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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.

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(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)

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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:

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.

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Back in the spring of 2011, LouisianaVoice predicted that higher premiums and reduced benefits would by the immediate by-product of privatization of the Office of Group Benefits Preferred Provider Organization (PPO).

The administration initially—but only temporarily—proved us wrong by reducing premiums as the lead-in to contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana as the third party administrator for the PPO.

If we wished to be vain about that move, we could have said that Gov. Bobby Jindal made that move just to prove us wrong. But it wasn’t nearly as simple as that; there was, in fact, a far more sinister reason for the premium reduction.

Because the state pays 75 percent of state employees’ premiums, cutting those premiums reduced the financial obligation to the state, thus allowing Jindal to divert money that normally would have gone to health care for some 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents to instead be used to plug gaping holes in what has become an annual budget shortfall, thanks to slipshod management of state finances by the governor.

The recent developments pertaining to impending radical changes that will force eligible retirees onto Medicare and out of Group Benefits are not about who is right and who is wrong; it’s about people. It’s about people like you and me (yes, I’m a state retiree who is one of the lucky ones who is eligible for Medicare by virtue of my hire date after April 1, 1986 and by virtue of some 25 years of newspaper reporting work in the private sector).

In all the rhetoric coming out of the office of Kristy Nichols, the people she and her boss serve appear to be the forgotten element as Jindal has become a 100 percent absentee governor while he chases the impossible dream of becoming POTUS.

FAQs

Tragically, retirees with no private sector experience and who began with the state prior to April 1, 1986, are ineligible for Medicare and the steep premium increases looming on the near horizon—open enrollment is Oct. 1 through Oct. 31—can mean only one thing for them: financial devastation. A new premium increase to go with the one that took place on July 1 is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, placing an additional financial burden on enrollees.

Of course, if you look back, you will see how the administration fed us a string of outright lies in 2011. Thanks to loyal reader Kay Prince of Ruston, we have a copy of a letter written by then-Commissioner of Administration and who later served as Jindal’s Chief of Staff until his unexpected resignation last March which can only be described as a laundry list of lies to state employees and retirees.

Read the text of Rainwater’s letter here: https://www.groupbenefits.org/portal/pls/portal30/ogbweb.get_latest_news_file?p_doc_name=4F444D324D5441344C6C4245526A51344E7A413D

If one has to wonder where this latest political assault on state employees originates, one has only to Google “ALEC Health Care Agenda” for the answer.

HHS_2013_SNPS_35_Day

ALEC, of course, is the acronym for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the non-profit political arm of the Koch brothers and the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame. ALEC, which drafts “model bills” for its member legislators to take back home for passage, includes sweeping changes to health care benefits for public employees as one of its primary objectives.

While we don’t normally advocate political boycotts, perhaps state employees should give serious consideration to a complete boycott of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club as a response to the ALEC-inspired medical benefit cuts you are about to experience. A word or two to friends and relatives might not be a bad idea either.

For a comprehensive look at the ALEC agenda as it pertains to medical benefits, go here:

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Health,_Pharmaceuticals,_and_Safety_Net_Programs

Here is a list of Louisiana legislators, both present and past, who are now or once were members of ALEC. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Louisiana_ALEC_Politicians

Girod Jackson (D-Marrero), who was charged with fraud and failure to file taxes, resigned and is no longer in the legislator and it is our understanding that Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) is no longer a member of ALEC.

And certainly, let’s not forget that until recently, BCBS was a member in good standing of ALEC and BCBS was listed as a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and ponied up $10,000 for a “Director” level sponsorship of ALEC’s annual conference held in New Orleans at which Jindal received the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Award. BCBS of Louisiana paid an additional $5,000 and served as a “Trustee” level sponsor of that 2011 conference.

And ALEC continues to have its logo prominently displayed on the Louisiana Legislature’s web page. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/OtherGovSites.aspx

Despite all the spin from Kristy Nichols, the Aug. 11 report to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget by the Legislative Fiscal Office paints a much truer picture of what’s in store for members.

