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“The convictions are just the ones who got caught. If there’re a lot of convictions, there’s probably a bunch that haven’t been caught.”

—From a Governing magazine story by writers Liz Farmer and Kevin Tidmarsh, quoting John Mikesell of Indiana University, who co-authored a new report that placed Louisiana at the top of the list of most corrupt states.

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Another survey is out that ranks Louisiana as number one in the nation but it’s not very likely that the results will appear on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s feel-good blog and perhaps not on the web page of his biggest cheerleader, the Baton Rouge Business Report.

Liz Farmer and Kevin Tidmarsh, writing for Governing magazine penned an eye-opening story which we apparently failed to properly attribute. Though we did make a point of including the link to their article, which we felt made it abundantly clear that we were not claiming the work as our own and were citing them—through inclusion of the link to their story—as our source, they nonetheless felt we should have done more to identify them as the authors. By simply including the link to Governing, we apparently did not go far enough in proper attribution and for that we apologize because they did a superb job in identifying the problem of money and politics.

In their story, they cited a report by the Public Administration Review that details states’ corruption risks, accountability practices and related laws puts Louisiana at the top of the list of states for public corruption. http://www.governing.com/blogs/by-the-numbers/state-public-corruption-convictions-data.html

The report, released on Monday (June 9), also shows that states with higher levels of corruption are able to shape budget allocations and that they have a propensity to spend more money on capital outlay projects than for health and education.

Construction projects provide greater opportunity for the misappropriation of public funds for personal gain than expenditures on health, education and welfare, the study says.

The report provides an in-depth review of how some states showed progress while others remain behind the curve in mitigating corruption. Louisiana, with 384 public corruption convictions between 2001 and 2010, is far ahead of the pack both in terms of convictions per 100,000 population (8.5), and convictions per 10,000 public employees (10.5).

By contrast, Oregon (1.2) and Kansas (1.3) had the lowest rates of convictions per 10,000 public employees.

And though Pennsylvania and New Jersey had more convictions (542 and 429, respectively), their rate of corruption convictions per 10,000 public employees was less than Louisiana (7.1 for Pennsylvania and 6.7 for New Jersey). Neither Pennsylvania nor New Jersey appeared among the worst 10 states for the number of convictions per 100,000 population, the report shows.

Louisiana’s 384 total convictions during the 10-year period ranked behind Texas (697), California (679), Florida (674), New York (589), Pennsylvania (542), Ohio (495) and New Jersey (429), but with a considerably smaller population base than those states, Louisiana’s conviction rate was much higher.

“If levels of convictions are high, that’s a sample of the climate of the state, said Indiana University’s John Mikesell, who co-authored the report with Cheol Liu of the University of Hong Kong. “The convictions are just the ones who got caught. If there’re a lot of convictions, there’re probably a bunch that haven’t been caught.”

Among the higher profile convictions in Louisiana during the first decade of this century were former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, former Sen. William Jefferson, former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, and Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price.

In what should have been of particular embarrassment to the state, in December of 2010, the U.S. Senate closed out the decade by convicting Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Federal District Court in Louisiana on four articles of impeachment and removed him from the bench, the first time the Senate has ousted a federal judge in more than two decades. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/us/politics/09judge.html?_r=0

 Judge Porteous, the eighth federal judge to be removed from office in this manner, was impeached by the House in March on four articles stemming from charges that he received cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings.

Additionally, Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan announced his resignation in November of 2007 after what one observer called “almost five insufferable years in office.”  His resignation ended a tenure marked by a perceived failure to prosecute violent criminals, a jury verdict ruling that he racially discriminated against white employees, a seizure of the office’s assets and disruption of his staff’s salaries—all capped off when a robbery suspect fled to Jordan’s Algiers house only to then become a suspect in the shooting of a New Orleans police officer. http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/10/sources_talks_underway_for_jor.html

U.S. Sen. David Vitter dropped out of the 2003 gubernatorial race after reports surfaced of a relationship with a prostitute. He was elected to the Senate two years later but in 2007, his number appeared on telephone records belonging to Deborah Jeane Palfrey who was convicted in 2008 for running a high-end prostitution ring. He is an announced candidate for governor in the 2015 race.

And then there is Mr. Clean himself, Gov. Bobby Jindal, who attracted huge monetary contributions for a foundation run by his wife, Supriya Jindal, many of those from oil and gas companies. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/us/politics/03jindal.html?pagewanted=all

Those investments—and make no mistake, political campaign  contributions are just that: investments—paid off in spades last week when Jindal signed SB 469, pushed by another recipient of mega-contributions from oil and gas interests, Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton). SB 469 killed a lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) that sought to force 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies to restore the damage they inflicted on Louisiana’s wetlands through decades of abuse to the Louisiana coastal lands.

Farmer and Tidmarsh interviewed several sources for their story that says what we all know but which too often goes unreported.

