Archive for the ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Category

Never let it be said that Piyush Jindal doesn’t remember his friends. As long as the word “friends” is synonymous with the word “cash.”

Of the seven new appointments and one re-appointment to the University of Louisiana System board, six of those combined to contribute nearly $147,000 to Jindal political campaigns from 2003 through 2011, according to state campaign finance records.

The terms of seven of the 16 member board expired on Dec. 31. The eighth position was vacated when attorney Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal’s former executive counsel, resigned after two years on the board and was replaced by his wife, Kelly Faircloth, a chiropractor.

Faircloth, while serving on the board, recently was contracted by Jindal to represent the State Department of Education in a pair of lawsuits challenging the state voucher system and the teacher tenure revisions, both enacted last year by the state legislature as part of Jindal’s education reform package.

Faircloth contributed $14,000 and his former Alexandria law firm contributed an additional $9,000 to Jindal campaigns in 2003, 2006 and 2010. Of that total, Faircloth and his firm each contributed $5,000 to Jindal on the same date in December of 2006.

Only one of three re-appointees, Jimmie “Beau” Martin, Jr. of Cut Off, contributed to Jindal. Martin, family members and three family-owned businesses combined to contribute $34,278.30, records show.

Jimmy Long, Sr. of Natchitoches and Winfred Sibille of Sunset were also re-appointed to new six-year terms but neither was found to have contributed to Jindal.

The other four new appointees and their contributions include:

Gary Solomon of New Orleans, chairman of Crescent Bank and Trust (replacing Renee Lapeyrolerie): $35,000 from Solomon and family members in 2003, 2007 and 2008 and another $7,199 from Crescent Bank in 2007 and 2009;

Mark Romero of New Iberia, executive vice president of Brown & Brown Insurance (replacing Paul Aucoin of Morgan City): $1,000 from Romero in 2008 and $9,000 by his insurance firm in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011;

Robert Shreve of Baton Rouge, CEO of Gulf South Business Systems and Consultants (replacing Russell Mosely of Baton Rouge): $11,000 in 2007 and 2009 and $1,000 by his firm in 2011;

John Condos of Lake Charles (replacing Louis Lambert): $20,500 by Condos and his wife.

No one expects any governor to appoint political opponents to state boards and commissions but some elected officials might choose to appoint small-time contributors; appointment considerations with this governor, however, just don’t work that way.

Instead, Piyush has displayed a disturbing propensity to favor the big-dollar contributors in making his appointments and the same old names keep popping up, indicating that his solid core support base may be a smaller fraternity than one might assume.

It’s either that or he simply chooses to bestow appointments on only his biggest contributors and ignore the rest.

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Things are not always as they seem.

Take those flag-waving, gun-loving, pro-traditional marriage, pro-life, pro-death penalty TV ads that helped propel one Jefferson Davis Hughes into the Dec. 8 runoff for the 5th District Louisiana State Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retirement of Chief Justice Kitty Kimball.

To see and hear those ads, one could reasonably come to the conclusion that Hughes is the epitome of American conservative values and that he personally was responsible for the patriotic revolution that freed the colonies from the British Crown.

One of the distasteful ads opens with the portentous voiceover saying in an appropriately ominous tone, “President Obama would never appoint Jeff Hughes to the Louisiana Supreme Court” as if that fact alone qualified him for the office—never mind the fact that Obama appoints none of the State Supreme Court justices.

That stunning opening statement is followed by the pronouncement, complete with all the patriotic fervor the unseen voice can muster that Hughes is pro-gun, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage. And while the ad doesn’t say so, Hughes announced at a recent forum held by the Baton Rouge League of Women Voters that he also supports the death penalty.

Thanks in large part to those slick, misty-eyed, lump-in-the-throat tributes to all that is good and holy, Hughes, with the obligatory “R” behind his name, will face Democrat Circuit Judge John Michael Guidry in next month’s runoff election.

Guidry, who chose to rely on a tactic unheard of in today’s age of electronic media and expensive political consultants/pollsters—public forums and face-to-face campaigning—had no TV ads and yet still managed to finish first in the field of eight candidates with 93,119 votes (27 percent) to 71,911 (21 percent) for Hughes.

The Hughes ads led to the question of propriety on his part because, as Baton Rouge Advocate writer Bill Lodge correctly pointed out, part of Canon 7 of the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct stipulates that neither a judge nor a judicial candidate shall make “any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a mater pending in any Louisiana state court.”

And while gay marriage and gun bans have not yet made it into the Louisiana legal system, there is nothing to say they won’t. Abortion and the death penalty, however, certainly have been raised in the state’s court system.