Read the LFO report here: LFO_OGBReport_August_2014

Apparently, the working media also do not buy into the Kristy Kreme version of “it’s all good,” as the proposed changes are attracting the attention of Capitol reporters like Melinda Deslatte, a very capable reporter for Associated Press: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/local/louisiana/2014/08/26/health-benefit-changes-planned-state-workers/14651363/

As a barometer of just how serious the proposed changes are and the impact they will have on members, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, apparently in response to the request of State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) is apparently willing to buck Boss Jindal and call a special meeting of the House as a Committee of the Whole as reported here by the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Marsha Shuler: http://theadvocate.com/home/10100116-123/house-group-benefits-meeting-possible

Undaunted, Nichols trudges on like a good soldier. Today, state employees arrived at work to find emails, mass distributed via the state’s “Bulletin Board,” attempting to address the “incorrect” information “distributed over the last few weeks” regarding the anticipated health insurance changes.

Basically, she denied all negative information, threw up administration smoke screens, made lame excuses and (ho-hum, yawn) blaming the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which has absolutely nothing to do with the Office of Group Benefits.

While Kristy rants that premium increases will be negligible (if one can consider a 47 percent bump negligible), we would remind her it’s not about the premiums; it’s about the benefits. It’s about the co-pays. It’s about the deductibles. Kristy, you can’t ignore the elephant in the room indefinitely.

As state workers peruse Kristy’s latest missive, it is important to refer back to the aforementioned Paul Rainwater letter of April 29, 2011, to get a quick refresher as to just how capable the administration is of clouding an issue with misinformation and outright lies.

They lied then so what’s to keep them from lying now?

The fact is the Jindal administration, what’s left of it, does not nor has it ever cared about the welfare of state employees.

Jindal is joined at each hip by his former—and only—private sector employer McKinsey & Co. on one side and ALEC on the other and both have the same agenda: the destruction of working Americans in favor of ever increasing corporate profits. Together, they guide each and every step Jindal takes.

McKinsey & Co., it should be noted, is also a member of ALEC and is the same company that once consulted General Motors into bankruptcy, advised AT&T there was no future in the cell phone market and which structured the corporate plan for Enron.

These are the ones who are maneuvering to control the health care future of 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.

Only last November, the state flirted with McKinsey & Co. for the purposes of retaining the firm to put together a Business Reengineering/Efficiencies Planning and Management Support Services proposal.

Apparently Jindal opted to go with the less expensive Alvarez & Marcel (A&M) for that contract that has grown from $4.2 million to $7.5 million for A&M to find $500 million in savings over a 10-year period.

But McKinsey did submit a 406-page proposal and a two-page cover letter to Ruth Johnson of the Division of Administration (DOA) which LouisianaVoice has obtained.

Much of McKinsey & Co.’s proposal was redacted by DOA before its release to us—including every word in the proposal dealing with health benefits.

That’s correct. Not a single word about health benefits as proposed by McKinsey was readable. Skip down to page 37 for the redacted health benefits section to see what we mean.

Read the McKinsey report here: McKinsey – State of LA Cost Proposal – Final

In case you don’t have a lot of time, here is a shorter proposal from McKinsey: McKinsey – State of LA Cost Proposal – Final

Are you sufficiently comfortable with that to sit back and trust this administration to do what’s best for you?

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Because The Hayride political blog that tilts slightly to the right of Attila the Hun appears to be fixated on Edwin Edwards and those who contribute to his congressional campaign, we thought it only fair to offer the identities of a few contributors to the U.S. senatorial campaign of Congressman Bill Cassidy, the man Edwards is trying to succeed.

Cassidy, meanwhile, is attempting to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Unlike The Hayride, we opted not to concentrate on individual contributors (though we are reserving that as an option) but rather to peel the cover back on contributions of political action committees, or PACs.

The reason for this is simple: Small donors make good press but big donors get you reelected and PACs tend to be far more generous than individual donors.

There are three types of PACs:

  • Connected PACs are established by businesses, labor unions, trade groups or health organizations. They receive and raise money from a “restricted class,” usually sharing a common interest. Of the 4,600 connected PACs, 1,598 are registered corporate PACs, 995 are trade organizations and 272 are related to labor unions.
  • Non-connected PACs consist of groups with an ideological mission, single-issue groups and members of Congress and other political leaders. These organizations may accept funds from any individual, connected PAC, or organization.
  • Leadership PACs are set up by elected officials and political parties and may make independent expenditures, provided the expenditure is not coordinated with the other candidate. Unlike the other types, spending by leadership PACs is not limited. A leadership PAC may not use funds to support the official’s own campaign but can fund travel, administrative expenses, consultants, polling and other non-campaign expenses.

