Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

CORRECTION:

We were in error when we reported on Saturday that Rep. Jim Fannin (D/R-Jonesboro), chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB) refused a request by Rep. James Armes (D-Leesville) that Rep. Kenny Havard (R-Jackson) be allowed to serve as his proxy at last Friday’s JLCB meeting in Baton Rouge.

LouisianaVoice was unable to contact any of the principals involved over the weekend but we spoke with Armes on Monday and he informed us that it was not Fannin, but House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles) who declined, or simply failed to act on, Armes’ request.

More accurately, it appears now that Kleckley may have indicated he would consent to Armes’ request but either had a change of heart or simply did not follow up. “When I spoke with the speaker, he told me he would take care of it,” Armes said today. “I was unavailable and unable to attend, so I called him (Kleckley) and asked that Rep. Havard be allowed to serve as my proxy. Normally when a member cannot attend, we will try to get someone from the Baton Rouge area to attend and Rep. Havard is only a few miles outside Baton Rouge.

While it may not have been Fannin who dropped the ball on approving a proxy for Armes, it was Fannin who informed committee members after they had convened that the issue of the $178.5 million budget surplus claimed by the administration would not be taken up pending a report by the Legislative Auditor’s office. That report is expected sometime in December. Meanwhile, the state is in budgetary limbo over whether there is a surplus as claimed by Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols or a $141 million deficit as claimed by State Treasurer John Kennedy.

The administration’s sudden “discovery” of $360 million (accumulated since 2002), which it says brought the state out of a $141 million hole to a surplus of $178.5 million has drawn fire from two former commissioners of administration, Raymond Laborde of Marksville and his niece, Stephanie Laborde of Baton Rouge. Raymond Laborde was commissioner during former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ third term of office and Stephanie Laborde (at the time Stephanie Alexander) served during Edwards’ fourth and final term. Both, along with Kennedy, indicated it was highly improbable that that much money could have remained hidden for so long a time.

One source has put the amount closer to $500 million but added that the money has already been spent. If so, that would put the deficit closer to $300 million than the $141 million initially claimed by Kennedy.

Read Full Post »

            The scene is a cheesy carnival with a sleazy barker trying to coax indifferent passersby into a tent sideshow that is certain to be equal parts hype and fraudulence. You can almost hear his voice as he drones:

            “Step right up folks and see the Amazing Jindini perform his astounding, incredible, UNBELIEVABLE escapes from the perils of political reality! You won’t believe your eyes!

            “Watch and don’t dare blink as his lovely assistant, Kristy, the glib but treacherous attack lady, maneuvers Jindini into inescapable positions right here in Louisiana only to see him emerge, smiling and unruffled, somewhere in Iowa. Or will it be New Hampshire, or maybe on Fox News or even in a Washington Post op-ed?

            “And if this political life-threatening feat should somehow go wrong, if the magically transcendent budgetary numbers don’t add up, hold your breath because Kristy will find a way to blame the whole thing on Jindini’s evil nemesis John Kennedy.

            “It’s implausible, it’s dumbfounding, it’s far-fetched, but ladies and gentlemen, it’s everything you could ever imagine—and then some—in the fantasy world of the Great Jindini: deception, misdirection, transference of responsibility, denial, obfuscation. Political contributions become political favors right before your very eyes. Step right up, folks! You don’t want to miss the Amazing Jindini.”

Such is the descent into the cheap theatrics of political rhetoric and finger-pointing from the Jindal administration these days as Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana), through Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, attempts to deflect the blame for fiscal recklessness onto State Treasurer John Kennedy—or anyone else who dares get in the way.

The latest twist in what is the ongoing soap opera of the Jindal administration, Nichols has claimed that a $178.5 million year-end surplus has suddenly materialized, seemingly out of nothing more than the sheer will of Jindal to appear as a fiscal guru in his tragicomic pursuit of the White House.

LouisianaVoice, meanwhile, has learned that a national bond rating company isn’t buying into the rosy fiscal picture painted by the Division of Administration (D)A) and in fact, feels that by all previous measures, a budget deficit as claimed by Kennedy is the more likely scenario.

When Kennedy challenged the surplus figure, claiming instead that the state in reality had a $141 million deficit, Kristy’s vitriol was unleashed on the Treasurer in quick measure, claiming that Kennedy was responsible for “sweeping” agency funds that have not been appropriated or spent by the end of each fiscal year. She added that while the Treasury had used the money for cash flow, it never included it in the year-end report presented to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget (JLCB).

Nearly seven years into Jindal’s term, Nichols opined that it was “disappointing” that Kennedy never reported these balances to the public.

That, of course, should raise the obvious question of why no one in Jindal’s cadre of sycophants has raised the issue before now.

At the same time, Nichols denied Kennedy’s claim that the administration had changed the accounting system from accrual to cash. Bear in mind, however, it was this same Nichols who told the House Appropriations Committee on Sept. 25 (just before she ducked out to take her daughter to a boy band concert in New Orleans) that it was Buck Consultants who recommended a decrease in premiums for Office of Group Benefits members when the actual report submitted by Buck did nothing of the sort.

Kennedy, for his part, released a prepared statement on Wednesday, saying that as Treasurer, he is constitutionally responsible “for the custody, investment and disbursement of state funds. It is a job that I take very seriously. At least three times a year, the Treasury sends a comprehensive report to the administration about every penny, nickel and dime in the state general fund and the Treasury is audited every year by the legislative auditor.”

Kennedy also said that as Treasurer, he is not responsible “for ensuring that the administration is truthful with legislators and the public about the amount of money that can be appropriated from the state general fund. It is the administration’s responsibility to take our reports and tell legislators and the Revenue Estimating Conference about any and all available money instead of creating a secret slush fund.”

Kennedy said it is clear that the state spent more money than it brought in during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. “We have a $141 million deficit,” he said. “It’s also clear that the administration wants to use its own secret slush fund to resolve the problem while blaming others for the mess.” He called the administration’s figures “a manufactured surplus.”

“I don’t blame them,” he added. “I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for the bad budget practices that drove the Office of Group Benefits into financial ruin, drained the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, and crippled our universities. As Treasurer, I’ll continue to be a watchdog over the people’s money.” He said if the Legislature wants him to take charge of the budget, “I am more than happy to take on those responsibilities.”

Legislators will get a chance to ask their own questions when the JLCB convenes on Friday in the Capitol.

Meanwhile, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said there no way of knowing if the administration’s claim of a $178 million surplus is valid until a thorough audit has been conducted.

“This is a different way of looking at what is surplus,” he said. “The bottom line is…until we have audited it, I can’t tell you if it’s a good number or bad number or what.”

In contradicting Nichol’s claim that the accounting system was changed by the administration, Purpera said the new figures represents a sudden departure from the method employed since 1997. “This is not the way they have calculated it before,” he said.

Even the administration could not verify the source of the surplus, saying only that it was “not exactly clear, but we are confident it is there,” according to DOA communications director Meghan Parrish.

Jindal desperately needs to avoid the prospect of a budget deficit if he is to continue his quest for the presidency. A budget hole at this juncture would severely wound, perhaps mortally, his oft-repeated claim that he has balanced the Louisiana budget every year of his administration.

That threat alone would go far in explaining the administration’s sudden frenzy in spinning a favorable fiscal tale contrived to propel him into the White House via fantasy land—or Iowa or New Hampshire.

Just another day in the wacky world of Jindini escapism, folks.

Read Full Post »

Between U.S. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the man who wants to replace her, incumbents in five of the state’s six November congressional races have received more than $21.5 million in campaign contributions, of which more than $6.5 million has come from political action committees, or PACs, according to figures provided by the Federal Elections Commission.

The number of corporate dollars that have flowed into the races is somewhat deceptive, however, because money given by corporate officers and board members are listed as individual contributions and is not counted with the PAC money.

LouisianaVoice has always maintained that political clout no longer belongs to the citizenry, but to special interest groups like corporations and corporate officers who pour money into political campaigns, in the process drowning out the voice of individual voters.

In two of the congressional races, PAC contributions to incumbents actually outpace those of individuals—Reps. Charles Boustany of the 3rd District ($984,000 to $769,000) and Cedric Richmond of the 2nd District ($723,000 to $278,000).

Even more alarming, each candidate we’ve reported on thus far has accepted money from PACs connected to corporations that have serious legal and ethical issues. Those issues include, among others, insider trading, influence peddling, environmental pollution, and fraud.

It might be of no real consequence if these were isolated occurrences, but they’re not. The same companies keep turning up in report after report is what has become a dangerous trend of corporate control of the entire Congress as the welfare of the American people has been all but crowded out of the picture and excluded from the national dialog.

Following is a partial list of some of Richmond’s PAC contributions:

ALTRIA GROUP PAC: $1,500

  • Altria Group, Inc. (previously named Philip Morris Companies Inc.) The name change alternative offers the possibility of masking the negatives associated with the tobacco business,” thus enabling the company to improve its image and raise its profile without sacrificing tobacco profits,
  • According to the Center for Public Integrity, Altria spent around $101 million on lobbying the U.S. government between 1998 and 2004, making it the second most active organization in the nation.
  • Altria also funded The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition which lobbied against the scientific consensus on climate change.
  • Daniel Smith, representing Altria, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND CO.: $1,000

  • On December 20, 2013 the SEC announced that it had charged ADM for failing to prevent illicit payments (bribes) made by its foreign subsidiaries to Ukrainian government officials in violation of federal statutes. ADM agreed to pay more than $36 million to settle the SEC’s charges.
  • In 1993, the company was the subject of a lysine price-fixing investigation. Senior ADM executives were indicted on criminal charges. Three of ADM’s top officials, including vice chairman Michael Andreas were eventually sentenced to federal prison in 1999. Moreover, in 1997, the company was fined $100 million, the largest antitrust fine in U.S. history at the time.
  • One hundred percent or more of overcharges resulting from price fixing are passed through to consumers.
  • The company has been the subject of several major federal lawsuits related to air pollution. In 2001, it agreed to pay a $1.46 million fine for violating federal and Illinois clean-air regulations at its Decatur feed plant and to spend $1.6 million to reduce air pollution there.
  • The company paid $4.5 million in penalties and more than $6 million to support environmental projects. In addition, ADM agreed to eliminate more than 60,000 tons of emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, organic volatile chemicals and other pollutants from 42 plants in 17 states at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