The question then becomes, did Hughes cross the line in expressing his personal beliefs and prejudices when a judge—at any level, from city court to State Supreme Court—is charged with enforcing the law in total disregard of his own political philosophy?

In our opinion, he stepped far over that line. We feel it is entirely inappropriate for a judge to campaign like a typical political candidate—because he is not. Judges are held, necessarily, to a much higher standard—and they should be. Politicians by their nature are expected to pander to the electorate; judges, on the other hand, are supposed to be fair and impartial in administering the laws—with heavy emphasis on fair and impartial. To express a political stand so charged with controversy and legal interpretation during a campaign taints the entire judiciary.

Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a typical 5-4 split, has ruled otherwise. The Minnesota Supreme Court’s canon of judicial conduct likewise prohibited judicial candidates from advancing their views during campaigns for office but the nation’s high court said that violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

But remember, too, that the U.S. Supreme Court also gave us the Citizens United decision that says corporations are people and are thus free to make unlimited and unreported campaign contributions to secretive super PACs on behalf of favored political candidates.

The Citizens United decision only served to intensify the growing tsunami of secretive campaign contributions funneled through political action committees so we, the citizenry, have no idea who the financial power brokers are behind the candidate(s) seeking our votes.

Campaign finance has evolved into such insanity that when we make a paltry $100 contribution to our favored candidate’s campaign, we may eventually find ourselves pitted against the interests of a corporation that plowed $100,000 into that same candidate’ campaign through some super PAC. When that issue—us against say, banks or credit card companies or environmental polluters—comes to a committee or floor vote, which way do you think our “favored candidate” will vote?

All this brings us back to those cheesy ads that could just be a smokescreen to conceal more sinister underlying issues.

Hughes received only about $44,000 in campaign contributions and $10,200 of that was money he transferred from funds remaining from a prior campaign. He also loaned his campaign $250,000 but even that was not nearly enough to cover the glut of television spots and the widespread mail-outs.

So who paid for that advertising?

One report said that the Citizens for Clean Water and Land http://www.cleanwaterandland.com/ ponied up the money.

It’s an innocuous sounding name and seems to express a goal to which we all aspire but even such noble-appearing endeavors as clean water and land can have underpinnings of greed and objectives of enrichment through political proximity.

Citizens for Clean Water and Land was established by John Carmouche and other plaintiff attorneys for the apparent purpose of influencing the outcome of the Supreme Court race and for paving the way for a favorable ruling by that court at some time in the future.

During the legislative session earlier this year, Carmouche was front and center in the battle to resist reforms in the handling of Louisiana’s so-called legacy lawsuits, http://www.vcstar.com/news/2012/may/31/legacy-lawsuit-compromise-sent-to-governors-desk/ an issue that now appears headed for the courts. Carmouche and other plaintiff attorneys were opposed to the reform legislation because it made it more difficult to recover damages against oil companies.

Legacy lawsuits deal with the extent of cleanup of environmental damage caused by the practices of oil producers in the state decades ago.

The reform effort was initiated in part as a result of a $72 million judgment against Shell Oil for its failure to clean up property owned by the family of Lake Charles attorney Michael Veron.

In short, no matter what your position may be on the issue of oilfield cleanup, do we really need a State Supreme Court justice whose campaign is bankrolled by special interests (read: plaintiff attorneys) who feel the need to grease the skids in the hope that their case will eventually make its way before that same Louisiana Supreme Court?

The hidden agenda in this race then would appear to come down to three words:

Influence for sale.

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Editor’s Note: LouisianaVoice occasionally runs guest columns that address Louisiana politics. Today’s column was written by Les Landon, director of public relations for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Former U.S. Congressman and Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer recently dropped his long-shot presidential aspiration to tackle an even more daunting goal: reforming our corrupt campaign finance practices.

Gov. Roemer even appeared before Congress last month to testify about the malign effects of unfettered campaign contributions on our political system. At a hearing entitled “Taking Back Our Democracy: Responding to Citizens United and the Rise of Super PACs,” Roemer complained that “Our institutional corruption places our elections in the hands of the mega contributors.”

Taking his argument just a bit further, the former governor said “The system is not broke … It’s bought.”

The theme of Roemer’s testimony, according to this article by Advocate Washington Bureau Chief Jordan Blum, was “the need to enact campaign finance reform and rein in runaway corporate spending in elections.”

It is a message apparently lost on his politically ambitious son, Chas, and other members of the state board of education who have thrown in with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s radical education agenda.

