Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

It was bad enough Friday when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that career politician and former national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council Noble Ellington as his legislative director.

But at the same time, he announced the appointment of Marketa Garner Walters as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at $129,000 per year.

Ellington, besides serving as national chairman of ALEC, was twice named Legislator of the Year. He left the legislature to take a cozy $150,000-a-year job as Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Insurance in 2012 even though he had no background in the insurance industry.

And it was during his tenure as ALEC’s national chairman that Bobby Jindal was presented the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award (you may want to check with the descendants of Sally Heming on that freedom part). http://www.alec.org/press-release/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s beginning to look a lot like business as usual for the new administration. Like pro football and major league baseball, Louisiana’s elected leaders seem to keep recycling the same old familiar faces in and out of various state offices. The problem is, they are the ones who helped create the problems. So what makes anyone think they have the solutions now?

Take Garner Walters, for example, who served as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Services within DSS (DCFS) from January 2004 until November 2008, when she went by the name Marketa Garner Gautreau.

“A national leader in the field of children and family services, Marketa Garner Walters has worked for more than 20 years to improve the lives of children,” the governor’s announcement said. “As a public servant, a national consultant, and an advocate with deep roots in her home state of Louisiana, Walters has been able to create meaningful change in the lives of family and children over the years.”

So what’s so wrong with that?

Well, not much. Unless one considers her explanation for an incident in which a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy raped a 12-year-old boy in a group home during the time she served as assistant secretary for the Office of Community Services.

“Retarded people have sex—it’s what they do,” she said, sounding more like a GEICO commercial than someone responsible for children’s welfare. That bit of wisdom was imparted during her testimony before the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission in 2008.

The Office of Community Services is a sub-office of the Department of Children and Family Services, formerly the Department of Social Services (DSS).

A former employee of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ), then the Office of Youth Development, witnessed Gautreau’s testimony.

“In late 2008, DSS and OJJ were called before the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission about a situation at a Baton Rouge group home housing both OJJ and DSS youth (and) where a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy raped a 12-year-old boy,” the former OJJ employee said.

“OJJ removed our youth from the group home at once and put a moratorium on placement there. DSS, the licensing agency for group homes, left their kids there,” she said.

When questioned by JJIC members, including (then) Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and (then) Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Kitty Kimball, Garner Gautreau offered a bizarre explanation. She said it was really not rape because the youths were of similar mental capacity.

When asked why there was not better staff security to keep the children from roaming around and molesting others, she replied, “Retarded people have sex. It’s what they do.”

The former OJJ employee was aghast. “I told my colleagues I’d wring their necks if they ever made statements like that in public hearings.

“We figured that (Gautreau’s testimony) was a career-limiting speech and we were not surprised when Ms. Garner Gautreau was shortly looking for another job,” the former OJJ employee said.

She added that OJJ stopped placing children in the same facilities as DCFS children.

There was “a consistent pattern of DSS failing to properly monitor and supervise group home operations and looking the other way when deficiencies were noted,” the former OJJ employee said. “Group homes were even re-licensed when still deficient and corrective actions plans were not being followed.

“The DSS review committee was a joke – the agency’s monitors looked the other way and ignored problems at the group homes, even when OJJ removed kids and notified DSS of deficiencies,” she said.

The intent is for private group homes to provide a safe, homelike setting for abused and neglected children who have been removed from their families. But the safety factor appears to have come up far short. Four rapes were reported over a 15-month period at two Baton Rouge group homes.

The Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization, released a 41-page REPORT ON GROUP HOMES in early 2008 that described filthy conditions and neglect of children’s education and medical needs at many facilities. Additionally, a 2007 report by the legislative auditor found that 90 percent of the group homes had deficiencies when their licenses were renewed.

Garner Gautreau, however, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that she had “a high level of comfort” in the knowledge that 80 percent of homes scored at an acceptable level.

Its report included problems that staff members observed themselves but also cited violations found in previous inspection reports filed by the state from 2004 to August 2007. Those include failure to assure proper medical care at 53 percent of the facilities and failure to assure proper physical environment in 69 percent of homes.

