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It’s funny in a sick, perverted kind of way when you think about it.

Come to think of it though, that’s entirely appropriate; the Bobby Jindal administration has been nothing but seven years of sick, perverted exercises in futility and failed policies. It’s enough to make other states laugh at us—and they probably are.

Foremost among his many efforts at “reform” preached by this incoherent governor is his insistence on something he refers to as “freedom of choice” for parents of students in grades K-12. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/10/jindal-urges-parental-choice-limited-government-and-end-to-teacher-tenure-in-sweeping-education-policy-plan/

Speaking at the Brookings Institute in 2012, he said the U.S. does not provide equal opportunity in education. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDCU-VlSgX0

Yet, when it comes to freedom of choice and equal opportunity for students in Louisiana’s colleges and universities, Jindal appears perfectly willing to “let them eat cake.”

Even as LSU and other universities and colleges face financial exigency in the face of another round of budget cuts, this time as much as $600 million and as more than 1,000 LSU students marched on the State Capitol on Thursday in protest, where was Jindal?

Out of state, as usual.

Damn him.

Damn his blasé attitude toward doing his job as the elected governor of Louisiana at a time when the state is in dire need of leadership.

Damn his resolve not to repeal corporate tax breaks, his administrations’ failure to properly audit severance tax payments to the oil and gas companies who have bankrolled his campaigns to the tune of about $1 million.

JINDAL SWINDLE

Following the rally Thursday, dozens of students converged on the Senate Education Committee which was meeting in the bowels of the Capitol. The five committee members, who for the most part, talked among themselves instead of listening as a witnessed testified on a bill about student records, paid the obligatory lip service in welcoming the students and then politely suggested they move up one floor to the Senate Finance Committee “because that’s where the money is,” according to one member.

Except it isn’t there. There is no money because of Jindal’s haphazard, slipshod, snow-cone stand brand of administration.

One Education Committee member even suggested that the students keep going—up “to the fourth floor.”

“Except no one’s there,” said another member, eliciting laughter at probably the most accurate statement made thus far this session.

It’s not, of course, as though Jindal is solely to blame for this fiasco. The legislature is complicit in allowing him to run roughshod over the citizens of this state on his way out the door and (he somehow still believes) to the White House.

If you don’t believe the legislators must share the blame in this, then explain how an attempt this week to finally accept Medicaid funds to help provide health care for 240,000 low-income Louisianians never got out of committee. Explain how attempts to increase the minimum wage and close the gender wage gap fail time after time but somehow legislation to allow the teaching that the earth is only 9,000 years old passes muster.

Therefore, the protest by the LSU students, one of those demonstrations inspired by social media, was the perfect opportunity for the four announced candidates for governor in this fall’s election.

It would have been if they had all showed up. Perhaps that’s why State Representative John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) and the lone Democrat among the four candidates, got such an enthusiastic response from the students crowded onto the steps in front of the Capitol.

JOHN BEL EDWARDS

Rep. John Bel Edwards addresses LSU students on Thursday (click on image to enlarge).

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the only one of the four to hold an undergraduate degree from LSU and a former LSU Student Government President was apparently so busy he could only send a representative from his office. A missed opportunity if there ever was one.

Edwards tried to downplay the significance of that. “Well, to be fair, I was already in the building,” he laughed. “I didn’t have to go far.”

But neither did Dardenne. His office is across the street from the Capitol and LSU’s right fielder could probably peg a strike to his office window from the Capitol steps.

But Public Service Commission member Scott Angelle and U.S. Sen. David Vitter also were conspicuously absent. Nor was a single member of the LSU Board of Supervisors in attendance.

Of course, it would have been a sham for Angelle to make an appearance. He is, after all, joined at the hip with Jindal. Granted, Angelle was a Kathleen Blanco holdover, but held over he was and Jindal even made him his legislative liaison. Jindal also named him as interim Lieutenant Governor when Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans, and then appointed him to the LSU Board of Supervisors (that’s the same board that fires LSU presidents on a whim, costs the state hundreds of thousands of dollars defending a defenseless attempt to deny access to public records, and which gives away state hospitals in a deal that had been rejected by the federal government). http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/lsu_board_jindal_resign.html

But why Vitter didn’t show is something of a mystery; there were so many attractive co-eds at the protest, after all.

Edwards told the students that he has “spent seven years fighting Jindal’s budgets. I did not vote for the budget last year and my solemn promise to you is that I will never vote for a budget that cuts funding for higher education.”