According to campaign finance reports, Chas Roemer was the beneficiary of $597,142.15 during last fall’s campaign for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The bulk of Chas’ contributions, more than $248,000, came from the Republican Party of Louisiana.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, through its network of PACS, put $87,500 into the Roemer campaign.

The ABC Pelican PAC, the political arm of the Associated Builders and Contractors, contributed $20,000 to Chas’ campaign.

Gov. Jindal himself donated $15,000 to Roemer’s campaign.

The Standard Companies of New Orleans, a beverage company subsidiary of DS Waters of America, put up $14,000.

Publishing magnate Rolf McCollister gave Roemer $6,000, on top of invaluable column inches in his newspaper.

From its offices in Virginia, the pro-voucher Louisiana Federation of Children’s PAC sent another $6,000.

Roemer’s closest competitor, former Ascension Parish Superintendent of Schools Superintendent Donald Songy, raised a total of $56,660 for the race (full disclosure: the Louisiana Federation of Teachers contributed less than $6,000 to Songy’s campaign).

Given that disparity in resources – nearly $600,000 versus less than $57,000 – Roemer was able to mount a very effective, and very negative, multi-media campaign that overwhelmed Songy.

Roemer was not the only candidate blessed by Jindal and his big business friends. Candidates allied with the governor amassed contributions of more than $2.8 million. Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got into the act, donating $55,000 to Jindal’s candidates. The closest competitors to the Jindal ticket raised a combined total of less than $348,000.

The money fueled a tsunami of advertising that had never been seen in BESE races, guaranteeing a victory for Gov. Jindal’s forces.

The immediate result of the election was the anointing of John White as superintendent, followed by a BESE kowtow to whatever privatization scheme the governor proposes. Which, as blogger Mike Deshotels writes here, means that hundreds of millions of dollars will soon be siphoned away from public schools into the pockets of “course choice providers” linked to big business.

Buddy Roemer is right. Big money donors and their unlimited contributions are the major corrupting factors in American politics.

When will he tell Chas?

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You’ve seen them mostly in the seedier parts of town, those quickie payday loan storefront operations that specialize in small, short-term, high-interest loans against a customer’s next paycheck. Their clientele consists mainly of the working poor who, for whatever reason, can’t quite make that last paycheck stretch to the next one.

Louisiana has 18.7 percent of its families living below the poverty line, third-highest in the country. The state also ranked third in the nation in the percentage of households earning less than $35,000 (33.3 percent).

Not surprisingly, Louisiana has the fifth-highest payday loan usage rate in the nation at 10 percent.

Louisiana allows lenders to charge annual rates of up to 567 percent for a two-week, $100 payday loan. Most borrowers do not understand the true cost of the loans and use them for recurring expenses rather than one-time uses.

Incredibly, of the nine states with the most payday lending in the U.S. Louisiana, with 2,059, had the highest number of payday lending storefronts.

Texas, ranked ninth in payday loan usage at 8 percent, has 1800 payday lending storefronts and Missouri has 1,275. The next highest number of payday loan outlets was 781 in Kentucky.

The rankings of the nine states with the highest percentage of payday storefront activity, in order, are Oklahoma, Missouri, Washington, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.

About 120 million payday loans, with an average interest rate of 455 percent, are made in the U.S. to low-income customers each year. The Center for Responsible Lending found that 76 percent of the $3.5 billion payday loan volume comes from “churning,” which is repeat borrowing by customers who paid off their loans but because of high interest rates, are forced to borrow again before their next paycheck.

Many of the payday lenders, who are financed by the nation’s larger banking institutions, have upped the ante in lobbying and campaign donations in response to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which is attempting to pass more rigorous regulations the industry.

So it should come as no surprise that recipients of the biggest campaign donations from the payday loan industry are Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), vice chair of the House Financial Services Committee and Spencer Bachus (R-Alabama), chairman of the House Financial Service Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.

In April, all that lobbying and financial investment in the legislative process paid huge dividends when the House Financial Services Committee voted to gut the CFPB budget.

But those are not the only beneficiaries of the payday loan industry’s largesse.

Louisiana got in on the action in a big way.

Cash America of Fort Worth (with five convenient locations in Baton Rouge) contributed $38,500 to 17 legislators and former legislators, a mayor, the Louisiana Republican Party and Gov. Piyush Jindal. And that’s just in Louisiana. Nationwide, Cash America has spent $707,000 on political campaign contributions in the first seven months of this year alone.

