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Without belaboring the obvious, several things are simultaneously clear—and puzzling—about the sordid little spittle-swapping episode involving Fifth District Congressman Vance McAllister and his married aide Melissa Peacock, wife of one of McAllister’s erstwhile close friends:

    • Elected on Nov. 16 and sworn in on Nov. 21, it took him only a month and two days—Dec. 23—to get busted in his own office by his own security camera. That has to eclipse any record for infidelity by U.S. Sen. David Vitter and shows that McAllister is dumber than a duck.
    • While some deep smooching doesn’t begin to compare to Vitter’s pillow talk with prostitutes, McAllister has pretty much been deep-sixed in his re-election bid while Vitter somehow remains the odds-on favorite to become Louisiana’s next governor. Vitter’s romps were in the abstract, only written about, while McAllister’s indiscretion was caught on video for all to see in its fuzzy, grainy quality—which only served to make the whole affair a little seamier and a bit more distasteful.
    • Because the video of McAllister and Peacock was taken inside McAllister’s Monroe office, this obviously was an inside job.
    • As pointed out by political analyst Bob Mann, the most aggressive Louisiana journalist today (Lamar White) is a college student living in Texas. Shame on the rest of us. http://cenlamar.com/2014/04/08/why-the-real-scandal-isnt-congressman-vance-mcallisters-philandering/

All of which raises several equally obvious questions, to wit:

    • How was it that The Ouachita Citizen was chosen to break the story on its web page? Citizen Publisher Sam Hanna, Jr., said the video was sent anonymously to his office. But why not the much larger-circulation Monroe News-Star where the story would have received much wider circulation?
    • Why did the anonymous video donor wait more than three months to send the package to Hanna?
    • Was this video shot from a surveillance camera or a cellphone positioned for the sole purpose of entrapping McAllister?
    • Were any federal laws broken by the person or persons who made the video and/or removed it from the office of a U.S. congressman?
    • Who would stand to gain the most from shooting the video—and releasing it at this particular point in time?

Taking the last question first, the most obvious answer would be a potential Democrat positioning himself to run against McAllister next fall. But how would such a person have access to McAllister’s office to either plant or remove the video? And how would that person know of the supposed relationship between McAllister and Peacock?

There is some speculation that the fingerprints of Timmy Teepell, the OnMessage guru of Gov. Bobby Jindal, were all over this little operation. Jindal, after all, supported State Sen. Neil Riser to succeed former Congressman Rodney Alexander who was appointed by Jindal to head the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. McAllister has embraced—sort of—the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that must surely have rankled the Jindalites who have been adamantly opposed to Obamacare since day one.

McAllister retained several of Alexander’s staff members, including Alexander’s former Chief of Staff Adam Terry who admitted he was “crushed” and “pained” that his former boss retired halfway through his term and did not anoint him as heir-apparent, choosing instead to endorse State Sen. Neil Riser. Terry is now McAllister’s chief of staff and some observers say he has never taken his eye off the brass ring—the goal of one day occupying Alexander’s old House seat.

Throwing a monkey wrench into all the speculative machinery is McAllister’s minister who points the finger at McAllister’s Monroe District Officer manager Leah Gordon, also a former member of Alexander’s staff.

The minister, Danny Chance, claimed that Gordon said she was going to take the video to State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), a Jindal ally, and to Jonathan Johnson, who previously worked for Alexander. Both men campaigned for Riser and both have denied any involvement with the video’s release. Gordon also has denied Chance’s allegation.

Chance made his claim to the Monroe News-Star. http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20140408/NEWS01/304080023/Pastor-says-McAllister-staffer-leaked-video

It would appear, as reported by White on cenlarmar.com, that the footage was obtained by the strategic placement of a cellphone camera directed at the office’s surveillance video monitor, a tactic that would have required careful planning and forethought. Left unanswered, however, is how the perpetrator knew that McAllister and Peacock would pause at the exact spot where the camera would catch them in their amorous embrace. And knowing that a cellphone can video only for short durations, the timing here for starting the recording is key.

Speaking of which, if one watches the video closely, there are a couple of suggestions of a staged act; as the couple reaches the strategic spot for the video, it appears that it is Peacock who makes the first subtle move toward McAllister, not vice-versa. Not that this in any way excuses McAllister for his stupidity or for his lack of judgment, but it all seems just a bit too contrived to be purely coincidental.

To the question of whether or not any laws were broken, the answer is quite clear: it is a felony to bug a federal office. Period.

As for why the video was leaked to The Ouachita Citizen, suffice it to say that Hanna, in his publication, endorsed Riser in last fall’s election and has made no secret of his opposition to Obamacare and by association, McAllister.

And the timing of its release should be obvious: it’s an election year in Louisiana.

One other question remains: how are the Robertsons over at Duck Dynasty, who actively promote an image of family and church above all else and who endorsed and campaigned for McAllister, going to handle this latest PR gaffe?

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An interesting civil trial is transpiring at the 19th Judicial District Court. Though estimates vary, if the plaintiffs prevail, about one taxpayer in five in the Greater Baton Rouge area may eventually wind up with a surprise check in the mail.

The trial involves a group of taxpayers, now represented as a class, who have sued the Amite River Basin Commission (ARBC) over what they claim are vastly overpaid property taxes covering construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal. The project was originally envisioned after the massive 1983 flood which resulted in significant backwater flooding long after rains had stopped. The concept behind the project involves providing a sort of relief valve (the Canal) to divert water from the Comite River into the Mississippi River. By lowering the water level of the Comite River, water levels would also be lowered in the Amite River basin in flood-prone areas such as Port Vincent and French Settlement.

What is in dispute is the amount of funding for which the ARBC (through local property owners) is responsible. The original estimate of the project’s construction costs was approximately $120 million (the current estimate is $199 million). Of that $120 million, the Army Corps of Engineers (through the Federal government) was to be responsible for 70% of the construction costs, or $84 million. The remaining $36 million cost was originally designated to be $30 million to the State of Louisiana, and $6 million to the ARBC.

A sidebar to the whole affair is how a Baton Rouge lawyer is legally or ethically able to represent ARBC when he also served as the plaintiff attorney in litigation against the state that could ultimately cost the state from $60 million to $70 million.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have indicated that $6 million was the full extent of the construction costs for which the ARBC was responsible. To date, by way of a 3-mill property tax approved by voters in the District in 2000, combined with a renewal (at 2.65 mills) of that tax in 2010, plaintiff attorneys say about $24.5 million has been collected to date. The suit seeks a refund of the alleged $18.5 million overpayment.

At various stages in the trial, plaintiff attorneys have accused ARBC Executive Director Deitmar Rietschier of financial mismanagement and voter deception in order to “keep a project alive that is on life support.”