Cassidy has received $77,500 from 11 of those leadership PACs, including $5,000 from U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s Louisiana Reform PAC. Vitter, who apparently was able to find some spare change that was not be used for social contacts in Washington or New Orleans, is a candidate for governor in 2015.

Of the 11, only two, Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have exhibited any willingness to work with Democrats on legislation, records show.

He also receive about half a million dollars from a cluster of connected PACs, mostly medical professional groups, according to campaign finance records.

In all, Cassidy has received more than $4.7 million through Aug. 2, about 40 percent of which came from PACs, records show.

Other contributions from leadership PACs include:

  • $5,000 from the 21st Century Majority Fund of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia). Besides voting in favor of the war on Iraq as a member of the U.S. House, he even gave a speech on the House floor in which he said he had personally considered the facts and felt it essential that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction be destroyed. A 1990 supporter of abortion rights, he soon swerved to the right, becoming a pro-life candidate a decade later.
  • $10,000 from the Alamo PAC of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of “Big Oil’s 10 favorite members of Congress,” according to MSN Money. Cornyn has received more money from the oil and gas industry than all but six other members of Congress. Cornyn once compared the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear arguments for sustaining Terri Schiavo’s life with the murders of two judges, a statement that received widespread condemnation and for which he later apologized.
  • $5,000 from the Bluegrass Committee of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). McConnell, among other things, voted against a bill that would help women earn equal pay for performing the same job as men, opposed a Senate bill that would have limited the practice of corporate inversion by U.S. corporations seeking to limit U.S. tax liability, attempted twice to get federal grants for Alltech, whose president made subsequent campaign contributions to McConnell, to build a plant in Kentucky for producing ethanol from algae, corncobs and switchgrass, only to criticize President Obama in 2012 for twice mentioning biofuel production from algae, and requested earmarks for defense contractor BAE Systems while the company was under investigation for alleged bribery of foreign officials.
  • $5,000 from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s Defend America PAC. Shelby (R-Alabama), who in 2000, took a hard line on leaks of classified information, in 2002, revealed classified information related to the 9-11 attacks to Fox News.
  • $5,000 from the Freedom Fund PAC of U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Crapo, who claimed to be a Mormon who abstained from using alcohol, pled guilty to DWI in 2013, was fined $250 and received a one-year suspension of his driver’s license. That same year, he voted against passage of a bill that would have expanded background checks for all gun buyers.
  • $2,500 from Lindsey Graham’s Fund for America’s Future. The South Carolina Republican described himself in 1998 as a veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm when in reality, he never left South Carolina. He did, however, serve in Iraq for a few weeks in 2007 and during the Senate’s August recess in 2009. In 2010, he alleged that “half the children born in hospitals on our borders are the children of illegal immigrants.” A Pew Foundation study, however, gave that number as only 8 percent. In 2009, he supported a climate change bill, calling for a green economy. A year later, he flipped, saying, “The science about global warming has changed. I think they’ve oversold this stuff.” He added that he would vote against the climate bill that he had originally sponsored.
  • $10,000 from the Heartland Values PAC of U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota). A name to watch, Thune was considered as John McCain’s running mate in 2008 but lost out to Sarah Palin (ouch!). He was also considered a possible candidate for president in 2012 (because he “looked presidential”) but opted out. He also was considered to be on the short list for Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 but lost out again, to Paul Ryan.
  • $10,000 from Next Century Fund PAC of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina). Burr voted against the financial reform bill of 2010 which regulates credit default swaps and other derivatives, saying, “I fear we’re headed down a path that will be too over burdensome, too duplicative, it will raise the cost of credit….The balance that we’ve got to have is more focus on the products that we didn’t regulate….more so than government playing a bigger role with a stronger hand.” During the financial crisis of 2008, he told his wife he wasn’t coming home for that weekend and instructed her to withdraw as much as the ATM would allow. “And I want you to go tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday (and do the same thing).” He said he was convinced “that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine (sic) the last thing you were going to get was cash.” Apparently he now keeps his money in his PAC.
  • $5,000 from Responsibility and Freedom Work, the leadership PAC of U.S. Sen. Roger S. Wicker (R-Mississippi). Wicker appears to be one of the few in Congress willing—and able—to work across the aisle with Democrats. He served as a member of the Helsinki Commission monitoring human rights and helped to pass a bill imposing tough penalties on Russians accused of violating human rights and he also supported the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 aimed at improving the public’s ability to enjoy the outdoors. In July of 2013, a letter addressed to Wicker tested positive for the poison ricin.
  • $10,000 from Tenn PAC operated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee). Considered one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, Alexander received a letter a year ago from 20 Tennessee tea-party groups calling on him to retire in 2014 because “our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous.” Among his bipartisan votes were two to confirm Harold Koh as legal adviser to the State Department and for President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