“Legal corruption” they wrote, is even greater, according to Chuck Thies, a Washington, D.C., political consultant who said the “wink, wink, nod, nod” culture of campaign finance often runs right up to the line of bribery. http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/gov-corruption-politics-spending-study.html

Thies said an example of that would be a contractor who is lobbying a politician for approval of his project. The politician, who is running for reelection, approaches the contractor to ask for a campaign contribution.

“It’s that simple,” Thies said. “It happens all the time. The savvy person knows not to say, ‘If I do my ($5,000), will you authorize my (contract)?’ But (both) know exactly that’s what just transpired.”

When one follows the money into the campaign coffers of Louisiana’s most powerful politicians, it becomes a simple matter to understand in unmistakable terms just how much money runs—indeed, corrupts—the political process. The $10 and $25 contributor has little chance in being heard over the roar of the $5 million that oil and gas companies poured into the campaigns of the state’s 144 legislators and another $1 million that was funneled to Jindal.

Easily available campaign contributions allow legislators to enjoy the perks of eating at the finest restaurants, buy gasoline for personal vehicles, hiring family members as campaign “workers,” and purchasing luxury boxes at LSU, Saints, and Pelicans games, ostensibly for “entertaining” constituents.

So when those contributors come calling, as they most surely will, what legislator—or governor—is going to stand up to the special interests?

When lobbyists outnumber legislators by a 5-1 ratio, it becomes difficult for John Q. Citizen to squeeze his way into the conversation.

It all comes down to who our elected officials really represent, and the answer is obvious—and not pretty.

Louisiana fits the profile perfectly in that it killed Medicaid expansion that would have provided expanded health care access to the state’s indigent citizens while the legislature passed a $5.6 billion construction budget that includes sports complexes, golf courses, local road projects, fish hatcheries, and non-government agencies—all at a time when the state is in dire financial straits.

The classic shakedown can also encourage the culture of corruption while discouraging those who attempt to play by the rules.

A north Louisiana contractor has a lawsuit pending against the State of Louisiana and the Department of Transportation and Development for just such an alleged shakedown attempt by state employees that he said ultimately put him out of business because he refused to go along with the efforts to extract payoffs from him.

And there’s no incentive in spending time and money on a bid when the winning bidder has already bought political sufficient influence to “win” the contract or when the bid specifications have been written in such a way as to qualify a single bidder.

Several years ago in north Louisiana, a parish police jury wanted to purchase a used bulldozer. But not just any used bulldozer; police jury members had already spotted the one they wanted. The answer? The police jury advertised for bids in its legal journal, the local newspaper. Included in the bid specifications along with the make, year and horsepower was….the serial number.

It’s all part of the process that we call Louisiana politics.

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Did the Jindal administration get the cart ahead of the horse when it announced the layoff of more than 100 state employees at a state hospital in central Louisiana?

As if Gov. Bobby Jindal did not have enough on his plate with his attempts to gain approval form the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for his hospital privatization plan, now the battle over the closure of one hospital has moved into the courts.

Brad Ott of New Orleans and Ed Parker of East Feliciana Parish have named the Louisiana State Senate, the State of Louisiana and the LSU Board of Supervisors in their lawsuit filed in 19th Judicial Court in Baton Rouge.

Their petition claims that the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare violated the state’s open meetings law in approving the closure of Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville.

Moreover, the petition says that while more than 100 classified employees are due to receive layoff notices effective June 30, the State Civil Service Commission is not scheduled to consider the LSU layoff plan until early July.

Wait. What?

Did the LSU Board of Stuporvisors really notify 100-plus employees that they no longer had jobs—before getting formal approval of the layoff plan from Civil Service?

Surely not.

The Rules of Order of the Senate, Rule 13.73, entitled “Notice of committee meetings during session,” provides in part: “Such notices shall be posted for each meeting as soon as practicable, but not later than 1 p.m. of the day preceding the meeting day.”

Rule 13.75, entitled “Meetings prohibited without notice,” provides in part: “No meeting of a committee, regularly scheduled or otherwise, shall be held unless there is full compliance with the requirements of Louisiana Senate Rule 13.73…”

The lawsuit says the notice for the April 2, 2014, meeting of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare was revised on April 1 at 4:04 p.m. to add the consideration of SCR 48 by Sen. Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches).

SCR 48 was the Senate Concurrent Resolution that called for the closure of Huey P. Long. The resolution passed in the House Health and Welfare Committee by a 10-8 vote after nearly three hours of debate. By contrast, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee took only 10 minutes for unanimous passage.

Both petitioners say they had planned to testify in opposition to the resolution before the committee but that they were not notified that the committee would be taking up SCR 48 on April 2 because of the last minute revision to the notice of the meeting. “Consequently, both of the petitioners were effectively prevented from observing the deliberations…and expressing their concerns,” the petition said.