The attorneys have argued that Rietschier has an ulterior motive for over-collecting on the tax in order to fund his own $93,000+ annual salary along with his executive secretary’s $38,000 salary.  The board’s executive secretary, Toni Guitrau, also happens to be the Mayor of the Livingston Parish Village of French Settlement.

So, basically, the trial boils down to the claim that taxpayers of the district have been tricked into paying around $1.1 million in salaries for Rietschier and Guitrau during a period for which no funding has been appropriated for the project’s continued construction.

Plaintiff attorney Steve Irving argued that it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the final cost of the project or if, it may even be completed.

Defense attorney Larry Bankston says there never was any intent to cap the ARBC’s contribution to construction costs at $6 million. He argues that the Canal project remains viable and is fully ongoing. He indicated that he has eight more witnesses to call.

Bankston’s roles as both plaintiff and defense attorney in cases involving the state would appear to pose a conflict of interests. Currently, he is:

  • Legal counsel to the State Auctioneer Licensing Board under a $25,000 contract;
  • Defense attorney for ARBC in its ongoing litigation over the overpayment of taxes to that board;
  • Plaintiff attorney in ongoing litigation against the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, and the state’s Rice Promotion Board and Rice Research Board over claims of excessive assessments against the state’s rice farmers.

Employing the doctrine that “the state is the state is the state,” it would appear that Bankston may have a conflict of interests under the code of ethics which governs attorney representation.

But as we discovered years ago, nothing is ever cut and dried in the legal world. And it’s obvious those in charge of attorney ethics or either ignorant of the subject or protective of their peers—or both.

And so it is with this question. We contacted a number of organizations, including the Attorney Disciplinary Board, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and the State Bar Ethics Council and each one punted. Eric K. Barefield of the State Bar Association’s Ethics Council did finally respond to our email question about the propriety of working both sides of Litigation Street but his answer did little to shed light on the issue:

“Thank you for your inquiry. The Louisiana State Bar Association’s Ethics Advisory Service is designed to provide eligible Louisiana-licensed lawyers with informal, non-binding advice regarding their own prospective conduct and/or ethical dilemmas under the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct (the “LRPC”).  According to limitations set by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, we are not permitted to evaluate contemplated disciplinary complaints, to serve as the catalyst for potential complaints or even to comment on the conduct of lawyers other than that of the requesting lawyer. 

“As such, regrettably, we are not permitted to help you evaluate whether the lawyer in your scenario has or may be violating the LRPC nor are we permitted to give you legal advice on matters such as those contained in your e-mail. 

“In addition to the foregoing, if you are concerned about protecting and/or asserting your rights and interests in this matter, perhaps you should strongly consider consulting another lawyer as soon as possible with regard to getting an evaluation of your facts and a legal opinion about your rights, interests and options.  Regrettably, no one on the staff at the LSBA is permitted to offer legal assistance and/or legal advice.”

That rendition of the Bureaucratic Shuffle would easily get a “10″ rating on Dancing with the Stars.

Bankston, you may remember, is a former staff attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, was assistant parish attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish and a member of the Baton Rouge City-Parish Commission before his 1987 election to the Louisiana State Senate.

In 1994, while serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bankston met in his law office with Fred Goodson, owner of a Slidell video poker truck stop. The FBI later said Bankston and Goodson discussed a plan to manipulate the legislative process in order to protect the interests of video poker companies in exchange for providing key legislators secret financial interests in video poker truck stops.

Bankston was subsequently indicted and convicted on two racketeering counts, one of which was a scheme whereby Goodson would pay Bankston “rent” of $1,555 per month for “non-use” of Bankston’s beachfront condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama—a bribe, according to prosecutors.

Bankston was sentenced to 41 months in prison in 1997 and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Released on Nov. 6, 2000, Bankston was subsequently disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Mar. 9, 2002, retroactive to Nov. 19, 1997, but was re-admitted to practice law on Feb. 5, 2004.

So, now he represents two state boards and is suing two others and a state agency.

And there apparently is no one who can—or will—call a foul in this game.

 

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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. https://www.discoveryeducation.com/aboutus/newsArticle.cfm?news_id=663

Thanks to a sharp-eyed researcher, Sissy West, who writes a blog opposing the Common Core curriculum, we have learned that on Nov. 30, seven days before the deal between the state and Discovery Education was made public, State Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) purchased Discovery Communications stock, according to financial disclosure records filed with the State Ethics Board. http://nomorecommoncorelouisiana.blogspot.com/2014/03/crisis-of-confidence.html

Appel is a major proponent of education reform in Louisiana, including the controversial Common Core curriculum.

He also 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) as well as the company’s agreement with Indiana and Oregon, as well as Texas and Florida.

The Discovery Education Techbook is touted as a “Core Interactive Text” (CIT) that “separates static text from a fully digital resource.” http://www.discoveryeducation.com/administrators/curricular-resources/techbook/K-8-Science-digital-textbook/index.cfm

Appel’s financial disclosure form indicates his Discovery Communications stock purchase was between $5,000 and $24,999. APPEL REPORT PDF

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 the days 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 profit over a little more than three years, on paper, was in excess of 100 percent. Put another way, he doubled his investment in three years. The stock closed on Thursday (March 27) at $75.72, still an overall gain of 85 percent Appel.

The most significant thing about Appel’s Nov. 30, 2010, purchase of the Discovery Communications stock is the volume of shares traded on that date. More than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communications stock were traded that day, more than double the next highest single day volume of 3.1 million shares on Aug. 1, 2011. Daily trading volume generally ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares in a monthly review from December 2010 through March of this year. http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=DISCA&a=10&b=30&c=2010&d=02&e=28&f=2014&g=m

While there is no way to know with any certainty, it is possible that the Discovery Education’s Techbook deals contributed to the surge of trading activity on Nov. 30.

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. MICROSOFT

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

www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database

And while no one is suggesting that Appel is involved in any type of illicit behavior or insider trading, the timing of his stock purchases might raise a few eyebrows. It could appear to some as more than coincidental—and ill-advised—that such transactions and official state actions would occur in so close a timeframe not once, but twice, and would involve a single individual who promoted Common Core legislation and who served as chairman of a key legislative committee that dealt with education issues.

Perception, as they say, is everything.

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With the 2014 regular session of the legislature less than two weeks away, there have already been a couple of interesting developments that could prevent lawmakers from learning how a federal investigation of a major contract came about in the first place.

There already is speculation that two recent resignations in the Jindal administration may have something to do with avoiding testimony before legislative committees that may wish to look into the controversial $284 million contract between the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) and CNSI.

Subpoenas could be issued for Paul Rainwater, Jerry Phillips, and Bruce Greenstein but if they choose to ignore subpoenas, the legislature has options in that legislative subpoenas carry the same weight as a court subpoena provided a legislative subpoena meets certain criteria.

