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Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise’s claim that he did not know who he was talking to when he spoke to that meeting of the Workshop on Civil Rights hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Conference (EURO) back in May of 2002 is coming unraveled like a cheap suit.

And so too, are the cover stories concocted by participants of that meeting who are trying to pull Scalise’s fat out of the fire.

And those accounts, with their unsavory associations and bizarre twists, constitute some of the most sordid stories imaginable, complete with bombing plots, pornography, escort services, mailing lists and dozens of politicians who subsequently went into scramble mode.

Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” and because of conflicting memories of those involved, the coverups appear to be spinning out of control.

Thanks to stellar investigative reporting by blogger Lamar White, Scalise’s position as House Majority Whip could go the same way as that of former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) who resigned his post as Senate Majority Leader following his association with a similar white supremacy group, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). Lott resigned from the Senate five years later and now works, along with former U.S. Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) in the powerful Washington lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs.

CCC and EURO have cross-pollinated over the years to the point where it’s difficult to distinguish one from the other with certain individuals having been—and remaining—members of both organizations.

One of those with just such dual membership is Kenny Knight of Prairieville.

Knight has publicly taken credit for issuing the invitation to Scalise to speak to the Jefferson Heights Civic Association at the Landmark Hotel in Metairie 12 years ago, but not, he said, to EURO, which was scheduled to meet in the same room later that day.

There are several problems with that story.

One, Scalise himself has made no such claim, choosing instead to plead ignorance that he was addressing a white supremacy group in 2002 while he was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. He makes no mention of any such civic association. http://www.businessreport.com/article/scalise-defending-amid-rising-scandal-regarding-2002-speech-white-supremacist-event

But claiming ignorance is a pretty weak defense given his comment years ago to New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Stephanie Grace that he was “like David Duke without the baggage.” http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/state/11213737-123/stephanie-grace-scalises-pitch-to

Duke, of course, was—and is—President of EURO and also addressed the Landmark gathering via teleconference hookup from Europe.

The second inconvenient snag in the failure to communicate (with apologies to the late Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke) occurred when Knight told the Times-Picayune that he was not a member of EURO http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/12/david_duke_adviser_kenny_knigh.html

Barbara Noble, whom the Times-Picayune  said “was dating Knight” at the time of Scalise’s address (the implication being they might no longer be dating), backed up his claim. “Neither of us were members of EURO,” she said.

But while technically, Knight may not have a member of EURO, a quick check of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s corporate records reveals that he was not only a member of the organization’s predecessor, the National Organization for European American Rights (NO FEAR), he was the organization’s treasurer. (Duke changed the name to EURO after being sued for trademark infringement by No Fear, Inc.)

And what would be Noble’s motivation in having his back if she is a former girlfriend?

A further check of the Secretary of State’s web page also reveals that she and Knight both were officers of or affiliated with five separate corporate entities, three of which are still in good standing with the Secretary of State’s office.

All-American Health & Life Insurance of Metairie is not in good standing for failure to file its annual report with the Secretary of State, records show but both were listed as officers. Knight was the firm’s president she was vice president.

Southeast Solar Distributors likewise is listed as inactive by the Secretary of State. She was the company’s president and Knight its vice president when it was active, records show.

While she is not listed as an officer of T-Mart, Inc. of Prairieville, a telephone call to the business by LouisianaVoice reached her voice mail. Other active businesses in which the two are involved include Axcess Medical Clinic, Inc., of Prairieville (Knight is Director and she is Secretary) and Louisiana Men’s Clinic, Inc. of Mandeville (both are directors).

Louisiana Men’s Clinic is a facility that specializes in the treatment of erectile dysfunction http://louisianamensclinic.com/ while Axcess Medical Clinic appears to be an office complex for physicians owned by the pair.

Two months following Scalise’s address to EURO, Knight was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast representing CCC in its celebration after the Gulfport City Council voted to keep flying the confederate flag.

KENNY KNIGHT

(That’s Kenny Knight in the middle with the white shirt, brown shorts and white beard.)