Wait. What?

Would a Louisiana Senate committee really do an end run around opponents to a controversial resolution in violation of the open meetings law in order to slip the resolution through?

Surely not.

But with the administration desperate to ram its hospital privatization through despite questionable funding methods, anything is possible. Jindal, in fact, has clearly demonstrated that he will go to any length to move his agenda along.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys J. Arthur Smith and Adrienne Rachel are seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief subject to the state’s open meetings law, an injunction prohibiting the state from implementing provision of SCR 48, monetary damages for violations of the state’s open meetings law, and attorney’s fees.

Smith is a relative newcomer in litigation against the state but he has sent out notice that the old ways of doing business may be changing. He has already won one battle with the Department of Education over the department’s reluctance to comply with the state’s public records laws and currently has other suits pending against the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

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Bobby Jindal the Petulant Paranoid has teagued yet another high-ranking state official, LouisianaVoice has learned.

This time the victim is said to have been only a few months from retirement.

The governor who publicly advocates openness, accountability and transparency everywhere in the U.S. except Louisiana, has shown on repeated occasions that he cannot stomach any difference of opinion among state employees at any level, classified or unclassified—or even from legislators.

His paranoia rose (or sank, depending upon one’s preferred descriptive verb) to a new level on Thursday, however, when he fired Gary Crockett, former administrator at Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville just two days after the House Health and Welfare Committee voted 10-8 to close the facility.

Crockett last year tried to keep administration-ordered layoffs at the hospital to a minimum but was forced to make deep cuts in personnel.

The irony of Jindal’s ongoing purge, aka dissident cleansing is that Crockett had already left his $144,650-a-year position at Huey P. Long because of his differences with the administration. He took a position at another state medical facility where he thought—incorrectly, it turns out—he could ride out the rest of his career..

Word out of the State Capitol is that Jindal felt that Crockett may have been providing information to legislators opposed to the closure of the hospital as part of Jindal’s flawed state hospital privatization plan that less than a week ago was shot down by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because of the creative but prohibited method of financing the privatization plans.

The federal action threw the state budget into chaos literally only days before the budget was to go to the House for debate on Thursday (today, May 8) because of a $400 million hole it blew in the state spending document.

Without going into specific names, suffice it to say that heads roll whenever a discouraging word is heard in Jindal’s presence and now the latest is what is becoming a very long line of teagueites, so named in honor of former Office of Group Benefits Director Tommy Teague, fired on April 15, 2011, and his wife Melody, fired about six months earlier as a grants reviewer but later reinstated.

One recent Teagueite, a friend of Crockett who must remain nameless, said of Jindal’s latest action, “There’s no other way to say it except to say the man is evil.”

Attempts by LouisianaVoice to reach Crockett Thursday for comment were unsuccessful.

 

 

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“At the age of 24, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster appointed him as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, giving him authority over 40 percent of the state’s budget. Under his direction, Louisiana’s Medicaid program went from a $400 million deficit to a $220 million surplus.”

—Forbes Magazine writer Avik Roy, in a puff piece on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in October of 2011—right after Jindal won re-election to a second term and shortly before his poll numbers plummeted and less than three years before his plan for privatizing the LSU hospital system crashed and burned.

 

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Any successful stage magician must be adept at the art of misdirection so as to be able to successfully pull off his sleight of hand maneuvers while the audience’s eyes are focused elsewhere.

That being the case, just call Gov. Bobby Jindal the aspiring-but-not-quite-there-yet magician: the wannabe.

Rather than coming off as an inept stage magician, however, Jindal more closely resembles the old traveling snake oil salesman standing on the back of his wagon full of patent medicine as he assures the crowd gathered around him to “Try this: it’ll cure what’s ailing you.”

“It’s guaranteed to fix education, health care, the economy, deteriorating roads and bridges, crumbling college and university physical plant, pensions, prisons, budget deficits, the environment, poverty, coastal erosion, and population loss—all while reducing your taxes and giving more corporate tax breaks and handing out more consulting contracts.

“But don’t look at me when I’m telling you this; instead, watch what those bureaucrats in Washington are doing. They’re the one who are wrong-headed, who have no legal basis for doing what they’re doing.