It is, to say the least, curious that former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater (more recently, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Chief of Staff), and DHH Undersecretary Jerry Phillips resigned only a few days apart and less than a month before the legislature convenes at noon on March 10.

Apparently timing in politics, like in comedy, is everything. Phillips, while giving no specific date for his retirement, did say he would retire “before the start of the session.”

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Phillips, who has worked for DHH for 25 years, will pursue “other employment options with the state following his retirement.” She said he would be replaced by DHH Deputy Director Jeff Reynolds on (drum roll, please…) March 10.

That, or course, raises the obvious question of whether Phillips will remain conveniently retired until the session adjourns on June 2 before becoming the latest retire-rehire, a popular trend among executive level state employees these days.

Phillips, you may recall was seated next to Greenstein back in June of 2011 when the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee was considering the confirmation of Greenstein as Jindal’s choice for DHH Secretary.

It was Phillips who repeatedly advised Greenstein and defended his boss’s refusal to identify to the committee CNSI as the winner of the 10-year, $30 million-a-year contract to replace DHH’s 23-year-old computer system that adjudicates health care claims and case providers.

Greenstein has previously worked for CNSI and when he refused to identify the contract winner, then-Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia) asked, “Are you telling me right now, today, that you’re refusing to tell this committee who’s going to receive that…contract?”

After several more exchanges between Greenstein and Marionneaux, Green said, “I’m not going to be able to say today.”

Sen. Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) then asked Greenstein, “Who made the decision not to tell us this information under oath?”

“This was from my department…”

“You are the department,” Amedee interrupted. “Who is the person above you? Who is your boss?”

“The governor,” said Greenstein.

“Can you tell me if this company you used to work for—whether or not they got the contract?”

“I can’t discuss the matter.”

“You can, you just choose not to,” Amedee said.

At one point after Greenstein and Phillips repeatedly alluded to the “process and procedure” employed by DHH in awarding contracts, Amedee, in apparent frustration, tossed his pencil over his shoulder and turned away from the witnesses.

Committee Vice-Chair Karen Carter Peterson said, “You don’t want me to know, but you know. Is this what we call transparency?”

Phillips said once the contractor’s name is made public, “it’s the equivalent of an announcement.”

“Do you make the law?” Peterson shot back.

“I interpret the law,” said Phillips, who is an attorney.

“Then you’re not doing a good job. Mr. Secretary (Greenstein), I hope you’re paying attention. How many lawyers do we have on this committee? We make law and yet you choose to follow this gentleman (Phillips).”

“It’s all part of the process,” Phillips said. “It’s (the selection process) done in conjunction with consultation and direction from the procurement folks.”

“In conjunction with whom?” asked Peterson.

“They’re part of the Division of Administration,” he said for the first time, implicating DOA—and Rainwater—in the controversy.

Committee Chairman Robert “Bob” Kostelka (R-Monroe) finally broke in to say, “I don’t know the difference between firewalling and stonewalling but this committee’s concern is whether or not to recommend to the full Senate that these people should be confirmed for the jobs for which they’ve been nominated.

“The much larger issue here is the integrity of the entire DHH. We don’t care about your procedures. We’ve got to determine if we trust the integrity of the people before us. We’re asking you to put aside your procedures and protocol and answer our questions. Knowing that, I don’t see why
you cannot make this committee aware if a former employer of this man is going to win a multi-million dollar contract from the state.”

When Phillips again attempted to invoke “respect for the statute,” Kostelka interrupted. “Again, sir, this has nothing to do with making the award. We’re asking who got the contract. It’s pretty obvious to us that they’re (CNSI) the one getting the contract.”

At that point, Phillips asked if he could confer with Greenstein. The two left the room for 16 minutes and upon their return, Greenstein, after a few more questions, said, “It is CNSI.”

Rainwater, who on Feb. 17, unexpectedly announced his resignation as Jindal’s Chief of Staff, effective Mar. 3, a week before the legislature convenes. He served as Commissioner of Administration from Aug. 9, 2010, until October 15, 2012, when he moved across the street to the governor’s office.

As chief of staff, Rainwater has been in charge of the policy advisors and strategists and supposedly enjoys a close day-to-day working relationship with Jindal—though probably not nearly as close as Timmy Teepell through whom Jindal has funneled nearly $3 million from his campaign ($1.27 million), and his non-profit organizations Believe in Louisiana ($1.22 million) and America Next. (No payments have been listed for America Next, Jindal apparently having learned his lesson when he listed contributions and payments to Believe in Louisiana.)

It’s difficult to believe that Rainwater, in overseeing Jindal’s advisors and strategists, would have been unwise enough to advise his boss to go off the way he did at the National Governor’s Conference on Monday. He is far too intelligent for such foolishness.

Even the Baton Rouge Advocate saw Jindal for what he really is—a spoiled brat who, if he can’t have his way, pouts or throws a tantrum—as depicted in one of the best editorial cartoons we’ve seen in a long time:

http://theadvocate.com/multimedia/walthandelsman/8477684-123/walt-handelsman-for-feb-26

That was plain idiotic and inappropriate and in the world of political faux pas, ranks right up there with his college exorcism and his Republican response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address.

The suggestion of a tactic to make Jindal look that silly in front of a national television audience could only have come from someone like Teepell. Unless, of course, Jindal simply ad-libbed it which is certainly not out of the question, given his propensity of letting his alligator mouth overload his jaybird backside.

But back to the resignations of Greenstein, Phillips and Rainwater.

Greenstein announced his resignation on Mar. 29, 2013 immediately after word of a federal investigation into the CNSI contract was announced. Even then, for reasons no one has yet explained, he was allowed to remain until May. At about the same time as Greenstein’s resignation announcement was made, it was learned that a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge had subpoenaed all records dealing with the CNSI contract from the Division of Administration (DOA) as early as January of 2013.

That would mean that Jindal had to know about the investigation as much as three months before Greenstein’s resignation but said nothing about the probe and only cancelled the CNSI contract after the Baton Rouge Advocate broke the story of the four-page subpoena.

And now, only days—and in one case, only hours—before the opening of the 2014 legislative session, two other prominent figures in the CNSI story will be gone, out of reach of any curious legislative committee which might wish to question them about their knowledge of events surrounding the awarding of the contract.

Legislative committees and subcommittees have the authority under legislative rule to conduct studies, administer oaths to witnesses and to seek subpoenas and punishment for contempt although subpoenas require the approval of the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate upon the request of the committee chairman or by a majority of the standing committee members.

Louisiana Revised Statute 24:4 through 24:6 provides that a person is guilty of contempt of the legislature “if he willfully fails after subpoena to appear or produce materials.” Initiation of prosecution for criminal contempt is by certification to the district in the proper venue, in this case East Baton Rouge Parish.

