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Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

 

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The metaphorical ink wasn’t even dry on the Baton Rouge Advocate web page story (yeah, we know, there’s no ink—or paper—on the internet) about Grovernor (as in Grover Norquist) Jindal’s decision to issue an executive order to do what the Legislature, in a rare flash of clarity, refused to do—approve House Bill 707 by State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City)—when outraged comments from irate readers began appearing.

The House Civil Law Committee voted 10-2 to return Johnson’s silly yet dangerous Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act bill to the calendar, a move that effectively kills the bill this session.

The grovernor immediately went on the attack by issuing his executive order to accomplish what legislators wisely would not—put in place the necessary protection for businesses to discriminate against gays. http://theadvocate.com/news/12415408-123/house-panel-effectively-kills-religious

“It’s not about discrimination,” Grovernor Jindal insisted. “It’s about protecting rights.” JINDAL EXECUTIVE ORDER

Whose rights? Certainly not those of gays and if the law is taken to more extreme measures, as some will almost certainly attempt to do, against blacks, against Islamics, against Jews, against Hispanics, perhaps even against Asians, including Indians.

This is about anything but protecting a business owner who has deep-seated religious beliefs from catering to same sex marriages. What if that business owner has equally deep-seated religious beliefs against Little League baseball players playing a Sunday afternoon makeup of an earlier rained-out game? Of if he is offended because Jews don’t observe their Sabbath (Saturday) on the same day of the week (Sunday) as Christians?

There have already been stories about how just about any one of us is condemned to hellfire and damnation by laws and dictates of the Old Testament. Robert Mann had a dandy that ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that illustrates the sheer idiocy of Johnson’s bill and those like it passed in Indiana and Arkansas. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/04/louisiana_religious_freedom_ga.html

And thorough as Mann’s story was, there was no mention of Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.”

So there you have it: could Jindal’s real agenda be an executive order as the first step toward capital punishment for gays? It is in the Bible, after, and Jindal’s agenda is by his own admission, faith-driven. It’s only logical, to quote Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock.

As one Advocate reader so aptly observed, Jindal is the non-candidate running all over the country bitching about overreach in government but who apparently had no problem handing down his own edicts that control millions of people’s lives when it happens to be political expedient to him.

Another reader was quick to pounce on Jindal with his own words in an earlier attack on President Obama. He wrote, “Here is what Jindal had to say about President Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration: ‘If the President wants to make the case that the law should be changed, he should go make the case to Congress and our people. This is an arrogant, cynical political move by the President, and it’s why so many Americans no longer trust this President to solve the problems we face.’ Substitute the word ‘Governor’ for ‘President’ and what’s the difference?” he asked, perhaps not so rhetorically, of Jindal’s hypocrisy.

If Jindal’s latest actions, taken in context with the above statement, do not represent a double standard, then there never has been and never will be a double standard by any definition.

At the same time, it represents yet more legal fees for Jimmy Faircloth or whoever is called upon to defend the state when the lawsuits start flying and U.S. Supreme Court rulings come down.

A reader named Beatrice said that Jindal should begin waving one of those giant foam fingers people wear at athletic events, “except make it a middle finger, pointed at Louisiana.”

Our favorite, from Joe: “You’ve been bested, old man. Can you believe it? We have a genuine psychotic tyrant on the loose in the governor’s mansion.”

Finally, one reader attempted to steer the dialog back to the real issue. “The legislature just showed that you can’t be a bigot and get away with it here. There is finally hope for this state. Now maybe the legislature can get back to important things – like finding $1.6 Billion to et rid of next year’s deficit without destroying education and health care. You know—the thing that really matters in the day-to-day lives of Louisiana citizens.”

Not that any of those comments will matter to Jindal who with each passing day more and more frequently exhibits psychopathic patterns of behavior.

No, we’re not doctors, analysts, counselors or social workers, but some of the symptoms are right up front for all to see. Which of the below symptoms might apply to Jindal?

  • A disregard for laws and social mores;
  • A disregard for the rights of others;
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt;
  • The inability to form emotional attachments or feel empathy with others (though they often can mimic emotions and fool those closest to them, even family members);
  • The ability to manipulate people and to easily gain others’ trust;
  • They generally are well-educated and able to hold steady jobs;
  • They are cool, calm and meticulous, planning out every detail in advance;
  • All the above.

