps the upper class safe in their homes and safe from people who have little and want to take theirs in order to survive. If you read local and national news it should come as no surprise that we already have a huge problem resulting from the struggle between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

Does denial of healthcare services to the less advantaged provide more and better care for the wealthy? Does paying a living wage and allowing employees to work enough hours to qualify for benefits and earn enough to pay the rent and buy food somehow diminish the rich?  Why destroy traditional corporate pension plans and also attempt to cut Social Security benefits, so that retirees fall into poverty and lose their dignity?

How does it make sense to deny birth control and family planning services to poor women, then penalize them for getting pregnant by curtailing pre-natal care and seeking to withhold nutrition assistance to mothers and children? Why continue to insist that cost-free abstinence-only is all that’s needed to prevent pregnancy, when it’s proven to be rather unrealistic? Has anyone reasoned that when women are abstinent, theoretically their male significant others are, too? Just ask Sen. Bill Cassidy’s teen daughter if it works, and ask never-married spokeswoman-in-chief Bristol Palin how that abstinence thing is working out for her and her growing family.

Why do smart people ignore the failure of Friedman Chicago School economics, wherever it’s been implemented, worldwide? (Hint: read Naomi Klein Shock Doctrine.)

It would be naïve not to acknowledge the fact that every dollar (or euro, kroner, peso, lempira, or whatever) not given up by the wealthy in the form of reasonable taxes or fair wages and benefits for employees is another dollar in their bank account. Employers’ base pay rates on the value they place on work, and employers certainly have that right. What does it say about one’s attitude about the inherent value of people who perform menial task—those who clean their toilets, secure their property, and cook and serve their food? When is more than enough enough? And why is it desirable and moral to deny everyone else a reasonable standard of living?

Seriously, what is the rationale for the rich wanting to keep other people down?   How does it benefit them? How does it enhance their lives, or take anything from them if other people have sufficient resources to live on? I was taught that the U.S. classless society was different from other countries where aristocrats controlled the peasants. Was that teaching wrong or just invalidated by human nature?

When did the term “common good” become socialist/un-American/anti-capitalist? When did it become alright to take funds from needy children, the poor, the sick, the disabled, and give those tax dollars to the rich in the form of corporate welfare, including sports franchises and motorsports tracks owned by mega-millionaires? Why do free market capitalists thinks it’s their right to demand government handouts to grow their wealth instead of investing their own money?

Awaiting enlightenment from folks wiser and more educated than I.


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There is an interesting parallel to be drawn from Bobby Jindal’s less than earth shaking tax plan in which he advocates raising taxes on the poor (in apparent violation of his Grover Norquist no-tax pledge) while granting even further tax cuts for the wealthy (in harmonious accord with Norquist). https://www.bobbyjindal.com/tax/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=100915_MS_TaxPlan%20(1)&utm_content=&spMailingID=23715672&spUserID=MTI1NzExOTg5NzE1S0&spJobID=660993528&spReportId=NjYwOTkzNTI4S0

For this comparison, we have Earthmother to thank for pointing this out to us:

  • Jindal’s tax plan is an overt appeal to the infamous 1 percent, the upper crust of society who have the resources to hire the best tax lawyers and CPAs in order to find as many tax loopholes as humanly possible to fine even more tax breaks.
  • Jindal continues to poll around 1 percent in Iowa despite his desperate, often comical, always absurd attempts to draw attention to himself in his ludicrous effort to gain traction.
  • Ergo, Jindal’s tax plan is obviously designed to appeal to the 1 percent in Iowa who favor his candidacy.


News flash, Bobby: 1 percent’s not going to cut it any more than your giving away state hospitals is going to solve the state’s health care problems.

One percent’s not going to get you elected any more than your repetitive cuts to higher education are going to help students struggling to pay higher tuition.

Bobby, you are on a fool’s errand and you’re either too stubborn to admit you don’t have a chance, or you’re blinded by unbridled ambition, delusional….or just stupid.

Your propensity to have—and worse, your willingness to offer to the world—your opinion on every subject, trivial or important, with or without basis (mostly without), long ago grew insipidly thin.

And still you persist.

You persist in saying that there should be no hyphenated Americans and you persist in saying immigration without assimilation is invasion and that those entering this country should learn our language and go to work.

I guess that shows that nothing has changed much over the past 523 years.

Today (Monday, October 12) is Columbus Day, so let’s examine what his arrival meant to the natives of North America. When Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, he wrote to the king and queen of Spain that he found natives who “love their neighbors as themselves” whose manners were “decorous and praiseworthy.”

He also wrote, according to Dee Brown in his book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee that the indigenous people should be “made to work, sow and do all that is necessary and to adopt our ways.” Columbus even kidnapped 10 of the friendly San Salvador native Taino tribesmen and carted them off to Spain so they could be introduced to the white man’s ways.

One of them died soon after arriving in Spain but not before he was baptized, sending the Spaniards into a state of religious euphoria in the knowledge that they had made it possible for the first Indian to enter heaven.

As a diplomatic expression of their willingness to assimilate, other European explorers who followed Columbus looted and burned villages. They kidnapped hundreds of men, women and children and sold them into slavery. In a generation, the Europeans had ravaged the island, killed the vegetation and its inhabitants—natives, animals, birds and fish—and turned San Salvador into a wasteland…and then they abandoned it.

How’s that for assimilation, Bobby?