The legislative subpoena and contempt provisions have been upheld in a number of court cases, most notably a 1972 case involving a state legislator who claimed to have tape recordings of an attempt to bribe him and a 1979 case against then-Insurance Commissioner Sherman Bernard and his deputy commissioner.

The two men, who appeared subject to subpoenas, interrupted committee hearings on insurance regulations and left the meeting room despite warning that their actions subjected them to being held in contempt. The two were subsequently held in contempt and fined $500 each.

 

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By general consensus, State Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) is regarded as one of the most principled, most respected members of the Louisiana Legislature.

Over the past several legislative sessions, he has annually introduced bills to force more transparency in the governor’s office by requiring greater accessibility to records kept under protective wraps by a governor already vested with more power than virtually all of his 49 contemporaries.

It has been a lonely fight with his fellow lawmakers mysteriously reluctant to stand up to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Still, he has soldiered on, willing to strive in near solitude for more openness in the executive branch.

So why, then, has he suddenly pre-filed Senate Bill 79 which would only 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?

Adley, in reflecting on experiences with four previous governors—Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco—said he had “never seen the kind of things I’ve seen in this administration.”

He cited the Louisiana Transparency and Accountability Web site on which Jindal is quoted as saying, “I have advocated for transparent government, as I believe that the bright light of transparency and public access should extend to every corner of the state budget. An honest government has nothing to fear from openness.”

That being case, Adley said, “Why does the governor fight attempts to open his office’s records? You’re either for transparency or you’re not.”

Adley’s bill would do two things: give Jindal the authority to reject nominees to the two boards and require the committee that chooses nominees to present him a longer list of candidates from which to select members.

The bill, as written, would all but abolish restrictions that prohibit politicians from determining who is appointed to the two boards. It would serve as a major boost to Jindal who has sought to replace members of the east bank authority to support litigation against more than 90 oil and gas companies.

The bill also provides that rejected candidates would be ineligible for re-nomination and if new names were not submitted by the nominating committee, the governor would then be enabled to make the selections himself.

On the surface, given Adley’s penchant for openness and accountability, the bill defies logic since it is obviously a counteroffensive to attempts by The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East (SLFPAE) to push for a historic lawsuit that would hold oil and gas companies responsible for damages to coastal wetlands.

Jindal has made no secret that he would refuse to appoint members to the board who support the lawsuit and he has already kicked three members off the authority who supported the litigation, including former chairman John Barry.

SLFPAE is attempting to force the oil and gas companies to restore the wetlands or pay SLFPAE for damages, with the money going to the state’s coastal restoration efforts.

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

Adley’s SB79 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.

As that AT&T commercial says, it’s not complicated.

Adley 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, more importantly, 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 could claim that the contributions had no bearing on his opposition to the litigation or to his filing a bill that flies in the face of his call for more openness on the part of the governor’s office, but such an argument would be disingenuous at best and downright dishonest and self-serving at worst.

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

Somehow, it seems to us that a more appropriate committee assignment might have been the Natural Resources Committee. Or perhaps the Environmental Quality Committee or even the Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs Committee.

We are told, however, that the assignment to that committee is appropriate in that Senate rules vest jurisdiction of legislation affecting levee boards with Transportation, Highways & Public Works, though an argument could be made that because the bill deals with appointments subject to confirmation, that it could have been assigned to the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee.

The chairman of Transportation, Highways & Public Works?

Robert Adley. (318) 965-1755, adleyr@legis.la.gov

Oops.

Other members and their oil and gas-related contributions in descending order (and their contact information that we gave you earlier):

  • Troy Brown (D-Napoleonville)—(985) 369-3333, brownte@legis.la.gov, $0 (as in nothing, nada, zilch).

This lawsuit, as District 5 Public Service Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate Foster Campbell (D-Elm Grove) has said on many occasions, is about holding the oil and gas companies accountable for the damage done to Louisiana’s coastline. “If your neighbor runs his car into your fence and knocks it down, you would expect him to pay for the repairs,” the Bossier Parish native said. “That’s all this litigation is about—holding someone accountable for the damage done to our property.”

Opponents, including the ultra-Tea Party blog The Hayride, have latched onto the claim that the lawsuit has earned Louisiana the designation as a “judicial hellhole.”

By providing the contact information of the committee members who will be considering Adley’s bill, we have given both opponents and proponents an opportunity to pass their sentiments on to their elected officials.

And that, friends and neighbors, is called democracy in action in a representative government.

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The 2014 legislative session is less than a month away (March 10) and as always, we can expect the unexpected, the unusual, the downright bizarre and of course, controversy.

Under the law, sessions during even-number years—this year, for instance—consists of 85 calendar days during which the legislature may meet on no more than 60 days, though lawmakers receive per diem payments for all 85 days.

During odd-number years, the session is 60 calendar days and legislators are restricted to no more than 45 legislative days—again with full pay for all 60 days.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has two more regular sessions in which to push through his full ALEC-sponsored agenda so it is quite likely that we will see more controversial bills from the administration as well as the re-introduction of past bills that failed the first time around.

In the past we’ve been treated to a senator (Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe) asking a high school science teacher during a committee hearing if cultures her students were growing in her classeroom could produce a human being.

We’ve had a House member (Nancy Landry) attempt to change a rule to force teachers in Baton Rouge to testify about controversial education bills to declare if they were on sick leave or otherwise authorized to miss a day of school (her precedent-setting rule failed).

There was even a strange question from then Rep. Mert Smiley (R-Port Vincent) who asked if there was some rule or regulation that could be invoked to prevent employees of the Office of Risk Management from leaving the agency for employment elsewhere (no such rule has existed since Jan. 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation).

And then there was Rep. Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) who voted in favor of state funding for church-affiliated charter schools—until an Islamic school in New Orleans applied for a charter. That’s when the fecal matter hit the Westinghouse oscillating air circulation device. Apparently her vote was restricted to her interpretation of what constitutes a non-secular school.

Despite the far too frequent lapses into idiocy such as exhibited by these three, there are important issues which come before the House and Senate and many times the forgotten citizens back home would like to make their voices heard but don’t always know the best way to get through to their legislators.

Well, we didn’t name this blog LouisianaVoice for nothing.

A regular reader in Lafayette inspired us with the solution.

We have decided to post the names of all 144 legislators (105 representatives and 39 senators) along the corresponding telephone numbers and email addresses.

By doing this, we are not necessarily soliciting a telephone or email campaign because we don’t even know what legislation will be introduced this year. This is simply an informational guide so that readers will have the information if and when it becomes necessary.

We also do this with full knowledge that some legislators simply do not return calls. We’re still waiting for a return call from Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) from more than a year ago—well before his crash-and-burn congressional campaign.