Accompanying Knight at that rally was Vincent Breeding, one-time resident of Duke’s home and keeper of the EURO flame as its president while Duke served a federal prison term for fraud and tax evasion.

VINCE BREEDING

(Vincent Breeding is on the right wearing the slacks and tie. Kenny Knight is at the far left. And as one reader pointed out, these aren’t Ole Miss frat boys waving the Rebel flag.)

But Breeding, it turns out, had a much darker side. In addition to espousing the virtues of white supremacy, Christian beliefs and conservative values, he hosted an internet website which, in addition to offering graphic pornography, also provided an escort service that catered to all tastes, including black women. That would seem rather difficult to square with the EURO philosophy.

But then Duke himself once published a sexual self-help book for women entitled Finders Keepers under the pseudonym Dorothy Vanderbilt.

In 2003, Breeding was ousted from his leadership role in EURO and was succeeded by Knight but four years later, on Aug. 2, 2007, both Knight and Breeding, along with Barbara Noble, would participate in ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce.

Breeding, in addition to his porn web page and escort service and his previous employment at a Tampa strip club, once shared an apartment with one Todd Vanbiber who authorities thwarted in his plot to place 14 bombs along two major highways, I-4, the major access route to Walt Disney World, and U.S. 441. The bombings were planned for April 19, 1997, the second anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Another Duke associate, Don Black, was once shot while attempting to steal the mailing list of the National States’ Rights Party. The man who shot him was Jerry Ray, brother of James Earl Ray. Ironically, Black not only survived the gunshot, but later worked closely with Duke through his web page Stormfront and along the way, married Duke’s ex-wife.

Mailing lists, it turns out, constitute the life blood of organizations such as EURO, CCC, and the KKK. It is those mailing lists that allow the leaders of the organizations to solicit funds from those of like minds and it was just such a list that supported Duke’s lavish lifestyle that finally caught up with him.

And it was that same list that was sold to then-gubernatorial candidate Mike Foster in 1995 for $150,000. Foster failed to report the purchase as a campaign expenditure and would become the first Louisiana governor to be fined for violating the state’s code of ethics for elected officials.

But Foster was not the first by any stretch—nor the last—to be linked to such white supremacy groups. Louisiana Congressman John Rarick and Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox both were members of the old White Citizens Council, forerunner to the CCC.

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Kay Cobb addressed CCC on two occasions and Trent Lott five times, once telling its members that they stood “for the right principles and the right philosophy,” only to later claim he had “no idea” what the organization stood for (we’re beginning to detect a trend here). As nice saves go, Senator, not so much.

Lott also spoke at the 100th birthday celebration of Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, proclaiming that if the rest of the country had followed Mississippi’s lead in voting for the segregationist “Dixiecrat” when he ran for president in 1943, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years…” When Lott later apologized for his remarks, the CCC labeled him as “little more than a political prostitute.”

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was elected largely on the strength of support from CCC and his photo even appeared with CCC officers on the organization’s website and former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr delivered the keynote speech at the CCC national convention in June of 1998.

Byron De La Beckwith, the man who in 1963 murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers, was a CCC member as was Charles Sharpe. While serving as South Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Sharpe was arrested for accepting $20,000 in bribes to protect an illegal cockfighting ring.

And then there is Tony Perkins who, like Lott and Judge Cobb, addressed the Louisiana CCC. His appearance was on May 19, 2001 (almost exactly a year before Scalise’s appearance), when he was serving as a Republican state representative from Baton Rouge. Perkins currently serves as President of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

These are only the more prominent public officials who have affiliated themselves with these groups. There are others. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2004/fall/communing-with-the-council

So we have the CCC, EURO, and the KKK, which are pretty much synonymous with their interchangeable memberships, rubbing shoulders with right-wing, family-values politicians who run for cover the moment the glare of public scrutiny is shone upon them. The only thing missing from the picture are the 30 pieces of silver.

All of which must, by necessity, raise this burning question: Is the price of political fraudulence worth the wear and tear on an elected official’s integrity?