AT&T PAC: $6,000

  • AT&T is the second-largest donor to United States political campaigns, and the top American corporate donor, having contributed more than US$47.7 million since 1990, 56% and 44% of which went to Republican and Democratic recipients, respectively. Also, during the period of 1998 to 2010, the company expended US$130 million on lobbying in the United States. A key political issue for AT&T has been the question of which businesses win the right to profit by providing broadband internet access in the United States.
  • Bobby Jindal rejected an $80 million federal grant for the expansion of broadband internet service in rural Louisiana even as AT&T was contributing $250,000 to the Foundation run by Jindal’s wife Supriya after Gov. Jindal signed SB- 807 into law (Act 433) in 2008 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and the State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act removed from local and parish governments their authority and responsibility to negotiate cable franchise agreements with companies that relied largely on locally-owned public infrastructure such as utility poles. The bill also allows AT&T to sell cable television service without the necessity of obtaining local franchises.
  • Bill Leahy, representing AT&T, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORP. PAC: $2,000

  • Former Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon borrowed $1.1 billion against his stake in thousands of company wells. The loans, undisclosed to shareholders, were used to fund McClendon’s operating costs for the Founders Well Participation Program, which offered him a chance to invest in a 2.5 percent interest in every well the company drills. McClendon in turn used the 2.5 percent stakes as collateral on those same loans. Analysts, academics and attorneys who reviewed the loan documents said the structure raised the potential for conflicts of interest and raised questions on the corporate governance and business ethics of Chesapeake Energy’s senior management. The company disagreed that this is a conflict of interest or a violation of business ethics.
  • Current CEO Doug Lawler was responsible for laying off over 800 employees—roughly 16 percent of the workforce—within a few months of taking the position. Lawler released waves of employees over the course of a few months. All of the layoffs culminated in October of 2013 when Lawler released a staggering 800 employees nationwide, 640 of whom were from the corporate office in Oklahoma City.
  • In June of 2014, the state of Michigan filed felony fraud and racketeering charges against Chesapeake Energy, alleging that the company canceled hundreds of land leases on false pretenses after it sought to obtain oil and gas rights. Chesapeake Energy disputed all charges.

CHEVRON EMPLOYEES PAC: $4,500

  • In 2003 a class action lawsuit against Chevron was sued in Ecuadorian court for $28 billion for making residents ill and damaging forests and rivers by discharging 18 billion US gallons of formation water into the Amazon. Chevron claimed that agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempted the company from any liabilities.
  • In 2011, Ecuadorian residents were awarded $8.6 billion, based on claims of loss of crops and farm animals as well as increased local cancer rates. The award was later revised to $19 billion on appeals, which was then appealed to the Ecuadorean National Court of Justice. Chevron described the lawsuit as an “extortion scheme” and refused to pay the fine.
  • Chevron’s activities at its century-old Richmond refinery have been the subject of ongoing controversy. The project generated over 11 million pounds of toxic materials and caused more than 304 accidents. The Richmond refinery paid $540,000 in 1998 for illegally bypassing waste water treatments and failing to notify the public about toxic releases. Overall, Chevron is listed as potentially liable for 95 Superfund sites, with funds set aside by the EPA for clean-up.
  • Chevron’s operations in Africa have also been criticized as environmentally unsound. In 2002, Angola became the first country in Africa to levy a fine on a major multinational corporation operating within its borders when it demanded $2 million in compensation for oil spills allegedly caused by Chevron.
  • On October 16, 2003, Chevron U.S.A. settled a charge under the Clean Air Act, which reduced harmful air emissions by about 10,000 tons a year. In San Francisco, Chevron was ordered to spend almost $275 million to install and utilize innovative technology to reduce nitrogen and sulfur dioxide emissions at its refineries. In 2000, after violating the Clean Air Act at an offline loading terminal in El Segundo, California, Chevron paid a $6 million penalty as well as $1 million for environmental improvement projects.

CH2M HILL COMPANIES: $1,000

  • CH2M HILL used nearly $10 million in stimulus funding to design the elaborate Solyndra solar panel facility in Fremont, California. While CH2M HILL is in no danger of suffering the same bankruptcy plight, they also languish in a pool of mismanaged taxpayer funds. The firm has a history of fraud, kickbacks, violations, and cover-ups, not to mention one particular parallel with the Solyndra scandal—layoffs. This, despite receiving almost $2 billion in stimulus funding.
  • CH2M Hill has agreed to pay a total of $18.5 million in 2013 after admitting to defrauding the public by engaging in years of widespread time card fraud in its contract with the Department of Energy.

COMCAST: $5,000

  • Comcast’s customer satisfaction often ranks among the lowest in the cable industry.
  • With $18.8 million spent in 2013, Comcast has the seventh largest lobbying budget of any individual company or organization in the United States. Comcast employs multiple former U.S. congressmen as lobbyists.
  • Comcast also supports lobbying and PACs on a regional level, backing organizations such as the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association and the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC. Comcast and other cable companies have lobbied state governments to pass legislation restricting or banning individual cities from offering public broadband service. Municipal broadband restrictions of varying scope have been passed in a total of 20 US States, including Louisiana.

DELOITTE & TOUCHE PAC: $5,000

  • Deloitte has delayed payments to hundreds of thousands of unemployed in the State of California.
  • The firm has been working on a statewide case management system for California courts which originally had a budget of around $260 million. Almost $500 million has already been spent and costs are expected to run as high as $2 billion. No single court is yet fully operational. California’s Judicial Council terminated the project in 2012 citing actual deployment costs associated with the project and California’s budget concerns

DUKE ENERGY: $5,000

  • In 1999 the EPA initiated an enforcement action against Duke Energy for making modifications to old and deteriorating coal-burning power plants without getting permits under the Clean Air Act.
  • In 2002, researchers identified Duke Energy as the 46th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with roughly 36 million pounds of toxic chemicals released into the air annually. Major pollutants included sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, chromium compounds, and hydrogen fluoride. The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Duke Energy 13th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States.

EMPLOYEES OF NORTHROP GRUMMAN PAC: $5,000

  • From 1990-2002, Northrop Grumman contributed $8.5 million to federal campaigns. The company gave more than $1 million to federal candidates in 2005-2006 election cycle, compared to $10.6 million given by all defense contractors in the same cycle. This was behind only General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin in the defense industry. Former Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems chief James Roche served as Secretary of the Air Force for two years under George W. Bush. Roche was eventually nominated to head the Army, but was forced to withdraw his nomination among accusations of mismanaging a contract with Boeing and of failing to properly handle the Air Force sexual assault scandals of 2003. At least seven former officials, consultants, or shareholders of Northrop Grumman held posts in the Bush administration.
  • Northrop Grumman has dealt with multiple scandals during its history. In 1995, Robert Ferro, an employee for TRW, a company acquired by Northrop Grumman, discovered that satellite components manufactured for the U.S. Air Force were faulty and likely to fail in operation. TRW allegedly suppressed Ferro’s report and hid the information from the Air Force, even after a satellite in space equipped with the faulty components experienced serious anomalies. Ferro later sued Northrop Grumman in federal court under the federal whistle-blower law. In April 2009 Northrop Grumman agreed to pay $325 million to settle the suit. Ferro was awarded $48.8 million of the settlement.
  • The company was sued in 1999 for allegedly knowingly giving the Navy defective aircraft. This suit sought $210 million in damages. Then in 2003, the company was sued for allegedly overcharging the U.S. government for space projects in the 1990s. Northrop Grumman paid $111.2 million to settle out of court.
  • In 2010, Virginia’s computer operations experienced a week-long computer outage. Northrop Grumman operated these systems under a $2.4 billion contract. As a result, as many as 45,000 citizens could not renew their driver’s licenses prior to their expiration. Computer systems for 26 of the state’s 89 agencies were affected and some data may have been permanently lost.

EXXON MOBIL CORP. PAC: $2,500

  • ExxonMobil has drawn criticism from scientists, science organizations and the environmental lobby for funding organizations critical of the Kyoto Protocol and seeking to undermine public opinion about the scientific conclusion that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Mother Jones Magazine said the company channeled more than $8 million to 40 different organizations that have employed disinformation campaigns including “skeptical propaganda masquerading as journalism” to influence opinion of the public and of political leaders about global warming and that the company was a member of one of the first such groups, the Global Climate Coalition, founded in 1989. ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations has drawn criticism from the Royal Society, the academy of sciences of the United Kingdom. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in 2007 accusing ExxonMobil of spending $16 million, between 1998 and 2005, towards 43 advocacy organizations which dispute the impact of global warming. The report argued that ExxonMobil used disinformation tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry in its denials of the link between lung cancer and smoking, saying that the company used “many of the same organizations and personnel to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue.” These charges are consistent with a purported 1998 internal ExxonMobil strategy memo, posted by the environmental group Environmental Defense, which said:

“Victory will be achieved when

  • Average citizens [and the media] ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the conventional wisdom;
  • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy;
  • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear out of touch with reality.”

 

  • In 2003, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that J. Bryan Williams, a former senior executive of Mobil Oil Corp., had been sentenced to three years and ten months in prison on charges of evading income taxes on more than $7 million in unreported income, including a $2 million kickback he received in connection with Mobil’s oil business in Kazakhstan. Documents filed with the court said Williams’ unreported income included millions of dollars in kickbacks from governments, persons, and other entities with whom Williams conducted business while employed by Mobil. In addition to his sentence, Williams must pay a fine of $25,000 and more than $3.5 million in restitution to the IRS, in addition to penalties and interest.

GLAXOSMITHKLINE PAC:  $1,000

  • In July 2012 GSK pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to a pay $3 billion to settle the criminal charges as well as civil lawsuits in the largest settlement paid by a drug company at the time. The criminal charges were for promoting Paxil and Wellbutrin and for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about Avandia:; GSK paid $1 billion to settle the criminal charges. The remaining $2 billion were part of the civil settlement over unapproved promotion and paying kickbacks, making false statements concerning the safety of Avandia; and reporting false prices to Medicaid. GSK also signed an agreement which obligated it to make major changes to the way it did business.

HONEYWELL PAC: $5,000

  • The EPA says that no corporation has been linked to a greater number of Superfund toxic waste sites than has Honeywell. Honeywell ranks 44th among U.S. corporations causing air pollution. The firm released more than 9.4 million pounds of toxins per year into the air. In 2001, Honeywell agreed to pay $150,000 in civil penalties and to perform $772,000 worth of reparations for environmental violations.
  • In 2003, a federal judge in New Jersey ordered the company to perform an estimated $400 million environmental remediation of chromium waste, citing “a substantial risk of imminent damage to public health and safety and imminent and severe damage to the environment.” In the same year, Honeywell paid $3.6 million to avoid a federal trial regarding its responsibility for trichloroethylene contamination in Illinois. In 2004, the State of New York announced that it would require Honeywell to complete an estimated $448 million cleanup of more than 165,000 pounds of mercury and other toxic waste dumped into Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.

