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There comes a time when those surround Bobby Jindal must return to earth and come to grips with a realistic fact about their boy.

Pick one:

  1. He cannot seriously consider himself real presidential timber;
  2. His quest for POTUS is simply a cruel joke he’s playing on the rest of us;
  3. He told an unforgivable lie when he said, “I have the job I want”;
  4. He has no clue as to how to govern a state, let along an entire nation;
  5. The little boy should never try on big boy pants;
  6. He may actually be qualified to lead the Stupid Party;
  7. All of the above.

The correct answer is….well, you know.

As Jindal’s numbers continue to shrink to less than single-digits in GOP presidential preference polls, his efforts to garner attention have ramped up accordingly and in the process, have made him a national—if not international—laughingstock.

His handlers should take note and rein him in—for his own sake. While once fun to watch him as he writhes and issues forth preposterous utterances, people are starting to exchange nervous, embarrassed glances. It’s kind of like the drunk uncle you want to keep away from reunions, weddings, funerals and any other social gatherings—at all costs—in order to prevent his bringing further shame on the family.

That’s what happens when you have someone who doesn’t know when to shut up or when he’s had too much to drink—in Jindal’s case, some unknown Kickapoo ego-boosting joy juice that has him convinced he’s democracy’s answer to the rest of the world (Hint: George W. Bush already tried that and it didn’t work).

In recent weeks, we have seen the following:

And even before the recent rash of brashness on his part, Jindal set the tone right after the 2012 presidential election loss by Mitt Romney when he said the Republican Party needed to “stop being the stupid party.” http://thehill.com/video/in-the-news/279243-jindal-republicans-must-stop-being-the-stupid-party

There seems to be no end to his string of banalities—unless one wishes to include his duties as governor of Louisiana. In that case, he appears to have punted, to have taken a powder, abdicated, as it were.

But for the true picture of the depth of his silliness, we need to go all the way back to February 2, 2005, and then-President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address—a full four years before Jindal’s disastrous Republican response to the Obama State of the Union Address.

The 2005 Jindal was in stark contrast to the January 2015 Jindal.

In 2005, then-U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal drew national attention (what else is new?) when he provided a bowl of purple ink for members of Congress to dip their index fingers in and to hold the fingers aloft during Bush’s address as a show of solidarity with Iraqi citizens who had voted in elections in that country. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1683&dat=20050203&id=GSQqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Q0UEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6546,792517

“We all watched with joy as Iraqis dipped their fingers in ink and held them high, proudly proclaiming to the world that they had voted,” Jindal said rather naively in a letter to fellow congressmen as he somewhat prematurely launched his one-man celebration of the birth of democracy in Iraq.

That was then.

This is now:

That experiment in democracy apparently did not take in Iraq as the country anticipates a bloodbath between the Sunni and Shiite factions, a rift that pre-dates American democracy by some 1100 years and shows no signs of going away. http://www.cfr.org/peace-conflict-and-human-rights/sunni-shia-divide/p33176#!/

As if that were not enough, our friend C.B. Forgotston points out that today’s (Monday) Baton Rouge Advocate quotes Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield as saying that he “has already been in talks with Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform to see if the group would consider replacing revenue lost from local inventory taxes with increased collection of remote sales tax revenue neutral.http://theadvocate.com/news/11837337-123/st-james-leaders-brace-for

That’s correct. The administration consults with Norquist before making any decision on the state’s budgetary matters or before even going to the restroom. A governor who is the self-proclaimed expert on all matters dealing with foreign policy apparently cannot make a decision on Louisiana issues without the nod of approval of the most powerful unelected official in America. As Forgotston pointed out this morning, “A group out of D.C. is in talks with Team Jindal on how to tax us.  If the legislators had any courage or self-respect, they’d shut this down NOW!” You simply can’t make this stuff up, he says.

But, hey, our governmental sage has a bowl of purple ink for anyone who’s interested.

To paraphrase our former governor Bobby Jindal, “at the end of the day,” you have “two things:”

  • One, we have a man who, though he repeated ad-nauseam during his first term that he “has the job he wanted” and then proceeded to spend all of his second term chasing the job he really wants to such a degree as to abandon any pretense of being governor.
  • Two, by admitting that the administration has been in talks with Grover Norquist, the tea party guru who doesn’t even live in Louisiana and never has, Barfield has openly acknowledged what we all knew: that Jindal has never—repeat, never—been his own man, and never will be. He is beholden to big business and the no-tax-under-any-condition mantra that the corporate world cherishes.

We can only conclude that he has been snorting too much Koch.

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State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) has revealed an ambitious set of bills he will be pre-filing preparatory to the 2015 legislative session, a couple or which are almost certain to be vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal should they survive both chambers intact.

The 60-day 2015 session convenes at noon on April 13 and will adjourn at 6 p.m. on June 11.