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By Robert Burns, Guest Columnist

Most of the media headlines entailing Bruce Greenstein, Gov. Jindal’s former head of the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), have centered around his recent indictment for alleged false testimony during his confirmation hearing and alleged false statements made to a Louisiana grand jury convened by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to delve into possible misconduct entailing the awarding of the state Medicaid contract to Client Network Services Incorporated (CNSI).  Less noteworthy in the news media, but a matter in which Louisiana Voice has taken a keen interest, is the civil trial taking place in Judge Tim Kelley’s courtroom entailing CNSI’s claim of wrongful termination of its contract for which it seeks millions of dollars in alleged damages.

During a hearing in early 2014, Judge Kelley repeatedly sought the status of any Federal investigation into alleged wrongdoing regarding the awarding of the contract.  Very reluctantly, David Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, admitted that the Feds had closed their investigation but emphasized that the State of Louisiana was proceeding forward and emphasized to Judge Kelley that “The AG’s Office has encountered other instances in which the Feds closed an investigation but we continued and ultimately obtained indictments.”

The parties are now in the discovery phases of the civil trial. Attorney Lewis Unglesby, along with Michael McKay and Justin Lemaire, is representing CNSI, and some very intriguing accusations have been bantered about in court hearings. Among those accusations, conveyed at an October 28, 2014, hearing, is that Attorney General Investigator Scott Bailey   met with and potentially improperly coached CNSI whistleblower Steve Smith into changing his testimony, resulting in contradictory depositions.  It was also at that hearing that David Caldwell, in attempting to defend the visits with Smith by his office and relaying to Judge Kelley that “We didn’t do anything wrong,” emphasized, “We’re not trying to rig a civil case.”

Perhaps Caldwell may indeed not be trying to “rig a civil case” and genuinely seeks only to prosecute Greenstein for his alleged perjury; however, based on a hearing in Judge Kelley’s courtroom today (Monday, December 15, 2014), it appears equally apparent that the State of Louisiana is prepared to fight tooth and nail to prevent CNSI’s lawyers from advancing discovery in the civil trial toward the plaintiff attorneys’ goal of a trial sometime in 2015.

To that end, today’s hearing entailed the fact that CNSI’s lawyers have scheduled a deposition of Stephen Russo, legal counsel for the Department of Health and Hospitals for tomorrow (Tuesday, December 16, 2014).  The State’s attorneys, led by Justin O’Brien, sought to block the deposition on multiple fronts including attorney-client privilege.

Throughout Greenstein’s testimony before the grand jury, he repeatedly emphasized that Russo serves as the personal legal attorney for the head of the DHH and thus served as Greenstein’s personal attorney during his tenure as head of the agency.  As such, Unglesby relayed to Judge Kelley that any attorney-client privilege had unequivocally been waived through Greenstein’s grand jury testimony. Unglesby said Greenstein was present in court and would be more than happy to state to the court that he waived any attorney-client privilege. O’Brien also indicated to Judge Kelley that the intended line of questioning by Unglesby was overly broad. Unglesby, however, countered that argument by holding up a small folder and relaying his intent to be laser-focused on the pertinent discussions between Russo and Greenstein during the critical period entailing the awarding of the contract.

On two separate occasions, Unglesby made brief reference to material in Greenstein’s grand jury transcript. O’Brien objected and asked that Judge Kelley order the courtroom cleared since statements were about to be made regarding grand jury testimony. Unglesby countered by relaying that the AG’s Office had, and he emphasized that Caldwell may have “likely acted illegally” in doing so, made the grand jury transcript public. Grand jury secrecy, therefore, was no longer an issue. Judge Kelley concurred and emphasized that he’d even read the grand jury testimony accounts in the newspaper and therefore would not be clearing the courtroom.

At one point, O’Brien wanted to introduce into evidence a document that he said would demonstrate that John McLindon, Greenstein’s attorney, had provided contradictory statements.  Judge Kelley relayed he’d be happy to look at anything as long as opposing counsel had seen it first.  When O’Brien presented a copy to McLindon, he (McLindon) immediately relayed, “That was filed under seal.”   Upon hearing that, Judge Kelley relayed that, if the document was filed under seal, nobody, including him, should be looking at it.