“But you’d better hurry. That’s right, step right up and get your Miracle Jindal Juice ‘cause I can’t stay here long. I have to be moving on. I’ve gotta be in Iowa next week, New Hampshire after that and then Washington, New York, Los Angeles…

That’s the Bobby Jindal we all know here in Louisiana—the real Bobby Jindal and not the Bobby Jindal of mythical proportions being foisted upon the rest of the country by Forbes magazine, Fox News, Politico and the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Of course he does have his supporters closer to home, namely a publisher of a Baton Rouge business publication who was Jindal’s campaign finance chairman and who now serves as an appointed member of the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, an editorial columnist for the Baton Rouge Advocate who doesn’t even live in Louisiana (he resides in Mobile, Alabama), and an associate professor up in Shreveport who contributes to a blog supported by a lot of really bizarre advertising (“highly valued sponsors,” they’re called). Here are a few examples:

http://www.familysurvivalkit.org/new/bclf/index_6.php?aff_id=7703&subid=tpA04252014fsc&trid=1021a45ee3d734d499e32716a484ab&k={k}

http://www.healthrevelations.net/HTML5/Encode_New/Transcript/?pco=LHRVQ470&efo=HRV140219A&xco=XHRVQ470

http://finance.moneyandmarkets.com/reports/RWR/american-revolution/?em=&c=&sc=COCO&ec=5947104

http://www.omegaflexformula.com/video/?utm_source=thejrwa&utm_medium=email&utm_term=jointmiracle&utm_content=omegaflex&utm_campaign=041814conservative

But enough of that. Let’s get back to Bobby Jindal: the Man, the Legend.

Perhaps it is only appropriate that as a child, the governor who exists in an insulated fantasy world where he is always right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, took his name Bobby from a character on the saccharin-laden sitcom The Brady Bunch where every problem was solved and every crisis was overcome in a 30-minute time slot. Too bad it just doesn’t work that way in the real world.

If, while sitting on the living room floor as a kid, he had gotten hooked instead on The Beverly Hillbillies, Do you think Louisiana would have elected Jethro Jindal? (Before you answer that, think Swamp People and Duck Dynasty.) Jay Leno joked that it was probably a good thing Jindal didn’t watch Gilligan’s Island growing up lest he might have adopted the name “Little Buddy.”

Perhaps he should have; after all, he has been lost for six years now.

Instead of staying at home and doing his job, Jindal would rather flit about the country, telling anyone who will listen how great he is, how wonderful his programs are, and how he personally has had to overcome the dictatorial hand of Washington in general and Obama in particular.

Misdirection.

And now, the latest insult to his constituents here at home is an op-ed he penned in Sunday’s (May 4) Forbes magazine which leaves the reader (in Louisiana, anyway) wondering if Forbes is really this desperate to fill its pages with self-serving, aggrandizing claptrap.

The piece, titled How We Achieved Louisiana’s Economic Surge, is filled with misleading statistics designed to convince readers that he took over a cesspool of ineptitude six years ago and turned it into paradise on earth for every living, breathing citizen of the state.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/05/04/how-we-achieved-louisianas-economic-surge/

 

Following are excerpts from Jindal’s latest self-anointing op-ed, with our comments, in italics, following each of Roy’s observations:

  • Right off the bat, he boasts of a “surge of economic growth, and more and better-paying jobs.”
  • Yet, Louisiana is rated better than Wyoming in closing the gender pay gap. In Louisiana, women make only 67 percent of what a man makes for performing the same job (as opposed to Maryland, Nevada and Vermont where women make 85 percent of what men make, and in Washington, D.C., where it’s 90 percent.

Misdirection.

  • Louisiana has the lowest unemployment rate in the south, tied for seventh-lowest in the nation,” he writes.
  • But Louisiana’s 18 percent poverty rate ranks fifth highest in the nation, according to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And Jindal’s lapdogs, the Louisiana Legislature, recently beat back efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Misdirection.

  • We shifted from a government-run hospital system to a health system that embraces ingenuity and efficiency…”
  • Yet, Jindal refused to expand Medicaid even though 18.3 percent of Louisiana citizens, mostly working poor, are without health insurance—lower than only Texas (24.6 percent), Nevada (23.5 percent), New Mexico (21.9 percent), Florida (21.5 percent), Georgia (19.2 percent), Alaska (19 percent), and Arkansas (19.4 percent). Oh, and Louisiana continues to rank number one in the nation in obesity rate.
  • “Per-capita income in our state is at its highest level ever.”
  • The Bureau of Business & Economic Research, however, lists Louisiana at 29th in the nation in per capital income last year—not last, but certainly not setting the pace, either.

Misdirection.

  • Of all the statistics about our state’s progress, I’m proudest of the six straight years of in-migration…”
  • Louisiana has seen its congressional strength drop from eight to seven and now six with some saying it may drop to five after the 2020 census. So where’s that in-migration, Governor?

As absurd as that article was, one also published by Forbes in October of 2011, seems in retrospect to be a parody of Jindal’s administration rather than a serious treatise by writer Avik Roy:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2011/10/24/louisiana-gov-bobby-jindal-is-piling-up-an-impressive-health-reform-resume/

 

  • “At the age of 24, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster appointed him as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, giving him authority over 40 percent of the state’s budget. Under his direction, Louisiana’s Medicaid program went from a $400 million deficit to a $220 million surplus.”
  • Really? So, Governor, what about now? Where is that surplus today?