Edwards, who holds his undergraduate degree from West Point, received his law degree from LSU Law School. He told the students they are facing the potential of a 90 percent increase in tuition this fall. As expected, that was met with a chorus of boos. “No state has cut funding to higher education more than Louisiana,” he said. “I have a personal interest in seeing higher education fully funded. My daughter is a freshman at LSU.

“If you look behind you, you see a statue of Huey Long,” he said. “Say what you will about Huey Long, but at a time this state was in the throes of the Great Depression, Huey Long found money to build LSU, build roads and bridges throughout the state and to establish a great state hospital system. If he could find money to do all that during the Depression, we should be able to fund education today.”

But as Jindal prattles on about choice for students of K-12, he seems to have forgotten about the choice of post-secondary students: the choice to obtain an affordable education, the choice to remain in Louisiana and attend a tier 1 university, the choice to avoid devastating student loans that put graduates in deep financial holes even before their careers begin.

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Bobby Jindal has promised to find money to address the funding crisis facing Louisiana’s public colleges and universities but besides the obvious dire financial straits in which the state currently finds itself, two important obstacles must be overcome by our absentee governor: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist.

The odds of appeasing just one in efforts to raise needed funding for higher education will be difficult enough, given Jindal’s allegiance to the two. Obtaining the blessings of both while simultaneously distracted by the siren’s call of the Republican presidential nomination will be virtually impossible.

Higher education, already hit with repeated cuts by the Jindal administration, is facing additional cuts of up to $600 million, or 82 percent of its current budget, according to news coming out of the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/louisianas_higher_education_bu.html

Such a fiscal scenario could result in the closure of some schools and across the board discontinuation of programs.

Moody’s, the bond-rating service, has warned that Louisiana higher education cannot absorb any further cuts. http://www.treasury.state.la.us/Lists/SiteArticlesByCat/DispForm_Single.aspx?List=c023d63e%2Dac65%2D439d%2Daf97%2Dda71d8688dff&ID=884

Louisiana has already cut per student spending by 42 percent since fiscal year 2008 (compared to the national average of 6 percent), fourth highest in the nation behind Arizona, New Hampshire and Oregon. The actual cut in dollars, $4,715 per student, is second only to the $4,775 per student cut by New Mexico. To help offset those cuts, Louisiana colleges and universities have bumped tuition by 38 percent, 10th highest in the nation but still a shade less than half the 78.4 percent increase for Arizona students. http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-deep-state-higher-education-cuts-may-harm-students-and-the-economy-for-years-to-come?fa=view&id=3927

But that’s all part of the game plan for ALEC, the “model legislation” alliance of state legislators heavily funded by the Koch brothers which has as its overall objective the privatization of nearly all public services now taken for granted: prisons, pension plans, medical insurance, and education, to name but a few. http://www.cbpp.org/research/alec-tax-and-budget-proposals-would-slash-public-services-and-jeopardize-economic-growth?fa=view&id=3901

Jindal has already incorporated some of ALEC’s privatization proposals, namely state employee medical insurance and elementary and secondary education. He met with less success in attempts to initiate prison privatization and state retirement reform.

ALEC also proposes abolishing state income taxes, another proposal floated and then quickly abandoned by Jindal but pushed successfully by Kansas Gov. Brownback. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/21/vwelfap/

And then there is Norquist, the anti-tax Republican operative who founded Americans for Tax Reform and who somehow survived the Jack Abramoff scandal and thrived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abramoff_Indian_lobbying_scandal

What strange hold does he have over Jindal?

The pledge.

Jindal, as did a couple dozen Louisiana legislators, signed onto Norquist’s “no-tax” pledge—a promise not to raise taxes under any circumstances. The pledge even prompted Jindal to veto a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal in 2011 because in his twisted logic, it was somehow a new tax. The legislature had to adopt a last-minute constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent.

Undeterred, Jindal, through communications director Mike Reed, has said he would support a cigarette tax increase this year only if it is offset with a tax cut elsewhere. This despite estimates that a higher tax would not only generate needed income for the state, but would, by encouraging smokes to quit and teens to not start smoking, create long-term health care savings for the state. His veto also flew in the face of a 1997 article that Jindal authored while secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in which he said, “Society must recover those costs which could have been avoided had the individual not chosen the risky behavior only to prevent others from having to bear the costs.” http://theadvocate.com/news/11930951-123/lawmaker-proposes-154-state-cigarette

Not to be confused with the “no-go” zones of Jindal’s vivid imagination, the “no-tax” pledge apparently is a good thing for Republicans and tea partiers and is considered sacrosanct to those who have taken the oath even if it locks politicians into the impossible situation of trying to resolve a $1.6 billion budgetary crisis while not increasing revenue.