LOCKHEED MARTIN EMPLOYEES’ PAC: $5,000

  • Lockheed Martin received $36 billion in government contracts in 2008, more than any company in history. It does work for more than two dozen government agencies from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s involved in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Security Agency (NSA), The Pentagon, the Census Bureau and the Postal Service.
  • Lockheed is listed as the largest U.S. government contractor and ranks third for number of incidents, and 21st for size of settlements. Since 1995 the company has agreed to pay $606 million to settle 59 instances of misconduct.
  • Through its political action committee (PAC), the company provides low levels of financial support to candidates who advocate national defense and relevant business issues. It was the top contributor to House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-California), giving more than $50,000 in the most recent election cycle. It also topped the list of donors to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee before his death in 2012.
  • Lockheed Martin Employees Political Action Committee is one of the 50 largest in the country. With contributions from 3,000 employees, it donates $500,000 a year to about 260 House and Senate candidates.
  • In March 2013, Maryland State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, while he was said to be dating a Lockheed Martin lobbyist, cosponsored a resolution which would give Lockheed Martin tax rebate worth millions of dollars related to hotel taxes paid at its CLE facility in Bethesda, MD. This was after Montgomery County Council refused to pass a similar resolution.

MARATHON OIL EMPLOYEES PAC: $10,000

  • Marathon gave $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration promptly awarded Marathon subsidiaries $5.2 million in state funds.

MICROSOFT CORP. PAC: $4,500

  • One of Microsoft’s business tactics, described by an executive as “embrace, extend and extinguish,” initially embraces a competing standard or product, then extends it to produce their own version which is then incompatible with the standard, which in time extinguishes competition that does not or cannot use Microsoft’s new version. Various companies and governments have sued Microsoft over this set of tactics, resulting in billions of dollars in rulings against the company.
  • Microsoft has been criticized for its involvement in censorship in the People’s Republic of China. Microsoft has also come under criticism for outsourcing jobs to China and India. There were reports of poor working conditions at a factory in southern China that makes some of Microsoft’s products.
  • To avoid providing stock options and medical and retirement benefits to employees, Microsoft hires thousands of temporary workers (temps) for the designing, editing and testing of its software. When a federal judge (upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) outlawed the hiring of temps for longer than six months, Microsoft got around the ruling by laying off its temps for 100 days and then rehiring them.

MONSANTO CO.: $4,000

 

  • In 2003, Monsanto reached a $300 million settlement for manufacturing and dumping of the toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Alabama.
  • In 2004, Monsanto, along with Dow and other chemical companies, were sued by a group of Vietnamese for the effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. The case was dismissed.
  • In 2005, the US DOJ filed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which Monsanto admitted to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and making false entries into its books and records. Monsanto also agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine. The case involved bribes paid to an Indonesian official.
  • The Monsanto Company Citizenship Fund has donated more than $10 million to various candidates since 2003. In 2011, Monsanto spent about $6.3 million lobbying Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about regulations that would affect the production and distribution of genetically engineered produce.
  • US diplomats in Europe have worked directly for Monsanto.
  • Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election.
  • Monsanto spent $8.1 million opposing the passage of Proposition 37 in California, making it the largest donor against the initiative. Proposition 37, which was rejected in November 2012, would have mandated the disclosure of genetically modified crops used in the production of California food products.
  • More recently, as of October 2013, Monsanto and DuPont Co. are backing an anti- labeling campaign with roughly $18 million so far dedicated to the campaign.

 

PFIZER, INC. PAC: $2,500

 

  • In September 2009, Pfizer pleaded guilty to the illegal marketing of the arthritis drug Bextra for uses unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and agreed to a $2.3 billion settlement, the largest health care fraud settlement at that time. Pfizer also paid the U.S. government $1.3 billion in criminal fines related to the “off-label” marketing of Bextra, the largest monetary penalty ever rendered for any crime. Called a repeat offender by prosecutors, this was Pfizer’s fourth such settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in the previous ten years.

 

RAYTHEON CO. PAC: $7,500

  • In March 1990, Raytheon pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegally obtaining classified Air Force budget and planning documents. U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan, Jr. imposed a $10,000 criminal fine for one felony count of “conveyance without authority” and $900,000 in civil penalties and damages. The documents allegedly gave Raytheon an unfair advantage against its competitors in bidding for weapons contracts. Although the plea only involved 1983 Air Force documents, U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson said Raytheon also illegally obtained a wide range of secret Pentagon documents.
  • In October 1994, Raytheon paid $4 million to settle a U.S. government claim that it inflated a defense contract for antimissile radar. The PAVE PAWS (Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry Phased Array Warning System) system was designed to detect incoming submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The government claimed in a federal lawsuit that Raytheon inflated a contract to upgrade two of four PAVE PAWS sites by proposing to hire higher-skilled employees than were necessary for the job.
  • Just one year earlier, on October 14, 1993, Raytheon paid $3.7 million to settle allegations that it misled the U.S. Department of Defense by overstating the labor costs involved in manufacturing Patriot missiles. “The recovery of this money is yet another warning to contractors that the Truth in Negotiations Act’s information disclosure requirements will be strictly and sternly enforced,” Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger said.
  • The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the U.S. Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war.

BOEING CO. PAC.: $2,000

  • In 2003, Lockheed Martin sued Boeing for industrial espionage to win the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) competition. Lockheed Martin claimed that the former employee Kenneth Branch, who went to work for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, passed nearly 30,000 pages of proprietary documents to his new employers. Lockheed Martin argued that these documents allowed Boeing to win 19 of the 28 tendered military satellite launches.
  • In July 2003, Boeing was penalized, with the Pentagon stripping seven launches away from the company and awarding them to Lockheed Martin. Furthermore, the company was forbidden to bid for rocket contracts for a twenty-month period, which expired in March 2005. Boeing settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $615 million.
  • On September 15, 2010, the World Trade Organization ruled that Boeing had received billions of dollars in illegal government subsidies.

DOW CHEMICAL EMPLOYEES PAC: $10,000

  • Dow was one of several manufacturers who began producing the napalm B compound under government contract from 1965. After experiencing protests and negative publicity, the other suppliers discontinued manufacturing the product, leaving Dow as the sole provider. The company said that it carefully considered its position, and decided, as a matter of principle, “its first obligation was to the government.” Despite a boycott of its products by anti-war groups and harassment of recruiters on some college campuses, Dow continued to manufacture napalm B until 1969. The USA continued to drop napalm bombs on North Vietnam until 1973.
  • Until the late 1970s, Dow produced DBCP (1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane), a soil fumigant, and nematicide, sold under the names the Nemagon and Fumazone. Workers at Dow’s DBCP production plants were made sterile by exposure to the compound. These effects were consistent with animal experiments showing that DBCP sterilized rabbits. The workers successfully sued the company, and most domestic uses of DBCP were banned in 1977.
  • Areas along Michigan’s Tittabawassee River, which runs within yards of Dow’s main plant in Midland, were found to contain elevated levels of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin in November 2006. In July 2007, Dow reached an agreement with the EPA to remove 50,000 cubic yards of sediment from three areas of the riverbed and levees of the river that had been found to be contaminated. In November 2008, Dow Chemical along with the EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality agreed to establish a Superfund to address dioxin cleanup of the Tittabawassee River, Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay.[48]
  • According to the EPA, Dow has some responsibility for 96 of the United States’ Superfund toxic waste sites, placing it in 10th place by number of sites.

GOLDMAN SACHS PAC: $5,000

  • A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc director Rajat Gupta, one of the biggest successes in federal prosecutors’ long-running probe to stop insider trading on Wall Street.
  • Federal prosecutors and Securities and Exchange Commission officials also investigated whether a senior Goldman investment banker, Matthew Korenberg, fed inside information to a Galleon Group portfolio manager named Paul Yook, according to separate reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

 

HOME DEPOT PAC: $2,500

  • In July 2005, former employee Michael Davis filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Home Depot, alleging that his discharge was in retaliation for refusing to make unwarranted backcharges against vendors. Davis alleges that the Home Depot forced its employees to meet a set quota of backcharges to cover damaged or defective merchandise, forcing employees to make chargebacks to vendors for merchandise that was undamaged and not defective.
  • In the settlement of the litigation, Home Depot changed some of its corporate governance provisions. Home Depot also agreed to pay the plaintiff’s counsel $6 million in cash and $8.5 million in common stock.

WALMART STORES PAC: $6,000

  • Wal-Mart is the beneficiary of $96.5 million in economic development subsidies in Louisiana and $1.2 billion in tax breaks nationwide. Yet, in 2011, Walmart, four of whose owners are among the 11 richest Americans, decided to roll back health care coverage and to increase premiums for its employees. Wal-Mart still boasted that 90 percent of its employees had health coverage, neglecting to mention that more than half of those got their coverage through their spouses’ group coverage. The company provides no health coverage at all for new part time employees despite the company’s 24.7 percent gross profit martin that same year.
  • An April 2012 New York Times investigative report revealed that a former Walmart executive alleged that, in September 2005, Walmart de Mexico paid bribes throughout Mexico in order to obtain construction permits, information, and other favors. Concerns were raised that Walmart executives in the United States concealed the allegations. Reportedly, bribes were given to speed up construction permits, which gave Walmart a substantial advantage over its business competitors. A follow-up investigation by The New York Times published December 17, 2012, revealed evidence that regulatory permission for siting, construction, and operation of 19 stores were obtained through bribery.
  • A paper published in Farm Foundation in 1997 found that some small towns can lose almost half of their retail trade within ten years of a Walmart store opening.
  • A 2004 paper by two professors at Penn State University found that counties with Walmart stores suffered increased poverty compared with counties without Walmarts due to displacement of workers from higher-paid jobs in retail stores which customers no longer choose to patronize. A study in Nebraska looked at two different Walmarts, the first of which had just arrived and was in the process of driving everyone else out of business by cutting their prices to the bone. In the other Walmart, “they had successfully destroyed the local economy, there was a sort of economic crater with Wal-Mart in the middle; and, in that community, the prices were 17 percent higher.”
  • The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 2001 and 2006, Walmart’s trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs. Another study found that a new store increases net retail employment in the county by 100 jobs in the short term, half of which disappear over five years as other retail establishments close.
  • Walmart has been criticized by labor unions, community groups, grassroots organizations, religious organizations, environmental groups, and even Walmart’s own customers and employees. They have protested against the company’s policies and business practices, including charges of racial and gender discrimination. Other areas of criticism include the corporation’s foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, employee compensation and working conditions, environmental practices, the use of public subsidies, the company’s security policies and slavery. Wal-Mart denies doing anything wrong and maintains that low prices are the result of efficiency.

Read Full Post »

Regardless of how you might feel about Common Core, Gov. Bobby Jindal has shown in no uncertain terms that he is either a liar willing to twist facts to his own political advantage or that he is just too dense to comprehend the English language.

