Archive for the ‘Lobbyist’ Category

The fallout from the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association’s (LTSA) endorsement of John Bel Edwards for governor continues with a succession of late-breaking developments, LouisianaVoice has learned.

An undetermined number of troopers from Troop I have reportedly demanded the resignation of LTSA president Jay O’Quinn and David Young, the organization’s executive director, over the endorsement.

Troop I, headquartered in Lafayette, encompasses 5,686 square miles and 8,586 highway miles in eight parishes: Lafayette, Evangeline, St. Landry, Acadia, St. Martin, Vermilion, Iberia and St. Mary.

“It’s not that I don’t support Edwards, because I do,” said one state trooper following last week’s endorsement shortly before the general election that pitted Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter against Democrat State Rep. John Bel Edwards. “I’ve never seen the state police turned into such a political machine,” he added.

As evidence of the LSTA’s morphing into a “political machine,” LouisianaVoice has obtained an email from O’Quinn to select state troopers in which he asked the membership to vote on a proposal that the LSTA write a letter to Edwards requesting that State Police Commander Mike Edmonson be retained in the new administration.

Such a letter would clearly fall under the description of lobbying, something state civil service employees are strictly forbidden from doing.

Edwards easily defeated Vitter by a 56-44 percentage point vote and will be inaugurated governor on Jan. 11.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association is also supporting Edmonson’s reappointment as head of state police.

O’Quinn only recently was elevated to the LSTA presidency after past president Frank Besson was promoted to captain’s rank. No one with a rank above lieutenant may serve as president of the association.

As executive director of the organization, Young essentially serves a paid lobbyist for state police, a perk not afforded state civil service employees. He called the endorsement of Edwards “rare” for the organization, but others are calling it a precedent.

A separate source said that Young had nothing to do with the email and in fact was opposed to and advised against the earlier endorsement of Edwards.

And while state police are not civil service employees in the strictest sense of the term, there is a well-defined list of activities in which they are prohibited from participating. These include:

  • Soliciting votes or contributions for any political candidate, organization or cause.
  • Making political contributions.
  • Making a public political statement or address.
  • Wearing a campaign badge, ribbon, or insignia.
  • Distributing political campaign cards, posters or buttons.
  • Attending a social function which is designed as a fund raiser where a contribution or ticket is required, even if a ticket is offered to the employee free of charge.
  • Becoming a candidate for office, serving as a member of any political committee or taking part in the management of a political party or organization.
  • Publicly displaying political literature, placards, bumper stickers or signs in or on any personal property (except by non-civil service employed spouse on community property).
  • Actively participating in an effort to recall from office an elected official (other than by signing a recall petition).
  • Becoming a candidate for any state, parish, municipal or other political office (other than position of classified employee serving on state civil service commission).


O’Quinn, in his email to the membership, wrote:

As we move forward, I would like your input on a potential issue. We have a board meeting next week, and this topic may be on the table since it has been discussed before. Please reply via email and let me know how you vote. Also, please spread the word to other affiliate members so they can vote if they choose. My email is jayoquinn@bellsouth.net. I will take votes until next Sunday, December 6. I will then let you know the results and vote accordingly if this issue arises.

Here is the question. Are you in favor or opposed to the LSTA writing a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards asking Governor Edwards to retain Colonel Edmonson in his current position? Put another way for clarification: Do you want the LSTA to write a letter to the Governor asking that we retain our current Colonel?

I prefer email because it’s easier to keep track, but I won’t disclose how any single individual voted, nor are you required to vote at all. Please respond. Thanks.



“I am hearing that 85 percent of the troopers do not want Edmonson to stay,” our source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “I am also hearing (that) Edmonson asked for the LSTA to send the letter,” he added. (Edmonson recently was reported to have said those who speak to or comment on LouisianaVoice anonymously were “cowards,” but with several examples of reprisals already being reported, anonymity is understandable.)

The second source said the email, which was sent mostly to members of Troop L in Mandeville, was not composed by O’Quinn but that it originated with Edmonson and came down through the chain of command to be sent out over his name.

Edmonson, for his part, denied that he had anything to do with the LSTA endorsement of Edwards or that he initiated the effort to send the letter. He also said he had never called anyone a coward. “It’s no secret that I would like another four years at my job,” he said, “but I would never ask someone to write a letter like that or to do anything on my behalf. This has to be the governor’s decision and I would never attempt to influence him in such a way.”

“As for O’Quinn saying he won’t disclose how anyone votes, that’s a joke and it’s precisely the reason that very few troopers will even respond,” the first source said. “They know full well if they vote ‘no,’ it will come back to bite them.