Jindal routinely runs proposed legislation by Norquist for his blessings, according to Jindal spokesperson Reed who admitted as much. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/in_jindals_world_tax_is_a_tax.html

Even U.S. Sen. David Vitter signed the pledge but has assured voters it won’t be binding on him as governor—a dubious promise that would make him unique among signers. After all, a pledge is a pledge and when one signs it, so what difference would it make which office he holds?

So, how does all this figure into the budget crisis for higher education in Louisiana?

In a word, privatization. Or, taking the “state” out of “state universities.”

While neither Jindal nor any legislator has dared breathe the word privatization as it regards the state’s colleges and universities, at least one Jindal appointee, Board of Regents Chairman Roy Martin of Alexandria, has broached the subject, speaking he said, strictly as an individual. http://theadvocate.com/news/11716059-123/regents-look-at-privatizing-public

The slashing of higher education budgets appears to be a pattern as governors attempt to wean colleges and universities from dependence on state funding, transitioning their status from state-supported to state-assisted to state-located. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/27/scott-walker-bobby-jindal-aim-to-slash-higher-ed-funding

Privatization of state colleges and universities would, of course, push tuition rates even higher, making a college education cost prohibitive for many. But that dovetails nicely with the ALEC agenda as income disparity continues to widen with ever more generous tax laws that benefit the super-rich while placing growing burdens on lower-income taxpayers. By winnowing out those who can least afford college, privatization necessarily enhances the selection process to serve the elite and at the same time, opens up additional revenue opportunities for those in position to take advantage of privatized services such as book stores, printing, food services, and general maintenance. http://gse.buffalo.edu/FAS/Johnston/privatization.html

There is already a backlog of nearly $2 billion in maintenance projects on state college and university campuses just waiting for some lucky entrepreneur with the right connections.

http://theadvocate.com/home/5997316-125/backlog-of-maintenance

States like Louisiana, by such actions as simply increasing our cigarette tax (third lowest in the nation) and being less generous with corporate tax breaks and initiatives, could have reduced the size of the spending cuts or avoided them altogether. Sadly, that was not done and those looking at someone to blame cannot point the finger only at Jindal; legislators have been complicit from the beginning and must shoulder the responsibility for the present mess.

As a result, state colleges and universities have already cut staff and eliminated entire programs to such a degree that Louisiana’s high school seniors already are considering options out of state and other states are obliging. https://lahigheredconfessions.wordpress.com/

Should the legislature adopt any measures to raise revenue for higher education, such measures likely would be vetoed by Jindal if he gets the message from Norquist to do so.

If that occurs, his palpable disregard for the welfare of this state as evidenced by his growing absence will be dwarfed by the affront of taking his cue of governance from a Washington, D.C. lobbyist as opposed to listening to his constituents who want real solutions and not political grandstanding.

But that certainly would be nothing new for Bobby Jindal.

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JINDAL STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS(FROM OUR ANONYMOUS CARTOONIST: CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

If there was any lingering doubt that Bobby Jindal has been committing payroll fraud, that doubt was erased in last Monday’s State of the State address to legislators at the opening of the 2015 legislative which, thankfully, will be his last such address.

Fraud is defined as:

  • The wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain;
  • Deceit, trickery, or breach of confidence perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage;
  • A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.

Payroll fraud is further defined as the unauthorized altering of payroll or benefits systems in order for an employee to gain funds which are not due. The person making financial gain could be the employee or could be an associate who is using the employee to commit the fraud while taking the funds for himself.

There are generally three types of payroll fraud but for our purposes we are interested in only one:

  • Ghost employees—A person, fictional or real, who is being paid for work he does not perform. In order for the fraud to work the ghost employee must be added to the payroll register. If the individual is paid a monthly salary this is easier for the fraudster, as once this has been set up there is little or no paperwork required. In order for the fraud to work, the ghost employee must be added elected to the payroll register. Once this has been set up, there is little or no paperwork required.

Under that definition, Jindal could certainly be considered a ghost employee. One person even suggested that it was not really Jindal speaking to legislators, that Jindal was actually in Iowa and they were being addressed by a hologram.