Intelligent psychopaths make excellent white-collar criminals and con artists, thanks to their calm and charismatic natures. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

But none of those traits come close to describing Jindal, of course. Not this grovernor. No siree. Grovernor Jindal is sincere, understanding, compassionate, reverent and most of all, ambitious.

And there are delegates to woo in Iowa and those folks up there are God-fearing Christian who will take up his banner and follow him when they see what he’s done down there in Louisiana. Just you wait. He’s gonna bust through to 2, maybe even 3 percent in the presidential sweepstakes polls yet.

If you don’t believe it, just ask his core constituency—those Duck Dynasty people. They’re the ones who believe Jindal would be a great president, gays are abnormal human beings, and that blacks were happy picking cotton.

Seriously, though, the man is a total disgrace.

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Additional checks by LouisianaVoice into the expenditure of campaign funds after leaving office has revealed that Troy Hebert, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was something of a piker in what appear to be his inappropriate expenditures of $39,000 in campaign contributions long after he left the Louisiana Senate in November of 2010.

Campaign reports examined by LouisianaVoice show that two former governors combined to spend more than $600,000 on what would appear to be such non-allowable expenditures as clerical salaries, club memberships, consulting fees, federal taxes, internet fees, office equipment, and something called “constituent relations” long after there were no longer any constituents. shall not be used for any perso

Three other former legislators who, like Hebert, now serve in other appointive capacities in state government were also checked at random and found to have combined for a little more than $22,000 in post-office-holding expenditures that appear to be for purposes specifically disallowed by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

But former governors Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster have made generous use of their leftover campaign bank accounts by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for similarly disallowable purchases and expenditures.

Campaign expenditures for former governors Buddy Roemer and Edwin Edwards were not available on the State Ethics Board’s web page.

At the same time, we found one former legislator who has not spent a penny of his leftover campaign funds—for anything. Democrat Dudley “Butch” Gautreaux of Morgan City has spent none of his campaign funds—for any purpose—since leaving office in January of 2012. We sincerely hope there are others.

Foster, a Republican, accounted for more than $201,000 in apparent non-allowable expenditures from his campaign fund. He had the following expense items listed in his campaign expenditure report:

  • $3,000 for internet service;
  • $66,675 for clerical payroll;
  • $70,000 for copiers and other office equipment and maintenance contracts;
  • $9,400 in dues to the Camelot Club and City Club, both in Baton Rouge;
  • $4,300 in workers’ compensation insurance premiums for office staff;
  • $25,000 for bookkeeping services;
  • $9,800 in federal income tax payments on office staff;
  • $13,500 for “constituent services”;
  • $403 in payments to M.J. Foster Farms—an apparent reimbursement to himself for unknown expenditures.

In addition, Foster contributed to numerous causes, including $1,000 to a lamppost restoration drive in his hometown of Franklin and other charitable civic and church organizations and several political candidates. Only his contributions to political candidates and to the Louisiana Republican Party appeared to have been allowable under Ethics Board regulations.

Democrat Blanco easily eclipsed Foster with more than $400,000 in expenditures described in various Ethics Board opinions as not allowable for purposes “related to a political campaign or the holding of a public office.”

Some of her questionable expenditures included:

  • $188,000 for communication consulting;
  • $88,000 in clerical salaries;
  • $67,000 in donations to various causes;
  • $64,500 in tech support;

To be fair, however, there was brief speculation that Blanco would oppose Jindal in his re-election campaign of 2011 until health considerations took her out of that race. Any funds spent in exploration of a possible run would probably be looked upon favorably as campaign-related. Charitable contributions are allowed under certain conditions, such as in the cases of pro-rata refunds of unused contributions but otherwise such use of campaign funds for charitable donations is not allowed. We found an Ethics opinion that addresses that very issue: James David Cain

Like Foster, she also contributed generously to several political candidates as well as to the Louisiana Democratic Party, all allowable under Ethics Board regulations.

Former Sen. Anne Duplessis (D-New Orleans), now a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors ($13,440), former Rep. Kay Katz (R-Monroe), now a member of the Louisiana Tax Commission ($7,700), and former Rep. and former Sen. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro), now Chief Deputy Commissioner of Insurance ($1,300), each also had combined expenditures from their respective campaign funds totaling about $22,400 for purposes not allowed, according to Ethics Board regulations.