Vetoes are nothing new to Richard and in fact, one of his bills rejected by Jindal last years in hindsight represents a moral victory for Richard and something of an embarrassment for Jindal.

House Bill 142 (HB-142) passed both the House and Senate unanimously last year and was vetoed by Jindal only to see Jindal find it necessary to implement at least part of the bill through an executive order last month.

Passing 84-0 in the House (with 20 members not voting) and 37-0 in the Senate (with two not voting), HB-142 would have provided for a 10 percent reduction of all state professional, personal and consulting service contracts. The bill further provided that the savings from the cuts be deposited into the Higher Education Financing Fund.

State Treasurer John Kennedy, Richard was quick to point out, has been recommending slashing state contracts for several years and has been all but ignored by the administration but now even Jindal has ordered that state contracts be cut but not so higher education could be funded but instead to attempt to plug the growing chasm that is the state budget deficit.

Jindal, for his part, says he will offer legislators “suggested solutions” to ease the budget crisis which now is projecting a deficit of $1.6 million. http://theadvocate.com/sports/preps/11454861-123/jindal-says-hell-suggest-options

First of all, wasn’t that why he hired Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) Consulting for a cool $7 million? We were under the impression that A&M was going to find all these wonderful ways for the state to save money.

Second, the governor is the state’s CEO and as such, is charged with the leadership of the state. After all, Gov. Kathleen Blanco came under withering criticism for the manner in which she handled the crisis of Katrina. Jindal appears no less befuddled and clueless in his approach to the state’s budgetary crisis and now, after seven years of telling lawmakers what he wanted done, he punts to them.

Of course, it’s difficult to fight Islam in Europe, run for president and hold prayer meetings that fail miserably in filling all the seats in the venue while governing the state.

Only yesterday (Monday, Feb. 2), Kennedy broke the news that Moody’s Investors Service had issued a warning that reductions in revenue estimates by the Revenue Estimating Conference constituted a “credit negative for the state” and that the ratings service may downgrade the state’s credit outlook from stable to negative.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7el18uxosj11pi1/Louisiana%20Oil%20Plunge%2002%2002%202015.pdf?dl=0&utm_source=Moody’s+Press+Release++020215&utm_campaign=Moody’s+2-2-15&utm_medium=email

Kennedy said the next procedural step would be a rating downgrade that would make it more difficult for the state borrow money and cost the state higher interest for money it does borrow.

And lest Jindal attempt to blame the latest fiscal woes on the drop in oil prices, Moody’s pointedly noted that the state’s problems pre-date the fall in oil prices—by several years. “As the U.S. economy picked up steam,” the Moody’s analysis said, “Louisiana had muted job growth even before the oil price decline.”

“This is what happens when you spend more than you take in,” Kennedy said. “Moody’s is telling us that we’d better get our fiscal house in order or we are going to be downgraded, which will cost taxpayers dearly in higher interest rates on our bonded indebtedness.”

The Moody’s news comes on top of earlier reports that health care and higher education will probably suffer even deeper cuts than the $180 million in reductions made over the past two months. The state’s colleges and universities have been told to expect at least $300 million in further budget cuts during the next fiscal year even as the Department of Health and Hospitals is expected to have $250 million slashed from its budget.

Jindal has even had to renege on his pledge last year to create a $40 million incentive fund to pay for college programs that provide graduates for high-demand jobs in Louisiana. Once considered one of his highest priorities, he has yanked that money away before the ink was dry on the bill that created the program.

All this has had a cumulative effect leading up to what promises to be a tumultuous legislative session as lawmakers grope for ways to keep from cutting services while at the same time being able to keep the lights on.

One trial balloon, already rejected by Jindal, would be for the state to roll back some of the billions of dollars in corporate and industrial tax breaks but Richard is not ready to accept the governor’s dismissal of that idea just yet.

This year, Richard has an agenda even more ambitious than his across-the-board 10 percent cut in contracts last year. Remember, that bill, HB-142 was passed unanimously in each chamber but vetoed by Jindal because, the governor said, the bill “could hinder the state’s efforts to continue to provide its citizens with timely, high quality services.”

In hindsight, however, it would appear his signing that bill into law would not have hindered the delivery of services nearly so much as not having the funds to pay for the services in the first place. The only thing not hindered by his veto was uninterrupted payments to the contractors.