 

  • National Review has published online Jim Geraghty’s lengthy profile of Governor Jindal. Geraghty discusses at lengthhow Gov. Jindal restructured Louisiana’s unique charity hospital system.”
  • In light of recent developments, we’ll bet you Geraghty’s report would make interesting reading today—if one could stop laughing long enough to finish it.

 

  • “At Earl K. Long (Hospital in Baton Rouge), 63 percent of the emergency room visits are for non-emergency care.”
  • Prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, about 40 miles from Baton Rouge, were routinely treated for all ailments and injuries—emergency and non-emergency—at Earl K. Long, thus accounting for the large percentage of non-emergency visits.

 

  • In October of 2011, “Jindal won a second term as Governor, garnering the highest percentage of votes by a gubernatorial candidate since the state introduced its current “jungle primary” system in 1978.”
  • Granted, Avik Roy has the creds, being a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and having served as health care policy advisor to Mitt Romney, but he really shouldn’t get too excited about that 2011 election. Yes, Jindal got 67 percent; but it was 67 percent of a total turnout of less than 20 percent and his strongest challenger was an unknown school teacher who had something in the neighborhood of $2500 in campaign funds against Jindal’s $11 million. Anything less than 90 percent should’ve been consider an embarrassing failure.

 

  • “Jindal was the first governor to endorse Rick Perry for President.”
  • Uh, yeah…so? And how’d that work out for them?

 

  • “In Perry’s book, Fed Up, he describes Jindal as ‘one of the brightest, most capable governors in the country.’ Keep an eye on him.”
  • Damned good advice, Mr. Roy. We’ll keep that in mind.

Misdirection.

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Looking back on the LSU Hospital privatization fiasco, it becomes easy to point the finger of blame in several directions.

And to a lesser extent, though by no means blameless, is the Louisiana Legislature.

The legislature has been complicit in many of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s other misadventures, most notably the unorthodox—and, it turned out, unconstitutional—method of funding the governor’s school voucher program. Lawmakers fell all over themselves in 2012 in approving that little scheme that eventually blew up in everyone’s faces when the courts rejected the manner in which Act 2 diverted money from local school districts to cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition.

In fact, Jindal’s entire education reform package, passed in such haste in 2012, quickly grew to more resemble a train wreck than legitimate reform.

But the legislature, even though it never drew a line in the dust even as it capitulated to Jindal at every turn, in the final analysis, had little say-so about nor any recourse in preventing the wholesale giveaway—disguised as privatization—of the six hospitals, a maneuver that imploded Friday with the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reject the deals that would have turned over to private operators the LSU medical centers in Shreveport, Monroe, Lafayette, Houma, Lake Charles and New Orleans.

Even as Jindal’s rubber stamp LSU Board of Stuporvisers was rubber-stamping a contract containing 50 blank pages in the infamous conflict-of-interest deal handing over University Medical Center of Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center of Monroe to the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana (BRF), legislators were voicing concerns over the warp speed at which the administration was moving to ram the agreement down the throats of an unsuspecting public.

In fact, a resolution passed unanimously in the Louisiana Senate at the urging of Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans) called for the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget to agree on the privatization plans before any details were to be finalized. A similar resolution was also passed in the House.

Resolutions are just that: resolutions, with no power of law. Jindal said—and an attorney general’s opinion supported the position—that legislative approval was not required in order for the LSU Board to agree to lease the hospitals. An attorney general’s opinion, like a legislative resolution, does not carry the weight of law, but does give the governor stronger footing.

Jindal, for his part, made it abundantly clear that he would move the privatization plan forward with or without legislative support. He said the legislature did not have the authority to vote down the proposals—in effect, saying his administration was ready to ram through the proposals without regard for even a pretense of democratic procedure.

Of course he did say that he would agree to take any advice from the legislative committees into consideration. “If they propose changes to the law, we’ll look at that legislation,” he said.

But we all know what happens to those who have the temerity to disagree with Jindal, don’t we? They’re summarily teagued, as in Tommy Teague, erstwhile Director of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), who was shown the door on April 15, 2011, when he didn’t jump on board the OGB Privatization Express quickly enough. Six months before that, it was his wife Melody was fired from her state job after she testified before the Commission for Streamlining Government. More than a dozen met the same fate, including LSU President John Lombardi and at least four legislators who found themselves suddenly removed from their committee assignments for “wrong-headed” voting.

But easily the most significant, most ill-advised, most flagrant, most unwarranted demotions were those of two respected doctors who didn’t bite when Jindal dropped his privatization bait into the water—doctors any organization would be proud to have on staff (and now, two such organizations indeed have them after in sheer frustration, they finally left Louisiana).

LSU Health Care System head Dr. Fred Cerise and Interim Louisiana Public Hospital CEO Dr. Roxanne Townsend were demoted just days apart in 2012—Cerise in late August and Townsend in early September—following a July 17 meeting at which former Secretary of health and Hospitals (DHH) Alan Levine first pitched a plan to privatize the state’s system of LSU medical centers.