Small as those expenditures were when contrasted to Blanco, Foster or even Hebert, however, the samplings of more than $662,000 in questionable expenditures found by LouisianaVoice for only six former office holders—and the many examples of misuse of campaign funds by current officer holders—illustrates the critical lack of oversight of the manner in which office holders and former office holders alike live the good life off, what for many of them, is tax-free income most times in the tens of thousands of dollars but in some cases, six figures.

Campaign funds are contributed by donors, such as lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests who want something in return, like a favorable vote on a key issue. And because the politicians generally oblige, the donors couldn’t care less how campaign funds are spent. The funds are donated for the wrong reasons, so why should they care if they are spent for the wrong reasons?

That in a nutshell is what is wrong with our political system today. Far too much quid pro quo, a few winks, a couple of drinks over steak or lobster and donors look the other way as the recipient enjoys nice restaurants, club memberships, luxury car leases and tickets to college and pro athletic events and perhaps the occasional hooker.

Two things can occur to rein in this abuse:

The Louisiana Legislature, in a rare (and we do mean rare) moment of integrity and soul-searching, could enact binding laws governing who can contribute to campaigns (such as tracking the federal elections laws prohibiting corporate contributions), limiting PAC funds and spelling out in detail how campaign funds may and may not be spent.

But don’t look for that to happen in this or any other lifetime. Like corporations and banks, politicians just aren’t going to self-regulate without including a gaggle of hidden loopholes in any legislation that might happen to address the issue. You can bet any legitimate attempt will either be killed outright or amended to death in committee.

The other—and this, sadly, is just as unlikely—the voters of Louisiana will, in unity, say “ENOUGH!” They will, like Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, scream out their windows, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” and they will turn out of office any legislator who so much as buys the first ticket to a football game or dines at a fine restaurant or leases a luxury auto with campaign funds. And in equal unanimity, they will demand reimbursement of all funds wrongly spent by current and former office holders alike.

But a final word of caution: That would be in a perfect world so don’t hold your breath.

 

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Because of our limited staff (one, plus a few occasional contributors), we often fall behind in our efforts to keep up with the news of our misbehaving public officials. We try to keep up, but these guys are pretty slick and very resourceful in finding new ways to siphon off funds, whether they be state funds or contributions from campaign supporters.

So, today, we will highlight a couple of politicos who are very tight: Bobby Jindal and his director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), Troy Hebert (whose wife just happens to be the Jindal children’s pediatrician, we’re told).

We have an update on the status of Frederick Tombar III, who, like Hebert was appointed to a high-level position in the Jindal administration only to harass himself out of a job.

Tombar, it seems, has landed on his feet after leaving his $260,000 a year job as director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation because of some sexually explicit emails he sent to two female employees—one, a contract employee and the other an actual employee of the agency.

Both women attempted to put off Tombar’s advances because of fear of losing their jobs but eventually each filed complaints and Tombar left before he could be interviewed during an investigation by Ron Jackson, Human Resources Director for the Division of Administration.

Not to worry. We’re told by sources that Tombar, of New Orleans, had a soft landing at Cornerstone Government Affairs consulting company where he will work alongside two former state Commissioners of Administration, Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater. http://www.cgagroup.com/index.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/RainwaterPaul.html

http://www.cgagroup.com/team/mark_drennen.html

Efforts to reach both Drennan and Rainwater for comment were unsuccessful.

It’s not known what Tombar’s salary at Cornerstone will be, but we are willing to bet it doesn’t approach the quarter-million a year he was making as a Jindal appointee.

That other appointee mentioned earlier, Troy Hebert, of whom much has been written here, little of it good, recently sent a bill to former ATC agent Howard Caviness of West Monroe who now serves as Grambling State University chief of police. Well, actually, the bill was not from Hebert, but from the agency under which he serves, the Department of Revenue (LDR).

The invoice, for all of $123.59 is for an alleged overpayment to Caviness in Dec. of 2012, according to the letter dated April 29 which is stamped “2nd notice.” Supposedly, the $123.59, when collected, will go to help patch over Jindal’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. LDR letter

Attached to the letter is a time sheet for the two-week time period of Nov. 26—Dec. 9, 2012, with no explanation other than a hand-scrawled, “will leave a balance owed.” ATC timesheet

(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Caviness, contacted by LouisianaVoice, feels the action is in retaliation for his having testified on behalf of another former agent, Brett Tingle, who Hebert fired while Tingle was recovering from a heart attack.