We maintain that Jindal is committing payroll fraud by vacating the state so often and leaving the details of running the state to appointed subordinates as inexperienced and naïve as he. The point here is this: No one on his staff was elected; he was. And he has not been at the helm of the ship of state and by absenting himself so frequently and so consistently as he gins up his presidential candidacy, he is committing payroll fraud, theft, and malfeasance. Others, like former Desoto Parish School Superintendent and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Walter Lee have been indicted and been prosecuted for payroll fraud.

Before we really get into his speech to legislators, JINDAL ADDRESS TO LEGISLATURE we simply must call attention to the feeble effort at humor he (or someone) injected into the third line of his speech:

“Well, here we are…at the moment that some of you have been waiting for a long time—my last state of the state speech.”

After an apparently appropriate pause, he continued: “No, that was not supposed to be an applause line…and I do appreciate your restraint.”

Seriously? You actually wrote that line in your speech? If you have to write that in, if you are incapable of ad-libbing that simple line, then we now understand that idiotic response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2009.

Before getting to the real meat of his legislative agenda for this year (if you can call it that), he touched ever-so-lightly on a few other points he generously referred to as his administration’s accomplishments. Our responses to each point are drawn directly from statistics provided by 24/7 Wall Street, a service that provides a steady stream of statistical data on business and government:

  • “We cleaned up our ethics laws so that now what you know is more important than who you know.” (A quick look at the appointment of Troy Hebert as director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control after the baseless firing of Murphy Painter could quickly debunk that bogus claim. So could several appointments to the LSU Board of Supervisors and the equally egregious firing of key personnel like Tommy Teague who did their jobs well but made the fatal mistake of crossing Mr. Egomaniac.)
  • “We reformed our education system…” (Louisiana is the fifth-worst educated state and we are the third-worst state for children who struggle to read);
  • “We reformed our health care system…” (Really? Is that why the privatization of our state hospitals remain in turmoil? That same reform ultimately forced the closure of Baton Rouge General Mid-City’s emergency room because of the overload brought on by the closure of Earl K. Long Hospital? Can we thank your “reform” for the fact that Louisiana still has the nation’s third-lowest life expectancy rate or that we enjoy the nation’s third-most unhealthy rating, that we are fifth-highest in cardiovascular deaths or that we have the highest obesity rate in the nation?);
  • “…Our economy is booming.” (Seriously? Louisiana is rated as the worst state for business in the U.S.; we rank sixth-highest among states where the middle class is dying; we remain the eighth-poorest state in the nation with a poverty rate that is third-highest, and we’re saddled with the fourth-worst income disparity in the nation and we’re rated the 10th-worst state in which to be unemployed.);
  • “We have balanced our budget every year…and have received eight credit upgrades.” (This one of those claims so preposterous one doesn’t know how to respond, but we’ll give it our best. Jindal has repeatedly patched budget holes by skimming funds from other agencies, like more than $400 million from the Office of Group Benefits reserve fund, from the sale of the tobacco settlement, from ripping funds for the developmentally disadvantaged (to fund a race track tied a political donor—what was that line again about “what you know, not who you know”?), by cutting health care and higher education, by selling state property, and now he’s trying to cover the current $1.6 billion budget hole by selling the State Lottery. As for those credit upgrades, we can only point to the February action by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s bond rating agencies to move the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative—and to threaten the more severe action of a downgrade.);
  • “The end result is a stronger, more prosperous Louisiana for our children. I measure Louisiana’s prosperity not by the prosperity of our government, but by the prosperity of our people.” (So, why are the fifth-most dangerous state in the nation? The 10th-most miserable state? Why do we have the eighth-worst quality of life? And the 11th-worst run state in the nation? And why have you never once addressed in your seven-plus years in office our ranking as the number-one state in the nation for gun violence or our ranking as first in the world for our prison incarceration rate?)
  • “We don’t live by Washington’s rules of kicking our debts down the road.” (For the love of God…);
  • “We have laid out a budget proposal that seeks to protect higher education, health care and other important government functions.” (And that’s why higher education and health care have been cut each of your years in office and why more cuts are anticipated that could conceivably shut down some of our universities. You really call cuts of up to 80 percent “protecting” higher education?);
  • “We have a system of corporate welfare in this state.” (Wow. After more than seven years of giving away the store to the tune of billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks, you finally come the realization that perhaps your generosity to the Wal-Marts, chicken processing plants and movie production companies may have been a bit much—that those policies may have actually hurt the state? What brought about this sudden epiphany? Bob Mann, in his Something Like the Truth blog, was all over that when he called attention to Jindal’s latest comment in the face of his claim a couple of years ago that we were “crushing businesses” with oppressive taxes. We’ll let him take this one.) http://bobmannblog.com/2015/04/17/bobby-jindal-is-now-against-corporate-welfare/
  • “We have identified over $500 million of corporate welfare spending that we think should be cut…” (Why the hell did it take you seven years?)