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Call it coincidence, but the Baton Rouge Advocate today had an interesting lead editorial thanking State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and Gov. Bobby Jindal for assigning 100 state troopers to patrol the city of New Orleans through Labor Day in response to a Bourbon Street shooting spree on June 29 that left one dead and nine others injured. http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/9965586-123/our-views-thanks-to-state

Certainly the timing of the editorial had nothing to do with the controversy swirling around the secretive passage of an obscure Senate bill during the last day of the recent legislative session that proved financially beneficial to Edmonson.

And certainly it had nothing to do with the fact that Advocate publisher John Georges wants to keep Edmonson happy because Georges holds a majority ownership in seven firms which provide video gambling machines and other services to gambling establishments—and because Edmonson oversees gaming through the State Gaming Control Board chaired by Ronnie Jones who served as Edmonson’s confidential assistant prior to his appointment to the Gaming Control Board. He is still listed as Edmonson’s confidential assistant on the State Police web page even though Jones says he resigned from that position last August. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/02/john_georges_gets_back_into_ga.html

Jones denies any knowledge of Georges’ video poker interests and says Edmonson is not his boss. “I wouldn’t know John Georges if he walked in the room right now and the fact that he has gaming interests doesn’t impress me,” he said, adding that Edmonson “has no control or influence over my board or its decisions.”

Jones’s denials notwithstanding, it appears we can dismiss any chance that the Advocate might delve into the murky political machinations behind the amendment especially tailored for Edmonson (though it did catch one other state trooper up in its generous net).

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley refused to open an investigation into the infamous Edmonson Amendment because he said the amendment was part of a bill that originated in the Senate. But one would expect no action from Kleckley. Otherwise, Jindal might remove his hand from his butt and Kleckley would then be rendered unable to speak—not that he’s ever said anything profound anyway.

The amendment, of course, tacked on an additional $55,000 per year to Edmonson’s retirement benefits and though Edmonson has since said he will not accept the extra income, he apparently overlooked the fact that the bill is now law, thanks to Executive Counsel Tom Enright’s stamp of approval and Jindal’s signing it as Act 859, which makes it impossible for him to arbitrarily refuse the financial windfall.

And it’s true enough that, Senate Bill 294 by Sen. Jean-Paul Morrell (D-New Orleans) did originate in the upper chamber and we now know that the amendment was added by Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) but Kleckley conveniently overlooked the fact that three members of the Conference Committee which tacked on the amendment were members of the House.

But what about Senate President John Alario, Jr. (R-Westwego)? Certainly the esteemed Senate President would never let such a furtive move stain the stellar reputation of the Louisiana upper chamber. Surely he will launch a thorough investigation of the amendment since the bill and the ensuing amendment were the works of members of the Senate.

Don’t count on it. It’s rare that an elected official will bite the hand that feeds him—or a family member.

In this case, we’re speaking of one Dionne Alario, also of Westwego, who just happens to hold the title of Administrative Program Manager 3 for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety at $56,300 per year. She was hired last November and somehow manages to pull off the unlikely logistics of supervising DPS employees in Baton Rouge while working from her home in Westwego.

Oh, did we mention that she also just happens to be Sen. John Alario’s daughter-in-law?

We attempted to contact her at the Baton Rouge headquarters through the DPS Human Resources Department but we were given a cell phone number with a 504 (New Orleans) area code.

So if you expect Alario to conduct an investigation into the Edmonson Amendment, you can fuggedaboutit. It ain’t happening. His nest has been sufficiently feathered as to guarantee there will be no questions on his part.

It’s beginning to look more and more like the ol’ Louisiana political science professor C.B. Forgotston is correct: This entire Edmonson Amendment affair is quickly being swept under a very big rug.

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“Know this: we will support and protect the other retirees, surviving spouses and orphans as well as the citizens of this state, as we once took an oath to do, by any legal means at our disposal.”

—Excerpt from letter to State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson by retired state police officers objecting to the so-called Edmonson Amendment.

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