We suggest you print this post and post it somewhere—or save it to a shortcut on your computer. If you do not know the name of your senator and representative, shame on you but here are the links that will help you find them:

House of Representatives

Senate

And here are the alphabetical lists of both the House and Senate:

Members of the House (to reach your representative during the session dial the House clerk at 225-342-7259):

Members of the Senate (to call senators in Baton Rouge, the main switchboard number is 225-342-2040):

You now have the contact information to make your opinion(s) known to your elected officials.

Oh, wait. We almost forgot:

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Two months ago, when the Federal Communications Commission allotted $8 million to expand broadband Internet access in rural Louisiana areas, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was quick to praise, perhaps a bit prematurely, the “investment” while Gov. Bobby Jindal remained uncharacteristically silent.

Despite Landrieu’s laudatory claim that the funds would “upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities,” the $8 million represented only 10 percent of an $80 million grant for Louisiana that was rescinded in October of 2011 because of Jindal’s aversion to what then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater deemed a “top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with the private sector…”

What Rainwater—and through him, his boss, Jindal—did not acknowledge is that the Jindal administration’s obsession with protecting the private sector at the expense of broadband Internet service to customers in the rural areas of the central and northeastern parts of the state was part of the 12-year-old official position staked out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in August of 2002. http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/6f/9A15-Municipal_Telecommunications_Private_Industry_Safeguards_Act_Exposed.pdf

Also ignored by the Jindal administration—and ALEC—is that broadband service in the U.S. is woefully inadequate when compared with countries like South Korea, Japan and even Portugal and Italy. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/competition-and-the-internet/

And it’s even worse in the country’s rural areas. http://deltafarmpress.com/blog/broadband-service-rural-areas-promise-still-exceeds-reality

No doubt you’ve seen those cute AT&T commercials featuring the man sitting at a table with children. He asks a question and gets feedback from the kids and the commercial ends with, “It’s not complicated.”

Indeed it is not. In 2008, Jindal’s very first year as governor, he signed SB-807 into law as Act 433 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act, was authored by then-Sen. Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans). It passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote with only Dale Erdy (R-Livingston) voting no. Absent and not voting were Sens. Robert Adley (R-Benton), Jody Amedee (R-Gonzales) and Sheri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville).

AT&T, which contributed $10,000 to Jindal’s campaign since 2007, supported the bill. AT&T also contributed $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children.

It’s not complicated.

It also passed overwhelmingly in the House by a 94-9 vote. The only members casting no-votes were Reps. James Armes (D-Leesville), Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport), Greg Cromer (R-Slidell), Jean Doerge (D-Minden), Ricky Hardy (D-Lafayette), Lowell Hazel (R-Pineville), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Sam Jones (D-Franklin), and Chris Roy (D-Alexandria). Rep. James Morris (R-Oil City) was absent and did not vote.

The only ALEC member to go against the official doctrine was Carmody. He attended ALEC’s 2010 annual meeting in San Diego at which the organization’s Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force passed an official resolution in potential opposition to private telephone and cable companies by public bodies such as city councils and parish governments. http://louisianavoice.com/2012/05/09/could-loss-of-that-80-6-million-broadband-internet-federal-grant-last-fall-have-been-deliberately-orchestrated-by-alec/

Other members of the Louisiana Legislature who attended that meeting included Reps. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), Robert Johnson (D-Marksville), Tim Burns (R-Mandeville), State Chairman Joe Harrison (R-Gray), Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte) and Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge).

Act 433 well may even have been written by AT&T, which is a member of ALEC and a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. AT&T chipped in $50,000 to the ALEC cause in 2010 and was a member of the Louisiana Host Committee for ALEC’s 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans. Jindal was the recipient of ALEC’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award at that 2012 meeting. http://www.alec.org/hundreds-of-state-legislators/

It’s not complicated.

And lest one think that Louisiana’s loss of the $80 million broadband grant in 2011 was the exception, consider this:

  • Early this year, the Kansas Legislature undertook Campaign Stop Google Fiber—and any cities that may wish to invest in broadband network technologies. Included in legislation introduced in the legislature were stipulations that except with regard to unserved areas, a municipality may not themselves offer to provide or lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of allowing a private entity to offer, provide, carry or deliver video, telecommunications or broadband service. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/30/1273848/-Kansas-moves-to-Stop-Broadband-Internet-to-residents?detail=email
  • In February of 2011, the Minnesota Cable Communications Association (MCCA) initiated a public battle with National Public Broadband (NPB) by inundating Lake County with a flurry of public records request designed to slow NPB’s efforts to bring broadband Internet to rural areas of Lake County.

While MCCA correctly asserts that Lake County should act transparently, the barrage of requests submitted by the association makes its intent to protect its own financial interests over those of rural residents of the county is quite apparent. Its monopoly is, after all, being threatened and those cable services that are overpriced and which provide as little speed as possible are fighting back.

Certainly it’s only coincidental that AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Excel Communications, Fair Point Communications, Sprint Nextel, Verizon, and Cox Communications are members of ALEC. All but Excel and Fair Point serve on ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_Corporations.

It’s not complicated.

So, given Jindal’s cozy relationship with ALEC and given ALEC’s opposition to public participation in expanding broadband Internet service to rural areas in competition with ALEC members, it’s perfectly understandable why Jindal eschewed that “top-down” management of the $80 million grant.

It’s not complicated.

And it is equally apparent that the monopolistic advantage enjoyed by private sector providers be protected at all cost—even at the cost of creating some 900 miles of cable over 21 rural parishes that would support several Louisiana universities with expanded optical fiber networking capacity.

It’s not complicated.

Top-down management apparently is good only when it originates from the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Just ask any legislator, former state employee, or board or commission member who has dared to contradict him on any issue.

It’s not complicated.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have suffered a mass exodus of sorts in the wake of its Stand Your Ground mantra that led to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but ALEC is far too strong to let a few defections stand in the way of its political agenda in such areas as public education (even to borrowing from John White’s playbook), weakening workers’ rights, diluting environmental protections, healthcare and now even in the way U.S. senators are nominated and elected.

For that reason alone, the upcoming legislative session which begins at noon on March 10—less than two months from now—will bear close watching for any bills that might appear to have originated at ALEC’s States & Nation Policy Summit last month in Washington, D.C.

ALEC, while striving to change laws to meld with its agenda, nevertheless denies that it is a lobbying organization. That way, corporations and individuals who underwrite ALEC financially are able to claim robust tax write-offs for funding ALEC and its companion organization, the State Policy Network (SPN).

ALEC has a strong presence in Louisiana. Former legislator Noble Ellington, now a deputy commissioner in the Louisiana Department of Insurance, is a former national president of the organization and Gov. Bobby Jindal was recipient of its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award a couple of years ago when ALEC held its national conference in New Orleans.