After all was said and done, after his hit-and-run sideswipes at all his purported “accomplishments,” Jindal devoted the bulk of his address to only two issues: Common Core and religious liberty. Of the latter issue, he said, “I absolutely intend to fight for passage of this legislation.”

Jindal was referring to Bossier City Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 707 which would waste an enormous amount of time and energy—time that could be better spent on far more pressing matters, like a $1.6 billion deficit—on preventing the state from taking “any adverse action” against a person or business on the basis of a “moral conviction about marriage.”

Despite claims by Jindal and Johnson to the contrary, the bill is nothing more than a clone of the Indiana law that constitutes a not-so-subtle attack on gays or anyone else with whom any businessman deems a threat to his or her definition of marriage.

So, after eight addresses to the legislature, Jindal has yet to address any of the issues like inadequate health care, violence, poverty, pay disparity or equal pay for women, increasing the minimum wage, poor business climate (his rosy claims notwithstanding), our highway system (we didn’t mention that, but we are the seventh-worst state in which to drive, with the 15th-highest auto fatality rate), or our having the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Instead, the thrust of his address is aimed at Common Core—he called it federal control even though Common Core was devised by the nation’s governors and not the federal government—and something called the “Marriage and Conscience Act.”

And he expects those two issues, along with something he calls “American Exceptionalism,” to thrust him into the White House as leader of the free world.

And, of course, attacking national Democrats like Obama and just today, Hillary Clinton, on her claim of having immigrant grandparents. Jindal, of course, wants exclusive rights to that claim and says so with his oft-repeated platitude: My parents came to this country over 40 years ago with nothing but the belief that America is the land of freedom and opportunity. They were right. The sad truth is that the Left no longer believes in American Exceptionalism.”

Well, to tell the truth, if Bobby Jindal is the example—the standard-bearer, if you will—for what is considered “American Exceptionalism,” then frankly, we don’t believe in it either.

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U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle could well be running for governor of Texas instead of Louisiana, if campaign contributions through March 31 are any indication.

That’s because between the two, there have been 69 contributions from donors in the Lone Star State totaling more than half a million dollars, according to campaign finance reports on file with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

In fact, it might even appear to some that there is a disproportionate amount of out-of-state money that has already been invested in the four major candidates for governor—and the Oct. 24 primary election is still six months away.

Besides the 317 out-of-state contributors who have combined to pour $900,000 into the four campaigns, 954 special interests (corporations, political action committees, etc.) have funneled more than $3 million of the total $6.1 million contributed to the campaigns of Republicans Vitter, Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards, records show.

With nearly half the total contributions coming from special interests—the numbers do not include donations made by individuals and family members affiliated with corporations—it is evident that the decision of choosing political leaders has been taken away from the citizenry in favor of moneyed power brokers.

Elections now go to the candidate who has the most money to spend on the slickest image building and most damaging character assassination of the opposition—all with little or no attention given to real issues or genuine political ideology. It’s as if every candidate has adopted the sales adage that says you don’t sell the hamburger, you sell the sizzle. To create that sizzle, politicians have shamelessly sold their souls to people like the Koch brothers, financier George Soros, Amway founder Richard DeVos, Las Vegas casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

Voters would probably be wise to examine the issues more carefully, question candidates on their positions and reject the big money the way the old 1960s-era print advertisement for the Volkswagen Beetle which shows two men campaigning from convertible vehicles, one photo has a candidate standing in the rear seat of a luxury vehicle (it appears to be a Cadillac) trailed by a marching band, and the other from the back seat of an economy Beetle with a lone bass drummer behind him—with the caption “Which man would you vote for?”

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Indeed, Louisiana, which man would you vote for? It would behoove us to take long looks at the candidates and what they stand for and not vote for the one who can best saturate TV ads with photos of him and his beaming family as he prattles on about how much he loves corporate donors and PACs this state.

