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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Teresa Buchanan, welcome to the club. You’re in good company.

First it was Steven Hatfield. Next was Ivor van Heerden.

Then, in rapid-fire order came Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend followed by Raymond Lamonica and John Lombardi. The message, in no uncertain terms, was toe the line or clean out your desk.

And on Thursday (Jan. 21), The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, apparently cratered to pressure from a state representative’s wife and killed an insightful column by senior political science major Michael Beyer—all because Beyer has the unmitigated gall to offer up a critical column of State Rep. Neil Abrabson’s torpedoing of Rep. Walt Leger’s election as Speaker of the House. Beyer’s online column may have been figuratively spiked by LSU, but thanks to Lamar White’s CenLamar blog, we’re able to link to it here: http://cenlamar.com/2016/01/20/speaking-truth-to-power-lsu-student-responds-to-state-rep-neil-abramson/

No wonder LSU hired Joe Alleva as athletic director. When the Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape, he promptly suspended the remainder of the lacrosse team’s season before DNA test results were known and fired its coach—after DNA tests came back negative.

This is the same Joe Alleva who was forced to eat crow in the now-he’s-fired, now-he’s-our-coach Les Miles debacle back in November. Washington Post columnist John Feinstein (a Duke alumnus) said Alleva was “a pleasant man whose next original idea would be his first.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/28/AR2007052800929.html

Not to dump on Alleva too much, but his track record at Duke and LSU is pretty much the poster child for the LSU personnel handbook and HR policy. The Duke debacle was so bad that after the three players were cleared and their accuser exposed as a liar, prosecutor Michael Nifong was disbarred for dishonesty and ethics violations related to the case.

Let’s review that honor roll of rolled heads cited earlier.

  • Jesse H. Cutrer and Carl Corbin: LSU Reveille editor Cutrer of Kentwood and assistant editor Corbin were expelled and five others suspended when they refused to knuckle under to U.S. Sen. Huey Long way back in 1934. The issue was a letter to the editor by a sophomore student not even on the Reveille staff. The letter was critical of Long’s naming a star LSU football player to the state senate. Twenty-two other students who were suspended were reinstated and the seven who left LSU were all invited to the prestigious University of Missouri Journalism School, paid for in part by LSU board member J.Y. Fauntleroy of New Orleans. The man who executed the firings was LSU president James Monroe Smith, who later went to prison on corruption charges.
  • Steven J. Hatfill: Hired on July 1, 2002, Hatfill was placed on paid leave a month later after FBI agents conducted a search of his apartment in Frederick, Maryland on live TV—complete with helicopters circling overhead. His crime? He was suspected of being involved in anthrax mailings. Though he was familiar with the effects of anthrax, his area of expertise was Ebola and his job at LSU was training emergency personnel to respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Saying LSU was making no judgment as to Hatfill’s guilt or innocence and that the decision “was not reached quickly or easily,” Chancellor Mark Emmert promptly fired Hatfill before his first day on the job. Hatfill was subsequently found innocent and six years later he was paid $4.6 million by the U.S. Department of Justice as settlement of his lawsuit. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/washington/28hatfill.html?_r=0
  • Dominique Homberger: The biology professor wasn’t fired but was removed from teaching in April 2010 for setting too high a standard for her students. She eschewed grading on a curve, insisting instead that her students achieve mastery of the subject matter instead of simply more mastery than the worst students in the class. In short, she refused to dumb down her course material. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/04/15/lsu
  • Ivor van Heerden: van Heerden was fired by LSU in May of 2010 after he had the temerity to criticize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ levee and floodwall construction designs. He also built storm-surge models, one of which predicted major flooding in St. Bernard Parish, eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. Apparently the LSU administration did not care much for accuracy. He was also stripped of his title as deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/ivor_van_heerden_who_pointed_f.html
  • John Lombardi: The LSU system president was cut loose in April of 2012 because he didn’t go along with Bobby Jindal’s programs, including the privatization of the LSU medical centers. He also publicly opposed other initiatives advanced by Jindal. The firing was done by vote of the LSU Board of Supervisors, all of whom were appointed by Jindal. The board had a reputation of subservience to Jindal as expressed by board member Alvin Kimble of Baton Rouge. “We are laying a lot of blame on the wrong person,” he said. “It needs to be laid at the legislature’s feet and the governor’s feet. You guys (fellow board members) are doing what you have been instructed to do. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/lsu_board_fires_system_preside.html
  • Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend: Two of the LSU Health System’s premier physicians, Cerise and Townsend were axed in September 2012 following a July meeting at which former Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine pitched a plan to privatize the state’s system of LSU medical centers. Cerise and Townsend made the mistake of expressing reservations about Levine’s proposal. But Bobby Jindal wanted the privatization done and he passed the word down the Board of Supervisors and two of Louisiana’s best doctors were gone. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/08/21/cerise-townsend-firing-came-soon-after-fateful-2012-levine-meeting-with-lsu-officials-to-discuss-lsumc-privatization/
  • Raymond Lamonica: The LSU System general counsel resigned under pressure as chief legal advisor to the university. He also was on the wrong side of Jindal. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/09/lsu_general_counsel_resigns_wi.html