Reprisals against a state employee by officials in the Jindal administration? Surely not!

But that would fit the modus operandi of Hebert and would give credence to a third former agent who revealed she was ordered to conduct an investigation of LouisianaVoice publisher Tom Aswell (that would be me). That former agent admitted that she did indeed follow through on the investigation but found me “rather boring.” We’ll take boring any day.

But we did our own nosing around and found that Hebert played pretty fast and loose with campaign donors’ money while he was still a state senator—and even after he left office to take over operations at ATC after Jindal did a number on former ATC Director Murphy Painter.

At the top of the list, as with the case of so many office holders, was his $12,165 expenditure for the purchase of what seems to be the most sought-after perk of all state politicians: LSU football tickets—$4,930 of that well after he left the House of Representatives in 2010 to become head of ATC. It’s somewhat difficult to see how whose expenditures, especially the $4,930 spent after he left office, could be justified as being “related to the holding of public office,” as state campaign expense laws clearly dictate. related to a campaign  personal use  cannot use campaign funds for personal use

But, as they say in those cheesy TV commercials, “Wait! There’s more!”

Our boy Troy also shelled out the following amounts for other seeming unrelated purposes:

  • Nov. 11, 2014: All State Sugar Bowl tickets, $590 (again, quite a stretch in tying this to holding public office); SUGAR BOWL
  • April 22, 2009: Sullivan’s Restaurant, Baton Rouge, $2,323.10 for a fundraiser; RESTAURANTS
  • April 1, 2010: Delta Airlines, $691.80 (no explanation of any destination, but his House district was pretty small and probably didn’t require air travel to get around Iberia Parish; TRAVEL
  • April 1, 2010: Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., $1,505.70. Ah! There’s his destination for that Delta flight. But what was he running for in Washington? HOTELS
  • May 10, 2011: Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans, $500. About those two hotel bills: state regulations limit hotel rooms to a mere $120 per night. Perhaps someone should sent Hebert a bill for the difference. Oh, wait. The rooms were paid out of campaign funds, not the state treasury. So that makes it okay, we guess.  travelguide

Still, $15,452 in campaign expenditures which somehow just don’t pass the smell test for legitimate campaign expenditures, especially $5,520 of which was spent after he left office.

And then there’s Jindal.

Since 2009, a year after he first took office, he has racked up an eye-popping expenditure of $169,597 in hotel room costs alone. TRAVEL

Even more revealing, all but $30,000 of that ($139,660) has been since his re-election in October of 2011, evidence that he has spent precious little time in Louisiana performing the “job he always wanted,” and the job to which he was elected.

Jindal also spent more than $185,000 in campaign money since 2003 on air travel, his campaign expense records show. Because his travel expenses were about equally divided between pre- and post-re-election in 2011, it would indicate that much of his lodging was provided by organizations to whom he was speaking.

By running as an “undeclared” candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he was able to make free use of campaign funds he reaped while running for and serving as governor. That would explain why he is so cagey about his non-candidacy candidacy: the rules change and federal regulations kick in once he is a declared candidate. His self-serving claim to be “praying for guidance” over his decision has little or nothing to do with it; it’s all about the way he can spend the money.

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While others may become bored reading about my grandfather, I never tire of writing about him. He drove from Ruston to Galveston, Texas, back in 1945 to retrieve an abandoned and malnourished infant from a hospital there, brought him home and he and his wife set about giving the baby a home filled with love and not much else.

My grandparents were unlearned in terms of formal education but my grandfather tried to teach me dignity, honesty and respect—respect, most of all. Some of those lessons stuck. Once he bought me a candy bar and as we were riding in his pickup moments later, I tossed the wrapper out the window. Suddenly a resounding POW! exploded in my ears as the palm of his hand found the back of my head and I saw Jesus at the end of a long tunnel waving me to the light. My grandfather never said a word. He didn’t have to and to this day, I refuse to throw anything out my truck window and defy any of my passengers to do so.