As our friend Stephen Sabludowsky over at Bayou Buzz noted in his blog post today (Monday, Sept. 22), Jindal, having crashed and burned in state court (for what seems like the umpteenth time) has now filed a “frivolous” lawsuit in federal court challenging Common Core and by some extension as yet undefined, President Barak Obama. http://www.bayoubuzz.com/buzz/item/748889-jindal-misleads-in-his-legislative-auditor-common-core-spin

Jindal, Sabludowsky noted, said in a press release following the release of an issue brief by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office that the report “declared that Common Core Standards are driving curriculum in the classroom.” http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4678

Jindal added that while the report says that standards are not synonymous with curricula, “the report clearly declares that standards drive curriculum.”

The report, however, says nothing of the sort.

That sent Sabludowsky into orbit. “The word ‘drive’ does not even appear in the report, nor does the word ‘drives’ or even ‘driving.’”

Jindal filed his lawsuit against the Obama administration, saying the federal government (read: Obama) “has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative.”

That, of course is the only tact he could have taken, given the fact that he once was an ardent proponent of Common Core

Yet, blaming Obama for the Common Core standards is more than a little misleading. Our friend Gregory DuCote correctly pointed out that the standards were adopted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. “I do not see Barak Obama’s name” in the report. “I do not see him credited with the standards.”

All of which got us to wondering what would happen should Jindal somehow, against all odds, be elected POTUS and attempt (either by misinterpreting or by manipulating) to skew the meeting of an international communique or a clause in a peace treaty or trade agreement?

With that in mind, we take you to the White House Oval Office sometime in say, 2018 or 2019:

President Jindal: I’ve just read the report on the Chinese economy and I don’t like what I see.

Press Secretary Mike Reed: Why is that, Mr. President?

Jindal: Well, it says here in black and white they want to initiate an “aggressive tirade mission aimed at exploding western markets. It’s obvious they’re planning to bomb Wall Street.”

Reed: No sir, it says “aggressive trade mission aimed at exploiting western markets.”

Jindal: Don’t correct me. I’m POTUS. Get me the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the NSC, Homeland Security and CIA Director Edmonson. Where’s my Budget Office director?

Kristy Kreme Nichols: I’m right here, Mr. President. I’ve been practicing my half-truths, distortions and denials.

Jindal: Kristy Kreme, where do we stand on Social Security and Medicare?

Kristy Kreme: It’s just Kristy, Sir. Some jerk in Louisiana hung that stupid name on me. Our program to cut Social Security and to offer less coverage under Medicare at higher premiums has resulted in 93 percent of senior citizens having to go back to work to supplement their retirement income. And eliminating the funding for unemployment certainly was effective. We have handicapped military veterans and homeless people cutting lawns and doing landscaping now. By the way, Susan West is doing a great job running Medicare under DHH Secretary Greenstein.

Jindal: Excellent. More people working. That’s what we wanted. Mike, put out a press release about our full employment program. How does Attorney General Faircloth feel about the legal issues involved?

Executive Counsel Thomas Enright: I spoke with him on this and he thinks it’s a slam dunk.

Jindal: Good. I knew I could rely on Jimmy. Always there when I need him. Oh, I need to talk to Secretary of State Teepell about that Russian threat to deploy its nuclear missiles.

Teepell: I’m here, Mr. President. That communique from Putin said he was offering to destroy his nuclear weapons, not deploy them.

Jindal: Destroy, deploy. Whatever happens, we know it’ll be Obama’s fault. Is the Secretary of the Interior here to give his report?”

Scott Angelle: Yes sir, Mr. President, I’m here. I’m happy to report that we have finalized contracts with Exxon/Mobil to open up oil and gas drilling in all the National Forests. Of course, we may have to cut down a few redwood and sequoia trees. Fracking in Yellowstone, however, could pose a problem with the geysers. Especially Old Faithful.

Jindal: Frack it. Those tree huggers probably believe in global warming, too. Do we have a report from Treasury?

Secretary of Treasury Tim Barfield: Everyone on Wall Street sends their best, Mr. President. The Dow set an all time record yesterday, thanks to our sweeping deregulation programs.

Jindal: You’re doing a heckuva job, Barfee. How’re we doing on our legislation to create a new cabinet position?

Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin: It looks good, Mr. President. I believe we have the votes for the Secretary of Morality position.

Jindal: How does Gene Mills feel about his nomination to the post?

Plotkin: He’s warming up to it, sir. He’s taking a page from the Koran and informing senators and congressmen that if they adhere to a strict monogamous marriage, they will go to heaven where they will be rewarded with 70 virgins.

Jindal: How’s that working out?

Plotkin: We have complete bipartisanship in the House and Senate on this. And ALEC is seriously considering it for their model legislative package for state legislatures next year. We’ve never seen such enthusiasm. It’s a breakthrough of historic proportions.

Jindal: Well, I fail to see the hysterics in that but I’m glad they’re receptive.

Reed: Sir, it seems to me that you spent eight years as governor beating up on the federal government for trying to run our lives and now you’re trying to get it to monitor America’s bedrooms.

Jindal: But don’t you see, now I am the federal government. And you’re fired. This is great! I really do have the job I want.

Read Full Post »

A Baton Rouge district court judge has struck down the so-called Edmonson Amendment, declaring the special retirement benefits enhancement amendment for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and one other state trooper unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that a state police commander passed out a controversial “Hurt Feelings Report” to state troopers several months ago. https://www.google.com/search?q=hurt+feelings+report&hl=en&biw=1280&bih=585&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ydYYVJ_gGYSuogSpwoK4Aw&sqi=2&ved=0CB0QsAQ

(For an example of “Hurt Feelings Report” forms, click on any image, then move cursor to right and then click on “View Image.”)

Edmonson may now wish to fill out one of those reports.

Judge Janice Clark of 19th Judicial District Court issued the ruling Tuesday morning in a special hearing, bringing to an official end the question of legality and propriety of Amendment 2 of Senate Bill 294, passed on the last day of the recent legislative session.

The ruling leaves egg on the collective faces of Edmonson, his Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy, who conceived of the underhanded (as in sneaky) legislation; State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), who slipped the last minute amendment past his unsuspecting colleagues in the Senate and House; Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel Thomas Enright Jr., who supposedly read and blessed the bill, and Jindal, who signed it as Act 859.

The effect of the bill, which was introduced by State Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) as a bill to address disciplinary action to be taken in cases where law enforcement officers are under investigation, was to bump Edmonson’s annual retirement up by $55,000, from its current level of $79,000 to his current salary of $134,000.

Edmonson had entered into the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) several years ago at his captain’s pay grade in exchange for more take home pay at the time he signed onto DROP. Because of that decision, which is irrevocable, Edmonson was set to receive 100 percent of his captain’s salary after 30 years of service.

Riser’s amendment would have allowed Edmonson to retire instead at 100 percent of his current salary. The bill also benefitted Master Trooper Louis Boquet of Houma even though he was oblivious to events taking place in Baton Rouge.

LouisianaVoice was the first to report the real impact of SB 294 after a sharp-eyed staff member in the Division of Administration (DOA) tipped us off.

Edmonson at first defended the bill on a Baton Rouge radio talk show, saying he was entitled to the increase. He said then that at age 50 he was “forced” to sign up for DROP. That was not accurate; state employees at the time were required to decide whether or not to participate in DROP, but no one was forced into the program.

Continuing the pattern of misrepresentations, Riser said he had no knowledge of who inserted the amendment into the bill during a conference committee meeting. He later acknowledged it was he who made the insertion. Riser was one of three senators and three House members who were on the conference committee.

Jindal, of course, remained strangely quiet about the entire mess, emerging from Iowa or New Hampshire or the Fox News studios only long enough to say that the legislature should correct the matter when it convenes next spring. After making that brief policy statement, he immediately returned to his presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, retired state troopers as well as other retired state employees who had opted into DROP and later received promotions and accompanying pay raises only to have their retirements frozen at the level they were being paid at the time of their entering DROP, went on a rampage with several retired troopers offering to file suit if the State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) Board did not.

At a special meeting of the LSPRS Board earlier this month, it was learned that Dupuy had initiated contact with the board’s actuary several weeks before the session ended to discuss the amendment which he obviously intended to have inserted into the bill in the closing hours of the session. That pretty much shot down any deniability on Riser’s part. And Riser would certainly never have made such an attempt without Jindal’s blessings.

The board, meanwhile, was advised by an attorney with experience in pension plans that it had no standing as a board to file such a suit but board member and State Treasurer John Kennedy immediately announced his intentions to do so as a private citizen.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) saw a way to give his campaign for 6th District congressman to succeed U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy a boost and quickly filed his own suit.

It was Claitor’s suit on which the hearing on a motion for declaratory judgment served as the basis for Judge Clark’s ruling on Tuesday.

Neither Edmonson nor Boquet nor the LSPRS Board opposed the motion.

Following the hearing, Kennedy said the bill was unconstitutional on both the state and federal levels—on several different legal points. “Not only was it unconstitutional,” he said, “it was wrong.” https://www.dropbox.com/sh/erw91d3j3ivkis9/AABhtU96O_u88tVSYLfIQqPra?dl=0#lh:null-IMG_8155.MOV

“This law was patently unconstitutional,” Kennedy said. “Now it’s null and void. This is a win for retirees as well as taxpayers across Louisiana.”

In a statement released after the ruling, Kennedy said one of his objections was that the law would have drawn the enhanced benefits from an experience account that funds cost-of-living increases for retired state troopers and their families.

He testified in the hearing that Louisiana’s four retirement systems already have an unfunded accrued liability (UAL—the gap between the systems’ assets and liabilities) of $19 billion, the sixth worst UAL in the nation.

“This is not about personalities,” he said. “This was about fairness. Regardless of whether you’re a prince or a pauper, you should not receive special treatment.”

The “Hurt Feelings Report” forms, intended to intimidate or demean harassment victims or others who feel they have been slighted or who feel they have been made victims of racial, sexual, or other forms of discrimination, are parodies that attack otherwise genuine concerns of bullying in the workplace.

The commander who passed the forms out to his troopers obviously thought it was a hilarious joke and a great way to deal with potential complaints but officials in Buffalo, Wyoming didn’t think they were so funny.

A 13-year veteran Buffalo High School football coach who passed out the “survey” to his players was forced to resign after his actions became public. The survey listed several options as reasons for hurt feelings, including “I am a queer,” “I am a little bitch,” and “I have woman like hormones.” It asked for the identity of the “little sissy filing report” and for his “girly-man signature,” plus the “real-man signature” of the person accused of causing hurt feelings.