Levine was at the meeting on behalf of his firm, Health Management Associates (HMA).

Also present, besides Cerise, Townsend and Levine were then-LSU President William Jenkins, DHH then-Secretary Bruce Greenstein, LSU Medical Center Shreveport Director Dr. Robert Barish, HMA CFO Kerry Curry, LSU Health Science Center Shreveport Vice Chancellor Hugh Mighty and LSU Board of Supervisors members Rolfe McCollister, Bobby Yarborough, John George (remember that name) and Scott Ballard. LSU Health Science Center New Orleans Chancellor Larry Hollier and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Frank Opelka participated by teleconference.

The meeting was held in the LSU president’s conference room.

Both Cerise and Townsend expressed reservations about Levine’s proposal but several members of the LSU Board of Supervisors who were present at the meeting “indicated they want LSU’s management to pursue this strategy,” according to a summary of the meeting prepared for Jenkins by Cerise.

Along with his two-page summation of the meeting, Cerise also submitted a third page containing a list of five concerns he had with the privatization plan pitched by Levine. It was that list of concerns which most likely got Cerise teagued as head of the LSU Health System via an email from Jenkins.

Levine, according to Cerise’s notes, recommended as an initial step that LSU sell its hospital in Shreveport (LSU Medical Center) and use the proceeds to “offset budget cuts for the rest of the LSU system.”

He suggested that the buyers would form a joint venture with LSU, invest capital into the facility and develop a strategy for LSU “to more aggressively compete in the hospital market.”

“The LSU board members present indicated they want LSU’s management to pursue this strategy,” Cerise’s notes said. “Greenstein stated that LSU should look to generate two years of funding to address the state funds shortfall in the system through the sale of Shreveport’s hospital.”

It was at that point that Cerise indicated his concern that such a strategy would take time to develop and that LSU would likely need to go through a competitive public procurement process and “likely legislative approvals.”

It was subsequently determined that legislative approval was not legally required; all that was required was for the legislature to be informed of the administration’s actions.

“There appeared to be agreement that LSU develop a plan that would not result in closure of hospitals,” Cerise’s notes said. “When the question was posed to the group, ‘Will LSU close hospitals,” George responded, ‘We hope not.’ The clear message was that the board members did not want LSU to proceed with any hospital closures at this point.”

Since that meeting, Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge and W.O. Moss Medical Center in Lake Charles have each closed.

“I am asking that you share this memo or at least the substance of it with the full board to ensure they are informed and that their direction to us that we delay definitive budgetary action until the end of August to better assess the likelihood of a Shreveport sale with a statewide distribution of the proceeds is clear and unambiguous,” Cerise said in his memorandum to Jenkins.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Jenkins called for the creation of a task force to include then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, Greenstein, George, Yarborough, McCollister, Ballard, Mighty, Barish, Hollier, Cerise and Townsend.

But in a matter of weeks, Cerise and Townsend were removed from their respective positions and reassigned and Opelka was promoted to Cerise’s position.

Last May, only months before he resigned to take a position in Texas, Cerise was invited by Sen. Murray to testify at a meeting of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. What ensued speaks volumes about the administration’s penchant for secrecy and its intolerance for dissenting viewpoints and is illustrative of Jindal’s general arrogance and disdain for the legislative process.

The committee wanted more information about the proposed privatization of the LSU system’s hospitals and the obvious choice as the most knowledgeable witness was Dr. Fred Cerise, whose integrity is the very antithesis of Jindal’s.

So, naturally, Cerise was barred from testifying. Dissenting opinions—even intelligent, reasoned ones—are not welcomed by this governor who simply cannot bring himself to listen to the advice of others. Murray said he was told that Cerise’s request for a personal leave day to testify was denied. Murray was joined by several other senators in complaining that the denial of an information request from a lawmaker was inappropriate.

Board members, Dr. John George and Ann Duplessis, apparently with straight faces, disavowed any knowledge about Cerise’s not being able to attend the meeting and promised to look into the matter and report back to the committee.

Amazingly, lawmakers appeared to ignore that conflict of interest we alluded to earlier even as the LSU Board of Stuporvisors unanimously approved that contract. No one uttered a peep as that same Dr. John George of Shreveport, sitting as a voting member of the LSU Board, cast his vote.

The CEO of BRF, which awarded the contract for the Shreveport and Monroe medical facilities, is (trumpet fanfare) that same Dr. John George but not to worry: Jindal assured us there was no conflict of interest there.

Almost lost in all of this is the fact that more than 5,000 employees were laid off as a result of the privatizations which now have been disallowed. And for that, we look to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission as the third culprit behind Jindal and the LSU Board of Stuporvisors.