Current Louisiana legislators who are members of ALEC are:

House of Representatives:

  • Rep. John Anders (D-Vidalia), Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans),      attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting;
  • Rep. Timothy G. Burns (R-Mandeville), Civil Justice Task Force Alternate;
  • Rep. George “Greg” Cromer (R-Slidell), State Chairman, Civil Justice Task Force (announced he was resigning from ALEC and from his position as Alec state chairman of Louisiana on April 17, 2012);
  • Rep. James R. Fannin (R-Jonesboro), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Franklin J. Foil (R-Baton Rouge), Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Brett F. Geymann (R-Lake Charles), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Rep. Johnny Guinn (R-Jennings);
  • Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray), State Chairman, member of Education Task Force; (solicited funds for “ALEC Louisiana      Scholarship Fund” on state stationery July 2, 2012);
  • Rep. Cameron Henry, Jr. (R-Metairie), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);
  • Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Girod Jackson (D-Marrero), (resigned last August after being charged with fraud);
  • Rep. Harvey LeBas (D-Ville Platte),  ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Rep. Walter Leger, III (D-New Orleans), ALEC Education Task Force;
  • Rep. Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie), (attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting where he spoke on “Saving Dollars and Protecting Communities: State Successes in Corrections Policy”);
  • Rep. Nicholas J. Lorusso (R-New Orleans), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Rep. Erich Ponti (R-Baton Rouge;
  • Rep. John M. Schroder, Sr. (R-Covington), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force;
  • Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);
  • Rep. Scott M. Simon (R-Abita Springs), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force;
  • Rep. Thomas Willmott (R-Kenner), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force;

Senate:

  • Sen. John A. Alario, Jr.(R-Westwego), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force;
  • Sen. Jack L. Donahue, Jr. (R-Mandeville), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston); Health and Human Services Task Force;
  • Sen. Daniel R. Martiny (R-Metairie); Public Safety and Elections Task Force;
  • Sen. Fred H. Mills, Jr. (R-New Iberia), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member;
  • Sen. Ben Nevers, Sr. (D-Bogalusa), ALEC Education Task Force member;
  • Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Gary L. Smith, Jr. (R-Norco), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force;
  • Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi)
  • Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, Jr. (R-Central), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

All ALEC meetings are held under tight security behind closed doors. During one recent conference, a reporter was not only barred from attending the meeting, but was actually not allowed into the hotel where the event was being held.

Apparently, there is good reason for that. It is at these conferences that ALEC members meet with state legislators to draft “model” laws for legislators to take back to their states for introduction and, hopefully, passage. Some of the bills being considered for 2014 are particularly noteworthy.

We won’t know which proposals were ultimately approved at that December meeting in Washington, however, because of the secrecy in which the meetings are held. We will know only if and when they are introduced as bills in the upcoming legislative session. But they should be easy to recognize.

One which will be easy to recognize is ALEC’s push for implementation of Louisiana’s Course Choice Program in other states. Course Choice, overseen by our old friend Lefty Lefkowith, is a “mini-voucher” program which lets high school students take free online classes if their regular schools do not offer it or if their schools have been rated a C, D or F by the state.

Course Choice has been beset by problems in Louisiana since its inception first when companies offering classes under the program began canvassing neighborhoods to recruit students and then signing them up without their knowledge or permission. Vendors offering the courses were to be paid half the tuition up front and the balance upon students’ graduation, making it a win-win for the vendors in that it didn’t really matter if students completed the courses for the companies to be guaranteed half the tuition. Moreover, there was no oversight built into the program that would ensure students actually completed the courses, thus making it easy for companies to ease students through the courses whether or not they actually performed the work necessary to obtain a grade. The Louisiana Supreme Court, however ruled the funding mechanism for Course Choice from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program unconstitutional.

Three other education proposals by ALEC appear to also borrow from the states of Utah. The first, the Early Intervention Program Act, is based on Utah’s 2012 law which has profited ALEC member Imagine Learning by diverting some $2 million in tax money from public schools to private corporations. But Imagine Learning did not offer test scores for the beginning and ending of the use of its software, little is known of what, if any, benefits students might have received. The Student Achievement Backpack Act and the Technology-Based Reading Intervention for English Learners Act also appear to be based on Utah’s education reform laws.

The former provides access to student data in a “cloud-based” electronic portal format and was inspired by Digital Learning Now, a project of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education when he was Florida’s governor.

Not all of ALEC’s proposals address public education.

For example, do you like to know the country of origin of the food you place on your table? More than 90 percent of American consumers want labels telling them where their meat, fruits, vegetables and fish are from, according to polling data. ALEC, though, is resisting implementation of what it calls “additional regulations and requirements for our meat producers and processors,” including those that would label countries of origin.

ALEC’s “Punitive Damages Standards Act” and the accompanying “Noneconomic Damage Awards Act” would make it more difficult to hold corporations accountable or liable when their products or practices result in serious harm or injury.

The organization’s “Medicaid Block Grant Act” seeks federal authorization to fund state Medicaid programs through a block grant or similar funding, a move that would cut Medicaid funding by as much as 75 percent. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has pushed similar block grant systems for Medicaid in several of his budget proposals.

In what has to qualify as a “WTF” proposal, ALEC for the second straight year is seeking approval of a bill to end licensing, certification and specialty certification for doctors and other medical professionals as requirements to practice medicine in the respective states and to prohibit states from funding the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Then there is the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” which is considered an assault of sorts on the 17th Amendment. For more than a century, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures, a practice which often led to deadlocks and stalemates, leaving Senate seats open for months on end. But 101 years ago, in 1913, the 17th Amendment was ratified, changing the method of choosing senators to popular vote by the citizenry.

While ALEC’s proposal doesn’t mean full repeal of the 17th Amendment, it does mean that in addition to other candidates, legislatures would be able to add their own candidates’ names to ballots for senate seats. ALEC, apparently, is oblivious or unconcerned with a national poll that shows 71 percent of voters prefer electing senators by popular vote.

To keep track of these and other ALEC bills introduced in the upcoming session, just keep an eye on the member legislators and the bills they file.

And keep reading LouisianaVoice.

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Apparently Arkansas has ethics laws that are a bit stronger than those in Louisiana.

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr announced last week that he will resign, effective Feb. 1, in a move to avoid impeachment by the Arkansas House of Representatives after he was fined for 11 separate counts that included his personal use of more than $30,000 in campaign funds.

Earlier this year, Democratic State Sen. Paul Bookout also resigned after he was fined $8,000 by the State Ethics Commission for using thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal purchases.

In that case, reports totaling more than 35 pages revealed that Bookout spent more than $5,000 alone on clothes and accessories at a Jonesboro, Ark., clothing store.

