Archive for the ‘Legislature, Legislators’ Category

The numbers just don’t add up.

  • $130,000: The annual salary for the Louisiana governor;
  • 48,014: The number of broadcast TV ads for the four major candidates for governor through Nov. 16, 2015;
  • 24,007: The number of minutes of TV ads we were subjected to through Nov. 16 (at an average length of 30 seconds per ad);
  • 400: The total number of hours of TV ads for governor through Nov. 16;
  • 16.67: The number of days it would have taken you to watch every single ad through Nov. 16;
  • $17,333,920: The total cost of the 48,014 TV ads for the four major gubernatorial candidates (No wonder that Baton Rouge TV station fired the reporter who dared ask Vitter about his prostitution scandal; the station stood to lose lucrative ad revenue from the Vitter camp);
  • 13,654: The number ads purchased directly by David Vitter’s campaign (6,827 minutes, 113.8 hours, 4.7 full days of ads;
  • $3,816,660: Total cost of TV ads purchased by Vitter’s campaign;
  • 6,771: Number of ads purchased by Fund for Louisiana’s Future on behalf of Vitter (and make no mistake, while super PACs are prohibited from planning strategy or even consulting with a candidate, they can trash opponents freely and FLF trashed everyone but Vitter—3,385 minutes, 56 hours, 2.4 days);
  • $3,185,640: The cost of TV ads purchased by FLF through Nov. 16;
  • 9,259: Number of ads purchased by John Bel Edwards campaign (4,629 minutes, 77 hours, 3.2 days)
  • $2,675,600: Cost of TV ads purchased by John Bel Edwards;
  • 2,315: Number of TV ads purchased by Gumbo PAC on behalf of Edwards (1,157 minutes, 19.3 hours, .8 days)
  • $1,204,010: Cost of TV ads purchased by Gumbo PAC, the bulk of which was purchased after the Oct. 24 open primary;
  • 4,679: Number of TV ads purchased by Scott Angelle through Oct. 24 (2,340 minutes, 39 hours, 1.6 days)
  • $1,528,340: Cost of TV ads purchased by Scott Angelle;
  • 3,968: Number of TV ads purchased by Jay Dardenne through Oct. 24 (1,984 minutes, 33 hours, 1.4 days)
  • $1,285,380: Total cost of TV ads purchased by Jay Dardenne;
  • 7,368: Total number of TV ads purchased by smaller PACs (3,684 minutes, 61.4 hours, 2.6 days)
  • 0: The number of ads, the minutes, hours and days and the cost of TV ads in which any of the four candidates actually discussed their plans for resolving the multitude of problems facing Louisiana in public education, higher education, health care, prison reform, employment, coastal restoration and preservation, the environment, the economy, the state budget, or infrastructure.

And therein lies the real shame of the 2015 gubernatorial election.

With so much at stake for the state and with more than 16 full days of TV ad time in which to address our problems, not a word was said by any candidate about what he intended to do to turn this state around after eight years of the amateurish experimental governance of one Bobby Jindal that has brought us to the brink of ruin.

I repeat. Not a single word.

Instead, we were treated to a never-ending barrage of:

  • David Vitter is a snake for his tryst(s) with one or more hookers and is not only despised in the U.S. Senate but is largely an ineffective senator;
  • David Vitter betrayed his family 15 years ago but has been forgiven by his wife and has fought valiantly in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Louisiana’s citizens;
  • John Bel Edwards is joined at the hip with President Obama and desires to turn 5,500 hardened Angola convicts loose to prey on our citizenry;
  • John Bell Edwards has an unblemished record of achievement as evidenced by his graduation from West Point and his subsequent leadership role in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne and has fought Bobby Jindal’s disastrous programs for eight years.