“I hope Edwards won’t buckle to pressure in his decision on a state police commander,” he added. “Politics does not need to be a consideration in this process and this solicitation of a vote to send the proposed letter is blatant politics at its very worst.”


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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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Interspersed in all the venomous political rhetoric in the gubernatorial campaign that is now moving toward its merciful final week are some real issues that affect our lives and which should warrant closer inspection by the voting public.

Unfortunately, given the public’s taste for voyeurism and salacious gossip, that probably won’t happen. Besides, time is short and the sordid half-truths, distortions and details of political black ops are just heating up. There just isn’t time for the things that matter.

But at least one group is taking U.S. Sen. David Vitter to task for a letter he wrote last April to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy.

In that otherwise routine five-page letter, dated April 16, 2015, Vitter addressed a number of issues concerning levees, flood control, storm surge protection, past due payments from the Corps to the State of Louisiana for freshwater diversion projects, a request to complete the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, deauthorization of the West Pearl River Navigation Project, a request for increased negotiation efforts to approve the Lower Mississippi River Management proposal, and bank stabilization along the Ouachita River in north Louisiana.

Buried at the bottom of page three of the letter was item number 7: Helis Oil and Gas Permit MVN (Mississippi Valley New Orleans)-2013-02952-ETT.

Issue: “The aforementioned permit application is currently awaiting approval within MVN, but has stalled due to several pending lawsuits,” Vitter’s letter said. “The State of Louisiana, Department of Environmental Quality issued the water quality certification (WQC 140328-02) on March 19, 2015. Issuance of the 404 permit is the last remaining action needed to begin construction of the test well.”

Request: “Immediately approve and issue the 404 permit.”


In his April 16 letter, Vitter did what he does best: intimidate with not-so-subtle threats.

“As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with leadership transitions and promotions in the coming months, I’d like to take this opportunity to ensure that you—as the two primary Corps leaders—continue strengthening your commitment to improve communication and issue resolution with non-Federal stakeholders who depend on the Corps to provide necessary flood protection, reliable navigation, and restored ecosystems,” he wrote.

“…However, it’s critical that Corps leadership understand there remain several significant Louisiana issues that need to be addressed and resolved in an expeditious manner. In light of those issues, I can’t support the transition or promotion of new leadership until I know that a constructive approach will be taken to address and resolve these serious problems.”

As if on cue, the Corps on June 8 approved the permit application by Helis Oil & Gas Co. http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/06/wetlands_permit_approved_by_fr.html

Vanishing Earth, a new political blog that concentrates on environmental issues, obtained the Vitter letter to the Corps that contained Vitter’s heavy-handed approach to resolving issues, particularly the approval of the Helis permit.

That permit, since approved, will allow Helis to drill an exploratory well for the purpose of oil drilling and controversial hydraulic fracking in St. Tammany Parish. Parish residents have resisted fracking in St. Tammany and have even filed a lawsuit in district court to stop the practice there because of legitimate concerns about air and water pollution, damage to the aquifer that supplies drinking water, and the industrialization of the parish.

The irony is that St. Tammany is considered a strongly Republican parish and represents one of Vitters’ strongest areas of support.

But, as is always the case in politics, money speaks much louder than loyalty to constituents and Helis has seen to it that Vitter’s campaigns, both federal and more recently, state, are remembered fondly.

On May 8, less than a month after Vitter wrote his letter to the Corps, Helis made a $5,000 contribution to Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign. Additionally, on that same date, Helis CEO David Kerstein made an identical maximum allowable contribution of $5,000. Then, on Nov. 6 of this year, less than two weeks after the first primary, Helis chipped in an additional $5,000. The company also contributed $15,000 in three separate contributions to lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser.



Moreover, Kerstein contributed an additional $7,500 to Vitter’s U.S. House and Senate campaigns from 2000 to 2008, according to Federal Election Commission records. Corporations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaign. http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/qind/


Helis apparently is not an equal opportunity donor; no contributions could be found by the company or its CEO to Democrats John Bel Edwards or Nungesser’s opponent Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden.

What David Vitter is essentially saying in his letter to Secretary Darcy and Lieutenant General Bostick is that if they do not perform certain acts, issue the permit, then he will punish them by taking away something of personal value to them which, in this case, are the “transitions and promotions,” wrote Vanishing Earth publisher Jonathan Henderson. “In other words, he blackmailed them.” http://vanishingearth.org/2015/11/05/senator-vitter-corruption-reaches-st-tammany-parish-fracking-fight/

Henderson is encouraging his readers to call on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics “to immediately investigate Senator David Bruce Vitter.”