Coach Pat Lynch, as is always the case when those in positions of authority are caught doing something incredibly stupid, offered a letter of resignation in which he said, “I would like to apologize for my lack of judgment and the poor choice….” (You know the words to this worn out song by now. We’ve heard them from politicians like David Vitter, athletes like Ray Rice, even ministers like Jimmy Swaggart.)

So now we have a state police commander who has attempted by distribution of this document to ridicule—in advance—anyone under his command who feels he or she has been the victim of discrimination or harassment and to discourage them from filing formal complaints.

There appears to be no level of stupidity to which some people will not stoop.

Read Full Post »

cd00829bf871256d803a177dbf1227e8_gz5b[1]

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

My grandfather had a favorite expression he was fond of saying: “The stuck pig squeals the loudest.”

That may well explain the sudden onslaught of reassurances emanating from the Jindal administration in the form of press releases and op-eds, all telling us that our benevolent governor, expert that he is on health care, is taking care of and we shouldn’t worry about all those looming increased costs and reduced benefits.

But as it turns out, we may be about to see a new development to the controversy swirling around the proposed premium increases and benefit cuts for members of the Office of Group Benefits.

And just in case you might be wondering why your friendly legislator hasn’t been up in arms over the radical changes in health coverage being proposed for some 230,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents through the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) before now, there’s a reason.

If some similar action were taken to adversely affect their per diem, travel, and other perks, it would be quite another story. They’d have been squealing long before now.

But you see, 261 House members and staff and 151 senators and staff are not members of OGB and therefore, don’t have any skin in the game (my grandfather would have said they don’t have a dog in the hunt) being played by the administration and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana.

So where do those 412 people get their health coverage?

LSU First.

And now two of those legislators who earlier fell out of favor with Gov. Bobby Jindal when they questioned the wisdom of privatizing OGB at the outset, Reps. Joe Harrison (R-Gray) and Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) are back and the governor can’t be happy about it.

And Henry is even putting out feelers about moving all 230,000 members of OGB to LSU First, saying it is something “we should explore for employees to get into since the Office of Group Benefits is fiscally unsound.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), normally a wad of putty in Jindal’s hands, has suddenly grown something akin to a spine and called for a special hearing on Sept. 24 to take up the OGB changes. Other legislators also beginning make demands of the administration to have someone present to answer questions about the radical changes.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), a candidate for governor, said he wanted administration representatives questioned under oath.

It was Edwards who originally requested that Kleckley call a meeting of legislators to discuss OGB. “The OGB fiasco is proof positive that privatization for the sake of privatization is foolish,” he said. “A reserve balance that recently exceeded $500 million is half that now and bleeding $16M per month due to mismanagement and budget chicanery, and the ultimate price will be paid by state retirees and employees through higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and higher co-insurance in exchange for fewer benefits, more forced generic drugs, and more preclearance of needed treatments and other changes that make crystal clear that the OGB beneficiaries will pay more for less.”

“I feel vindicated,” Harrison was quoted as saying by the New Orleans Times Picayune in reference to the depletion of the OGB trust fund which has shrunk from $540 million to less than half that since Jindal’s privatization plan went into effect. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/09/louisiana_legislators_have_a_h.html#incart_river “Exactly what I said was going to happen is now happening,” Harrison said.

And Henry is even putting out feelers about moving all 230,000 members of OGB to LSU First, saying it is something “we should explore for employees to get into since the Office of Group Benefits is fiscally unsound.”

Jindal had Henry and Harrison removed from their respective committee assignments when the two refused to go along with Jindal’s legislative agenda during the 2013 legislative session.

Administration officials, in an attempt to discourage a mass exodus from OGB said state employees now in OGB may not find the LSU First plans to be a better option, invoking such terms as “better service,” “strike a balance,” “right sizing of benefits,” “wider range of options,” and “it’s all the fault of Obamacare.”

So, just what is LSU first, anyway?

LSU First is the health coverage offered employees throughout the LSU system and back near the end of the Mike Foster administration, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was approved that allowed legislators and legislative staff members to opt out of OGB in favor of LSU First.

Senate 2003

House of Representatives 2003

The plan presently is not available to employees of Louisiana’s other institutions of higher learning or civil service employees other than those working for the Legislature.

So, why would anyone make the switch?

The answer to that is simple: Even before the pending revamp of OGB which will prove far more costly to members, LSU First was vastly superior in the benefits it offers. And now, with the increased premiums, higher deductibles and co-pays for OGB members (an overall cost increase of 47 percent), the contrast between the two plans is even more stark. http://www.lsufirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2014_LSU_First_SPD.pdf

http://www.lsufirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2014-SBC-Opt1.pdf

LSU established the plan for the fiscal year July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003, adopting the “Definity Health Model Health Coverage Plan,” and the House and Senate climbed on board a year later, on July 1, 2003. The original MOU was signed in May of 2003 by then-LSU President William Jenkins, House Speaker Charles DeWitt, Jr. (D-Alexandria), and Senate President John Hainkel, Jr. (R-New Orleans).

No sooner said than done. The ink wasn’t even dry on the signatures on the MOU when legislators and staff members started a mass migration to the LSU plan. Additionally, civil service workers scattered throughout state government who were fortunate enough to have spouses working for LSU also switched.

The language in the MOU was such that any legislator who left the House or Senate and moved on to another state office or appointment was allowed to retain his or her coverage under LSU First. That would include, for example, people like former Gov. Mike Foster, Commissioner of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Troy Hebert, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and former House Speaker Jim Tucker.

LouisianaVoice made an inquiry of the LSU administrative types as to who pays the employer portion of the premiums and whether or not the governor, the commissioner of administration, and cabinet members were eligible for member in LSU First.

What we got back was less than satisfactory but entirely typical of the mindset of this administration. “We have fulfilled your public record request and any further questions can be directed to our University Relations office,” wrote Stephanie Tomlinson, coordinator, LSU Finance and Administration.

In other words, if one asks a simple question and does not specifically request documents or records, he is out of luck. This administration has no intention of helping someone seeking information and would prefer to toss obstacles in the path of transparency.

But we can play this game, too. We replied with the following email:

Okay, we’ll try it this way:

Please provide any and all documents and/or public records that identify all eligible members of LSU First medical coverage, including the governor’s office, Division of Administration and the various cabinet positions.

Please provide documentation and/or any and all public records that provides a breakdown of premium payments for LSU First, including employer/employee contributions and including which employer, i.e. the state, the House or Senate or LSU, pays the employer contributions.

Now that we have requested actual documents/records, we’ll see how they respond.

We did glean from the MOU, however, that the Legislature most likely is responsible for paying 70 percent of the premiums for legislators, legislative retirees, and staff members.

Meanwhile, Jindal communications officer Mike Reed, a native of Boston (Jindal apparently cannot find qualified Louisiana residents for these jobs), churned out a fact sheet that Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols proudly published verbatim as her own work as via an op-ed piece in today’s (Thursday’s) Baton Rouge Advocate under the heading Changes Good for Insurance Users, Taxpayers. (A hint, Kristy: U.S. Democratic Sen. John Walsh of Montana recently dropped out of his race for re-election after allegations of plagiarism.)

As for Reed, we can only hope that if he returns to Boston he doesn’t offer his services to the Red Sox. Mired in last place in the American League East, the Sox have enough problems without taking on another pitch man who can’t seem to find the strike zone.

Reed’s press release was directed at a recent well-researched column by political writer Jeremy Alford: For Health Care Woes, Jindal Prescribes Confusion. http://lapolitics.com/2014/09/for-health-care-woes-jindal-prescribes-confusion/

Reed sent the “fact sheet,” entitled Setting the Record Straight: LaPolitics Column on Healthcare reform in Louisiana, to state legislators on Wednesday. The four page letter was peppered with what Reed smugly, if inaccurately, described as “myth” followed by “Facts.”

Of course, being from Boston, it goes without saying that Reed is intimately familiar with all the nuances of Louisiana politics, including the sordid history of the administration’s recent health care issues. These include Jindal’s sticking his nose into the OGB operations and firing Director Tommy Teague who had taken the agency from a $60 million deficit to a $500 million fund balance, closing down or giving away state hospitals, the governor’s refusal of Medicaid expansion which led directly to problems at Baton Rouge General which last week announced it was closing its emergency room, forcing the administration to pump $18 million into the private hospital to keep its ER open to indigent patients forced to travel to the mid-city facility after closure of state-run Earl K. Long Hospital.

Undaunted, Reed waded into the fray, dutifully blaming everything on Obamacare just as his absentee boss would have him do. And Kristy Kreme eagerly published the tome under her byline.

https://webmail.east.cox.net/do/mail/message/view?msgId=INBOXDELIM16848

The whole thing evokes images to go with one of our favorite Sinatra songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1fVQGESUTo

Bobby Jindal (Gov. R-L)

Read Full Post »

As we move toward the Nov. 4 election, we felt it important that our readers should know just who is backing each candidate. Because we have long been opposed to the dominance of big money in the electoral process, particularly on behalf of the best politicians money can buy, we decided to basically ignore the individual contributions in favor of shining the bright disinfecting light of sunshine on Political Action Committee (PAC) money.

It is, after all, PAC money that reduces the role of the individual voter to that of insignificant pawn even though it is that same individual voter/insignificant pawn who must ultimately go to the polls and pull the lever for these instruments of the special interests. In effect, we vote not for a particular candidate, but for the special interest or lobbyist of our choice when we cast that ballot. And yet, because we must, in the final analysis, be the ones who actually go through the process of voting, we delude ourselves into believing that our form of corrupt democracy actually works.

If you really believe that, can it be mere coincidence that the more that big money makes its way into our political structure, the more gridlocked Washington becomes? Now ask yourself this: who loses in this scenario? And who wins? A hint: have you heard a defense contractor, for instance, complain of being left out of the political process? An oil company? Wall Street? We didn’t think so.

If that lowers your self-esteem and destroys your belief in the democratic process, we’re sorry. We just report what we find. How many times have you placed your faith in a candidate only to see him sell his soul to those who, unlike us, can afford to buy influence? Need we even remind you of the pontifications on the “gold standard of ethics” by candidate Bobby Jindal as contrasted to the actual practices of post-election politician Bobby Jindal once in office?

And if the candidates we profile in the coming days and weeks (and we will make a sincere attempt to get to every candidate for each U.S. House District and each candidate for U.S. Senate) are offended or embarrassed by our revelations of the baggage those PAC contributions bring to their campaigns, so be it.

All we can say in response to your annoyance is: You took the money; you should’ve known better.