Julia O’Donoghue, writing for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, noted that each of the four leading candidates for governor said he will not be signing the “no-tax” pledge of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/post_584.html

“As Louisiana’s next governor, I’ll make fiscal decisions that are best for Louisiana, not based on what a Washington group dictates,” says Vitter, the top money-raiser of the four. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/03/grover_norquists_no_tax_increa.html

But though Vitter says he would not sign the pledge as governor, he already has, as U.S. Senator.

That’s why it is so crucial to watch what the candidates do and not what they say. As you watch the polished TV ads in the coming months remember that old expression “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you are saying.”

That’s especially true of Vitter and Angelle. One has somehow survived not one, but two, extra-marital scandals, either one of which would have destroyed the political careers of other men, and the other is nothing more than Third Term Jindal—an appointee of and anointed by the man who single-handedly wrecked higher education, the Office of Group Benefits, the state’s hospital system, the state’s infrastructure and the state’s economy while on his way (he somehow still believes) to the White House.

LouisianaVoice received a most interesting web post about so-called “dark money” in political campaigns. The post, entitled Be Afraid of the Dark: How Dark Money affects elections, is the creation of Accounting-Degree.org and though dated, provides a thorough explanation of how $200 million in dark money—money not covered by federal disclosure rules intended to inform the public of who is paying to influence its vote—was expected to be spent in the 2014 Congressional elections last fall. http://www.accounting-degree.org/dark-money/

It goes into a detailed explanation of:

  • The 1976 U.S. Supreme Court Decision Buckley v. Valeo, which allowed unlimited campaign expenditures by individuals;
  • The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision by the Supreme Court allowing unlimited outside campaign expenditures by corporations and labor unions;
  • The 2010 Speechnow v. FEC Appeals Court decision allowing unlimited contributins to political action committees by individuals;
  • Super PACs, the political action committees that accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions (donors publicly disclosed);
  • 501(c)(4) Committees, the nonprofit campaign committees regulated by the IRS, not elections officials. Though not political in their primary function, they may accept and spend unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions and may then funnel money to super PACs (donors not publicly disclosed).

With an estimated $5 billion poured into last fall’s federal election campaigns, one has to wonder why the contributors, those who love power and love using it, would not be satisfied with using that money for the greater good—feeding the poor, paying teachers more, building infrastructure, health care, etc., rather than using it for the more sinister purpose of buying candidates and elections.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the campaign contributions from Jan. 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015 for the four leading gubernatorial candidates:

DAVID VITTER (Rep.): VITTER CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 1,158 totaling $3.7 million (Ave. contribution: $3,195);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 592 at $2.96 million (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest (corporations, PACs, etc.) at $5,000 maximum: 328 at $1.64 million (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of all amounts: 532 at $2 million (more than half his total contributions of all amounts from all sources) (Ave. contribution: $3,759);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 186 at $490,835 (Ave. contribution: $2,639) (including Texas: 54 for $201,500; Virginia: 19 for $38,500; Washington, D.C.: 12 for $27,000).

SCOTT ANGELLE (Rep.): ANGELLE CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 430 at $1.5 million (Ave. contribution: $3,486);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 230 for $1,150,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 130 at $650,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 213 for $800,500 (Ave. contribution: $3,758);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 84 for $339,000 (Ave. contribution: $4,036) (including Texas: 74 at $316,000, an average contribution of $4,270).

JAY DARDENNE (Rep.): JAY DARDENNE CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 409 at $597,000 (Ave. contribution: $1,460);
  • Total contributions at $5,000 maximum: 46 at $230,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 16 at $80,000 (Ave contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 115 at $111,825 (Ave contribution: $972);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 24 for $36,350 (Ave. contribution: 1,515) (Texas: 13 for $20,320 for an average contribution of $1,563).

JOHN BEL EDWARDS (Dem.): JOHN BEL EDWARDS CONTRIBUTIONS

  • Total contributions: 198 at $299,700 (Ave. contribution: $1,514);
  • Total contributions of $5,000 maximum: 15 at $75,000 (Ave. contribution: $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: 5 at $25,000 (Ave. contribution $5,000);
  • Total special interest contributions, all amounts: 94 at $94,250 (Ave. contribution: $1,003);
  • Total out-of-state contributions: 23 at $24,200 (Ave. contribution: $1,052).