The breakdown of Louisiana contributions by Cash America is as follows:

• Gov. Piyush Jindal: $7500;

• Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego): $1500;

• Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie): $500;

• Rep. Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans): $1000;

• Sen. Norbert Chabert (R-Houma): $500;

• Former Sen. Joel Chaisson (D-Destrehan), now St. Charles Parish District Attorney: $500;

• Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell): $1500;

• Former Sen. Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans): $1500;

• Former Sen. Nick Gautreaux (D-Meaux): $1000;

• Sen. David Heitmeier (D-New Orleans): $500;

• House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles): $1000;

• Rep. Joseph Lopinto (R-Metairie): $500;

• Former Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia): $500;

• Sen. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie): $1500;

• Former Sen. Mike Michot (R-Lafayette): $3000;

• Sen. John Smith (R-Leesville): $500;

• Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi): $500;

• Former House Speaker Jim Tucker (R-River Ridge): $500;

• Mayor Cedric Glover (D-Shreveport): $5000;

• The Louisiana Republican Party: $5,000;

Payday One of California also contributed an additional $5000 to Jindal and Paycheck Loans contributed $3000 to Rep. James Armes (D-Leesville).

A few members of the Louisiana congressional delegation also got a share of the booty:

• Republican Sen. David Vitter: two separate donations of $2000 each in 2010 and 2012;

• Former Republican Cong. Richard Baker who served as chairman of the House Financial Services Capital Markets Subcommittee: $4000 in 2006 and another $1000 in 2008;

• Former Democratic Cong. Charles Melancon: $500 in 2004;

• Former State Sen. Willie Mount (D-Lake Charles), who lost her bid for Congress: $500 in 2004;

• Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu: $1000 in 2002.

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For one who insists—to the point of banality—that he has the job he wants, Gov. Piyush Jindal certainly spends a minimal amount of time doing it.

He also is the same Piyush Jindal who insisted that his appointments would be made on the basis of “what you know, not who you know.”

When you examine his appointments against campaign contributions, that second proclamation quickly takes on the same empty ring as the first. But those contributions do go a long way in explaining how he got that job that he loves so much.

Remember, Jindal also said the bulk of his contributions were in amounts of $100 or less. What he did not explain was that he was the talking about the number of contributions, not the amounts. The large contributions—$500 to $5,000—easily eclipsed the amounts given by small donors.

But extensive research by Capitol News Service shows that the high rollers, the big money backers, tended to garner highly desirable appointments to important boards and commissions—and in some cases, high-paying state jobs.

Appointees to six major boards or commissions produced more than $963,000 in campaign contributions to Jindal, according to campaign finance records.

So much for “what you know, not who you know.”

Those boards/commissions include:

The LSU Board of Supervisors, possibly one of the more political of all the boards;
The State Board of Regents for Higher Education;
• University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors;
• State Board of Commerce and Industry;
• Louisiana Economic Development Corp. Board;
• Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board.

Following are some examples of Jindal’s appointments and their contributions, dating from his 2003 campaign for governor to July 31, 2012:

LSU Board of Supervisors

• Chester Lee Mallet, Lake Charles—$30,000 in personal contributions and contributions from five separate corporations;
• Scott Ballard, Covington—$5,000 from his company, WOW Café & Winery Franchising;
• Jack Lawton Jr., Lake Charles—$26,000 from Lawton, his company and family members;
• Robert “Bobby” Yarborough, Baton Rouge—$15,000;
• Garrett “Hank” Danos, Larose—$18,500 from Danos, his company and family members;
• Ray Lasseigne, Bossier City—$17,232 from Lasseigne and his company, TMR Exploration;
• Ben Mount, Lake Charles—$1,000 from his wife, then-State Sen. Willie Mount;
• James E. Moore of Monroe—$21,500 from Moore and his company, the Marriott Courtyard of Monroe;
• R. Blake Chatelain of Alexandria—$28,000 from Chatelain and his wife.

Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education

• Raymond J. Brandt of Metairie—$5,000
• Roy O. Martin of Alexandria—$17,000 from Martin, family members and his business, Roy O. Martin Lumber Co.;
• William “Bill” Fenstermaker of Lafayette—$20,500 from Fenstermaker and C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates;
• Chris Gorman of Shreveport—$20,000 from Gorman and his company, Tango Transport;
• Joe Farr of Monroe—$5,000;
• Ed Antie of Lafayette—$10,500 from Antie and his company, Network USA (Antie withdrew his nomination when it became clear he would not be confirmed by the Legislature because of a contract one of his companies had with the Regents—a conflict of interests.)
• Robert Bruno of New Orleans—$5,000;
• Charlotte Bollinger of Lockport—$52,850 from Ms. Bollinger, various other family members and seven different companies run by the Bollinger family;
• W. Clinton Raspberry Jr., of Shreveport—$10,000 through his two companies, W. Clinton Raspberry, Jr., Investments, and Crestview Woods Timber and Minerals;
• Roland Toups of Baton Rouge—$9,500;
• Joseph C. Wiley of Gonzales–$7,125 from Wiley and his company, the Excel Group.