Among Richard’s bills to “re-establish the legislative branch of government” are bills:

  • For an automatic veto session. Currently, legislators are mailed forms to complete and return indicating whether or not they want to hold a special session to consider overriding the governor’s veto(es). “If a bill passes with a two-thirds vote or better and the governor vetoes it, there would be an automatic veto session convened and legislators wouldn’t have to vote for it,” he said.
  • To eliminate the line item veto. “This will be a hard row to hoe,” Richard admitted. “But the governor has always held the line item veto over legislators’ heads as a means of getting what he wanted. This bill would change that.” Former President Bill Clinton pushed through a bill giving him the line item veto during his administration but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional.
  • To establish a capital outlay oversight committee. “We need to eliminate all NGOs,” he said, referring to the tradition of the legislature appropriating funds for NGOs, or non-government organizations such as baseball parks, golf courses, local court houses, city halls, councils on aging, etc. “These should be financed at the local level. If the local people want these things, they will pass bond issues to pay for them. That should not be the responsibility of the legislature. Before we look at raising more revenue, we need to cut spending,” he said. “John Kennedy has said many times that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem, and he’s correct.”
  • To change the makeup of the House Appropriations Committee. “Appropriations has 27 members. That’s way too many,” he said. Richard said he would like to see it reduced in size to 15 members with three members from each of the five Public Service Districts in the state. “That would guarantee representation from each area of the state,” he said.
  • To eliminate the Homestead Exemption. “We need to get rid of all tax exemptions,” he said. “We give away $2 billion a year in industrial and corporate tax exemptions.”

Richard said he knows his bills will be fought by special interests and by the governor. “But Jindal has done nothing in seven years,” he said. “It’s time the Legislature re-asserted itself as an equal partner in governing this state.”

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By Dayne Sherman

Special to LouisianaVoice 

Louisiana is Ground Zero for political scandals. From U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson’s “cold cash” saga to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s unanswered allegations of payroll fraud at LSU, the state knows how to lead the country in at least one statistic: corruption.

One writer devised his own method of ranking states by corruption and guess who was number one?

Here’s a hint: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/ranking-the-states-from-most-to-least-corrupt/

Even our new House Whip, Steve Scalise, who describes himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” has become an international disgrace for speaking to a neo-Nazi group 12 years ago while he was a state representative.

A quote attributed to Pericles 2400 years ago is still true: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Indeed, these political scandals are at the expense of Louisiana citizens. They matter. We pay the price for wayward politicians and their blinding ambition. This lust for power is equal only to their lust for “other things,” as Sen. David Vitter seems to be chief among sinners.

On Jan. 9, Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley came out like Clint Eastwood in a western flick, standing up tall to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plan to cut $370 million from Louisiana higher education. He says he won’t back the budget plan. But let’s be clear-minded. Kleckley is Jindal’s paramour. He has done and will continue to do whatever the governor tells him to do or he’ll lose his speakership.

This is all political theater, a cruel PR scheme to help Kleckley win election as State Treasurer. Recall, Louisiana higher education has been cut by over $700 million since Jindal took office, the deepest cuts of any state in the country. Other states are investing in colleges and universities post-recession, and we are not.

Kleckley’s recently found courage when the state faces a $300 million deficit this year and 1.4 billion next fiscal year starting July 1, is a fake news story. Jindal’s conservative principles haven’t worked. On the contrary, they’ve been a disaster aided and abetted by lapdogs in the Legislature. Make no mistake, the greatest hypocrite among them is Kleckley.

The bayou budgetary apocalypse is coming. Get ready.

At the same time, President Obama has announced a truly bold new plan to give all Americans two years of free community college. Clearly, the best news of 2015.

Upon hearing this great news, a number of Louisiana’s college and university “leaders” (They’re paid to be leaders but are mostly sycophants in leisure suits.) began to question the details. Why aren’t they excited? Don’t educators want nothing more than to educate? Don’t they need students? Well, their master Jindal is against everything good—or bad—that Obama wants. The “leaders” answer to Jindal. These rascals served as cheerleaders for Jindal’s foolish WISE Fund, a mere pittance, but they became skeptics over the real deal.

How will we fund a community college education for all Americans? I’d say having ended two wars, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan, will do it. We can save trillions by staying out of endless international conflicts. No need to raise taxes. Let’s just stop blowing up other countries and then rebuilding them on the taxpayers’ dime.

I believe nothing could be better for America and the world than investing in Americans. Jindal has shown through $700 million in cuts to Louisiana higher education, and another $370 million before he’s through, that he doesn’t believe investing in our state is good for his long-term political career.

Obama, on the other hand, believes investing in Americans is good for the country. Fortunately, Jindal will never be able to bring to the nation the disasters he’s brought to Louisiana. He’ll never be President.

[Dayne Sherman’s new novel is Zion. Signed first editions available from the author. His political blog is www.TalkAboutTheSouth.com.]

 

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           As 2014 winds down, we decided that everyone else does a year-end wrap-up of the year’s significant events, so why not us?

            Accordingly, here is our review of the first six months of LouisianaVoice installments. The last six months will appear on Wednesday (Dec. 31).

JANUARY

IT Contractor linked to Obamacare, other problems:

A company holding two contracts with the State of Louisiana worth $32.8 million was the lead IT contractor of the ill-fated Affordable Health Care enrollment web page rolled out late last year.

CGI Technologies and Solutions, headquartered in Quebec, has experienced problems with other contracts in Canada and the U.S. even before the Obamacare debacle.