QUICK SUMMARY:

  • Out-of-state contributions: Vitter with 186 for $490,835, compared to 131 for $399,550 for the other three candidates combined;
  • Special interest contributions: Vitter with 532 for $2 million, compared to 422 for $1,006,375 for the other three candidates combined;
  • Special interest contributions of $5,000 maximum: Vitter with 328 for $1.64 million, compared to 151 for $755,000 for Angelle, Dardenne and Edwards combined;
  • Contributions of the $5,000 maximum: 592 for $2.96 million while the remaining three candidates combined for 291 contributions totaling $1,455,000.

Finally, it might be worth mentioning that in 2011 Bobby Jindal raised a whopping $12 million for his re-election campaign.

And you see what that bought us.

 

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Before going any further, let’s establish a few facts:

I am straight, white, happily-married (for 46-plus years) male, a recovering Republican (40 years was more than long enough), in fairly good health. And while far from wealthy, my home is paid for and we live in reasonable comfort. My children are successful professionals and my grandchildren do well in school.

I am not a malcontent who bemoans every misfortune that comes my way. Linda Ronstadt’s Poor, Poor Pitiful Me is simply not my theme song.

Nor am I one of those oblivious optimists unable—or unwilling—to see or acknowledge the injustices meted out on those less fortunate. I will not allow myself to become blind to the suffering and hardships of others. Just as I do not want others judging me, I am likewise acutely aware that it is not for me to judge others.

I cannot, in good conscience, turn my back on someone because of gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or skin color. To do so would go against everything that the smartest man I ever knew taught me: my grandfather who had only a sixth-grade education but was smarter than any Ph.D. I ever met.

That is why my blood boils when I see those in positions of power deny the creature comforts to the less fortunate, or judge the lifestyles of those who do not think and act the way they do, or reject equal gender pay, or deny adequate medical care for the indigent or to even refuse to raise the minimum wage of the struggling working poor.

Bobby Jindal insists that those coming to live in this country should subscribe to his idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

But for someone who preaches freedom of choice, doesn’t such a requirement necessarily restrict that same freedom?

He even manages somehow to link his opposition to Common Core to the teaching of American Exceptionalism in our schools even though the Common Core curriculum is limited to English and math, not history. http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2015/03/19/bobby-jindal-responds-to-criticism-from-muslim-activists/

But Bobby, you need to answer this question: where is your ideal of American Exceptionalism when you deny health care to 250,000 Louisianans or when your lap dogs in the Legislature vote to block an increase in the minimum wage so the single mom having to work two jobs can make a decent salary?

HB 645 VOTE

Talk is cheap and you, Bobby, are even cheaper. You’ve been bought and packaged by the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist and their ilk. And you know what, Bobby? When they’re through with you, they’ll toss you away like a disposable diaper, which somehow is a uniquely appropriate metaphor.

And lest anyone think that I am singling out Bobby Jindal for verbal abuse, let me assure you there is plenty blame to go around, beginning in Indiana and moving on to Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and to every coward who brandishes a Bible and wraps himself in the American flag in the name or religious freedom.

These are the people who, secure in their own insulated cocoons, insist that others less fortunate should be happy to live on minimum wage, go without health insurance, receive sub-par educations from deteriorating public schools while their own kids go to charter schools and all the while, expect the working poor and middle class to bear the burden of higher tax rates, thanks to generous exemptions and incentives written for—and by—the wealthiest of the wealthy, the membership of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Indiana unbelievably, has passed a law removing the protection from discrimination by private entities against gay and lesbian citizens of that state—and Arkansas followed in short order.

Are you kidding me? Indiana and Arkansas seriously want to deny basic human rights and protection under the law for people simply because they are gay or lesbian? What’s next, burning witches at the stake?

The act does not restore religious freedom; we already have that. Instead, it rejects other basic freedoms for a class of people. That is discrimination by anyone’s definition.

Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence is trying to say the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was not intended to enable discrimination, but try telling that to the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/04/01/3641622/indiana-pizza-discrimination/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3

Crystal O’Connor, one of the owners of Memories Pizza, in defending the decision to refuse to provide pizzas for same-sex couples’ weddings, sniffed, “We are a Christian establishment.”