After all, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

The Civil Service Commission, which must approve any layoff plan, first rejected the administration’s privatization by a 4-3 vote but agreed to reconsider the proposal when the administration said it would provide additional information.

The next week, the board met again and commission member D. Scott Hughes of Shreveport apparently saw the light and inexplicably switched his vote from no to yes. More importantly, two other members, Dr. Sidney Tobias of LaPlace and commission Chairman David Duplantier of Mandeville, took the easy way out: they simply did not attend the meeting and the final vote that put 5,000 employees on the street was 3-2 in favor of Jindal.

Granted, commission members don’t receive a salary for their service but if Hughes could drive in from some 250 miles away—even with his yes vote—then surely commission Chairman Duplantier and Tobias could have, should have, found a way to drive in from about 75 and 50 miles out, respectively.

On a matter of such import, their no-show was nothing less than gutless and both should resign from the commission. They agreed to serve and their votes on this issue were of extreme importance—to the administration of course, but especially to those 5,000 employees whose livelihoods depended on the whims of seven five people they’d never met.

And then there’s that almost overlooked matter that’s lost in all the frenzy—one of utmost urgency: where will the state’s poor now seek medical care?

And the fingers of blame point directly at Jindal, the LSU Board of Stuporvisors, and the Civil Service Commission.

So now, after the approval of a contract with its 50 blank pages, after the termination of all those employees, after Jindal’s flimflamming his way around the legislative process, after the demotion and eventual loss of two valuable members of the medical profession, after DHH Kathy Kliebert’s assurances (as late as last week) that everything was just peachy, another wing of Jindal’s house of cards has come tumbling down.

If this is indicative of the way he runs a state—and all the evidence says it most assuredly is—imagine how, as president, he would fare in a faceoff with Vladimir Putin—even with the help of Jimmy Faircloth.

 

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“CMS has no legal basis for this decision.”

—Gov. Bobby Jindal, commenting on the decision by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Friday to refuse to sign off on the administration’s privatization plan for six LSU System hospitals.

 

“How fitting that Jindal’s plan to be gone before his many bombs, some supposedly planted with delayed fuses, may well blow early.”

—A political observer, commenting on the sudden collapse of Jindal’s hospital privatization plan which may have blown a $300 million hole in the state budget scheduled for debate on the House floor next Thursday.

 

“People could die. The sick will get sicker. Our precious hospitals are in turmoil. The state budget is in tatters. Governor Bobby Jindal sits in the midst of this fiscal and healthcare debacle clutching his dreams of the presidency at the taxpayers’ expense.”

—State Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), commenting in a prepared statement on the CMS decision to scuttle Jindal’s hospital privatization plan.

 

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Not that we told you so, but…..we told you so. Several times.

LouisianaVoice has questioned the wisdom—and legality—of the shaky LSU hospital privatization deals since day one and on Friday, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified the state that it had refused to sign off on the administration’s plans to privatize LSU hospitals in New Orleans, Shreveport, Monroe, Houma, Lake Charles and Lafayette.

The decision deals a devastating blow to the administration and the state budget for next fiscal year which begins on July 1.

Even more important, the decision throws into serious doubt the operating budget for higher education for the remaining two months of the current fiscal year.

Only last week, Jindal asked State Treasurer John Kennedy to transfer $40 million from other areas to continue funding higher education because an anticipated $70 million in hospital lease payments had not been made.

Kennedy said Friday he was assured that the money would be repaid as soon as the lease payments were received. “Now, I just don’t know,” Kennedy said. “If that $70 million isn’t forthcoming, we have a problem right now, not next year. I don’t believe the legislators realize this yet. I don’t think they realize they will have to cut another $70 million from somewhere to keep higher education afloat. We have to support higher ed.

“Wow. This catches me flat-footed,” he said. “I didn’t expect a decision this soon.”

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said last week that she was confident that the lease payments would be made but the CMA decision casts a huge shadow over those prospects.

Kennedy added that he believes the legislature will now have to consider his proposal calling for an across the board 10 percent cut in consulting contracts. “That would generate $500 million,” he said.

State Rep. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs) said the decision raises the question of “where the state will make up $300 million-plus. You have to wonder how many cans we can keep kicking down the road.

“This is a discouraging development. The budget is scheduled to come to the House floor next Thursday, so there’s no time to find additional money. I just don’t know how to react or how many services we can cut.

“Just last week (Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy) Kliebert assured the Senate there was nothing to worry about and now this…”

Another legislator was even more outspoken in his criticism of the governor.

“Governor Bobby Jindal’s reckless pursuit of using federal Medicaid funds in an ill-conceived scheme to privatize state-run hospitals has backfired and now the people of Louisiana will pay a dear price,” said State Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) in a prepared statement. “Governor Jindal has written a blank check to sell our charity hospital system, which is ultimately used by Louisiana’s working poor, and today it has bounced.