State inspectors cited 18 facilities for failing to have sufficient staff and found cases where homes failed to provide criminal background checks and in some cases knowingly hired people with criminal records, the Advocacy Center report noted.

“In some cases, we found evidence that the Bureau of Licensing had identified the same problems and cited the same facility over and over again. However, nothing changed,” said Stephanie Patrick, who oversees visits to homes for the Advocacy Center.

“I started following DSS failures when our staff consistently documented problems that DSS ignored,” the former OJJ employee said.

“Louisiana’s licensing statute for these facilities fails to provide an adequate framework for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of children in these facilities,” the Advocate Center report said.

What?!!

The state doesn’t assure the safety and welfare of children it is charged with protecting?

Among the deficiencies of the statute, the report said were:

  • That it grants final authority over residential facility licensing regulations and standards to two committees, none of whose members is required to be an expert in child residential care and treatment, and many of whose members are providers.
  • That it allows the issuance of licenses without full regulatory compliance.
  • That it requires the Department to seek the approval of the relevant committee before denying or revoking a facility’s license, and gives the committee veto power over such action.
  • That it does not permit DSS to assess civil fines and penalties when facilities violate minimum standards.

The Advocacy Center requested DSS’s Bureau of Licensing reports for the years 2004-2006 and up to August 2007. “A review of these reports shows that a shocking number of the facilities had serious violations of minimum licensing standards, including:

  • 38% of the facilities had violations relating to staff criminal background checks;
  • 62% of the facilities were found to violate minimum standards regarding children’s medications;
  • 53% of the facilities failed to assure that children received proper medical and/or dental care;
  • 33% of the facilities were cited for not following proper procedures or violating procedures pertaining to abuse/neglect;
  • 62% of the facilities were cited for not assuring their staff received all required annual training;
  • 69% of the facilities were cited for not assuring that children were living in a proper physical environment;
  • 36% of the facilities were cited for not having appropriate treatment plans or for inappropriate execution of children’s treatment plans;
  • 33% of the facilities were cited for not assuring that sufficient qualified direct service staff was present with the children as necessary to ensure the health, safety and well- being of children.

“Many facilities were found to be in violation of minimum standards on inspection after inspection,” the report added.

LouisianaVoice has been receiving unsettling reports of inadequate inspections of foster homes by unqualified DCFS employees. Those reports are currently being investigated by us and will be reported in future posts should they be substantiated.

Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Marketa Garner Walters nee Gautreau will be watching out for the children as the new secretary of DCFS.

Read Full Post »

It looks as though Bobby Jindal’s former commissioner of administration Kristy Nichols will finally have to comply with state regulations. Or maybe not.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, in typical fashion first put the kibosh on any effort by Kristy Kreme to lobby state government on behalf of her new employer—and then promptly withdrew the opinion.

The board was essentially neutered by Jindal during his rush for ethics “reform” in his first days in office back in 2008. Because of those “reforms,” the board lost considerable steam and all its enforcement powers and it now appears it is missing a spine.

And one has to wonder if the Jindalistas had any influence on the decision to withdraw the unfavorable opinion.

Nichols served as Jindal’s commissioner of administration for three years, from October 2012 to October 2015. Those years were marked by consistent budgetary shortfalls, cuts to higher education and health care, the contentious revamping of premiums and benefits for state employees, retirees and dependents through the Office of Group Benefits and the equally controversial privatization of the state charity hospital system.

She also was sued twice by LouisianaVoice over her failure to produce public records in a timely manner. It was in that area that she enjoyed her greatest success by breaking even. She prevailed in the first lawsuit but lost the second one. She still owes a judgment of $800, plus attorney fees and court costs. She chose to spend even more state money in appealing the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

She announced in September that she would be going to work for Ochsner Health System as a lobbyist. Well, technically, her new title is vice president of government and corporate affairs. While state law precludes her lobbying the legislative or executive branches for two years, there appears to be no prohibition to her lobbying local governments (parishes and municipalities) on the part of Ochsner.