As the voters of this state who have to make a decision tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 21), we are tired—tired of the negative campaigning, tired of the distortions of records and outright lies about opposing candidates, tired of the endless succession of robocalls that give us not a live person with whom we can debate issues, but a recording that pitches one candidate’s positives over another’s negatives. (It’s just not the same when we curse and scream our frustrations at a recording.) We deserved better from all the candidates. We got a campaign long on accusations, name-calling and finger-pointing and one woefully short on solutions.

And lest readers think I am directing all of my disdain at the gubernatorial candidates, let me assure you I am not. I have equal contempt for the legislature, PACs and corporate power brokers.

Consider for a moment how approximately $31 million (that’s the total cost of this year’s governor’s race when all media advertising—radio, newspaper, robocalls and mail-outs, along with campaign staff and assorted expenses—are factored in) could have been put to better use. http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/13971699-123/louisiana-governor-race-spending-close

True, $31 million isn’t much when the state is looking at yet another $500 million budgetary shortfall, but every little bit helps. These donors, so concerned about the governor’s race, could, for example, feed a lot of homeless people or purchase quite a few text books for our schools. I’m just sayin’….

Most of that money, of course, is from PACs, the single worst plague ever visited upon a democratic society. PACs, with their unrestricted advertising expenditures, along with large corporate donors who also manage to circumvent the campaign contribution ceilings, remove the small contributors and the average citizen from the representation equation.

And why do they pour money into these campaigns? For benevolence, for the advancement of good, clean, honest government.

You can check that box no. It’s for the same reason they pay millions of dollars to lobbyists.

If you really want to know their motivation, just take a look at the list of state contracts http://wwwprd.doa.louisiana.gov/latrac/contracts/contractSearch.cfm or the impressive list of appointments to state boards and commissions.

Our thanks to the Center for Public Integrity for providing us with the television advertising cost breakdowns for the candidates and the various PACs. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/10/01/18101/2015-state-ad-wars-tracker


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“It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

—State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), commenting on the “deliberative process” exemptions pushed through the legislature in his 2008 “ethics reform” package, as quoted by the Center on Public Integrity’s 2015 state rankings.

“Jindal’s ‘gold standard’ is riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

—The Center for Public Integrity, criticizing Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” of ethics, in its 2015 state rankings report.


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While Bobby Jindal is touting all the wonderful innovations, budget cuts, employee reductions, etc., that he has initiated in Louisiana, The Center for Public Integrity has a few items he may wish to soft peddle as he goes about trying to convince Iowans that he’s really serious about running for President and not the joke we in Louisiana know him to be.

The center has just released its 2015 integrity grades for each state and it isn’t very pretty for Louisiana.

In fact, the state received a flat-out grade of F and ranked 41st out of the 50 states overall with a composite score of 59 out of a possible 100. Only seven states had lower composite scores—Pennsylvania and Oregon (58), Nevada (57), Delaware and South Dakota (56), and Michigan and Wyoming (51).

Mississippi (61) and Alabama (67), normally found competing for Louisiana on lists of all things bad, were well ahead of Louisiana with rankings of 33rd and 7th, respectively. Alaska had the highest score at 71, good enough for a C. Michigan was the worst with its 51.

Louisiana wasn’t alone in getting a failing grade of course; there were 10 others but in the other states we can only assume the governors are at least attempting to address their problems. Jindal isn’t. He capitulated long ago as he set out on his quest for the brass ring that continues—and will continue—to elude him. Though he has only two months to go in office, he in reality abandoned us three years and 10 months ago—right after he was inaugurated for his second term. Truth be told, he has been at best a distracted administrator (I still can’t bring myself to call him a governor) for his full eight years and at worst, guilty of malfeasance in his dereliction of duty.

Harsh words, to be sure, but then his record screams out his shortcomings (loud enough to be heard in Iowa, one would think) and his lack of a basic understanding of running a lemonade stand, much less a state.