But there was another lesson he taught me, one that a man named Winston Churchill also espoused. He drilled into my psyche the importance of defending myself and defending the rights others with equal determination. “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s for damned sure nobody else will,” he told me at least a thousand times during my childhood and adolescence. Churchill more eloquently said much the same thing on Oct. 29, 1941, in a speech at Harrow School: “Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVEiskNv1hs

That’s why I call Bobby Jindal out on every occasion that I catch him lying through his teeth. Like, for instance his claim that he has reduced the state work force by 30,000 employees during his administration when the Office of Civil Service, in its latest report, puts that actual number far lower—like 13,604 positions abolished but only 8,420 people laid off since Fiscal Year 2008 which actually started six months before he took office. But don’t take my word for it; see for yourself: MAY 2015 LAYOFF REPORT

The words of both my grandfather and Churchill are lessons we can apply in our efforts to confront the efforts of Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature in their efforts to weaken state employees and teachers.

Remember a few years ago when bills were introduced to abolish civil service? Those bills actually provided the impetus to start LouisianaVoice. Already making preparations to retire from my own civil service job with the Office of Risk Management, I could not stand idly by and watch my fellow employees stripped of their job protection, such as it was. (Of course, when LouisianaVoice was born, it hastened my retirement as Jindal did not—and does not—take kindly to criticism of any form or from anyone.)

I could understand and accept the prohibition against civil service employees’ participation in political campaigns. That ban extended to campaigning, contributing to campaigns and even to signs and bumper stickers. But it was okay. Civil Service was established by Gov. Jimmie Davis for the specific purpose of protecting employees from political patronage and their firing for no cause other than supporting the wrong candidate.

But to place that restriction while at the same time abolishing their job protection? Not for one nano-second, not as long as I owned a computer and a keyboard. Even though it ultimately precipitated my retirement a year or so sooner than I had anticipated, my grandfather’s admonitions to stand up for myself and others was stronger than my concerns for job security.

The efforts to do away with civil service failed but now Jindal and his lackeys in the House and Senate are doing their dead level best to follow the example of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/05/04/3654397/scott-walker-says-crush-whats-left-american-unions-elected-president/ and to meekly obey the demands of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in his letter to legislators: https://www.atr.org/louisiana-labor-committee-passes-paycheck-protection-bill

That letter calls on legislators to support House Bill 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) and Senate Bill 204 by Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie), both of which call for the cessation of the withholding of union dues for teachers by the state.

Both bills are blatant attempts to weaken teachers unions, namely the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators. The smokescreen thrown up by proponents of the bills is that it is burdensome for the state to process the dues withholding.

That’s simply a lie and a disingenuous one at that. The transactions are done by computer and once set up, never need human input. It’s certainly no more difficult than withholding state employee premiums paid to the Office of Group Benefits or to any one of dozens of premiums withheld for life, dental and disability insurance companies. You’d think these guys would at least give the appearance of trying to be a little more believable.

A story by Education Week explains the predicament faced by teachers in a single headline: “Education is political; can teachers afford not to be?” http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/05/01/education-is-political-can-teachers-afford-not.html

The story points out that teachers often refrain from viewing themselves as political even though curriculum, standards, testing and funding are all political.

“If teachers and parents don’t get more political, our public schools will continue to be assaulted by the privatizers, profiteers, pseudo-reformers, voucherizers and other enemies of public education,” one reader wrote in a comment about the story.

Don’t believe that? Let’s review. It was in March of 2012 when teachers demonstrated at the State Capitol over Bobby Jindal’s so-called “education reforms” and when one teacher attempted to testify before the House Education Committee, then-Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) attempted to push through a requirement that in addition to the customary practice of witnesses providing their names, where they were from and whom they represent, they also be required to say if they were appearing before the committee in a “professional capacity or if they were on annual or sick leave.”

A furious John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) said he had never in his House tenure seen such a rule imposed on witnesses. “This house (the Capitol) belongs to the people,” added Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge), “and now we’re going to put them in a compromising position? This is an atrocity!” http://louisianavoice.com/2012/03/page/5/

If teachers still are not convinced that they should unite as one and flex a little muscle, perhaps they should remember Jindal’s infamous speech before the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry in January of 2012 at which he introduced his education reform package. During that speech, he alluded to paying teachers simply by virtue of their ability to breathe. http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?tmp=detail&md=newsroom&articleID=3197

Subsequent to that endearing line, several teachers stopped breathing when they sacrificed their lives defending school children from berserk gunmen but Jindal never once acknowledged those acts of heroism. Not once, though he did pose with his family for his Christmas card last year—with everyone, including children, dressed in camouflage. Touching.