And then there is Martha Shoffner, the Democratic State Treasurer who resigned last May under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans and who was arrested the following month on 14 counts, including receipt of a bribe and extortion—not quite the same thing as using campaign funds for personal purposes, though we do have a legislator who awarded a $4 million contract to a firm when he was head of a state agency only to resign and go to work for the firm within weeks of signing off on the contract. He apparently continues to represent the company even while now serving in the legislature.

The personal use of campaign funds, while a common practice among Louisiana politicians, is apparently frowned upon in Arkansas to such an extent that even Darr’s fellow Republicans urged him to resign in the wake of his ethics problems.

Darr signed a letter on Dec. 30 in which he agreed to pay the Ethics Commission $11,000 in fines and to reimburse the state for findings in a legislative audit, which said he improperly spent $3,500 on his state credit card and then filed for an equal amount in travel reimbursements.

Remember back on Feb. 10, 2008, when Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 1 into law which, among other things, banned legislators and other state officials from contracting with the state?

SB-1, which became Act 2 with Jindal’s signature, was the centerpiece of the new governor’s agenda (he had been in office little more than a month at the time). “Today, we take the first step towards building a better Louisiana where our ethics laws are the gold standard,” he boasted as he signed the bill.

Well, not so much, it turns out.

Jindal’s “gold standard” removed enforcement from the State Ethics Board and gave it to some creature called the Ethics Adjudicatory Board whereby ethics cases are now heard by administrative law judges. Enforcement became such a joke that 10 ethics board members, including its chairman and vice-chairman resigned in disgust.

Today, we have a Teach for America (TFA) director serving on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) which administers funding for TFA, the BESE president voting on charter school matters while his sister serves as director of the state charter school association, another BESE member whose company has a multi-million contract with another state agency; a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors voting to turn over operations of the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Hospital in Monroe to a foundation which he serves as CEO.

And worse, no one in a position to take appropriate action appears to want to step up to the plate.

Apparently, that “gold standard” in Louisiana means whoever has the gold sets the standard.

Campaign funds in Louisiana appear to serve as a handy slush fund for legislators who use the money for any purpose they wish—even, in one case, to pay a legislator’s federal income taxes not once, but for four straight years.

Take for example the Louisiana Election Code (Title 18:1505.2-I, paragraph 36 on page 36): “No candidate, political committee, person required to file reports under this chapter, nor any other person shall use a contribution, loan, or transfer of funds to pay a fine, fee or penalty imposed (by the State Ethics Board.)”

Yet The Louisiana Board of Ethics web page lists dozens of individual occasions in which ethics fines were paid with campaign funds. Some of these were paid by political action committees (The Alliance for Good Government paid $1,600 from its campaign funds and the Better Government Political Action Committee paid $5,000 from its campaign funds), some by lobbyists and these, by current or former legislators:

  • Rep. James Armes, III (D-Leesville)—$2,600 (two fines);
  • Rep. Roy Burrell (D-Shreveport)—$2,000;
  • Former House Speaker Charles DeWitt (D-Alexandria)—$5,000;
  • Former Rep. Tom McVea (R-St. Francisville)—$720;
  • Former Sen. Walter Boasso (D-Chalmette)—$1,000;
  • Former Rep. Irma Muse Dixon (D-New Orleans)—$600;
  • Former Rep. Dale Sittig (D-Eunice)—$800;
  • Former Sen. Joel Chaisson, II (D-Destrehan)—$5,000 (two fines);
  • Sen. Richard Gallot (D-Ruston)—$1,000.

But the real eye-opener is the list of more than 50 legislators and former legislators who had expenditures for LSU athletic season and individual game tickets, New Orleans Saints, Sugar Bowl, Jazz/Pelican and NCAA event tickets and in some cases, vehicle leases (including Senate President John Alario, who leased a Jaguar for his use) and gasoline purchases and even federal income tax payments. Here are a few examples of current members of the House and Senate who have dipped into campaign funds to pay for athletic event tickets that total more than $500,000 (car leases, gasoline, travel, parking and other personal expenditures are in parenthesis):

  • Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans)—$12,200 in 2009, 2011 and 2012 (Abramson also spent an additional $13,563 on legislative travel, airline tickets, Washington, D.C., Mardi Gras events and hotel fees in New York);
  • Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego)—$88,441 in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 on athletic and Jazz Fest tickets, $62,365 in auto lease payments from 2009 through 2012 (Jaguar), another $12,000 for fuel, more than $16,000 in meals during that same time frame, more than $10,000 on entertainment, $13,840 in rent for his Pentagon Barracks apartment in Baton Rouge; $1,200 for cable TV for his Pentagon Barracks apartment;
  • Rep. John Anders (D-Vidalia)—$9,142 in 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. James Armes, III (D-Leesville)—$11,688 in 2008, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans)—$3,000 in 2011;
  • Rep. John Berthelot (R-Gonzales)—$7,770, all in 2011;
  • Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville)—$10,798 in 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Thomas Carmody, Jr. (R-Shreveport)—$11,556 in 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans)—$3,738 in 2009 and 2010;
  • Sen. Norbert Chabert (R-Houma)—$3,015 in 2010;
  • Rep. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero)—$25,026 (Connick also paid $5,073 in lease payments for an Infiniti automobile in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and also paid $2,107 for lodging at the Baton Rouge Hilton Hotel;
  • Rep. George Cromer (R-Slidell)—$14,228 in 2008 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 (Cromer also paid $1,709 to the Sandestin Hilton on Aug. 3, 2008, for a Louisiana Forestry Association meeting and eight days later paid himself $1,500 for “expenses Hilton Hotel—hotel $969, mileage $285 and food and drink $250” and he paid $1,254 to the Hilton Washington for expenses for the Washington Mardi Gras in January of 2009. He also paid two New Orleans hotels a combined $1,141 for lodging for a legislative retreat and for a freshman retreat. He also paid himself a $500 cash advance for that 2009 Washington Mardi Gras;
  • Rep. Herbert Dixon (D-Alexandria)—$2,750 in 2011 (Dixon also paid $1,593.26 out of his campaign funds for hotel bills in Phoenix, Arizona, and Chicago.);
  • Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles)—$1,500 in 2008 (he paid another $10,500 in rent for a Pentagon Barracks apartment in Baton Rouge);
  • Rep. Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge)—$6,394 in 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe)—$11,106 in 2008, 2010 and 2011;
  • House Speaker Charles Kleckley (R-Lake Charles)—$17,492 in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Bernard LeBas (D-Ville Platte)—$11,316 in 2009, 2020 and 2011;
  • Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie)—$69,529 from 2002 through 2012 (Martiny also spent $12,351 on travel and another $12,976 for rent and furniture for his Pentagon Barracks apartment in Baton Rouge);
  • Sen. Jean Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans)—$8,043 in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. James Morris (R-Oil City)—$2,735 in 2009;
  • Sen. Dan Morrish (R-Jennings)—$2,978 in 2009;
  • Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell)—$20,660;
  • Sen. Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan)—$16,653 in 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula)—$5,900, all in 2011;
  • Rep. Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux)—$2,678 in 2009;
  • Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia)—$2,000 (Riser spent an additional $8,138.84 in 2012 for his personal vehicle, another $6,656.86 for fuel for the vehicle, $1,013.67 to Riser & Son Funeral home—his business—in Columbia for reimbursement for purchase of an I-Pad, and $1,005.72 for insurance coverage on his truck;
  • Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette)—$19,756 in 2004, 2005, 2006 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012;
  • Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington)—$1,708 in 2009;
  • Sen. Gary Smith (R-Gonzales)—$14,952 in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge)—$5,238 in 2008 and 2009;
  • Rep. Roy Burrell (D-Shreveport)—$6,100 in 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero)—$8,448 in 2008, 2010 and 2011;
  • Rep. Mike Danahay (D-Sulphur)—$11,386 in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012;
  • Sen Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie)—$7,466 in 2007, 2009 and 2011;
  • Rep. Jack Montoucet (D-Crowley)—1,010 in 2010;
  • Sen. Kevin Pearson (R-Sulphur)—$3.010, all in 2010;
  • Rep. Harold Ritchie (D-Bogalusa)—$810 in 2005;
  • Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport)—$8,075 in 2011 and 2012 (Seabaugh also spent $1,309.74 for a hotel stay for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Baton Rouge in 2011;
  • Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi)—$11,958 in 2009, 2010 and 2011(Thompson also paid $3,456 for hotel rooms on three trips to Sandestin Beach Golf Resort in 2009, 2010 and 2012, ;$11,958 in gasoline and auto insurance for those same years and $2,725 in dues to the Delhi Country Club and the Black Bear Golf Course. Even more curious, he $11,367 from his campaign funds for his federal income taxes for the years 2008 through 2011;
  • Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe)—$1,785;
  • Sen. Bodi White (R-Central)—$5,858 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (White also spent $2,543 on hotel stays in Destin, Fla., and in Washington, D.C. and another $1,398 on air travel to Phoenix and Atlanta;