University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors

• E. Gerald Hebert of Kenner—$16,000;
• Jimmie “Beau” Martin, Jr., of Cut Off—$19,278 from Martin and his company, B&J Martin, Inc.;
• Carl Shelter of Lake Charles—$6,000;
• Jimmy Faircloth of Alexandria—$25,000 from Faircloth and his law firm (Faircloth was later appointed Jindal’s executive counsel);
• John LeTard of Zachary—$5,000;
• Andre Coudrain of Hammond—$30,000 from Coudrain and his law firm;
• Edward J. Crawford, III, of Shreveport—$11,000 from Edward Crawford, Edward J Crawford, III, of the same address, and Edward J Crawford, IV;
• Greg Hamer, Sr., of Morgan City—$16,750;
• Paul Dickson of Shreveport—$39,000 from Dickson and his pharmaceutical company.

Louisiana State Board of Commerce and Industry

• Richard Lipsey of Baton Rouge—$28,000 from Lipsey, his wife and his company, Lipsey Properties;
• R.K. Mehrotra of Baton Rouge—$6,000;
• Kevin Langley of Baton Rouge—$14,000;
• Millie Atkins of Monroe—$13,000 from CenturyTel, for whom she is employed as a corporate communication associate;
• Lance B. Belcher of Baton Rouge—$20,000 from Belcher and three of his companies;
• Bryan L. Bossier, Sr., of Woodworth—$33,500 from Bossier, his wife, Phillip Bossier of the same address and two of his companies;
• Gorgon Burges of Amite—$9,000;
• Mark Delesdernier, Jr., of New Orleans—$5,500 from Delesdernier and Fiver Marine Services, for whom he serves as chief executive officer;
• P. Andre Fruge of Lafayette—$1,000;
• Richard A. Gonsoulin of Houma—$31,000 from Gonsoulin, family members and his company, Lebeouf Brothers Towing;
• Ronnie Harris of Gretna—$1,000;
• Jerry N. Jones of Shreveport—$11,000 from Jones and his law firm;
• William V. “Bill” King of Lake Charles—$10,000;
• Marty A. Mayer, Jr., of Covington—$5,000 from his company, Stirling Properties;
• Stephen Moret of Baton Rouge, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development—$2,000;
• Gale Potts Roque of Natchitoches—$5,000 from Mac-Re, LLC, for whom she is employed as government relations and property manager;
• Charles J. Soprano of Alexandria—$13,000;
• Greg Walker of Baton Rouge—$6,000.

Louisiana Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors

• Mike Saucier of Covington—$7,000 from Saucier and his company, Gulf States Real Estate;
• Rob Stuart, Jr., of Baton Rouge—$11,000;
• Harry Avant of Shreveport—$5,000;
• A.J. Roy, III, of Marksville—$8,750;
• Thomas A. Cotten of Baton Rouge—$500;

Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board of Commissioners

• Robert Bruno of New Orleans—$28,500 from Bruno, his wife and his law firm;
• Davie Chozen of Lake Charles—$18,238 from Chozen and his company, Chozen Business Services;
• Tim Coulon of Harvey—$7,500 from Coulon’s political campaign and Coulon Consultants;
• Ron Forman of New Orleans—$2,000;
• Julio Melara of Baton Rouge—$25,500 from Melara and Rolfe McCollister, Jr.; Melara is president and McCollister is publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report;
• William C. “Bill” Windham of Bossier City—$25,000 from William and Carol Windham;
• William Henry Shane, Jr., of Kenner—$21,000 from Shane and his architectural firm;
• Mike Polito of Baton Rouge—$20,000 contributed through three of his companies;
• Dave Roberts of Baton Rouge—$10,000;
• John Amato of New Orleans—$15,000 from Amato and his wife;
• Peter Egan of Covington—$19,400 from Egan and five of his companies;
• Ed Markle of New Orleans—$17,000 from Edward and Gloria Markle and two of his companies.

There are many others but space does not permit running all at one time. We will have follow-up stories detailing other major contributors who received appointments from Jindal.

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The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee has approved by a 5-1 vote Senate Bill 217 by State Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell) which would allow charter schools to refuse to admit students on the basis of their ability to speak English, their sexual orientation or other unspecified factors.