“People could die. The sick will get sicker. Our precious hospitals are in turmoil. The state budget is in tatters. Governor Bobby Jindal sits in the midst of this fiscal and healthcare debacle clutching his dreams of the presidency at the taxpayers’ expense.

“I, along with many others, predicted this outcome and now the people of Louisiana have been left with the tab.

“The Jindal administration’s announcement of an appeal is a typical, timid, tepid response that will bear no more fruit than the barren tree Jindal planted last year.

“It will take all of us. Now is not the time to fall back on partisan bickering or to cling to ideology in the face of a fiscal and healthcare disaster,” he said.

Part of the problem was most likely the manner in which the administration was attempting to use federal dollars to attract more federal matching dollars to finance Jindal’s privatization plan; the feds just weren’t buying it.

Here is the scheme:  The private hospital pays LSU money to lease the LSU hospital.  That money does not stay with LSU; it ends up (directly or indirectly) being used as match in the Medicaid program.  After matching those lease payments with federal funds, the total, larger amount is paid back to the private partner in the form of a Medicaid payment.   The lease payments supplant the state funds.  However, the legislative fiscal office has already raised concerns about the leases being $39 million short which is  why the Division of Administration has already begun planning on “double” lease payments this year.

For years states have devised schemes to receive additional federal funds while reducing the state contribution for Medicaid.  There is a problem with these schemes, however.  Consider this from a 2009 report by the Congressional Research Office:

“In 1991, Congress passed the Medicaid Voluntary Contribution and Provider-Specific Tax Amendments (P.L. 102-234). This bill grappled with several Medicaid funding mechanisms that were sometimes used to circumvent the state/federal shared responsibility for funding the cost of the Medicaid program. Under these funding methods, states collect funds (through taxes or other means) from providers and pay the money back to those providers as Medicaid payments, while claiming the federal matching share of those payments. States were essentially “borrowing” their required state matching amounts from the providers. Once the state share was netted out, the federal matching funds claimed could be used to raise provider payment rates, to fund other portions of the Medicaid program, or for other non-Medicaid purposes.”

DHH’s scheme included a “borrowing” component that looked similar to the practices this legislation was aimed at preventing.  Medicaid rules do not allow a Medicaid provider (read “hospital” here) to voluntarily donate money to the state when they know they will get this money back plus more (the federal share) as part of an increase in their Medicaid payments.  The federal oversight agency, CMS, had previously expressed concerns to state officials that these lease payments could qualify as non bona fide provider donations.

If CMS determined these are conventional fair market value leases, they would have allowed the payments.  Beyond the basic annual lease payments, the deals included “double lease payments” and other large up front lease payments designed to fix the state’s budget problem raising the specter of non bona fide provider donations.  If these payments were deemed to be non-allowable, the federal government will recoup any federal funds that were paid as match for these state funds.

The privatization deals were done at a cost of $1.1 billion to the state this budget year, much of that ($882 million) expected to come from federal funds under the scenario alluded to above.

But a terse message from CMS brought all those plans crashing down: “To maintain the fiscal integrity of the Medicaid program, CMS is unable to approve the state plan amendment request made by Louisiana.”

Predictably, Jindal, who refused to wait for federal approval before plunging ahead full bore with his sweeping privatization of the LSU hospital system, said, “CMS has no legal basis for this decision.” (At least he didn’t call the decision “wrong-headed,” as he did in 2012 when a state district court ruled his school voucher program unconstitutional.)

Jindal said he will appeal the decision but for the time being, the six hospitals will be operating under financing plans that have been shot down, which should come as no surprise to observers of this administration. Friday’s decision prompted one of the governor’s critics to comment, “Jindal deserves every misfortune that this may bring him. The people of this state, however, don’t deserve this. He used them for his selfish political purposes.” Another said, “It would be karma if this fiasco totally destroyed Jindal’s national dreams.”

The one question still left unanswered is whether attorney Jimmy Faircloth will once again be called on to defend yet another dog of a legal case on behalf of this blundering administration, thus adding to his legal fees which already exceed $1 million.

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“This isn’t my face. I used to be real pretty.”

—Roblyn Ruggles, quoted in the Aug. 31, 1993 Wall Street Journal after eight oral-surgery procedures left her disfigured, without jaw joints, mouth permanently agape, and unable to bite into a sandwich or purse her lips for a kiss—a victim of jaw implants marketed by Drs. John Kent of the LSU School of Dentistry and his partner Charles Homsy of Houston.

“Dr. (Conrad) McVea stated both to me and to the Board that I could not be expected to comply with professional standards because I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.”

–Dr. Randall Schaffer, who is Jewish, in his federal lawsuit against the Louisiana Board of Dentistry and its members, including Dr. McVea, its attorney and its private investigator after the board revoked his license when he turned whistleblower against Dr. Kent’s faulty jaw implant.

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