Judge Kelley informed Unglesby that it would not be necessary to have Greenstein waive any attorney-client privilege at the day’s proceeding and ruled that the deposition could proceed as scheduled.  Judge Kelley was very specific in justifying his ruling in relaying that, in the court’s view, attorney-client privilege had certainly been waived, and he further emphasized that the intended scope of the deposition was in conformity with Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure in terms of not being overly broad nor designed to harass the deponent.

O’Brien asked Judge Kelley to stay his order pending a writ being filed with the First Circuit Court of Appeal.  Judge Kelley relayed, “I’m not staying anything.  If you take issue with my ruling, you can file that with the First Circuit, but I want to be understood on this matter.  In the court’s view, this matter is clear.  It’s straightforward.  The court views this matter as being very clear and I want it into the record that’s the court’s view.”  After O’Brien sought for Judge Kelley to reiterate that he felt it was clear (which Judge Kelley did reiterate), he pulled out a pre-drafted order and asked if Judge Kelley would sign it for the Frist Circuit to consider a stay on his ruling.  Judge Kelley relayed that, upon filing, O’Brien could bring the document back up for him to sign (even relaying he could interrupt court if necessary due to the urgency of the matter).

Assuming the First Circuit doesn’t grant a stay, it sure would be interesting to be able to sit in on tomorrow’s deposition.  The one thing that was evident today is that the State’s attorneys clearly fear Unglesby being able to question Russo about that critical timeframe and communications he had with Greenstein entailing the awarding of the contract.  Based on Greenstein’s willingness to show up at today’s hearing and relay that he’d be happy to formally waive any attorney-client privilege, it seems obvious that Greenstein and McLindon feel they will likely reap a spillover benefit from the deposition entailing Greenstein’s criminal defense.

So, even though the big headlines of the CNSI contract awarding and cancellation may entail Greenstein’s indictment, the far more intriguing aspect of that contract appears to be playing out in the CNSI civil trial in Judge Kelley’s courtroom.  Stay tuned folks, Louisiana Voice will keep readers informed as further court hearings transpire.

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The good people of Alabama need not fear the corruptive influence of former Gov. Donald Siegelman. Women and children may emerge from hiding, confident they are now safe and no longer must be protected from his treachery.

Siegelman is securely incarcerated at Oakdale’s federal lockup, the same facility that once housed another former governor—Louisiana’s very own Edwin W. Edwards—and from all accounts Sweet Home Alabama is the better for his prolonged absence.

The man, after all, took a $500,000 contribution from a member of the state board for hospital oversight, one Richard Scrushy, CEO of HealthSouth.

But wait. The half-million bucks didn’t go to Siegelman, after all. The money was contributed by Scrushy instead to help underwrite a campaign to convince the voters of Alabama to vote in favor of a state lottery, the proceeds of which would provide funds for Alabama youth to attend state colleges for free.

The referendum was controversial in that owners of the Indian casinos next door in Mississippi were somewhat skittish about Alabamans spending their gambling money at home to fund, of all things, education—not to mention that free college sounds a bit socialistic.

Suddenly, major players entered the picture—players like Karl Rove and notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who would soon face his own legal problems. No matter. Abramoff led the fight, pouring money into the campaign to oppose the referendum which ultimately lost.

And what did Scrushy get in return? Siegelman reappointed him to the Certificates of Need Review Board where he had been serving without pay for the previous 12 years.

The prosecution of Siegelman has been heavily criticized by legal experts and columnists across the nation. https://madmimi.com/p/940b05?fe=1&pact=23974859063

Even the award-winning CBS news magazine 60 Minutes weighed in on the issue. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-ex-alabama-governor-get-a-raw-deal/

Siegelman, a Democrat with Jewish and Catholic roots, had won every state office in Alabama by 1998, including attorney general and lieutenant governor. In 2002, having already served one term as governor, he was heavily favored to win election over incumbent Gov. Bob Riley, the man who had defeated him four years earlier. But then the state’s top Republican operative, Bill Canary, contacted the nation’s top Republican operative, Rove, and the Justice Department’s investigation of Siegelman—led by Canary’s wife, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary—was launched.