In what must qualify as one of the more asinine comments coming out of the current session, Crowe said the intent of his bill is to prevent bans by executive branch agencies and local governments on discrimination against characteristics not listed in state law as a condition for private companies to do business with their agencies.

Wait. What? Is Sen. A.G. Crowe really advocating a return to Jim Crow?

Apparently so and so are four of the remaining six members. Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie) was not around for the final vote.

Voting in favor, besides committee Chairman Crowe were Sens. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe), Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), and Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles).

Of the six Republicans on the committee, only Peacock received no significant campaign contributions from either Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign or from corporations affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is an organization which denies it is a lobbyist, but, headed by Koch Industries, it includes dozens of large national and multi-national corporations who meet with state legislators on a regular basis to draft legislation for state lawmakers to take back home with them for enactment.

Invariably those laws favor corporate tax breaks and cuts to state employee benefits. ALEC also promotes widespread privatization of heretofore public services and advocates school vouchers and private and charter schools over traditional public schools.

It’s really amazing what a little largesse in the right places can do.

Crowe, Kostelka, Riser, Johns and Martiny each received $2,500 from Jindal’s campaign fund in 2011 and the same five received numerous campaign contributions from ALEC-affiliated corporations.
Perhaps Jindal and some of those corporations should demand a pro rata rebate from Martiny for his failure to vote on the bill.

The state Department of Education contracts with those seeking charter schools were the chief examples cited during testimony for Senate Bill 217. Gov. Bobby Jindal did not respond to requests for comment about calls to unilaterally strip the anti-discriminatory language from the department’s contract criteria.

Sen. Ed Murray, the only committee member to vote no on the measure, said the possibility of SB217 becoming law and negating the anti-discriminatory prohibitions in charter school contracts is “really scary.”

Is it really true that Sen. Murray is the only member of the committee to understand that?

“I can’t believe that at the same time we as a Legislature are passing bills that .… allow charter schools to deny admission based solely on a child’s ability to speak English well enough or play basketball well enough,” Murray said.

“The focus is really simple,” Crowe said. “It says stick to the law.”

State law currently forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability but the Department of Education has expanded that to include sex ethnicity, sexual orientation, athletic performance and special need proficiency in the English language or in a foreign language.

Leslie Ellison, of New Orleans, testified she refused to sign a charter school contract with the Department of Education because it required her company to not discriminate against gays, as well as other criteria not listed in state law. She said the department does not have the right to insert its own opinions into a state contract.

Louisiana Family Forum head Gene Mills a message was being sent for Jindal to strip the provision from his Education Department’s contract criteria. Louisiana Family Forum is a coalition of religious groups that lobby the legislature on issues such as teen abstinence and other social issues.

Neither Jindal nor State Superintendent of Education John White responded to requests for comment about the policy but Jindal press secretary Frank Collins said, “We’re against discrimination, but we don’t believe in special protections or rights.”

Education Department spokesperson Rene Greer said the charter authorization provision was under review by the department.

Someone whose name is long since forgotten once said you get what you pay for and apparently ALEC and Jindal are getting their money’s worth from Louisiana legislators they bought…er, supported.

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If you like irony (and who doesn’t?), you should like this little item:

The State Civil Service Commission will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. to discuss the proposed outsourcing of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) plan.

Don’t see the irony yet? Well, consider this: the meeting will be held in the Claiborne Building’s Louisiana Purchase Room.

What could possible be more appropriate—and ironic—than for the administration’s proposal to be held in the Louisiana Purchase Room? The governor, after all, is attempting to sell out 60,000 state employees in general and about 170 employees of OGB in particular who would lose their jobs.

In other developments in and around the Capitol, the governor’s office has been awfully defensive about a report critical of Jindal’s retirement reform legislative package.

A 38-page report by the Dallas law firm of Strasburger & Price cited legal cases in 18 different states as well as seven Louisiana legal cases in concluding that virtually all of the provisions sought by Gov. Bobby Jindal would not stand up to constitutional challenges.

The analysis and subsequent study was commissioned by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera and was originally posted on the agency’s web page.

In ordering the report, Purpera must know that he placed his career in jeopardy; Jindal does not take criticism or even mild disagreement lightly.

The governor’s office initially pooh-poohed the report, intimating that the law firm with offices in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, New York and Washington, D.C., in addition to its Dallas office, was unqualified to interpret the intent of the House bills 53, 55 and 56 and Senate bills 51, 52, 42, 47.