States were graded on 13 criteria by the Center for Public Integrity:

  • Public Access to Information—F
  • Political Financing—D
  • Electoral Oversight—D+
  • Executive Accountability—F
  • Legislative Accountability—F
  • Judicial Accountability—F
  • State Budget Processes—D+
  • State Civil Service Management—F
  • Procurement—D+
  • Internal Auditing—C+
  • Lobbying Disclosure—D
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies—F
  • State Pension Fund Management—F


The scores given each of these, and their national ranking were even more revealing.

Public Access to Information, for example scored a dismal 30, ranking 46th in the country.

In the scoring for Internal Auditing, on the other hand, the state’s numerical score was 79, but was good enough for only a ranking of 32nd.

Likewise, the grading for Procurement (purchase of goods and contracts) had a numeric score of 69, good enough to rank the state 25th. But numeric score of 64 for Lobbying Disclosure while rating only a D, was still good enough to nudge the state into the upper half of the rankings at 24th.

One of the biggest areas of concern would have to be the state’s numeric grade of only 40 for Judicial Accountability, plunging the state to next to last at 49th. (This is an area that has flown under the radar but one the legislature and next governor should address.)

The lowest numeric score was 30 for Public Access to Information, fifth from the bottom at 46th. LouisianaVoice can certainly attest to the difficulty in obtaining public records, having found it necessary to file lawsuit against the state on three occasions in order to obtain what were clearly public records. Even after winning two of the three lawsuits, we still experience intolerable foot-dragging as agencies attempt to stall in the hopes we will give up.

We will not. If anything, the stalling only strengthens our resolve to fight for the public’s right to know.

To compare Louisiana to other states in each of the 13 criteria, go here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity

In the final days of the 2015 legislative session the state Senate approved a bill that removed the exemptions pushed through by Jindal in his first month in office in 2008 which kept most government records from disclosure. State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) was quoted in the report as saying, “It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

Jindal called his changes his “gold standard,” but the report said it is “riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

That looked like a promising reversal to the secrecy of the Jindal administration but then the legislature agreed to postpone implementation of the new law that abolished the abused “deliberative process” exception until after Jindal leaves office next January.

Jindal also managed to gut the state’s ethics laws early in his first year. Enforcement of ethics violations was removed from the State Ethics Board and transferred to judges selected by a Jindal appointee. That prompted long-time political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport to say that while the state’s ethics laws looked good on the surface, there was “no effective enforcement and that breeds more than just a system of corruption, but an acceptance of those practices,” the center’s report said.

The center reported that it is not Louisiana’s ethics laws that produced such a poor grade, but the day-to-day interpretations of the laws by various departmental legal advisors.

Since the center’s first survey of public integrity on a state-by-state basis, no fewer than 12 states have had legislators or cabinet-level officials charged, convicted or resign over ethics-related issues, the report said.

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As predicted, David Jitter Vindal Vitter has unleashed his first attack lie ad against State Rep. John Bel Edwards in their runoff campaign for governor.

Unlike the distortions and lies perpetrated against fellow Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle leading up to last Saturday’s primary election, this ad was paid for the Vitter campaign and not his Washington, D.C.-based super PAC Funds for Louisiana’s Future (FLF).

Nevertheless, lies are lies and Vitter has shown himself to be not only shameless, but a damned cowardly liar as well.

Vitter’s newest ad has all the warmth and charm of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.

For a man with the sordid past of David Vitter, it seems a bit ironic that he would ever approve an ad attacking the character and integrity of another candidate. But hey, that’s Vitter who is rumored to have once asked Rosie O’Donnell if she had ever been mistaken for a man only to have her reply, “No, have you?” (How’s that for an attack ad?)

And events of last Friday (the arrest of his “investigator,” and the auto accident where he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his campaign finance director Courtney Guastella Callihan whose home address coincidentally just happens to be the Louisiana address of FLF (although the Secretary of State’s corporate records contain no listing for FLF).

The Federal Election Commission has no authority over super PACs in state elections. Even if it did, the board is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats and never the twain shall meet. Any oversight is left to state ethics commissions but everyone knows what Bobby Jindal did to the Louisiana Ethics Commission back in 2008, so there’s no help there.