CGI Technologies and Solutions was awarded a $32.5 million contract with the Office of Community Development’s (OCD) Disaster Recovery Unit (DRU) on March 2, 2012 to provide computer software hosting, support and training for OCD’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), small rental programs.

That contract is scheduled to run out on March 1, 2015.

CGI executives have been involved with at least 20 other troubled government IT projects, including one contract to automate retirements for millions of federal employees that went $60 million over budget and despite $2.3 billion in contracts with two dozen federal agencies, the company was rejected by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) because of “performance issues” in carrying out an earlier contract.

HGI ties to Jindal, Christie:

MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal have begun focusing attention on a Louisiana firm with more than $200 million in contracts with both the Chris Christie and Jindal administrations for federally-funded relief to hurricane victims.

Hammerman & Gainer, Inc., or HGI, of Lutcher, was awarded a $68 million contract in May of 2013 to oversee two programs distributing $780 million in federal money to Sandy victims. That contract was cancelled only six months later, on Dec. 6, 2013, because of mounting complaints about delays in processing claims.

New Jersey homeowners say they have been unable to get answers, paperwork has been misplaced and HGI employees, most of whom are temporary employees, could not be reached by phone and that the company’s recovery centers change rules midstream and that no reconstruction program grants to thousands of applicants already approved have yet been awarded.

HGI also just happens to hold a $60 million contract with the Louisiana Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit to administer the state’s Road Home Program. That contract began on March 20, 2012, and ends on March 19, 2015. Prior to that contract, HGI had a similar contract for $83.3 million which ran from March 20, 2009 to March 19, 2012. The $83.3 million contract replaced a $912 million contract with ICF Emergency Management Services of Baton Rouge.

In New Jersey, HGI hired Glenn Paulsen, former chief of the Burlington County Republicans, as its legal counsel when it submitted its bid to run the two Sandy relief programs. Paulsen’s law firm Capehart Scatchard, made a $25,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association which Christie now heads.

HGI contributed $15,000 to Jindal in three equal contributions in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The company also gave $7,500 to Robert Wooley ($2,500 in 2003 and $5,000 in 2002), $5,000 to the Republican Party of Louisiana, $5,000 in 2011, to New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin in March of 2006, only months after Hurricane Katrina, and $7,500 to his successor Mitch Landrieu in equal contributions of $2,500 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In addition, HGI President Larry Oney gave $5,000 to Jindal’s campaign in 2008.

Alvarez & Marsal gets fat at state trough:

Jindal also awarded a four-month contract to Alvarez & Marsal for a tad more than $5 million that called for the firm to deliver $500 million in savings to the state.

A & M’s cozy if disastrous relationship with state government goes back further than Jindal. In December of 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board adopted Resolution 59-05 on the advice of the consulting firm.

The resolution, passed in the aftermath of disastrous Hurricane Katrina was specifically cited in the ruling earlier this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal that upheld a lower court decision the school board was wrong to fire 7,500 teachers, effective Jan. 31, 2006.

Then-State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard chose Alvarez & Marsal to prevail upon the school board to replace acting parish Superintendent Ora Watson with an Alvarez & Marsal consultant.

So, Watson was replaced, 7,500 teachers were fired, the teachers sued and won, leaving the Orleans School Board and the state liable for a billion-five and the firm that started it all is hired by Jindal to find a $500,000 savings.

Alvarez & Marsal is specifically cited—by name—no fewer than six times in the first 51 pages of a 2009 report calling for the privatizing the state’s charity hospital system. Alvarez & Marsal performed that bit of work under a $1.7 million contract that ran for nine months in 2009, from Jan. 5 to Sept. 30.

The firm also received a $250,000, contract of a much shorter duration (10 days) from Jindal on April 9, 2013, to develop Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state income taxes in favor of other tax increases. That plan was dead on arrival during the legislative session and Jindal quickly punted before a single legislative vote could be taken.

The obvious next step for Jindal was to

Problems continue at OGB:

Charles Calvi and Patrick Powers are out at the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and Susan West, late of the Office of Risk Management has been named Interim CEO—the fourth person to head OGB in less than three years.

Meanwhile, that $540 million reserve fund balance OGB had on hand to pay benefits at the time of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s infamous raping of the agency now sit at $240 million and is dwindling at a rate of $20 million per month, no doubt the result of Jindal’s 7 percent premium reduction six months before the January 2013 takeover of OGB by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Louisiana.

FEBRUARY

Adley’s not-so-hidden agenda:

State Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) filed Senate Bill 79 which was designed to give Jindal even more power by giving him greater freedom in appointing members of a levee board, specifically the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities of both the east and west banks.

The bill was a counteroffensive to attempts by the east bank authority to push for a historic lawsuit that would hold oil and gas companies responsible for damages to coastal wetlands.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East (SLFPAE) was attempting to force the oil and gas companies to pay for the state’s coastal restoration efforts.