As, apparently, was Teresa Buchanan. But she is fighting back. Like those Duke lacrosse players, the tenured associate professor of 19 years’ experience is determined to clear her name. She hopes to get her job back as well—and she has some big guns on her side. http://theadvocate.com/news/14637878-123/report-fired-lsu-professor-plans-to-file-lawsuit-against-school-for-violating-free-speech-rights

In her federal lawsuit filed Wednesday (Jan. 20) in U.S. Middle District Court in Baton Rouge, she is represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE, based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., has been around only since 2014. Already, however, it has negotiated favorable settlements in eight of 11 actions brought on behalf of students and faculty at colleges and universities in several states.

In firing Buchanan last June, LSU claimed her teaching methods violated sexual harassment policy for her occasional use of profanity and sexual language in preparing her students to become effective teachers, FIRE said in its press release Thursday.

“LSU’s policy mirrors the language of the ‘blueprint’ sexual harassment policy propagated by the U.S. Department of Education and Justice in 2013. FIRE and other civil liberties advocates have warned this controversial language threatens the free speech and academic freedom rights of faculty and students.

“FIRE predicted that universities would silence and punish faculty by using the Department of Education’s unconstitutional definition of sexual harassment—and that’s exactly what happened at LSU,” it said. “Now Teresa is fighting back to protect her rights and the rights of her colleagues.”

She was fired despite unanimous support from the LSU faculty senate which approved a resolution urged the university’s administration to reconsider its decision to terminate her. That resolution was ignored. Last September, the American Association of University Professors formally censured the LSU administration.

“You will not find another person who loves LSU more than I do,” she said at her press conference on Thursday. “I come from a line of LSU people on both sides of my family and I received two of my degrees from there.”

She said in firing her, the LSU administration “violated LSU’s promises of free speech and academic freedom for its faculty.

FREE said Buchanan “prepared her student teachers for the real-world rigors of working with children and parents from diverse communities. For this, LSU fired her. The LSU faculty senate and the American Association of University Professors have censured the LSU administration for its action. We think a federal court will likewise find its actions unacceptable.”

 

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I am certain that I will not agree with every move John Bel Edwards makes as governor. The re-appointment of Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police comes immediately to mind. Such is the nature of politics. No man alive can please everyone every time.

And when I do disagree, as in the Edmonson re-appointment, I will say so. I believe Edwards understands and respects that.

In the meantime, I am willing give him a chance. He has a monumental task before him in his efforts to help the state overcome eight years of Bobby Jindal’s reign of error. He must form coalitions with Republicans in the legislature in order to even approach a successful administration. But I certainly don’t expect legislators to be the whipped puppies they were during Jindal’s misrule.

I gave Jindal that same benefit of the doubt. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I voted for Jindal not once, but twice. I voted for him in 2003 when he lost to Kathleen Blanco and again in 2007 when he won. I honestly thought he meant it when he said he supported state employees and that he stood for transparency and a high ethical bar. I believed him when he said his appointments would be based on “what you know, not who you know.”