But just in case you might be wondering, a reader has researched the criteria for coordinated communications and independent expenditures:

  • In order to satisfy the payment prong, the communication need only be paid for, in whole or in part, by someone other than a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, a political party committee or an agent of the above.
  • Content – names the candidate.
  • Conduct – If the person paying for the communication employs a common vendor to create, produce or distribute the communication (Emphasis ours).

Guas­tella has been paid $55,476 by Vit­ter’s Sen­ate com­mit­tee since the be­gin­ning of 2013 and $97,273 by the su­per PAC.

FLF paid for media that names the candidate. She is a vendor common to both Vitter and FLF as evidenced by the payments listed above and as campaign finance director and she was responsible for creating communications for the Vitter campaign.

As for that “Willie Horton” ad, one of the things claimed by Vitter was that Edwards advocates releasing 5,500 hardened criminals from prison and that he “voted for taxpayer-funded pensions for convicts.” The ad cited HB 224 as its source without providing a year for the bill.

Well, we went into the Legislature’s web page and called up House Bill 224 for 2015. That bill, it turns out, was filed by Rep. Frank Hoffman and called for the levy of an additional tax on cigarettes and never made it out of committee.

So, we moved on to 2014. That bill called for a prohibition against installers of satellite television from installing satellites on leased premises. Filed by Rep. Thomas Carmody, it was withdrawn before any action could be considered.

Rep. Paul Hollis filed HB 224 in 2013 and provided for the removal of a school bus driver for violations of certain DWI offenses. That bill passed and was signed into law by Jindal.

On to 2012. HB 224 of that year was filed by Rep. James Armes and dealt with enforcement of child support. It, too, was passed and signed into law.

Act 224 of 2011by Rep. Rick Nowlin also passed and was signed into law by Jindal. But it only increased court costs in criminal cases in the 10th Judicial District.

Only after we went all the way back to 2010 did we find the HB 224 cited by the ad. And no, the bill did not provide for “taxpayer-funded pensions for convicts.” Instead, the bill, authored by Rep. Kevin Pearson, would have required “suspension of public retirement benefits during incarceration.”

As for Edwards’s plan to release prisoners upon the helpless citizens of Louisiana, he did no such thing. Instead, he suggested a comprehensive plan to address Louisiana’s ranking as the number one state in the nation when it comes to per capita incarceration. (The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world so Louisiana, with the highest rate in the U.S., necessarily has the highest incarceration rate in the world.)

And there you have a clear illustration of how the meanings of words can be twisted and distorted in a political campaign. And yes, John Bel Edwards did vote against the bill.

So did 55 other House members as the bill failed, 56-42, with five members absent.

If 56 members voted against the bill, there must have been a reason.

There was.

A public employee pays into the retirement system his entire career and that money is earned. If the employee commits a crime within the scope of his employment, there might be an argument to be made for revoking the employee’s pension.

But suppose the employee is convicted of a crime that has nothing to do with his job? Let’s say, for example, he loses control of his vehicle and kills an innocent bystander and is convicted of negligent homicide. And it turns out he was drunk. Certainly, it would not make the employee a saint but neither should it negate his state retirement that he earned through his years of service. That’s constitutionally protected.

HB 224 of 2010 had nothing to do with providing “taxpayer-funded pensions for convicts.” It was about a blanket denial of earned retirement benefits. There’s a huge difference and that’s why John Bel Edwards and 55 other House members correctly voted to kill the bill. The real shame was that it even made it out of committee. Both the claim that Edwards wants to free hardened convicts and that he wants to provide pensions for pensions for convicts are pitifully pathetic attempts to tie Edwards to President Obama because that’s all the arrows Vitter has in his quiver.

Vitter can only resort to blatant lies to bolster his chances.

But then he has never been above lying and character assassination.

He has no integrity and we’ve already had eight years of that.