The lawsuit claimed that the companies destroyed the state’s coastal wetlands by dredging canals that contributed to erosion. The marshes had served as a natural buffer that mitigated storm surge. The suit, if successful, could cost the companies billions of dollars.

Adley’s bill should come as no surprise, given his opposition to the lawsuit but some might question why Adley would oppose the legal action against the companies in the first place.

One consideration could be that he has owned pelican Gas Management Co. since 1993, was president of ABCO Petroleum from 1972 to 1993, is affiliated with the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, and has been the recipient of more than $150,000 in campaign contributions over the years from companies, political action committees, and individuals affiliated with or controlled by oil and gas interests.

Adley’s bill was assigned to the Senate Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee. The chairman of Transportation, Highways & Public Works?

Robert Adley.

Jindal tantrum goes national:

Jindal’s outburst upon exiting a meeting between the nation’s governors and President Barack Obama Monday was a petulant display of immaturity that only served to underscore his disgraceful scorn for Louisiana’s working poor in favor of pandering to the mega-rich Koch brothers in the apparent hope that some of their Americans for Prosperity (AFP) money might find its way into his campaign coffers.

His shameless promotion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project coupled with his criticism of Obama’s push for a minimum wage increase comes on the heels of word that Jindal is literally stealing from the blind in drawing down more than half of a trust fund established to assist blind vendors in state buildings to purchase equipment, to pay for repairs and to pay medical bills.

That trust fund shrank from $1.6 million to about $700,000, apparently because of yet another lawsuit the administration found itself embroiled in over the delivery of food services at Fort Polk in Leesville that sucked up $365,000 just for the state’s 21 percent share of attorney fees.

Jindal said of Obama’s push for an increase in the minimum wage that the president “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” and that Obama’s economy “is now the minimum wage economy.”

CIA kidnap accomplice locates in Bossier City

A photo in the Shreveport Times shows a grinning Gov. Bobby Jindal shaking hands with David Zolet, executive vice president and general manager of the North American Sector of Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as the two jointly announced that the company plans to open a technology center at CSC’s national Cyber Research Park in Bossier City.

CSC will be the anchor tenant of the research park and will partner with Louisiana Tech University to account for 1,600 new jobs over the next four years, thanks in part to $14 million in state funding over the next decade to expand higher education programs to increase the number of computer science graduates per year.

CSC customers, meanwhile, were being urged to boycott the company over allegations that it took part in illegal CIA rendition flights in the U.S. “war on terror.”

Court documents have linked CSC to the rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who was abducted on Dec. 31, 2003, after being mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA.

El-Masri was blindfolded, beaten, imprisoned for 23 days, stripped, sodomized, chained, drugged, flown to Afghanistan where he was again beaten and imprisoned for another four months, interrogated, threatened, denied legal representation, force fed and finally flown in a CSC-chartered plane to Albania, where he was left on a remote road in the middle of the night some 1500 kilometers from his home.

CSC was contracted for the flight as well as for other illegal CIA renditions, according to human rights charity Reprieve. CSC has so far refused a request by Reprieve to sign a pledge of “zero tolerance to torture,” and has also declined to respond to questions from Computer Weekly about the allegations.

Germany has paid the company some $405 million since 1990 and over the past five years, the country has awarded more than 100 contracts to CSC and its subsidiaries.

The story said it is “no coincidence” that the company’s various German offices are often located near U.S. military bases.

Barksdale AFB, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Global Strike Command, and Cyber Research Park are nearly adjacent in their proximity to each other, with the proposed CSC facility and Barksdale separated only by I-20.

MARCH

Jindal contributor benefits from state road work

The controversy over that 55,000 hunting lodge that straddles three central Louisiana parishes has taken a new and curious twist as the result of a $1.7 million highway resurfacing project that conveniently runs right past the entrance to the lodge that is owned by a major contributor to Gov. Bobby Jindal and to unsuccessful congressional candidate State Sen. Neil Riser.

The overlay of LA. 127, also known locally as the Olla-Sikes Highway, started on Feb. 20 at the Caldwell Parish line and run 5.5 miles east in Winn Parish to LA. 1238, according to an announcement by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD).

The LA. 127 project ends at the camp entrance and at the property of TV reality show Swamp People star Troy “Choot ‘em” Landry, whose campsite is located within the hunting camp.

A search of political campaign contributions show that camp owner Bill Busbice and his wife, Beth each contributed the maximum allowable $2,600 ($5,200 total) to State Sen. Neil Riser’s campaign for the 5th Congressional District seat won by Vance McAllister.

Jindal also picked up $20,000 from Busbice and Alfred Lippman of Morgan City, the registered agent for Olla Productions, LLC., one of Busbice’s may business entities.