With rumors swirling about alleged wrongdoing, Siegelman suddenly found himself in a tight race with Riley. On election night, Siegelman went to bed after having been declared the winner only to awake the next morning with Riley claiming victory.

Overnight, an unexpected redistribution of gubernatorial votes in Baldwin County, which includes the city of Daphne and part of Mobile Bay, reduced Siegelman’s total votes by 3,000, giving Republican Riley the governorship. Republican Attorney General Bill Pryor denied a recount of the paper ballots. No votes for any of the other offices being contested were changed. (Can you say hanging chads?)

And who was running Riley’s re-election campaign? That would be Bill Canary, husband of federal prosecutor Leura Canary. Well, no conflict of interest there.

Canary’s first efforts, carried out by assistant U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, were unsuccessful. Federal District Judge U.W. Clemon threw out the indictment for lack of evidence, saying the prosecution “was completely without legal merit” and “the most unfounded criminal case over which I presided in my entire judicial career.”

Canary was successful on her second try, however, obtaining a conviction on one of the 23 counts on which Siegelman was indicted. Presiding over that trial was Federal Judge Mark Fuller, who omitted a key legal requirement when giving the jury its instructions before it retired to deliberate: the need for an explicit promise of understanding in accepting the $500,000 from Scrushy.

Fuller, an appointee of President George W. Bush, would later have his own legal problems as well. In August of this year, he was arrested for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/federal_judge_mark_fuller_a_ti.html but unlike Siegelman, was able to get the record expunged. http://crooksandliars.com/2014/09/don-siegelman-trial-judge-weasels-out

So what has all this to with the price of eggs in Louisiana?

Well, we just thought it would be interesting to compare the single transgression that got Siegelman a ticket to Oakdale with certain activities in Louisiana—and to ask somewhat rhetorically why no investigative agency is taking a closer look at some of the tactics of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Take, for example, the case of Richard Blossman, Jr., of Lacombe and his Central Progressive Bank.

Blossman, while CEO of Central Progressive, “gave” each of his 11 board members a $5,000 bonus. The reality is (to borrow a favorite Jindal phrase), however, none of the $5,000 bonus payments ever went to the board members, according to Raphael Goyeneche, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission. Instead, immediately after the bonuses were “announced” by Blossman, 11 individual checks of $5,000 each were sent to Jindal’s 2007 campaign in the names of the individual—and oblivious—board members.

“The defendant (Blossman) well knew the ‘bonus’ was to funnel illegal political contributions and was not a bonus, as he caused to be inscribed in the board minutes,” prosecutors said in June of 2012.

“That is a felony,” Goyeneche added.

This revelation came on the heels of word from the Louisiana Board of Ethics in May of 2012 that Jindal received $40,000 in campaign contributions from landfill company River Birch, Inc. of Metairie when the company formed six “straw man entities” to launder illegal donations to Jindal.

So, did Jindal’s campaign return the $95,000 in ill-gotten gains?

Well….no. “We accept every contribution in good faith and in accordance with the law,” said Timmy Teepell, who ran Jindal’s 2007 campaign. Asked if Blossman received anything in exchange for his contributions, Teepell sniffed, “Absolutely not. Everyone who donates to our campaign gets the same thing and that is good government.”

Wow. Perhaps Earl Long was correct when he once said, One of these days, the folks in Louisiana will get good government “and they ain’t gonna like it.”

Jindal’s campaign and his Believe in Louisiana organization also accepted $158,500 in contributions from Iowa, LA., businessman Lee Mallet, his family members and several of his companies. Jindal then appointed Mallett, a college dropout, to the LSU Board of Supervisors and also had the Department of Corrections issue a directive to state parole and probation officers to funnel offenders into Mallett’s halfway house in Lacassine.