In a formal statement, Jindal’s office denied that the additional 3 percent in employee contributions called for in HB 56 and SB 52 would go into the state’s general fund and denying that the additional 3 percent would constitute a tax on state employees.

Under provisions of the Louisiana Constitution, the legislature is prohibited from initiating any tax legislation during even-numbered years.

The governor’s denial was the first indication by his office or any other source that the money from the 3 percent would not be diverted into the general fund.

Everything that has been said up to the time of the governor’s response to the report indicated that the 3 percent would go neither to additional retirement benefits nor to reduce the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS), but to the general fund.

It is strange that the governor would remain silent for so long on that particular issue and his sudden defensive posture as a result of an independent study should raise more question than answers.

Is Jindal, like Rep. Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge) was with the education bills he authored, completely oblivious to his own proposed legislation? [Or should that be the proposed legislation of the American Legislative Exchange Council? ALEC)]

The observation that Gov. Jindal cannot stand criticism is steeped in the reality of what happens when a subordinate differs with the governor.

Jim Champagne was fired when he disagreed with Jindal’s repeal of the state’s motorcycle helmet law. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Tammie McDaniel was forced off the board when she resisted the governor. Melody Teague testified against Jindal’s plan to streamline government during a hearing to accept public comment. She was fired the next day and it took her six months to get her job back. Her husband, Tommy Teague, was fired as director of the Office of Group Benefits when he was not enthusiastic enough on the administration’s plan to privatize the agency despite the fact that he took OGB from a $30 million deficit to a $500 million surplus in five years. Then, Martha Manuel was “Teagued” from her position as executive director of the Office of Elderly Affairs after she testified that she had not been informed in advance of the governor’s plans to move her agency from the governor’s office to the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).

There are those who would be quick to point out that the legislative auditor does not work for the governor, but for the legislature, and they would be correct.

But there are also those who have observed how this governor works and they understand that he has complete control of a weak and submissive legislature and it would be a small matter for Jindal to come down hard on Purpera through House Speaker Charles “Chuckie” Kleckley (R-Lake Charles).

But if it’s real irony you want, then there is the faint hope that the Civil Service Board might take the same action it die with the proposal to privatize the Information Technology (IT) section of the DHH, which would have put about 60 IT workers on the street.

In that case, back in February, the Civil Service Board simply said no. Board members said there was not nearly sufficient information provided on which they base an informed decision. One member said he had been in banking for most of his adult life and still could not interpret the figures provided by DHH. In short, they just didn’t buy the numbers.

The Civil Service Board is another of those agencies the governor can’t touch—theoretically, at least. The president’s of the state’s private colleges and universities submit nominees to the board and it is from those nominees that the governor is constitutionally bound to make the appointments. And since the private colleges and universities are unfettered by state appropriations and appointments, the image of independence prevails, or should.

Of course, one member of the board is a state classified employee elected by state employees and there could be reprisals for a wrong vote.

The Civil Service board, back in 2010, approved the governor’s proposal to privatize the Office of Risk Management based on projections that such a move would save the state millions of dollars. The results have been questionable at best.

First, the state paid F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) of Mandeville $68 millions to take over the administration of the state’s agency that insures against loss. Then, less than eight months into its contract, FARA was back seeking a 10 percent increase in its contract, to almost $75 million.

Three weeks after the amendment was approved, FARA sold its contract to an Ohio firm which in turn sold the contract to a New York firm only a few months later.

The contract with FARA contained a clause that written consent was required from the state before any transfer of the contract could be executed. When LouisianaVoice made a public request for copies of the written consent, the Division of Administration (DOA) admitted there were no such documents in existence, meaning the contract was violated not once, but twice.

Traditionally, ORM released its annual report that showed expenditures and other financial data around September of each year.

In an effort to determine how much has been saved by the privatization, LouisianaVoice requested a copy of the agency’s annual report from ORM and DOA only to be told the annual report has not been released as yet.

It would seem reasonable to assume if there were major savings as projected a few years back, the administration would be eager to roll out such supporting documentation.

On the other hand….?

If the Civil Service Board, employing the adage “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” takes into account the sloppy manner in which the ORM contract has been handled and the conspicuous absence of that agency’s annual report supporting claims of major savings, opts to dig its heels in on the OGM issue? If the board balks at the governor’s attempts to manipulate the system in order to consolidate his power base?

Now that would be ironic.

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For those who favor political irony with their morning coffee, this week was nothing less than a rip-snortin’ bonanza.

If taken at face value, Sen. David Vitter’s shameless endorsement of Gov. Bobby Jindal for re-election was just another spam email from one sleaze ball schmoozing for another in an effort to put up a united façade in order to promote a common political agenda.