Busbice contributed $5,000 to Jindal in April of 2009 and Beth Busbice gave another $5,000 in December of that same year, while Lippman contributed $5,000 in October of 2003, $3,500 in April of 2009 and his firm, Lippman, Malfouz, Tranchina & Thorguson of Morgan City gave another $1,500 in September of 2010.

Additionally, one of Lippman’s law partners, David Thorguson and his wife contributed $1,300 to Jindal, Jindal campaign records show.

Appel’s shrewd investments:

State Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) purchased Discovery Communications stock in 2010 a week before a major announcement of a partnership between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Capitol News Service has learned.

On Dec. 7, 2010, Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, announced that Louisiana and Indiana had joined Oregon in adopting the Discovery Education Science Techbook as a digital core instructional resource for elementary and middle school science instruction.

Appel is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and was in a unique position to know not only of the pending deal between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) but also of the company’s recent agreement with Indiana and Oregon, as well as Texas and Florida.

Appel’s financial disclosure form obtained from the State Board of Ethics indicates his Discovery Communications stock purchase was for “between $5,000 and $24,999.”

Discovery Communications is traded on NASDAQ and on the date of Appel’s purchase, the company’s shares opened at $40.96 and closed at $40.78.

And while there was no significant movement in the stock’s prices on the date of and on the day’s following Discovery’s announcement of the agreement with BESE, the stock hit a high of $90.21 per share on Jan. 2 of this year, meaning Appel’s on-paper profit after a little more than three years was in excess of 100 percent. The stock closed on March 27 at $75.72, still an 85 percent gain for Appel.

Appel’s 2012 financial report reveals that he also purchased between $5,000 and $24,999 of Microsoft stock on June 4, 2012, the same date that the Louisiana Legislature adjourned its 85-day session.

Ten days earlier, on May 25, the Louisiana Legislature approved the implementation of Common Core in Louisiana after a major push by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which poured more than $200 million to develop, review, evaluate, promote and implement Common Core.

APRIL

Deputy Sheriff dabbles in private background checks:

A former DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputy may have violated state law by using his office to run background checks for a company in which he owned a major interest, according to a report by the Legislative Auditor’s office in Baton Rouge.

Lagniappe and Castillo Research and Investigations ran 41,574 background checks through the sheriff’s office during an 11-month period between April 1, 2012, and February 28, 2013, the report says. Robert Davidson, retired chief investigator for the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, is 50 percent owner of Lagniappe and Castillo. He was employed by DPSO from 1980 until his retirement in May of 2013.

The report, released on Monday, also noted that three DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office (DPSO) employees were paid nearly $2,000 by Lagniappe and Castillo Research and Investigations for running the background checks between January 2011 and May 2013, duties they would normally perform as part of their jobs with the sheriff’s office.

The company charged its customers $12 for each background report and paid the sheriff’s office $3 for each report. That represents an income of more than $374,000 and a profit of more than $372,000 for owners Robert Davidson and Allan Neal Castillo.

Extortion claimed on state highway project:

A six and one-half-year-old lawsuit took a dramatic turn following a Mangham contractor’s claim that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) denied payments for work performed by his company because he resisted shake-down efforts by a DOTD inspector.

Jeff Mercer owner of the now-defunct construction company that bears his name, worked as a subcontractor to several prime contractors on six different projects for which he has not been paid. He first filed his lawsuit against DOTD on Sept. 7, 2007, in state district court in Monroe, claiming that the state owes him nearly $9 million for actual work done for which he was never paid, plus interest and delay costs which bring the total to more than $11.6 million.

The $500 million savings report by Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) was finally released on Monday only minutes before adjournment of the 2014 legislative session.

The 425-page report, produced under a $5 million contract, while projecting a savings of $2.7 billion over five years (an average of $540 million a year).

Most of the projected cost savings were based on assumptions for which A&M offered little or no supporting data other than arbitrary estimates and suppositions that could have been produced at a fraction of the report’s $11,760 per-page cost.

MAY

It pays to play I:

If there are any lingering doubts that politicians are beholden to the special interest who bankroll their campaigns, consider the money that has been spread among our state lawmakers—just from the oil and gas interests:

  • The 144 incumbent legislators have received more than $5.8 million in campaign contributions by a single special interest group—oil and gas. That comes to an average of $40,357 per legislator.
  • For the 39 current members of the Louisiana Senate, the aggregate is a little north of $2.8 million, or $51,100 each.
  • A total of $2.99 million was distributed among the 105 House members—an average of $40350 each, the figures show.

So, by obtaining a dismissal of litigation that could conceivably cost oil companies several hundred million dollars—before it ever goes to trial or even to the discovery stage—by spreading $5.8 million around represents a nice return on investment.

And make no mistake about it: campaign contributions are just that—investments.

It pays to play II:

The Senate Finance Committee on Sunday (Sen. Dan Claitor discarded their oaths of office—their sworn duty to protect the interests of the people of Louisiana—in favor of political expedience of the very lowest sort by ripping $4.5 million from the budget for Louisiana’s developmentally disabled and allocating the money for a Verizon IndyCar Series race at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish.