Well, we all know how that went down. He tried to gut state retirement, he destroyed the Office of Group Benefits, gave away the state charity hospital system, drove higher education to the brink of exigency (bankruptcy), and worse, he set a new low in the areas of transparency and ethics. And one only has to examine his appointments to the myriad state boards and commissions. They are dominated (and that’s putting it lightly) with major donors to his various political campaigns. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bobby-jindals-biggest-donors-benefited-from-his-administration_55e9e976e4b002d5c075fb17

http://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/

Moreover, “what you know” didn’t go too far in other areas, either. The number of state employees and legislators he teagued for daring to disagree with him is a very long list. And his “deliberative process” catch-all denial of public records threw a heavy blanket on any hopes of transparency.

So, it was with some surprise that I read Rolfe McCollister’s diatribe in his Baton Rouge Business Report this week. https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-whats-big-secret

Of all the ones to whine about any lack of transparency on the part of the governor-elect who has yet to even take office, Rolfe stands alone as the singular standard-bearer of double standards.

He contributed $17,000 to Jindal’s campaigns in 2003, 2006, and 2008. He was treasurer of Jindal’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign and served as chairman of Jindal’s transition team after his 2007 election. He served as director of Jindal’s first fundraising organization, super PAC Believe in Louisiana, and most recently served as treasurer of Believe in Louisiana as it raised funds for Jindal’s presidential campaign.

His Louisiana Business, Inc. partner, Julio Melara also was a player. Melara and his wife contributed an additional $8,500 to Jindal campaigns

And what did Rolfe and Julio get in return for all that?

Well Julio wound up with a pretty nice appointment to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Board), complete with all the perks that go with the appointment.

McCollister was named to the LSU Board of Supervisors and that’s where the hypocrisy really boils to the surface. Board members get choice tickets to LSU sporting events (including a private suite in Tiger Stadium). http://forgotston.com/2013/07/16/need-a-lsu-tuition-break/

And until the quota was reduced earlier this year, each member could award up to 20 tuition-free scholarships to LSU. Even after the reduction, they still get 15 scholarships each. http://theadvocate.com/news/11898955-123/lsu-board-revamps-number-of

Those perks could mean more than $100,000 per year per board member. In 2012 alone, the board handed out $1.3 million in scholarships to their friends—even as college tuition was skyrocketing for the average student with no contacts on the board. http://thelensnola.org/2013/07/11/lsu-board-of-supervisors-awards-1-3-million-through-little-known-scholarship-program/

Rolfe didn’t invent the perks and though he tied with two other members for the fewest scholarships awarded—five. But you never heard him raise a single objection to their abuse.

Rolfe, as publisher of the Business Report, purports to be an objective chronicler of political news. You would think that as such, he would champion all efforts to obtain records of a public body.

You would think wrong. He, along with four other members, did not respond to an email from reporter Tyler Bridges, then writing for The Lens of New Orleans, seeking comment. How’s that for transparency?

He certainly came off as a bit petulant this week when he went on a rampage about Edwards’s education transition team’s meeting in private “at least four times.”

There’s more. “McCollister notes it was Edwards who proclaimed at a Public Affairs Research Council forum in April that his administration would be more transparent than previous administrations, saying ‘a scope of secrecy’ has been allowed to exist,” his staff wrote today (Wednesday, Dec. 23). https://www.businessreport.com/article/publisher-gov-elect-edwards-transition-committees-discussing-public-education-big-issues-behind-closed-doors?utm_campaign=dr_pm-2015_Dec_23-15_05&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dr_pm

“But what does conducting all of the discussions of the transition committees behind closed doors in secret do for the citizens? What I haven’t seen yet is an editorial from The Advocate or The Times-Picayune objecting to the discussion of ‘public’ education in private. Why not? I thought transparency was their big issue.