Former Rep. Noble Ellington who spent $32,380 of his campaign funds since 2007 on athletic event tickets, more than $8,000 of which was spent in 2011 when he did not seek re-election. He spent another $40,755 in rent payments for his Pentagon Barracks apartment and another $2,400 attending meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of which served as national president during his last year in office.

Ellington, within weeks of leaving office, was named the second in command at the Louisiana Department of Insurance at $150,000 per year, a position which will greatly enhance his retirement benefits at the same time Gov. Jindal is asking state employees to work longer, pay more in employee contributions and accept fewer benefits.

Other former legislators who found no problem soliciting campaign contributions from supporters and to use the money for LSU athletic tickets and other personal expenditures included:

  • Former Rep. Bobby Badon (D-Carencro)—$8,448 in 2008, 2010 and 2011;
  • Former Rep. Damon Baldone (R-Houma)—$8,865 in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011;
  • Former Sen. Nick Gautreaux (D-Meaux)—$3,060 in 2010;
  • Former Rep. Walker Hines (R-New Orleans)—$5,688 in 2010;
  • Former Sen. Mike Michot (R-Lafayette)—$14,797 in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Former Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Maringouin)—$6,075 in 2010 and 2011;
  • Former Rep. Billy Montgomery (R-Bossier City)—$4,075 in 2011 (Montgomery has not served in the legislature since 2008.);
  • Former Rep. Ricky Templet (R-Gretna)—$8,638 in 2009, 2010 and 2011;
  • Former Rep. Ernest Wooton (R-Belle Chasse)—$4,755 in 2009 and 2011;
  • Former Rep. Troy Hebert (D-Jeanerette)—$10,425 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (Hebert also $1,505.70 for lodging at a Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., and $691.80 on an airline flight to Washington in 2010, and  $500 at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, which he listed as a “donation” in 2011;
  • Former Rep. Nickie Monica (R-Metairie)—$9.670 in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011;

Some of the current and former legislators listed their expenditures as “donations,” but the “donations” often were in multiples of $1,010: $1,010, $2,020 and $3,030, which correspond to the price of LSU tickets. Interestingly, other legislators listed identical amounts, but their reports said the expenditures were to purchase LSU tickets which would seem to make the donations claim appear somewhat duplicitous.

And apparently there is no inclination—or desire—on the part of the legislature to enact appropriate legislation to keep such rampant abuses in check.

Rank indeed has its privileges.

And what Louisiana’s legislators get away with is pretty damned rank.

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While the Alabama Crimson Tide was beating LSU 21-0 in the BCS national championship game in the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Jan. 9, 2012, U.S. Sen. David Vitter was entertaining a number of guests in one of the Superdome’s 152 luxury suites—at a hefty cost, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Vitter, who apparently gained access to the suite through corporate largesse, took full advantage of the occasion to charge guests $4,000 per seat, according to one person who was there.

Ticket scalping laws vary from state to state and in Louisiana:

  • Tickets cannot be sold at more than their face value price except on the Internet;
  • Tickets for university sporting events cannot be sold online by Louisiana legislators or university students;
  • Tickets can be resold online at greater than their face value price if approved by both the event operator (NCAA) and the venue operator (the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District).

The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED), the governing board of the Superdome, owns one of the suites and the remaining 151 are owned not by the State of Louisiana, but by the New Orleans Saints (a windfall of some $10 million to the Saints) and leased for annual lease fees ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 per year, a LSED spokesperson told LouisianaVoice. All 151 suites are under lease to private entities, according to information obtained from the Saints office.

Sixty-four suites are located on the 400 level of the Superdome and offer a range of 22 to 40 seats per suite. The remaining 88 suites are located on the 300 level and offer 16 to 20 seats per suite, according to the stadium’s web page.

Vitter failed to respond to three email inquiries from LouisianaVoice that asked:

  • Who (corporate entity or individual) provided you access to a luxury box for that game?
  • What was the seating capacity for that luxury box at that game?
  • How many guests did you entertain in that luxury box for that game?

He also was asked to identify those in attendance as his guests in the suite for the game.

Depending on the number of seats available and allowing that all seats except for those for Vitter and his family were sold, he could have netted between $50,000 and $150,000 for that event.

Federal election laws place a cap on individual political contributions. That cap varies but in 2012, it was $2,500. Federal laws also prohibit direct contributions to federal candidates from corporations. The $4,000 price would have exceeded the maximum allowable contribution.

While Vitter’s campaign contributions for the time period encompassing the LSU-Alabama game list no individual contributions that would appear to be connected to the sale of seats, corporations may make unlimited contributions to the so-called Super PACs.

Vitter’s Super Pac, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, raised $1.5 million last year, according to Washington, D.C., fundraiser Charlie Spies.

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