Additionally, one source said some residents of St. Tammany were considering filing a complaint with the State Board of Ethics. LouisianaVoice inquired of the state board whether or not such a complaint had been filed. This was the response we received:

In response to your public records request of Nov. 12th, please be advised that all complaints and documents prepared or obtained in connection with an investigation are deemed confidential and privileged pursuant to R.S. 42:1141.4 K&L which also provides that it is a misdemeanor for any person, including the Board’s staff, to make any public statement or give out any information concerning any confidential matter.

LouisianaVoice has begun an investigation into fracking operations in Lincoln Parish as well. Residents there are concerned about the drain on the Sparta Aquifer which supplies drinking water to several north Louisiana parishes. We will bring you more details on those operations as we receive them.

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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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“No former elected official, including a legislator, no former member of a board or commission, nor agency head for two years shall assist another person for compensation in connection with a transaction, or render service on a contractual basis for or be employed/ appointed to any position involving the agency by which he or she was formerly employed or in which he/she formerly held office.” (LA Rev Stat § 42:1121)

“…Kristy Nichols is leaving the public sector to become Ochsner Health System’s vice president of government and corporate affairs, the Jindal administration announced today.” (Baton Rouge Business Report, Sept. 15, 2015)

So Nichols will be going to work for Ochsner as a lobbyist. And while state law precludes her lobbying the legislative or executive branches for two years, there appears to be no prohibition to her lobbying local governments (parishes and municipalities) on the part of Ochsner.

Kristy, anticipating the end of her boss’s rocky tenure in January, found her own golden parachute at Ochsner. We don’t know her salary at Ochsner, but we’re guessing it’ll be six figures. Taken at face value, that would normally be the end of the story.

But with this gang, there’s always more than meets the eye. And thanks to our friend C.B. Forgotston who helped us connect the dots, we’re able to shed a little more light into how she parlayed three years of repeated budget crises into such a high-profile private sector job.

Remember the great state hospital privatization fiasco and the contract with 50 blank pages? http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130602/INFO/306029998

The contract obligated the state to long-term spending obligations that will extend decades beyond the Jindal years. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to approve the deal. Instead, let’s explore the Nichols-Ochsner connection.

It was two years ago that the LSU Board of Supervisors signed off on that contract to hand over operation of state-owned hospitals in Lake Charles, Houma, Shreveport and Monroe. The blank pages were supposed to have contained lease terms. Instead, the LSU board left those minor details to the Jindal administration (read: Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols).

Eventually details about the contracts emerged, including that of the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. And, thanks to the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council, that is where we’re able to bring the picture into focus.

Leonard Chabert Medical Center was opened in 1978 as a 96-bed facility with 802 employees but by the time it was privatized, it was down to 63 beds.

In 2008, a hospital-based accredited Internal Medicine residency program was begun. In 2011, the hospital’s revenue was 47 percent uncompensated care for the uninsured, 29.5 percent Medicaid, 13 percent Medicare, 5.5 percent state general fund and 6 percent interagency transfer from other departments with only 1 percent being self-generated.

When the Jindal administration moved to unload state hospitals, Chabert was partnered with Southern Regional Medical Corp., a nonprofit entity whose only member is Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC).

TGMC was slated to manage Chabert with assistance with a company affiliated with (drum roll)…..Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest private not-for-profit health system with eight hospitals and 40 health centers statewide.

So what were the terms of the agreement? Five years with an automatic renewal after the first year in one-year increments to create a rolling five-year term.

Though Southern Regional is not required to pay rent under terms of the agreement, the Terrebonne Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 is required to make annual intergovernmental transfers of $17.6 million to the Medicaid program for Southern Regional and its affiliates. Here are the TERMS OF THE OCHSNER DEAL AT LEONARD CHABERT MEDICAL CENTER

Here’s the kicker: the cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) calls for supplemental payments of $31 million to Ochsner. It’s no wonder the Houma Daily Courier described the deal as “a valuable asset to Ochsner’s network of hospitals” and that the deal “expands Ochsner’s business profile.”

Between 2009 and 2013, Ochsner’s revenue doubled from $900 million to $1.8 billion and the deal only means more revenue for Ochsner, the Daily Courier said. http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140325/articles/140329692?p=3&tc=pg

We’re certain it’s just coincidence that the LSU Board signed off on a blank contract that the Jindal administration would fill in after the fact.

And it’s just by chance that Kristy Nichols, as Commissioner of Administration, was responsible for that task.

And of course it was just happenstance that Ochsner received that $31 million payment and a mere two years later, just as her reign at DOA was ending, saw the need to bring Kristy aboard as vice president of government and corporate affairs.

So there you have it. All you have to do is follow the money.

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