Rolfe has a very short memory. I can’t recall the Jindal transition team over which Rolfe presided ever holding a public meeting prior to Jindal’s taking office. And when The Advocate, the Times-Picayune and the LSU Reveille were demanding the release of the names of all the candidates for the LSU presidency, where was he?

It’s hard to tell because the very one who should have been front and center in championing the right of the public to know who those candidates were, was strangely mute.

Not a peep out of Rolfe who was in a unique position to reason with the boy blunder to release the names.

Likewise, when the LSU Board agreed to that hospital privatization contract with the 50 blank pages, he should have been the first one on his feet shouting that a blank contract was not just questionable, but also not a legal document. Instead, he sat quietly as the contract was approved, laying the groundwork for the litigation over state hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe now winding its way through the courts.

Likewise, not one word of protest when the contract was awarded to a foundation in Shreveport whose CEO was…(wait for it)…a fellow member of the LSU Board.

“The public knows very little in specifics about what Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will propose and how far he will take some issues,” McCollister wrote. “Transition teams are made up of a majority of his friends, advisers and supporters—or those who think like he does (and Jindal’s wasn’t, Rolfe?). While this exercise is often ceremonial, it can reflect the views and direction of the new governor—and his closest friends and allies who will be whispering in his ear for the next four years (and of course, you never once “whispered in Jindal’s ear, right?). The public education committee has had five meetings in secrecy. What did they talk about, and who said what? We won’t read or hear about it in the media because they weren’t allowed inside—and the press never uttered a peep (Perhaps they learned from your example on the LSU Board, Rolfe.).

To those who don’t know your history, you sound like a champion of pure, open government.

Unfortunately, your words fall far short of matching your actions. Those indignant protests would carry a lot more weight if you had the track record to back them up.

That’s called hypocrisy, Rolfe. And that’s unfortunate, though not necessarily unexpected.

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As we face the end of eight years of ineptitude, deceit, and whoopee cushion governance, LouisianaVoice is proud to announce our first ever election of John Martin Hays Memorial Boob of the Year.

There are no prizes, just a poll of our readership as to whom the honor should go in our debut survey.

Hays was publisher of a weekly publication called appropriately enough, the Morning Paper in Ruston until his death last year. He relished nothing more than feasting on the carcasses of bloated egos. He single-handedly exposed a major Ponzi scheme in North Louisiana, sending the operator to prison. That got him some major ink in the Atlanta Constitution and the New York Times.

The problem of course, is trying to narrow the field to make the final selection manageable.

The obvious choice for most would be Bobby Jindal, but there are so many other deserving candidates that we caution readers not to make hasty decisions. After all, we wouldn’t want to slight anyone who has worked so hard for the honor.

So, without further ado, here are the nominees, along with a brief synopsis of their accomplishments.