But for those willing to peel back the layers and to look beyond the surface message, it was one knee-slapping guffaw after side-holding chortle as Mr. Family Values tried to keep a straight face while telling us of the mom and apple pie virtues of Mr. Transparency and Accountability.

It’s the kind of material worthy of Saturday Night Live.

Ron White, aka Tater Salad, of Blue Collar Comedy Tour fame, one of the best stand-up comics in the business, was never that funny on his best day. It was enough make us forget Rodney Dangerfield and to force Don Rickles into retirement.

The opening paragraph was innocuous enough, warranting only a derisive snort:

“Wendy and I want to thank you again for all of your friendship. Because we value it so highly, I wanted to pass on two important thoughts about our elections in Louisiana this fall.” (Thank goodness he got the spelling of elections right; it is Vitter, after all.)

The second paragraph elicited the first good laugh:

“You know, we really should stop and remember. It wasn’t long ago that the norm in Louisiana politics was blatant corruption and cronyism (like the present administration, perhaps?) interrupted only once in a while by failed reform or mere incompetence. That’s almost all I knew growing up here.” (Well, that explains trolling the red light districts.)

Then there was the first real zinger:

“Bobby is helping to change that.” (coffee all over my laptop.) “He’s honest and competent.” (Paper towels! Give me more paper towels!) “He wants to make government leaner and smarter, not more bloated and intrusive.” (So, explain to me again how bringing in Goldman Sachs and all those consultant contracts translates to “leaner” and “less intrusive.”)

“We must stay on this path.” (That would be the path to the Second Louisiana Purchase?)

“And second, to help Bobby become as engaged and bold as possible in his second term, we need a more conservative legislature, particularly in the State Senate.” (If he becomes any more engaged and bolder, we’ll be selling the Old Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge along with the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville.)

You may have noticed that he never identifies Jindal by any name but Bobby. The only way one would know that it is Jindal is by reading the subject line of the email: “Jindal for Governor, with a Conservative Legislature to Boot.”

Apparently they’re real buds.

Such good buds that while Jindal was gallivanting all over the Continental U.S. last fall to campaign for Republican candidates in congressional and gubernatorial elections, he steadfastly refused to acknowledge Vitter’s candidacy for re-election, let alone endorse him. Jindal somehow managed to completely ignore the fact that there was even a Senatorial election in Louisiana while at the same time vigorously campaigning for candidates in other states.

And therein lies the irony. Is this Vitter’s not-so-subtle way of sending a message that he’s a better man than Jindal and he’s demonstrating it by doing for the governor what the governor refused to do for Vitter a year ago? “While you were snotty to me, I’m taking the high road.”

If so, that would have to grate greatly with Jindal. To be publicly shown up by the man he must truly despise would have to eat at the governor.

Bitter irony for Jindal, side-splitting spectator sport for political junkies.

Vitter goes on in his email:

“To achieve this, I’d strongly encourage you to support a group I helped found—the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.” (Whew, for a second there, we were thinking about another group, but that would probably be illegal.)

“In just a few years, this group helped achieve majorities in the State House and Senate.” (Hmm, maybe it was that other group after all.) “But we can go even further [and with several Rinos or Republicans In Name Only, particularly in the State Senate, we need to]. With your help, we will. (Hey, David, how about FVINO? That would be Family Values In Name Only.)

“We’re one of only four states with major elections this year. (Got that spelling right again. Good boy.) So all of these victories can really help build conservative momentum for 2012 nationally as well.”

“Please join me in these important efforts. They will truly be critical in defining the Louisiana—and America—we leave to our kids and grandkids.

“Thank you again for your partnership.” (One thing you can say for Vitter: he’s not short on brass in assuming we have some sort of partnership.)

He goes on:

“If you can, please consider a personal contribution in any amount up to $2500 to the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.

“I am asking for a donation of up to $2,500 per election from an individual’s own funds, or up to $5,000 per election from a multicandidate PAC or a political party committee. I am not asking for funds from corporations, labor organizations, national banks, federal government contractors, or foreign nationals. (Well, Senator, just who do you think contributes to these PACs and political party committees?)

Just for sport, we did a quick search—all the way back to 1990—and found that David Vitter did indeed put his money where his mouth is—just not as much as he’s asking us to put.

Way back on Dec. 29, 2006, David Vitter gave a whopping $50 to the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.

That’s it. Fifty bucks. Almost five years ago. $50.

That wouldn’t even get a brusque “get lost,” much less a friendly “hello, new in town?” from one of those Washington, D.C., hookers.

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