ATS LETTER

No quid pro quo there, right?

Mallett and his son were major contributors to other Republican candidates and the National Republican Party as well.

Carl Shetler of Lake Charles also received an appointment from Jindal—to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors—after contributing $42,000 to Jindal’s campaign. Shetler, a Lake Charles car dealer, some years before had singlehandedly gotten McNeese State University placed on athletic probation by the NCAA when it was learned that he’d paid money to McNeese basketball players.

In fact, Jindal’s campaign received $1.8 million in contributions from people he has appointed to state boards and commissions, some of whom delivered their checks only days or weeks after their appointments, according to Nola.com. Virtually the entire memberships of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome Commission) and the LSU Board of Supervisors are comprised of major contributors to Jindal political campaigns.

In 2008, Jindal accepted $30,000 from Florida attorney Scott Rothstein, his law firm and his wife. Rothstein was later disbarred after his conviction for running the largest ($1.4 billion) Ponzi scheme in Florida history.

Jindal also accepted $10,000 from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) and later gave ACS employee Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy, a state job with the Division of Administration.

Jindal took $11,000 from the medical trust fund of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA). The LHBPA board president, Sean Alfortish, was subsequently sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiring to rig the elections of the association and then helping himself to money controlled by the association.

The association also was accused of paying $347,000 from its medical and pension trust funds to three law firms without a contract or evidence of work performed. A state audit said LHBPA improperly raided more than $1 million from its medical trust account while funneling money into political lobbying and travel to the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Costa Rica and Los Cabos, Mexico.

The association, created by the Louisiana Legislature in 1993, is considered a non-profit public body and as such is prohibited from contributing to political campaigns.

And then there is Tony Rudy.

Rudy once headed up an influence-peddling organization called the Alexander Strategy Group and through that firm, he pulled in tens of thousands of dollars in the 2004 and 2005 election cycles on behalf of Jindal from such donors as UPS, Eli Lilly, Bellsouth, R.J. Reynolds, Microsoft, Fannie Mae, Koch Industries, DuPont, AstraZeneca (a biopharmaceutical company), the National Auto Dealers Association, the Property Casualty Insurers Association, the American Bankers Association, and Amgen (biotechnology and pharmaceutical company).

Alexander Strategy Group was one of Washington’s premier lobbying operations before it was shut down in January of 2006 after its ties to DeLay and Abramoff, became known.

Rudy, a former aide to DeLay, worked for Abramoff before joining Alexander Strategy Group. Rudy’s wife also ran a political consulting firm that received $50,000 in exchange for services Rudy performed while working for DeLay. Delay was indicted in 2005 on money-laundering charges. Abramoff pleaded guilty in early January of 2006 to fraud and conspiracy charges.

One of Abramoff’s clients was the Chitimacha Indian Tribe of Louisiana that contributed at least $1,000 to Jindal who since has claimed to have given that money to charity.

Abramoff also received $32 million from the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to help promote and protect their gambling interests. The legal counsel for the Coushattas was one Jimmy Faircloth who once served as Jindal’s executive counsel and who has pulled in well over $1 million in representing Jindal in lost causes in various courts in Louisiana. Faircloth advised the tribe to sink $30 million in a formerly bankrupt Israeli technology firm for whom his brother Brandon was subsequently employed as vice president for sales.

And most recently, courtesy of Manuel Torres of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Lee Zurik of WVUE-TV in New Orleans, we have learned that Jindal has spent more than $152,000 of state campaign funds on trips that bear a suspicious resemblance to federal campaign activity. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/11/louisiana_gov_bobby_jindals_tr.html

State Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said the state’s campaign finance law grants considerable latitude as to how money may be spent but that the law prohibits the expenditure of funds on the office of president or vice president of the U.S. and Congress, presidential electors and party offices.

“When I read these provisions together, the conclusion is that you are a candidate for a state race and the money you raise can be used only for (a state) campaign or for exercise of that office,” Allen told Torres and Zurik.