  • Bobby Jindal: Mismanaged the state budget for an unprecedented eight consecutive years. At least there’s something to be said for consistency. In his eight-year reign of error (mostly spent in states other than Louisiana) he managed to cut higher education more than any other state; he robbed public education to reward for-profit charter schools and virtual schools; he gave away the state’s Charity Hospital system (he awarded a contract to the new operators—a contract with 50 blank pages which is now the subject of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle; he appointed political donors to prestigious boards and commissions, including the LSU Board of Supervisors which, under his direction, fired two distinguished doctors, the school’s president and its legal counsel; He trumped up bogus charges against the director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) to appease mega-donor Tom Benson and to appoint the husband of his children’s pediatrician to head up the agency; he forced state offices to pay higher rent in order to again accommodate Benson by signing a costly lease agreement with Benson Towers; rather than consider alternative ideas, he simply fired, or teagued, anyone who disagreed with him on any point; he refused Medicaid expansion, thus depriving anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 low-income citizens needed medical care; he tried unsuccessfully to ram through pension reform that would have been devastating to state employees; he insisted on handing out contract after contract to attorney Jimmy Faircloth who is still searching for his first courtroom victory after receiving well more than $1 million in legal fees; he spurned a major federal grant that would have brought high-speed broadband internet to Louisiana’s rural parishes; he stole $4 million from the developmentally disadvantaged citizens so he could give it to the owner of a $75 million Indianapolis-type race track—a family member of another major donor and one of the richest families in the state; he abandoned his duties as governor to seek the Republican presidential nomination, a quest recognized by everyone but him as a fantasy; he ran up millions of dollars in costs of State Police security in such out-of-state locations as Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina; he had the State Police helicopter give rides to his children, and the list goes on.
  • Attorney General Buddy Caldwell: All he did was completely botch the entire CNSI contract mess which today languishes in state district court in Baton Rouge; He consistently turned a blind eye to corruption and violations of various state laws while ringing up what he thought was an impressive record of going after consumer fraud (Hey, Buddy, those credit care scam artists are still calling my phone multiple times a day!); and his concession speech on election night was one for the books—a total and unconditional embarrassment of monumental proportions.
  • Kristy Nichols: What can we say? This is the commissioner of administration who managed to delay complying to our legal public records request for three entire months but managed to comply to an identical request by a friendly legislator within 10 days; We sued her and won and she has chosen to spend more state money (your dollars, by the way) in appealing a meager $800 (plus court costs and legal fees) judgment in our favor; it was her office that came down hard on good and decent employees of the State Land Office who she thought were leaking information to LouisianaVoice (they weren’t); she first reduced premiums for state employee health coverage in order to free up money to help plug a state budget deficit all the while whittling away at a $500 million reserve fund to practically nothing which in turn produced draconian premium increases and coverage cuts for employees and retirees (and during legislative hearings on the fiasco, she ducked out to take her daughter to a boy-band concert in New Orleans where she was allowed to occupy the governor’s private Superdome suite.
  • Troy Hebert: appointed by Jindal to head up ATC which quickly turned in a mass exodus of qualified, dedicated agents; he used state funds to purchase a synthetic drug sniffing dog (hint: there is no such thing as a synthetic drug sniffing dog because synthetic ingredients constantly change; this was just another dog, albeit an expensive one); he launched a racist campaign to rid his agency of black agents; while still a legislator, he was a partner in a firm that negotiated contracts with the state for hurricane debris cleanup.
  • Mike Edmonson: Oh, where do we start? Well, of course there is that retirement pay increase bill amendment back in 2014; there is the complete breakdown of morale, particularly in Troop D; then, there was the promotion of Tommy Lewis to Troop F Commander three years after he sneaked an underage woman into a casino in Vicksburg (he was subsequently fined $600 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission but only after first identifying himself as the executive officer of Troop F and asking if something “could be worked out.”); allowing Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux to take advantage of a lucrative buyout incentive for early retirement (which, in her case, came to $46,000, plus another $13,000 of unused annual leave) only to retire for one day and return the next—at a promotion to Undersecretary. She was subsequently ordered to repay the $56,000 but thanks to friends in high places, the money has never been repaid (maybe incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne would like to revisit that matter); consistent inconsistency in administering discipline to officers who stray—such as attempting unsuccessfully to fire one trooper for assaulting a suspect (even though the suspect never made such a claim) while doing practically nothing to another state trooper who twice had sex with a woman while on duty—once in the back seat of his patrol car.
  • David Vitter: what can we say? The odds-on favorite to walk into the governor’s office, he blew $10 million—and the election. His dalliance with prostitutes, his amateurish spying on a John Bel Edwards supporter, an auto accident with a campaign worker who also headed up the Super PAC that first savaged his Republican opponents in the primary, turning Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle irreversibly against him and driving their supporters to Edwards’s camp. In short, he could write the manual on blowing an election.
  • The entire State Legislature: for passing that idiotic (and most likely illegal) budget on the last day of the session but only after Grover Norquist was consulted about the acceptability of a little tax deception; for allowing Jindal to run roughshod over them on such matters as education reform, hospital privatization, pension reform and financing recurring expenses with one-time money; for being generally spineless in all matters legislative and deferring to an absentee governor with a personal agenda.

Those are our nominees but only after some serious paring down the list.

Go to our comments section to cast your vote in 25 words or less. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 18.

As much as you might like, you are allowed to vote only once.

 

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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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