Oh, really? Well then, Ms. O’Conner, here are a few Bible verses for you to chew on:

  • Matthew 7:1-3: “Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.”
  • Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
  • John 8:7: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”
  • John 13:34-35: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The Indiana law comes with a potential high cost. All four coaches of the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament, scheduled to be held in Indianapolis April 4-6, have endorsed the NCAA’s position that discrimination should never be tolerated under any circumstances. Joining them are NASCAR, the Big Ten Conference, the NBA Indiana Pacers, the WNBA Indiana Fever, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, UConn Coach Kevin Ollie and USC Athletic Director Pat Haden. http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaabk/final-four-coaches-release-statement-on-indianas-new-law/ar-AAajTKT?ocid=iehp

You’d think that would be sufficient but even as Arkansas legislators were passing their own version of RFRA, major corporations, including Apple, Angie’s List, Cummins, Inc., Eli Lilly, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Arkansas-based Wal-Mart have called on Pence to repeal the Indiana law and for Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the law. Hutchinson first said he intended to sign the bill into law though he has since buckled to pressure to send the bill back to lawmakers for tweaking. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/31/politics/arkansas-religious-freedom-anti-lgbt-bill/

Even Republicans in Indiana have seen the light and are beginning to backtrack on their support of the law. http://www.thenation.com/blog/203001/even-indiana-republicans-are-telling-mike-pence-his-discrimination-law-wrong#

But even as they do so, lawmakers in North Carolina and Georgia have similar bills under consideration and former Florida governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush has expressed his support for the Indiana law. http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Jeb-Bush-defends-Indiana-law-as-he-seeks-Bay-Area-6171335.php

All of which begs the question: Have we as a nation gone stark raving mad? What happened to the great melting pot that was once America? This is what Jindal calls American exceptionalism? If so, stop the bus and let me off. I want no part of it.

I have worked with gay people find found them to be exceptionally intelligent and talented at what they do. As a newspaper editor, I once had a lesbian reporter working for me. She never hid her sexual orientation but neither did she flaunt it or let it interfere with her work as a professional reporter and we have remained friends for more than 35 years and continue to communicate by email on occasion. If I were a newspaper editor today, I would not hesitate to hire her. In fact, I would be proud to have her on my team again.

(I would be less than honest if I claimed I always felt this way. The truth is, in high school I joined with others in making life miserable for a gay classmate. He eventually dropped out of school because of our cruelty. I will carry the regret and shame for my act to my grave. That was most definitely not what my grandfather taught me.)

And even as I write this, State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) is considering introducing his own RFRA bill (the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act”) for consideration during this year’s legislative session. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/lgbt_louisiana_religious_freed.html

And then there is that arrogant Republican State Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Tennessee.

After his committee voted to deny 280,000 state residents access to health care by rejecting a plan to expand Medicaid, a-la Jindal, a play by the way that would have cost the state nothing, Gardenhire, who works as a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley, was confronted by an advocate for expansion.

Asked by one supporter of the expansion, Damien Crisp, if he would be willing to give up his own state-subsidized health insurance, Gardenhire responded by calling Crisp an “a**hole.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/todd-gardenhire_n_6986582.html

I believe it was President Truman who suggested if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Gardenhire obviously can’t take a little heat, especially after being caught lying when he earlier denied he received state-sponsored coverage.

The bottom line is this, just in case Jindal, Hutchinson, Pence, Bush, Gardenhire and Family Forum’s Gene Mills may have forgotten: Gays, lesbians, Mexicans, blacks, women, and the poor (along with others I may have missed) all belong to a group known collectively as human beings and as such, they have feelings, emotions, needs, families, dignity and rights.

They are American citizens and for anyone to try through legislation to deprive them of their rights and their dignity is nothing short of evil and even criminal—especially when it’s done so that some corporate CEO can get a bigger bonus and a better golden parachute that allows him to retire with a monthly pension many times more than the annual salaries of his employees.

If the Koch brothers, and their fellow CEOs from the corporate membership of ALEC would throw their combined talents and the money they spend on lobbying and dark money they funnel to super PACs behind a concerted effort to lift up those less fortunate, what a remarkable difference—for the betterment of all mankind—they could make.

As an alternative to pouring ever larger sums of cash into the lobbyist money pit that is K Street and into the pockets of self-serving, sanctimonious, out-of-touch politicians, work instead to bring jobs from overseas back into this country and make America the proud nation it once was, a title you long ago forfeited to influence and avarice.

The last time I went to church (which was last Sunday), I believe the lesson was that Christ was humble and that he aided the sick and afflicted. Perhaps if those among us with the resources and a true desire to help make this a better world would, instead of plotting how to gain even more wealth at the expense of the poor and the middle class, reach out to the weak and downtrodden, the experience might become a self-fulfilling prophecy of peace, hope and understanding.

Then and only then can we talk of exceptionalism.

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