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency” (U.S. Army Chief Counsel Joseph Nye, on June 8, 1954, to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings, but which could well apply today to David Vitter)

Here’s the ad. You watch it and decide for yourself if you really want someone like David Vitter operating by his own depraved code of ethics for the next four years.


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By the time the dust from the gubernatorial primary election had settled late Saturday night, there were several conclusions that can be drawn from the results, all of which can be traced back to one overriding fact:

David Vitter is in trouble. And it shows.

Moreover, based on what transpired in the campaign leading up to Saturday’s voting, we can reasonably predict that the next four weeks before the Nov. 21 General Election will see more of the same attack ads by David Vitter, this time aimed at State Rep. John Bel Edwards.

Edwards entered the race with little name recognition outside the Florida parishes of Louisiana. He was pitted against three Republican incumbents: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, popular Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and the state’s senior U.S. Senator David Vitter who had—and still has—more money than his three opponents combined, thanks to a Super PAC formed on his behalf. That Super PAC, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, ironically is headquartered not in Louisiana, but in Washington, D.C.

But Vitter had that enormous negative—his reputation as a whoremonger who reportedly cavorted with prostitutes in Washington and New Orleans.

But despite the lack of name recognition and a campaign war chest that nowhere approached that of Vitter, Edwards, a state representative from Tangipahoa Parish, still managed to pull in 40 percent of the vote to only 23 percent for Vitter.

Granted, Edwards was the only major Democratic candidate in the primary but still, fully 77 percent of those who voted preferred someone other than Vitter as our next governor.

Angelle received 19 percent of the vote while Dardenne got 15 percent.

Vitter led or won outright in 10 parishes while Angelle won a majority or plurality in nine. Edwards won or led in the remaining 45.

That leaves Edwards needing only another 11 percent from Angelle’s and Dardenne’s 34 percent and the 3 percent that went to three other minor candidates to put him over the top while Vitter needs to pick up 28 percent.

There’s no love lost between Vitter and his two Republican opponents.

In fact, on Saturday, the campaigns of both Dardenne and Angelle campaigns sent out emails to supporters calling attention to the arrest of a private investigator working on behalf of the Vitter campaign. http://www.jaydardenne.com/vitter-staffer-arrested/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sp&utm_campaign=20151024_23829285_Jay%20Dardennne&utm_content=body_txt_directlink&action=email_click&ha1=

Vitter’s campaign has paid J.W. Bearden & Associates of Dallas $135,000 since August of 2014 and on Friday, an employee of the firm, Robert Frenzel of Dallas, was arrested for secretly recording Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, a Dardenne supporter, and State Sen. Danny Martiny of Metairie.

Bearden acknowledged that Frenzel worked for the firm but Vitter campaign spokesman Luke Bolar said the intent was to conduct surveillance on an Edwards supporter and not Normand. Oh, well, that’s different.

When arrested, Frenzel was found to have in his possession a dossier on New Orleans blogger Jason Brad Berry who recently has been publishing a series of interviews with prostitutes who claim to have had sexual relations with Vitter, including one who says Vitter fathered a child by her in 2000.

The email from Dardenne’s campaign said of Frenzel’s arrest, “I hope that you will share this with every one of your family and friends. We’re no strangers to political corruption, but usually these crooked politicians wait until after they get elected to betray our trust. We now know the real David Vitter.” Dardenne added, “He’s cheated, he’s lied and now he’s been caught spying.”

Likewise, Angelle said, “A man who has been unfaithful to his wife and (who has) been caught spying on Louisiana citizens does not have the moral character to be governor of our great state.” Angelle, like Dardenne, did not endorse anyone in the runoff.

So, why is it that two Republicans who failed to make the runoff have thus far refused to endorse fellow Republican Vitter?

For that, Vitter has no one but Vitter to blame. His onslaught of negative ads—he had more than twice as many TV ads as Angelle, his nearest competitor—had to leave a sour taste in Angelle’s and Dardenne’s mouths. Vitter relentlessly attacked the records and characters of both men which could force each of them to simply sit on the sidelines with no indication to supporters on whom to support.