LouisianaVoice conducted a search of the Secretary of State’s web page to learn the identities of the NOLA Motor Club corporate officers and whose name should pop up as one of the principals? Laney Chouest, that’s who.

So, who is Laney Chouest, you ask?

Well, he also showed up as an officer in a few other corporations run by the politically active Chouest family of Galliano. Their main business is in shipbuilding and Laney Chouest was listed as an officer in Edison Chouest Offshore, Inc., Alpha Marine Service Holdings, LLC. and Beta Marine Services, LLC., to name only three.

So, armed with that information we did a campaign contribution search of only the last name of Chouest and we hit the mother lode.

Between 2007 and 2010, members of the Chouest family and their various businesses contributed $106,500 to Jindal.

JUNE

Legislator’s firm cited for environmental infractions:

A citation and a cease order issued to Dual Trucking Co. by the Montana Department of Environmental Equality for dumping oilfield radioactive waste from the nearby Bakken Oilfield, it turns out, is not the only problem State Rep. Gordon Dove (R-Houma) has experienced with environmental authorities, Capitol News Service has learned.

Vacco Marine, Inc., a company owned by Dove, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, has been the subject of several investigations, negative reports, citations, and compliance orders by and from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) over a period of several years, records show.

Last week, while presiding over a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee, he joined 12 other members in passing an amendment to SB 469 that made the prohibition against suing oil companies for damages to the state’s wetlands and marshes retroactive.

Dove also serves as a member of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Lobbyists swarm to protect BP:

By now, most people who have followed the bill authored by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) but inspired by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) know that big oil poured money and thousands of lobbying man hours into efforts to pass the bill with it accompanying amendment that makes the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was thwarted.

Most followers of the legislature and of the lawsuit also know that up to 70 legal scholars, along with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, strongly advised Jindal to veto the law because of the threat to the pending BP litigation.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators received more than $5 million and Jindal himself received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests. Allain received $30,000 from the oil lobby and Adley an eye-popping $600,000.

So, when BP lobbyists began swarming around the Capitol like so many blow flies around a bloated carcass, the assumption was that BP somehow had a stake in the passage of SB 469 and that infamous amendment making the bill retroactive.

John Barry, a former SLFPA-E who was given the Jindal Teague Treatment but who stuck around to pursue the lawsuit, said, “During the last few days of the session, we were very well aware that the BP lobbyists were extraordinarily active. They were all over the place. We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

Blogger Lamar White, Jr. observed that former Gov. Edwin Edwards spent eight years in a federal prison for accepting payments from hopeful casino operators for his assistance in obtaining licenses—all after he left office. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was similarly convicted of using his position to steer business to a family-owned company and taking free vacations meals and cell phones from people attempting to score contracts or incentives from the city.

So what is the difference between what they did and the ton of contributions received by Adley and Jindal? To paraphrase my favorite playwright Billy Wayne Shakespeare, a payoff by any other name smells just as rank.

And while big oil money flowed like liquor at the State Capitol (figuratively of course; it’s illegal to make or accept campaign contributions during the legislative session), what many may not know is that Jindal may have had an ulterior motive in going against sound legal advice to sign the bill into law, thus protecting the interests of big oil over the welfare of Louisiana citizens who have seen frightening erosion of the state’s shoreline and freshwater marshes.

The Washington, D.C., law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is one of the firms that represented BP in negotiating a $4.5 billion settlement that ended criminal charges against the company. Included in that settlement amount was a $1.26 billion criminal fine to be paid over five years.

An associate of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has defended clients in government audit cases and in several whistleblower cases is one Nikesh Jindal.

He also is assigned to the division handling the BP case.

Nikesh Jindal is the younger brother of Gov. Piyush, aka Bobby Jindal.

Suddenly, John Barry’s words take on a little more significance: “We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

By now, most people who have followed the bill authored by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) but inspired by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) know that big oil poured money and thousands of lobbying man hours into efforts to pass the bill with it accompanying amendment that makes the prohibition against such lawsuits retroactive to ensure that the SLPFA-E effort was thwarted.

Most followers of the legislature and of the lawsuit also know that up to 70 legal scholars, along with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, strongly advised Jindal to veto the law because of the threat to the pending BP litigation.

Altogether, the 144 current legislators received more than $5 million and Jindal himself received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests. Allain received $30,000 from the oil lobby and Adley an eye-popping $600,000.

So, when BP lobbyists began swarming around the Capitol like so many blow flies around a bloated carcass, the assumption was that BP somehow had a stake in the passage of SB 469 and that infamous amendment making the bill retroactive.

John Barry, a former SLFPA-E who was given the Jindal Teague Treatment but who stuck around to pursue the lawsuit, said, “During the last few days of the session, we were very well aware that the BP lobbyists were extraordinarily active. They were all over the place. We all assumed there was definitely something it in for them.”