There are other activities of the Jindal administration which have little to do with campaign contributions or appointments but which are nonetheless are questionable as to their motives:

  • Efforts to enhance State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s retirement by as much as $55,000 per year. Because of our story, that unconstitutional attempt by our governor and his allies in the State Senate and the Department of Public Safety was thwarted.
  • Major pay increases given unclassified employees in the Jindal administration at the same time rank and file state employees have been denied raises for five years.
  • Generous tax incentives, exemptions and other favorable treatment given corporations that are costing the state some $3 billion per year even as repeal of the Stelly plan has cost the state $300 million per year.
  • Widespread abuses by the State Board of Dentistry and the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board.
  • Bruce Greenstein’s initial refusal in testimony before a Senate committee to name the winner of a $200 million contract with the Department of Health and Hospitals and his eventual admission that the contract went to his former employer—testimony that eventually led to his indictment on nine counts of perjury.
  • Attempts by the Department of Education to enter into a data sharing agreement whereby sensitive personal information on students in the state’s public schools would be made available to a company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox News.
  • Funding sources for Jindal’s political organization Believe in Louisiana—sources who have received major concessions and political appointments from the Jindal administration.
  • The real reason for the firing and indictment of former head of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Murphy Painter: Painter’s refusal to crater to demands from the governor’s office that favored New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, a major contributor to Jindal’s political campaigns (Painter was subsequently acquitted of all charges and the state was forced to pay his legal expenses of some $300,000).
  • Efforts by Jindal to force retirees out of the Group Benefits health program with irresponsibly unaffordable increases in co-pays and deductibles, a story that eventually prompted hearings by the House Appropriations Committee.
  • The subsequent revelation that a document cited by DOA and the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) representative as the basis for the health benefits changes in reality said just the opposite of what was testified to.

And while all this goes on unabated in Louisiana, the former governor of Alabama, who did nothing more than accept a contribution to fund a referendum to benefit education, remains in Oakdale, victim of a prosecution with far more questions about the participants and their surreptitious activities than answers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bennett-l-gershman/bribery-cases-_b_1590284.html

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“Judge Free’s actions have harmed the integrity of and respect for the judiciary.”

—Report of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission on 18th Judicial District Court Judge Robin Free, who accepted a free flight on the private jet of a plaintiff attorney who had just won a $1.2 million settlement of a personal injury case presided over by Free. The seriousness of Free’s breach of ethics notwithstanding, the judicial commission recommended only a 30-day suspension.

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Did you ever have one of those what were you thinking moments?

We’re talking about when you do something that in hindsight simply defies all logic. You’ve seen them in stupid criminal emails and on videos.

Whenever we watch the local newscast and see a report of some incredibly stupid criminal action in which the perpetrator had to have known things wouldn’t end well, we find ourselves wishing we just sit across the table from him, just us, and ask him, “What were you thinking? How did you think this turn out?”

Usually, it’s some petty thief or someone from an uneducated background whose rash judgment overrides his ability to think things through to the obvious conclusion of terrible consequences.

Someone like the hapless bank robber in one Baton Rouge-area city several years who slipped a “This is a robbery” note in the drawer at a bank drive-through window—a bullet-proof window, no less. The teller read the note, turned it over and wrote, “I don’t see a gun” and sent the note back to the nervous driver who promptly placed his gun in the drawer and sent it in to the teller. What was he thinking?

But you wouldn’t normally associate such transgressions with a high profile individual like a district judge who took an oath to uphold the law and to protect the citizenry from the lawless, a judge who no doubt pledged to “be tough on crime” when he was running for office. Nor would you think the question would apply to the state Judiciary Commission which meted out a recommendation for a 30-day suspension for the errant judge, a mere slap on the wrist for a serious breach of judicial ethics that might well have deserved a permanent suspension.

Judge Robin Free of West Baton Rouge Parish is guilty of one of the most blatant what were you thinking? flaunting of ethics and he compounded his sin when he attempted to minimize the severity of his actions by claiming he was unfamiliar with the judicial canons governing such behavior.