As promised, here are select PAC contributions, the good, the bad and the ugly, to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu ($2.6 million total):

AMERICA WORKS PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

  • In 2013, Brown proposed to break up consolidated banks and finance industry conglomerates, ending “too big to fail” by restoring the Glass-Steagall Act.
  • Brown opposed the Iraq War and voted against the Iraq Resolution as a House Representative. He voted against the $87 billion war budgetary supplement.
  • In 2008, Brown joined 91 other senators in voting for the Iraq and Afghanistan War Funding, Unemployment Benefits Extension, and GI Bill, which required the Department of Defense to provide a timetable for achieving security in Iraq.
  • Brown was the co-author and sponsor of a bill that would officially declare China a currency manipulator and require the Department of Commerce to impose countervailing duties on Chinese imports.

AMERIPAC: THE FUND FOR A GREATER AMERICA: $5,000

Affiliated with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland)

  • In March 2007, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Hoyer’s political action committee “raised nearly $1 million for congressional candidates [in the 2006 election cycle by exploiting what experts call a legal loophole.” The Center reported the following:
  • Campaign finance disclosure records show that the Maryland Democrat used his leadership political action committee—AmeriPAC—as a conduit to collect bundles of checks from individuals, and from business and union interests. He then passed more than $960,000 along to 53 House candidates and another quarter of a million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, data compiled from the Center for Responsive Politics Web site show. Federal law generally prohibits political action committees, including leadership PACs, which are run by politicians, from receiving more than $5,000 each year from a single donor or giving more than $10,000 to a single candidate ($5,000 each for the primary and the general election). But Hoyer collected as much as $136,000 from one labor union committee and distributed more than $86,000 to a single Congressional race.

BLUE HEN PAC:  $1,000

Affiliated with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware)

DAKOTA PRAIRIE PAC:  $5,000

Affiliated with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota)

  • Heitkamp was attacked in commercials for accepting campaign contributions from a trial lawyer, Jack McConnell, Jr., assigned by her to help North Dakota implement its settlement with tobacco companies when she served as state attorney general.
  • Heitkamp said she would support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution “with exceptions” that included wartime spending, Social Security, Medicare, and a ban on tax cuts for those making more than $1 million per year.
  • Heitkamp supports implementing the Buffett Rule via the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would require those making a gross income of $1,000,000 or more to pay at least a 30% federal tax rate.
  • Heitkamp said she supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it will create jobs, decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East, and help drive down the national debt. She also said many who oppose hydraulic fracturing have been exposed to “junk science” and do not know what it really is.

DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM PAC:  $8,740

  • Democrats for Education Reform claims that it “leads efforts to frame the fight that is playing out within the Democratic Party on education issues.” It tries to accomplish that by pushing aside teacher unions as education spokespeople or even as informed practitioners. The organization advocates for nonunion charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, curbs on tenure and removing teacher unions from almost any role in shaping curriculum or determining working conditions.
  • In just three years, DFER directed more than $17 million into political and grassroots advocacy for its version of education reform and for what Joe Williams, the group’s executive director and a former Daily News education reporter, credits as “creating momentum which has the potential to dominate education policymaking for years to come.”

FOLLOW THE NORTH STAR FUND: $2,500

Affiliated with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

  • The Winona Daily News described her as a “rare politician who works across the aisle.” Walter Mondale stated “She has done better in that miserable Senate than most people there.”

FRIENDS OF CHRIS DODD: $1,000

  • As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Dodd proposed a program in June 2008 that would assist troubled sub-prime mortgage lenders such as Countrywide Financial in the wake of the United States housing bubble‘s collapse. Dodd received mortgages from Countrywide at allegedly below-market rates on his Washington, D.C. and Connecticut homes. Dodd had not disclosed the below-market mortgages in any of six financial disclosure statements he filed.
  • On August 7, 2009, the Select Committee on Ethics said it found “no credible evidence” that Dodd knowingly sought out a special loan or treatment because of his position, but the panel also said in an open letter to Dodd that he should have questioned why he was being put in the VIP program at Countrywide. Dodd has since been called Wall Street’s “biggest booster, the most Machiavellian of United States Senators…” in Jeff Connaughton’s book, The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.
  • Dodd was involved in issues related to the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. At the time, it was estimated that the federal government would need to spend $25 billion on a bailout of the firms. During this period, Dodd denied rumors these firms were in financial crisis. He called them “fundamentally strong,” said they were in “sound situation” and “in good shape” and to “suggest they are in major trouble is not accurate.”
  • Dodd is the number one recipient in Congress of campaign funds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • From the fall of 2008 through early 2009, the United States government spent nearly $170 Billion to assist failing insurance giant, AIG. AIG then spent $165 million of this money to hand out executive “retention” bonuses to its top executives. Public outrage ensued over this perceived misuse of taxpayer dollars.
  • Dodd has received more than $223,000 from AIG employees for his political campaigns. Additionally, Dodd’s wife is a former Director for Bermuda-based IPC Holdings, a company controlled by AIG. Dodd’s wife served on a number of corporate boards, including the CME Group and could be earning as much as $500,000 annually for her service on said boards. On March 30, 2009, it was reported that former AIG Financial Products head Joseph Cassano personally solicited contributions from his employees in Connecticut via an e-mail in fall 2006 suggesting that the contributions were related to Dodd’s ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee.

FRIENDS OF SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-Michigan):  $2,000

  • He is a strong advocate for cost controls regarding military procurements.[22] He has also pushed for less secrecy in government, working to declassify many documents, particularly where claims of ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda are concerned.
  • Levin grew critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the Afghanistan War, saying in 2005 that they “took their eye off the ball when we decided to go after Iraq instead of al-Qaeda, the people who had attacked us on 9/11, and their leader.
  • Levin was an early opponent of using U.S. military force in Iraq, saying in August 2002 that “if Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he wouldn’t use them,” and that “he’s a survivalist, not a suicide bomber.”Levin was one of 23 Senators who voted against the Iraq Resolution. Levin has strongly argued that the War in Iraq was a diversion from the War on Terror. On CNN on November 14, 2005, Levin said that “before the war, the President was saying that you cannot distinguish between Saddam Hussein and Iraq. As a matter of fact, he said that so often that he tried to connect Saddam Hussein with the attackers on us, on 9/11, so often, so frequently and so successfully, even though it was wrong, that the American people overwhelmingly thought, because of the President’s misstatements that as a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein had participated in the attack on us on 9/11. That was a deception. That was clearly misinformation. It had a huge effect on the American people.”

GENERAL ELECTRIC CO. PAC:  $1,000

  • According to the New York Times story, GE reported U.S. profits of $5.1 billion in 2010 (and $14.2 billion worldwide). “Its American tax bill?” asked the Times. “None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion,” an amount GE balanced out against other tax obligations. The company accomplished this, the story said, due to “an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”
  • Earlier this year, GE filed suit seeking a $658 million federal tax refund. That sum represents the $439 million in taxes and $219 million in interest GE coughed up in 2010 after Internal Revenue Service auditors disallowed a $2.2 billion loss it claimed from the 2003 sale of a small subsidiary, ERC Life Reinsurance Corp., to Scottish Re Group for $151 million.

GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP PAC: $5,000

  • A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc director Rajat Gupta, one of the biggest successes in federal prosecutors’ long-running probe to stop insider trading on Wall Street.
  • Federal prosecutors and Securities and Exchange Commission officials also investigated whether a senior Goldman investment banker, Matthew Korenberg, fed inside information to a Galleon Group portfolio manager named Paul Yook, according to separate reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

GLAXOSMITHKLINE PAC:  $1,000

  • In July 2012 GSK pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to a pay $3 billion to settle the criminal charges as well as civil lawsuits in the largest settlement paid by a drug company at the time. The criminal charges were for promoting Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about Avandia; GSK paid $1 billion to settle the criminal charges. The remaining $2 billion were part of the civil settlement over unapproved promotion and paying kickbacks, making false statements concerning the safety of Avandia; and reporting false prices to Medicaid. GSK also signed an agreement which obligated it to make major changes to the way it did business.

GREEN MOUNTAIN PAC: $7,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)

HALLIBURTON CO. PAC: $2,000

  • Following the end of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991, the Pentagon, led by then defense secretary Dick Cheney, paid Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root Services more than $8.5 million to study the use of private military forces with American soldiers in combat zones. Halliburton crews also helped bring 725 burning oil wells under control in Kuwait.
  • In 1995, Cheney replaced Thomas H. Cruikshank, as chairman and CEO.
  • In the early 1990s, Halliburton was found to be in violation of federal trade barriers in Iraq and Libya, having sold these countries dual-use oil drilling equipment and, through its former subsidiary, Halliburton Logging Services, sending six pulse neutron generators to Libya. After pleading guilty, the company was fined $1.2 million, with another $2.61 million in penalties.
  • From 1995 to 2002, Halliburton Brown & Root Services Corp. (BRS) was awarded at least $2.5 billion to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations, as part of the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. This contract was a cost plus 13 percent contract and BRS employees were trained on how to pass GAO audits to ensure maximum profits were attained. Any mention in the Balkans of Cheney’s being CEO was grounds for termination. BRS was awarded and re-awarded contracts termed “noncompetitive” because BRS was the only company capable of pulling off the missions. DynCorp actually won the competitively let second contract, but never received any work orders in the Balkans.
  • In May 2003, Halliburton revealed in SEC filings that its KBR subsidiary had paid a Nigerian official $2.4 million in bribes in order to receive favorable tax
  • On January 24, 2006, Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and Root) announced that it had been awarded a $385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build “temporary detention and processing facilities” or internment
  • On May 14, 2010, President Barack Obama said in an interview with CNN that “you had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else” when referring to the congressional hearings held during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

HOLDING ONTO OREGON’S PRIORITIES: $5,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

  • Wyden was one of 23 Senators to vote against the authorization of military force in Iraq in 2002. In 2003, Wyden voted to bar excessive overseas deployments of members of the National Guard and Reserves. In 2006, Wyden was one of 13 Senators to vote to require the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by July 2007, and was one of 39 Senators to vote to call on the President to begin withdrawing forces from Iraq and establish a timeline for withdrawal.
  • In 2003 Wyden joined with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) to help pass the Bush Administration’s Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act. The Bush Administration is alleged to have forced officials to hide its true cost, which later was triple its original claim. The bill has been criticized as favoring pharmaceutical companies, as it prohibits the federal government from negotiating prescription drug rates.
  • During the global financial crisis of 2007-2010, Wyden voted against the financial bailouts backed by the Bush administration. He did not vote on the automobile industry bailout, though he said he would have voted for cloture if he had been present. Wyden added, “While I continue to have concerns about ensuring that taxpayers are protected if this loan is to occur, I believe that if the President can unwisely provide $750 billion of taxpayer money for the investment banks who took horribly unacceptable risks and helped trigger an economic collapse, we certainly have a duty to attempt to preserve a cornerstone domestic industry and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of working people whose personal actions are in no way responsible for the current economic crisis.”
  • Wyden was among several moderate Democratic senators who in early January 2009 criticized President-elect Barack Obama‘s stimulus plan, calling for a greater emphasis on “tangible infrastructure investments” and warning that an effort had to be made to differentiate it from the Bush bailouts Wyden had opposed.