She contacted the ethics board on Nov. 5 through attorney Kimberly Robinson of the Baton Rouge law firm Jones Walker.

Robinson was recently named by Gov-elect John Bel Edwards to be the new secretary of the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

The board last Thursday (Dec. 17) addressed six specific areas about which Robinson sought opinions. The board shot down four of those and took no position on the remaining two because of what it termed insufficient information, according to Walter Pierce of the INDReporter Web site. http://theind.com/article-22377-Ethics-Board-blocks-Nichols.html

A spokesman for the ethics board, however, told LouisianaVoice on Monday that the opinion has been “withdrawn” and the entire matter re-scheduled for the board’s Feb. 19, 2016, meeting.

The opinion initially would have barred Nichols for two years from:

  • Direct transactions or communications with the Division of Administration;
  • Participating in any transaction, researching or preparing materials for use in or in support of a direct act or communication with a legislator;
  • Communicating or having a transaction with the Department of Health and Hospitals, and
  • Assisting Ochsner in communications or transactions with LSU. The LSU Board of Supervisors currently oversees the public-private partnerships between the state-run hospitals and private health care providers.

There was no immediate explanation of what the remaining two questions from Robinson concerned.

There are several areas of concern in allowing Nichols to lobby state government on behalf of Ochsner, not the least of which is the agreement between the state and Ochsner during her term that allowed Ochsner to partner with the state in running the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma.

In 2013, the LSU Board of Supervisors signed off on the contract containing 50 blank pages. That contract handed over operation of state-owned hospitals in Lake Charles, Houma, Shreveport and Monroe. The blank pages were supposed to have contained lease terms. Instead, the LSU board left those details to the Jindal administration (read Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols).

Eventually details emerged about the contracts, including that of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. And, thanks to the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council, the picture began to come into focus.

Leonard Chabert Medical Center was opened in 1978 as a 96-bed facility with 802 employees but by the time it was privatized, it was down to 63 beds.

In 2008, a hospital-based accredited Internal Medicine residency program was begun. In 2011, the hospital’s revenue was 47 percent uncompensated care for the uninsured, 29.5 percent Medicaid, 13 percent Medicare, 5.5 percent state general fund and 6 percent interagency transfer from other departments with only 1 percent being self-generated.

When the Jindal administration moved to unload state hospitals, Chabert was partnered with Southern Regional Medical Corp., a nonprofit entity whose only member is Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC).

TGMC is slated to manage Chabert with assistance from a company affiliated with Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest private not-for-profit health system with eight hospitals and forty health centers statewide. Terms of the agreement call for a five-year lease with an automatic renewal after the first year in one-year increments to create a rolling five-year term.

Though Southern Regional is not required to pay rent under terms of the agreement, the Terrebonne Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 is required to make annual intergovernmental transfers of $17.6 million to the Medicaid program for Southern Regional and its affiliates.

The cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) calls for supplemental payments of $31 million to Ochsner. Small wonder then that the Houma Daily Courier described the deal as “a valuable asset to Ochsner’s network of hospitals” and that the deal expands Ochsner’s business profile.

Between 2009 and 2013, Ochsner’s revenue doubled from $900 million to $1.8 billion and the deal would mean more revenue for Ochsner, the Daily Courier said. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140325/articles/140329692?p=3&tc=pg

There has never been a reasonable explanation as to why the LSU Board signed off on a blank contract that the Jindal administration would fill in after the fact. Was it just by chance that Nichols, as Commissioner of Administration, was responsible for that task? And was it just happenstance that two years after Ochsner received that $31 million, it saw the need to bring Nichols aboard just as her employment with the Jindal administration was winding down?

LSU Board of Supervisors handed over University Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe to the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) even though the CEO of BRF was a sitting member of the LSU board at the time.

Within two years, that deal fell apart and the board and BRF are now involved in complicated litigation.

Meanwhile, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the Jindal/Nichols privatization plan.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,058 other followers