Something in it for them indeed.

 

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A report by the Pew Research Center earlier this week indicated the wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households in America continues to widen to record levels. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pew-wealth-gap-20141217-story.html

Congress has just acted to ensure that that record gap between rich and poor continues to grow https://www.ifebp.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=72

And if you think we down here in Louisiana are insulated and unaffected, think again.

The Pew report, drawing on the latest data from the Federal Reserve, says the median wealth for high-income families was $639,400 last year—up 7 percent from three years earlier on an inflation-adjusted basis—while the median income for Louisiana households was reported at $39,622. The figure for Louisiana represented a drop of 19.7 percent from the state’s 1999 peak year of median earnings of about $48,400. http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Incomes-by-State.php

In 1983, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was a shade less than 50:1. Today that difference stands at 331:1 and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio is even more obscene at 774:1. http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014

There also is this: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0711/5-outrageous-ceo-spending-abuses-and-perks.aspx

And yet, even as corporate CEO pay and perks continue to reach stratospheric figures that the average employee can only imagine, Congress took a step last week that could actually lead to a major financial hit for retirees.

If that mammoth spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 11 escaped your scrutiny, perhaps you should have been paying closer attention. Included in that bill was an obscure amendment which will permit benefit cuts for retirees in one type of pension plan—multi-employer plans jointly run by unions and employers.

By definition, that would mean members of unions who work for several companies. That could conceivably include Teamsters, building trades, longshoremen and any other workers whose unions have working agreements with multiple companies. http://www.wsj.com/articles/pension-change-seen-as-setting-a-precedent-1418586647

Louis Reine, President of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, acknowledged the amendment was inserted as a means of keeping some pension plans that are on shaky footing afloat. At the same time, however, he warned that the move was a “slippery slope” and should be approved “with all due caution and deliberation.”

That’s because now that management has a foot in the heretofore impenetrable door protecting workers’ pensions, the table has been set for even more far-reaching legislation to strip away benefits in other areas, including the public sector.

Remember, it was on Jan. 25, 2012, just three years ago, that Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a speech to the Baton Rotary Club, outlined his plans to “reform the state pension system to keep the state’s promise to workers, protect critical services and save taxpayer dollars.” http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=3220

Among those plans to “protect the state’s promise to workers” was a revamp of the state pension system that would have gutted benefits for state employees. We have often cited here the example of the worker who, if she never received another pay raise, would be eligible to retire after 30 years with a retirement of $39,000 per year. But under Jindal’s plan to “protect” her, that $39,000 would be reduced to $6,000 per year—a $33,000 per year hit—and the employee was not eligible for Social Security or Medicare.

The courts, fortunately for state employees, declared the state’s pension plan a contract which could not be arbitrarily broken by the state, though the state was left free to offer new hires a defined contribution retirement plan as opposed to the defined benefit to which the employee we cited was entitled.

The Wall Street Journal called the amendment to the federal spending bill as a “model for further cuts,” and therein lies the real threat to workers and retirees alike.

Karen Friedman, Executive Vice President of the Pension Rights Center, said the measure would “set a terrible precedent” in that it could encourage similar cutbacks in troubled state and local pension plans and maybe even Social Security and Medicare.

That is a chilling prediction and in all probability, deadly accurate.

The thumbprints of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are all over the amendment and the Koch brothers-run organization isn’t about to stop with gutting the pensions of a few union retirees.

And before anyone tries to claim that business and industry does not have an organized union to represent their interests, we have three words for you: U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the U.S. Chamber is not only a member of ALEC, but is a major operative within ALEC. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/U.S._Chamber_of_Commerce

In 1971, an obscure corporate attorney named Lewis Powell authored what has come to be known as the Powell Manifesto. In it, he laid out a blueprint for a corporate legislative agenda to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Director of the U.S. Chamber. That memorandum by Powell, written only two months before President Nixon nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy, among others.

Powell’s memo has also served ALEC’s legislative agenda which includes, among other things, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

Is it merely a coincidence that Louisiana’s Right to Work law, supported by ALEC and the U.S. Chamber, was passed only five years after Powell’s memorandum and four years after the founding of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)?

So now, ALEC, the U.S. Chamber, and Republican leaders alike already have Social Security and Medicare in their crosshairs: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/republican-social-security-cuts so can other private pension plans be far behind? Will the individual states like Louisiana renew efforts to slash retirement benefits for state employees?

As Louis Reine said, it is indeed a slippery slope and once the momentum moves in that direction, it will be virtually impossible to reverse.

And it’s important to remember that while public employees’ retirement benefits are at risk, the opening salvo has been aimed at private pension benefits. If they can pull that off, the rest will simply be low-hanging fruit.

Are you willing to take to the streets to defend what is rightfully yours?

How much is your retirement worth to you?

These questions are not hypothetical.

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