HOOSIERS FIRST PAC: $4,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana)

  • As a member of the House before his election to the U.S. Senate, Donnelly was a member of Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate In March 2007, he was recognized as “Blue Dog of the Week” for his work on helping small businesses. He broke with the Democratic leadership on several budgetary issues, including the 2008 fiscal budget proposal. In June 2007, he was ranked as one of the ten most independent Democrats by a Congressional Quarterly report.

KELLEY DRYE & WARREN PAC:  $1,000

  • The Kelley Drye Law Firm played a leading role in defense of the Agent Orange litigation and defended Union Carbide following the Bhopal disaster. In 2002, the firm represented P. Morgan Chase in a lawsuit against insurance carriers seeking $1 billion in compensation for its Enron-related losses. In 2003, Kelley Drye negotiated a settlement on behalf its client and obtained nearly 60% of the $1.1 billion demanded.

LOBO PAC: $7,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich

  • Heinrich opposed legislation that would have re-instated the expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He supported bills that would create a national standard for the concealed carrying of firearms across state lines, and co-sponsored legislation that would ease the restrictions on the sales of firearms across state lines. The National Rifle Association endorsed Heinrich during the 2010 congressional election.
  • Heinrich has maintained strong opposition to the war in Iraq, and supports a swift end of combat operations in Afghanistan.
  • In 2011, he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act conference report because he objected to language requiring that suspected foreign terrorists be taken into custody by the military instead of civilian law enforcement authorities.

LONGLEAF PINE PAC: $5,000

Leadership PAC of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)

MERCK & CO.:  $5,000

  • A US Justice Department fraud investigation began in 2000 when allegations were brought in two separate lawsuits filed by whistleblowers who alleged that Merck failed to pay proper rebates to Medicaid and other health care programs and paid illegal remuneration to health care providers. In 2008, Merck agreed to pay more than $650 million to settle charges that it routinely overbilled Medicaid for its most popular medicines. The settlement was one of the largest pharmaceutical settlements in history. The federal government received more than $360 million, plus 49 states and Washington, DC, received over $290 million. One whistleblower received a $68 million reward. Merck made the settlement without an admission of liability or wrongdoing.
  • From 2002 through 2005 the Australian affiliate of Merck sponsored the eight issues of a medical journal, the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, published by Elsevier. Although it gave the appearance of being an independent peer-reviewed journal, without any indication that Merck had paid for it, the journal actually reprinted articles that originally appeared in other publications and that were favorable to Merck. The misleading publication came to light in 2009 during a personal injury lawsuit filed over Vioxx; 9 of 29 articles in the journal’s second issue referred positively to Vioxx. In 2009, the CEO of Elsevier’s Health Sciences Division, Michael Hansen, admitted that the practice was “unacceptable”.
  • In December 2013, Merck agreed to pay a total of $27.7 million dollars to 1,200 plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit alleging that the company’s osteoporosis drug had caused them to develop osteonecrosis of the jaw.

MISSOURIANS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY & CHANGE PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)

  • McCaskill has consistently been named by the National Journal as one of the ten most moderate Senators. In 2011, she was ranked exactly 50th on its scale of most-liberal to most-conservative. The Washington Post reported in 2012 that she was the second-most-likely Democratic Senator to vote against her party.
  • McCaskill has made herself known for being aggressive by questioning officials in the Department of Defense on their “loose” spending habits. McCaskill grilled top officials of the military’s auditing agencies for rewarding KBR for their Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract, a contract now valued at over $20 billion, despite audit reports indicating extreme contractor mismanagement and expansive overcharging of the U.S. government.[
  • As a member of the Senate Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, McCaskill supported Republican U.S. Representative Joseph Cao and fellow Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in their insistence on corrections of mismanagement of the New Orleans office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • On March 16, 2011, McCaskill told reporters that she was “embarrassed” about revelations that her office had used taxpayer money for the senator’s use of a private airplane she co-owned with her husband and friends. The plane was used for 90 flights taken between Washington, D.C., and her home in suburban St. Louis, as well as to numerous sites around the state of Missouri. According to McCaskill’s Senate office, all but 1 of the 90 flights in question were within Senate rules. As soon as the story broke, McCaskill sent a check for $88,000 to the S. Treasury as reimbursement for the flights. On March 21, 2011, Politico reported that McCaskill had failed to pay more than $280,000 in property taxes on the plane and was planning to sell it.

MONSANTO CO. CITIZENSHIP FUND:   $2,000

  • In 2003, Monsanto reached a $300 million settlement with people in Alabama affected by the manufacturing and dumping of the toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  • In 2004, Monsanto, along with Dow and other chemical companies, were sued in a US court by a group of Vietnamese for the effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the US military in the Vietnam War. The case was dismissed.
  • In 2005, the US DOJ filed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which Monsanto admitted to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and making false entries into its books and records. Monsanto also agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine. The case involved bribes paid to an Indonesian official.
  • In 2011, Monsanto spent about $6.3 million lobbying Congress and the S. Department of Agriculture about regulations that would affect the production and distribution of genetically engineered produce.
  • US diplomats in Europe have worked directly for Monsanto.
  • Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle through its PAC.
  • Monsanto spent $8.1 million opposing the passage of Proposition 37 in the US state of California, making it the largest donor against the initiative. Proposition 37, which was rejected by a 53.7 percent majority in November 2012, would have mandated the disclosure of genetically modified crops used in the production of California food products.
  • The Monsanto Company Citizenship Fund has donated more than $10 million to various candidates since 2003.
  • More recently, as of October 2013, Monsanto and DuPont Co. are backing an anti-labeling campaign with roughly $18 million so far dedicated to the campaign.

MORGAN STANLEY:  $2,000

  • In 2003, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $125 million in order to settle its portion of a $1.4 billion settlement brought by Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York, the National Association of Securities Dealers (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)), the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, (SEC) and a number of state securities regulators, relating to intentionally misleading research motivated by a desire to win investment banking business with the companies covered.
  • Morgan Stanley settled a sex discrimination suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $54 million on July 12, 2004. In 2007, the firm agreed to pay $46 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by eight female brokers.
  • In July 2004, the firm paid NASD a $2.2 million fine for more than 1,800 late disclosures of reportable information about its brokers.
  • In September 2004, the firm paid a $19 million fine imposed by NYSE for failure to deliver prospectuses to customers in registered offerings, inaccurate reporting of certain program trading information, short sale violations, failures to fingerprint new employees and failure to timely file exchange forms.
  • The New York Stock Exchange imposed a $19 million fine on January 12, 2005 for alleged regulatory and supervisory lapses, the largest fine ever imposed by the New York Stock Exchange at the time.
  • In 2005, a Florida jury found that Morgan Stanley failed to give adequate information to Ronald Perelman about Sunbeam thereby defrauding him and causing damages to him of $604 million. In addition, punitive damages were added for total damages of $1.450 billion. This verdict was directed after the firm’s attorneys infuriated the court by failing and refusing to produce documents, and falsely telling the court that certain documents did not exist. The ruling was overturned on March 21, 2007.
  • Morgan Stanley settled a class action lawsuit in 2006 by both current and former Morgan Stanley employees for unfair labor practices instituted to those in the financial advisor training program. Employees of the program had claimed the firm expected trainees to clock overtime hours without additional pay and handle various administrative expenses as a result of their expected duties. A $42.5 million settlement was reached and Morgan Stanley admitted no fault.
  • In May the firm agreed to pay a $15 million fine after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the firm of deleting emails and failing to cooperate with SEC investigators.
  • FINRA announced a $12.5 million settlement with Morgan Stanley in 2007 over charges that the firm’s former affiliate, Morgan Stanley DW, Inc. (MSDW), failed on numerous occasions to provide emails to claimants in arbitration proceedings as well as to regulators. The company had claimed that the destruction of the firm’s email servers in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center resulted in the loss of all email before that date. In fact, the firm had millions of earlier emails that had been retrieved from backup copies stored in another location that was not destroyed in the attacks. Customers who had lost their arbitration cases against Morgan Stanley DW Inc. because of their inability to obtain these emails to demonstrate Morgan Stanley’s misconduct received a token amount of money as a result of the settlement.
  • In July 2007, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for incorrectly charging clients for storage of precious metals.
  • In August 2007, Morgan Stanley was fined $1.5 million and paid $4.6 million in restitution to customers related to excessive mark-ups in 2,800 transactions. An employee was charged $40,000 and suspended for 15 days.
  • Under a 2008 settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, the firm agreed to repurchase approximately $4.5 billion worth of auction rate securities. The firm was accused of misrepresenting auction rate securities in their sales and marketing.
  • In April 2010, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced the firm agreed to pay $14 million related to an attempt to hide prohibited trading activity in oil futures.
  • The Department of Justice sought a $4.8 million fine from Morgan Stanley for its part in an electricity price-fixing scandal. Con Edison estimated that the crime cost New York state consumers about $300 million. Morgan Stanley earned revenues of $21.6 million from the fraud.
  • Morgan Stanley agreed to pay a $5 million fine to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and an addition $1.75 million to CME and the Chicago Board of Trade after employees improperly executed fictitious sales in Eurodollar and Treasury note futures contracts.
  • On August 7, 2012, it was announced that Morgan Stanley would have to pay $4.8 million in fines in order to settle a price fixing scandal, which has been estimated to have cost New Yorkers $300 million. Morgan Stanley made no admission of any wrongdoing; however, the Justice department commented that they hoped this would “send a message to the banking industry.”

NARRAGANSETT BAY PAC: $7,600

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

  • Reed has generally followed the Democratic line by supporting increased Medicare funding, enrolling more Americans into programs that help the uninsured, allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada, and negotiating bulk medication purchases for Medicare in order to lower costs.
  • Reed has supported fair trade policies over similar ones advocating free trade. He has also been a strong supporter of unionizing workers, and he has criticized government and business interference with these groups. He also supports increasing the minimum wage and unemployment compensation.
  • Reed supports limiting American oil use and expanding alternative energy. He opposes Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling and federal subsidies for oil exploration, while favoring a 40 percent reduction in oil use by 2025 and funding for hydrogen automobiles.
  • Reed has continuously voted against limiting lawsuits on gun manufacturers and has favored expanding gun control. He voted against loosening background checks at gun shows. The NRA has given Reed an F rating on gun control.
  • Reed has made it a point to maintain liaisons within his office specifically to interact with discharged veterans of the Armed Services. These liaisons often help veterans enter the Department of Veteran Affairs, ensuring that these former servicemen and servicewomen can receive medical care.
  • Reed was one of 23 US senators to vote against the use of force against Iraq in 2002. In 2007, Reed elaborated on his sentiments, saying, “It was a flawed strategy that diverted attention and resources away from hunting down Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.”