The most outrageous utterance in a long string of outrageous utterances, however, was his unsolicited opinion concerning the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/louisiana-gov-bobby-jindal-defends-comments-blaming-oregon/story?id=34403499

“The killer’s father is now lecturing us on the need for gun control and he says he has no idea how or where his son got the guns,” Jindal wrote in yet another of his inane op-eds. “Of course he doesn’t know. You know why he doesn’t know? Because he is not, and has never been in his son’s life. He is a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He’s the problem here.”

Well, Bobby, let’s examine your record, particularly your last term. You have not and have never been in our lives. You have spent the entirety of your last four years in Iowa. When you weren’t there physically, you were there in spirit, there in your far-fetched, ambitious, implausible dreams.

You have been a complete failure as a governor, a leader, and an inspiration to 4.6 million citizens of Louisiana. When you were elected, you carried the hopes and dreams of a better Louisiana into the governor’s office. You promptly discarded those hopes and dreams in favor of an unrealistic pursuit of your own impossible hopes and dreams.

You should be embarrassed to even show your face in public in Louisiana, much less choose to build your post-political home in Baton Rouge.

In short, you’re the problem here.

But hey, don’t sweat it, Bobby. You still have an unshakable lock on your 1 percent.


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In a state drowning in consulting contracts, what’s one more?

Bobby Jindal is a lame duck governor who long ago set his sights on bigger and better things. He has abdicated every aspect of his office except the salary, free housing and state police security that go with the title. In reality, he has turned the reins of state government over to subordinates who are equally distracted in exploring their own future employment prospects.

His only concerns in almost eight years in office, besides setting himself up to run for President, have been (a) appointing generous campaign donors to positions on state boards and commissions and (b) privatizing state agencies by handing them over to political supporters.

To that end there has been a proliferation of consulting contracts during the Jindal years. The legislative auditor reported in May that there were 19,000 state contracts totaling more than $21 billion.

So as his term enters its final months and as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols has less than a month before moving on to do for Ochsner Health System what she’s done for the state, what’s another $500,000?

LouisianaVoice has learned that Nichols signed off on a $497,000 contract with ComPsych Corp. and its affiliate, FMLASource, Inc. of Chicago, to administer the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program. FMLA CONTRACT

It is no small irony that Nichols signed off on the contract on May 19, less than two weeks after the legislative auditor’s report of May 6 which was highly critical of the manner in which contracts are issued with little or no oversight.

The latest contract removes the responsibility for approving FMLA for state employees and hands it over to yet another private contractor.

Apparently FMLA was just one more thing the Jindal administration has determined state employees are incapable of administering—even though they have done so since the act was approved by Congress in 1993.

Because no state employees stand to lose their jobs over this latest move, the contract would seem to simply be another consulting contract doled out by the administration, obligating the state to more unnecessary expenditures.

Whether it’s farming out the Office of Risk Management, Office of Group Benefits, funding voucher and charter schools, or implementing prison or hospital privatization—it’s obvious that Jindal has been following the game plan of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to the letter. That plan calls for privatizing virtually every facet of state government. If you don’t think the repeated cuts to higher education and health care were calculated moves toward ALEC’s goals, think again.

The contract runs from May 17, 2015 through May 16, 2016, and the state agreed to pay FMLAServices $1.45 per state employee per month up to the yearly maximum of $497,222.

Agencies for which FMLAServices will administer FMLA include the:

  • Division of Administration;
  • Department of Economic Development;
  • Department of Corrections;
  • Department of Public Safety;
  • Office of Juvenile Justice;
  • Department of Health and Hospitals;
  • Department of Children and Family Services;
  • Department of Revenue;
  • Department of Transportation and Development.

The legislative auditor’s report noted that there is really no way of accurately tracking the number or amount of state contracts. STATE CONTRACTS AUDIT REPORT

“As of November 2014, Louisiana had at least 14,693 active contracts totaling approximately $21.3 billion in CFMS. However, CFMS, which is used by OCR to track and monitor Executive Branch agency contract information, does not contain every state contract.

“Although CFMS, which is a part of the Integrated Statewide Information System (ISIS), tracks most contracts, primarily Executive Branch agencies use this system. For example, Louisiana State University obtained its own procurement tracking system within the last year, and most state regulatory boards and commissions do not use CFMS (Contract Financial Management System). As a result, there is no centralized database where legislators and other stakeholders can easily determine the actual number and dollar amount of all state contracts. Therefore, the total number and dollar amount of existing state contracts as of November 2014 could be much higher.”

The audit report also said:

  • State law (R.S. 39:1490) requires that OCR (Office of Contractual Review) adopt rules and regulations for the procurement, management, control, and disposition of all professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts required by state agencies. According to OCR, it reviews these types of contracts for appropriateness of contract terms and language, signature authorities, evidence of funding and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, executive orders, and policies. OCR also reviews agencies’ procurement processes against competitive solicitation requirements of law. The contracting entity is responsible for justifying the need for the contract and conducting a cost-benefit analysis if required.
  • However, state law does not require that a centralized entity approve all state contracts.
  • According to the CFMS User Guide, OCR is only required to approve seven of the 20 possible contract types in CFMS. The remaining 13 types accounted for 8,068 contracts totaling approximately $6.2 billion as of November 2014. Exhibit 2 lists the 20 types of contracts in
  • CFMS and whether or not OCR is required to approve each type, including the total number and dollar amount of these contracts.
  • In fiscal year 2014, 72 agencies approved 4,599 contracts totaling more than $278 million.

The Office of Contractual Review was since been merged with the Office of State Procurement last Jan. 1.


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