Vitter’s ads against the two were particularly vitriolic in their content and now that he has disposed of them, he will no doubt turn his guns on his Democratic opponent. But Edwards made it clear on Saturday night that he was prepared.

“This is going to be a real tough runoff to watch unfold on TV,” he told supporters. A West Point graduate, Edwards referenced the West Point Honor Code which says, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” He then said to a chorus of cheers, “David Vitter wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point. He’s desperate and all he offers are lies.”

Edwards predicted that Vitter would do everything possible to link him to President Obama and Vitter didn’t let him down. In his own address to supporters following Angelle’s concession, Vitter said, “Voting for John Bel Edwards would be like voting for Barack Obama to be governor of Louisiana.”

Edwards, calling Vitter “Jindal on steroids,” noted that all four candidates supported “in some form or other,” expansion of Medicaid for Louisiana so that more low-income families can have health care.

Saying that he had avoided negative ads, Edwards then fired a shot across Vitter’s bow when he said, “If David Vitter wants to talk about who we associate with, I’m more than ready to do that.”

From hookers to private investigators illegally intercepting others’ communications, Vitter’s obnoxious behavior goes back at least to 1993 when then-State Rep. Vitter physically assaulted a woman who questioned his vote against killing a bill that would protected gays and lesbians from employment discrimination. http://cenlamar.com/2015/03/24/in-1993-david-vitter-physically-assaulted-woman-accusing-him-of-supporting-gay-rights/

Not only does Vitter have The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a Super PAC, but Baton Rouge lobbyist and attorney Jimmy Burland, writing on Vitter’s behalf, sent an email last week to several hundred state lobbyists in which he solicited individual $5,000 contributions from each in a series of Vitter meet-and-greet events which began today (Sunday, Oct. 25). He said in his email that the Vitter campaign needed to raise $3 million.

It didn’t take long to get a reaction to that brazen pay-to-play proposal. The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) on Oct. 23, two days after LouisianaVoice published news of the email solicitation, announced that it had severed all ties with the Burland and Associates lobbying and political affairs group, effective immediately.

“The parting of ways comes in light of a recent letter distributed by the firm’s owner, James Burland, soliciting contributions for the David Vitter campaign. LAE President and LAE-FCPE Chair Debbie Meaux said the move is troubling, as it is a blatant contradiction of the whole foundation of the firm’s business focus,” LAE said in a news release.

So now it comes down to choosing between a graduate of West Point and platoon leader of the Army’s 82nd Airborne who fought Bobby Jindal for eight years or a man who spies on opponents, cheats on his wife, physically attacks women who question him, avoids answering questions about his records, avoids debates or appearing at venues at which he does not have pre-screened questions and who has any reporter who questions him fired.

That’s the choice, folks. Forget about the Democrat and Republican labels and for once, let’s vote for leaders, for character, for trustworthiness. For all you people out there who puff up your chests and proclaim that you “don’t vote for the party but for the best candidate,” now is the time to put up or shut up.

If Vitter wins this election, LouisianaVoice will be watching his every move.

If Edwards wins and the Republican legislature attempts to block his programs which we believe would be best for the state, we will track campaign contributions, contracts and legislative votes that benefit large donors like banks, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms, nursing homes and insurance companies like never before. Votes on equal pay for women, anti-discrimination, higher education and health care will be scrutinized and chronicled for all to see.

If an Edwards administration becomes a smaller version of Congress where Republicans use parliamentary moves to block good legislation or if they try to tack on amendments like the infamous Mike Edmonson retirement enhancement amendment, we will by-God subject you to more exposure than you ever dreamed possible.

You are on notice.

One more thing: The Fund for Louisiana’s Future and all other out-of-state PACs need to stay the hell out of Louisiana politics. Forever. We don’t need outside money telling us how we should vote. We’ve seen what big money does to politics: it amplifies the voices of the special interests while muting our own.

And we don’t like that.

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