NEW MILLENNIUM PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)

NEWS AMERICA HOLDINGS, FOX PAC: $1,000

  • In 1999, The Economist reported that NewsCorp, parent company of News America, paid comparatively lower taxes and NewsCorp Investments specifically had made $20.1 billion in profits over the previous 11 years but had not paid net corporation tax. It also reported that after an examination of the available accounts, NewsCorp could normally have been expected to pay corporate tax of approximately $350 million. The article explained that in practice, the corporation’s complex structure, international scope and use of offshore tax havens allowed News Corporation to pay minimal
  • In July 2011, NewsCorp closed down the News of the World newspaper in the United Kingdom due to allegations of phone hackings. The allegations include trying to access former Prime Minister Gordon Brown‘s voice mail, and obtain information from his bank accounts, family’s medical records, and private legal files. Allegations of hacking have also been brought up in relation to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Royal Family.

NISOURCE, INC. PAC: $6,500

  • In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized NiSource for spending $1.83 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008-2010, instead getting $227 million in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $1.4 billion, and increasing executive pay by 33 percent to $11.2 million in 2010 for its top 5 executives.

OPPORTUNITY & RENEWAL PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)

  • Merkley has accumulated a progressive record during his Senate career. In late February 2010, Merkley again made headlines when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Republican colleague Jim Bunning of Kentucky to drop his objection to passing a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans.
  • Merkley became the first Democratic member of the Senate to announce that he’d vote against the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, citing Bernanke’s failure to “recognize or remedy the factors that paved the road to this dark and difficult recession.” As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Merkley helped pass the Wall Street reform bill. Along with Michigan Senator Carl Levin, he successfully added an amendment which banned high-risk trading inside commercial banking and lending institutions.
  • Merkley and Carl Levin have led an effort to crack down on proprietary trading at depository banks and other critical financial firms. The Dodd-Frank Act included the Merkley-Levin amendment to implement the Volcker Rule. The rule is premised on the notion that banks should not make risky, speculative bets while enjoying government deposit insurance.[
  • In March 2008, Merkley endorsed the Responsible Plan to End the War In Iraq.[

OXBOW CARBON & MINERALS: $5,000

  • Oxbow CEO William Koch—the “other” Koch brother along with David and Charles—was recently sued by a former senior executive at his Oxbow Carbon for false imprisonment. The allegations are that Koch lured the former executive to his Colorado ranch and then held him against his will to intimidate him from going public with concerns over an illegal tax avoidance scheme being pursued by Oxbow.
  • Koch denies that such an event took place, claiming instead that the executive was part of a scheme to defraud Oxbow, by taking bribes from competitors and participating in various other unsavory business practices.
  • So either William Koch held an executive hostage in order to intimidate him from exposing an illegal tax scheme…or…a substantial number of Oxbow executives were taking bribes and colluding with competitors. Either way, there’s some shady business going on at Oxbow.
  • The product it sells is the dirtiest of the dirty; its business practices are unsavory at best, dangerous and illegal at worst; and they use their money to buy politicians to allow them keep making obscene profits doing all of the above.

PAC FOR A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: $2,600

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

  • Warren voted as a Republican for many years in the belief “that those were the people who best supported markets”. In 1995 she began to vote Democratic because she no longer believed that to be true, but she says that she has voted for both parties because she believed that neither party should dominate.
  • Warren is a champion of a beleaguered middle class that she says “has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered. People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged.” Warren said that Wall Street CEOs “wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs” and that they “still strut around congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”[
  • To no one’s surprise, Warren has encountered significant opposition from business interests. In August 2012, Rob Engstrom, political director for the United States Chamber of Commerce, claimed that “no other candidate in 2012 represents a greater threat to free enterprise than Professor Warren.”
  • In May 2013, Warren introduced her first bill, the Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, which would allow students to take out government education loans at the same rate that banks such as Goldman Sachs and P. Morgan Chase pay to borrow from the federal government. Suggesting that students should get “the same great deal that banks get,” Warren proposed that new student borrowers be able to take out a federally subsidized loan at 0.75 percent, the rate paid by banks, compared with the current 3.4% student loan rate. Endorsing her bill days after its introduction, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders stated: “the only thing wrong with this bill is that [she] thought of it and I didn’t.”

PEOPLE’S VOICE PAC: $2,500

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)

  • On August 1, 2007, Baldwin cosponsored bills proposing articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “Although some constituents say I have gone too far, others argue I have not gone far enough,” she said of her effort to hold the Bush administration accountable for its actions.
  • Baldwin lent her support to such initiatives as the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which criminalized and outlined prosecution guidelines and punishments for wage discrimination based on sex. She received a grade of 100 from the League of Women Voters as of 2007.
  • Baldwin has advanced what she sees as stronger enforcement of laws against sexual violence and violence against women. She is a supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed victims of sexual violence and other sexual crimes to take their cases to federal courts and provided funding for various anti-sexual violence initiatives and programs.

PFIZER, INC. PAC: $4,000

  • In September 2009, Pfizer pleaded guilty to the illegal marketing of the arthritis drug Bextra for uses unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and agreed to a $2.3 billion settlement, the largest health care fraud settlement at that time. Pfizer also paid the U.S. government $1.3 billion in criminal fines related to the “off-label” marketing of Bextra, the largest monetary penalty ever rendered for any crime. Called a repeat offender by prosecutors, this was Pfizer’s fourth such settlement with the S. Department of Justice in the previous ten years.

PHARMACEUTICAL RESEARCH & MANUFACTURERS OF AMERICA (PhRMA): $2,000

  • Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana) resigned from Congress and began work as the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, a powerful trade group for pharmaceutical companies.
  • Two months before resigning as chair of the committee which oversees the drug industry, Tauzin played a key role in shepherding through Congress the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, a bill which had been criticized by opponents for being too generous to the pharmaceutical industry. The switch from regulator to lobbyist was widely noted.
  • This link was explored at great length in an April 1, 2007 interview by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes. The report, Under the Influence, pitted Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) against Tauzin and accused him of using unethical tactics to push a bill that “the pharmaceutical lobbyists wrote.” Along with Tauzin, many of the other individuals who worked on the bill are now lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.

SEARCHLIGHT LEADERSHIP FUND: $5,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid

  • Fugitive fundraiser Norman Hsu donated $1,000 to the Searchlight Leadership Fund, a political action committee associated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. On the same day, Searchlight received a $1,000 contribution from Winkle Paw, described by Hsu’s lawyer as a business associate of Hsu. Also donating $1,000 to Searchlight that day was Paul Su of Dilini Management Group, a company Hsu listed on a form while making a political contribution to Senator Dianne Feinstein.
  • These donations to Searchlight expose a funding conduit reaching to the heart of Harry Reid’s political machine. The financial trail stretches back to Reid’s hometown, his longtime business associate Jay Brown, and his Nevada gambling industry patrons; and it connects the Hsu affair to scandal-ridden lobbyists William Oldaker and Jack Abramoff, Reid’s financial consigliore Claude Zobell, and a political action committee targeting freshmen Congressmen.
  • While continuing to receive support from its initial gambling patrons, Searchlight soon sought donors outside Nevada, striving to tap the rich vein of the lobbying channels flowing through Washington, DC.
  • Oldaker had a history of scandal dating back to 1973, when he was demoted and suspended for falsifying records submitted to US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officials. Despite this setback, he worked his way up to general counsel to the FEC from 1976 to 1979. At the FEC he was supposed to be investigating a complaint by President Carter against Senator Edward Kennedy, but instead he used his position to get a job as general counsel and treasurer to Kennedy’s 1980 Presidential campaign, setting what became a characteristic pattern of using insider status to gain leverage with his employer’s political opponents.
  • Like Abramoff, Oldaker applied his lobbying leverage to numerous Congressmen and Senators. For instance, he lobbied for appropriations-related interests while collecting $30,000 for Washington Democrat Patty Murray, who sat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • However, the Searchlight Leadership Fund continued to maintain Oldaker as an unpaid “trusted adviser.”
  • April 2007 FEC documents list Searchlight Leadership Fund as having an address of 607 14th Street NW, Suite 800 in Washington, DC, the same Perkins Coie addresses used by the Democratic Freshmen PAC.
  • Thus, when Hsu, Paw, and Su made their donations to Searchlight in May 2007, they had singled out a fund with a pipeline to one of the most powerful lobbying networks in Washington, connected directly to the keeper of Harry Reid’s personal pocketbook.

BOEING CO. PAC.: $2,000

  • In 2003, Lockheed Martin sued Boeing for industrial espionage to win the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) competition. Lockheed Martin claimed that the former employee Kenneth Branch, who went to work for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, passed nearly 30,000 pages of proprietary documents to his new employers. Lockheed Martin argued that these documents allowed Boeing to win 19 of the 28 tendered military satellite launches.
  • In July 2003, Boeing was penalized, with the Pentagon stripping seven launches away from the company and awarding them to Lockheed Martin. Furthermore, the company was forbidden to bid for rocket contracts for a twenty-month period, which expired in March 2005. Boeing settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $615 million.
  • On September 15, 2010, the World Trade Organization ruled that Boeing had received billions of dollars in illegal government subsidies.

TO ORGANIZE A MAJORITY PAC: $5,000

Affiliated with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

  • Harkin has faced criticism for claiming that he had flown combat missions over North Vietnam. In a 1979 round table discussion with other Congressional military veterans, Harkin said of his service as a navy pilot: “One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions.” After subsequent inquiries by The Wall Street Journal, Harkin clarified that he had been stationed in Japan and sometimes flew recently repaired aircraft on test missions over Vietnam.
  • Harkin has also been active in combating the worst forms of child labor.

UBS AMERICAS, INC. PAC: $2,500

  • In early 2007, UBS became the first Wall Street firm to announce heavy losses in the subprime mortgage sector as the subprime mortgage crisis began to unfold. UBS announced in April 2008 that it was writing down a further US$19 billion of investments in subprime and other mortgage assets.

VALERO ENERGY PAC: $7,000

  • Valero was the biggest financial backer of the failed 2010 California Proposition 23, and contributed more than $4 million by August 2010. Had it passed, Proposition 23 would have delayed action on greenhouse gas emissions in the state of California, by delaying current implementation of the California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 until the state attained an unemployment rate of 5.5% for one full year.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,720 other followers