And it wasn’t even Free’s first offense, which should have provoked the commission’s fury at his arrogance.

Here’s what happened. Free presided over the trial of a class action lawsuit in which a): his mother was a potential plaintiff and b): he accepted a free flight to a south Texas hunting camp—on the private jet of a plaintiff attorney only days after that attorney had won a $1.2 million settlement in Free’s court in another case.

What was he thinking? Most likely that he wouldn’t get caught.

The flight to the Casa Bonita Ranch in Goliad County south of Corpus Christi was made at the suggestion of Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton who regularly appears in matters before Free. Both men represent the 18th Judicial District, which includes West Baton Rouge Parish. Clayton supposedly was interested in purchasing the property but ultimately did not.

But here’s the rub: The ranch is owned by Texas attorney David Rumley who, it turned out, was working with Clayton on the personal injury case and judiciary commission determined the invitation came “at or near the time of settlement negotiations” in the case.

Free described the trip as “just some friends going to look at some property together and boiling crawfish and hanging out,” according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. http://theadvocate.com/news/10518947-123/judiciary-commission-recommends-30-day-suspension

Free, in an incredulous admission, said there were “a lot of things I was not aware of in the canons.”

It’s something of a stretch for someone who has probably told a defendant or two that ignorance of the law is no excuse to attempt to plead ignorance, especially for a man who has been on the bench for 17 years—since 1997—and who has had previous dust-ups with the judiciary commission.

In 1998, only a year after taking office, Free was “cautioned” by the judiciary commission after an earlier hunting lodge relationship that resulted in accusations of a biased decision. And in 2001, Free signed what is known as a deferred recommendation of discipline agreement with the commission following his failure to recuse himself from a case in which he had previously served as the prosecutor of a defendant.

Then in 2005, he again came under criticism and was given a warning by the commission to avoid appointments which might create the appearance of impropriety after he named a political ally ex parte as a temporary liquidator in a case.

In the class action case involving Free’s mother, his attorney, Steven Scheckman, called it a misunderstanding and said his client was a “fall guy” for a mapping error that had gone unnoticed in the class action for two years.

But the special counsel for the judiciary commission said an attorney for Dow Chemical, a defendant in the matter, had informed Free of the conflict in a letter to the judge. Instead of calling a status conference involving all the parties, however, Free instead improperly called the attorney’s law partner to complain—yet another breach of judicial canons.

Scheckman said Free had not known the boundaries in the class action had been changed by a prior judgment to include his mother’s address even though it was Free who signed the judgment, all of which prompted Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill to observe that Scheckman’s protestations of ignorance on the part of his client were “unlikely to wash.”

http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/10544318-123/james-gill-free-ride-in

Called before the Judiciary Commission, Free took a strategy that has become all too familiar whenever any high profile individual, be it an elected official or professional athlete: he publically apologized for his bad judgment.

But a judge should not be making bad judgments. And these contrite admissions, coming as they always do after the sinner is caught, are becoming a little thin and time worn—and void of any real substance.

As Gill pointed out, the opinion put forth by the Judiciary Commission that Free should have known better because of his seniority on the bench is laughable. “The sleaze here is so obvious that no judicial experience whatsoever is required to recognize it,” he wrote.

But Gill did not limit the sleaze factor to Free; he also took the Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission to task, criticizing them for the practice of keeping judicial disciplinary matters secret until the ethics violations become so blatant as to demand public airing.

He said the Office of the Special Council recommended to the Judiciary Commission that Free be suspended for a full year but the commission reduced its recommendation to 30 days, a sentence Gill called “derisory.”

Saying Free might not have been re-elected unopposed in his last run for office had his ethical lapses been known to the public, Gill added that “Litigants have no way of knowing how many more Judge Freerides are out there” and that if Free really did not understand what he had done wrong, he is “too stupid to be a judge.”

We can certainly concur in that evaluation and for our part, we’re still waiting for a politician to apologize for some wrongdoing before he is caught. That would be a public official we could trust.

 

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