If additional proof is needed of the severity of the situation for educators, in North Carolina, teachers have begun demonstrating their commitment to public schools by wearing red clothing as a symbol of support for their vocation.

So, what’s wrong with that, you ask? Didn’t we in recent years start a tradition of wearing red on Fridays as a salute to our armed forces?

Yes, but with teachers apparently it’s different and offensive enough that Senate Bill 480 was introduced in the Tar Heel State legislature that would make such a brazen act a Class 1 misdemeanor because supporting public education is considered a political view, subjecting teachers participating in such anarchy to dismissal.

http://crooksandliars.com/2015/05/north-carolina-teachers-no-free-speech-you?utm_source=Crooks+and+Liars+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=82e35765a1-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d4904be7bc-82e35765a1-330138269

Never mind that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said that the “threat of dismissal is nonetheless a potent means of inhibiting speech” and a violation of First Amendment rights.

So, bottom line, corporations, with their billions in political dark money, are classified as individuals and free to purchase elections and politicians at will but teachers, with an average salary of $40,065, are political activists to be feared and controlled—muzzled, as it were.

But to all teachers who read this: you vote, your family votes, your friends vote and you would be wise to watch to see how your legislators vote on issues that affect you. The election is this October. We will be choosing a governor and 144 legislators.

I harken back to my grandfather’s sage advice: “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s for damned sure nobody else will.”

 

 

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Ask a typical Louisiana legislator about his compensation, and you’ll likely get the usual story that the part-time status assigned to lawmakers is a myth. You’re likely to hear all kinds of horror stories about how they have to travel to Baton Rouge, some from as far away as Shreveport, to tend to state business.

But for many legislators, there are conspicuous gaps in those tales of woe.

They will tell you those trips to the state capital are not limited to the legislative sessions (85 days in even-numbered years, 60 days in odd-numbered years), that they attend committee meetings year-round.

All that is true enough but when they do travel to Baton Rouge, they receive per diem that averages around $150 per day (the rate is tied to the federal reimbursement rate and fluctuates accordingly), plus mileage.

But as always when a politician is talking, it’s best to listen carefully to what he doesn’t say.

Bear in mind that they collect the $150 or so per diem for all 85 days in even years even though lawmakers rarely meet on Fridays and never on weekends or Memorial Day, meaning there are as many as 37 days in even years and 24 days in odd years on which they do not meet but are paid.

Still, they will tell you the $16,800 per year in salary is a pittance for the work they do. Never mind the $500 per month in vouchered expenses and $1,500 per month in unvouchered expense they receive, bring their total compensation to something a little north of $50,000 per year.

And granted, that’s not much when you consider the time they are required to take from their regular jobs.

But there’s a dirty little secret they don’t—and won’t—tell you.

And that is 27 of 39 current senators (69 percent) and 52 of 104 representatives (exactly half) access campaign contributions to elevate them to lifestyles the average person can only dream of.

You might think campaign funds would be used exclusively for campaign-related expenses but you would be wrong. Louisiana legislators (and many other office holders as well, including mayors, sheriffs and state officials) regularly spend campaign funds on such things as tickets to big-time athletic events, lavish meals, and extensive travel.

And then there’s the story of Sen. Sherri Buffington (R-Shreveport). In January of 2004, she was Sherri Smith Cheek and she and her then-husband, Jon Cheek, traveled to New Orleans to attend the NCAA national championship football game between LSU and Oklahoma but forgot his tickets.

No problem. Sherri Smith Cheek, a freshman senator, simply called State Police and arranged for a Pony Express-type relay by state troopers from Shreveport to New Orleans to deliver the six tickets. When word of the special deliver leaked out, she expressed her regret (don’t they always feel just awful—after they’re caught?) and said she would repay State Police $448.50, based on her computation of 12 hours of trooper pay. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1060246/posts

A check of her campaign expense records, however, revealed no such payment to State Police. That, however, does not preclude her having paid the money from personal funds.

But those same campaign expense records show that Sherri Smith Cheek Buffington (she has re-married) did spend $20,548 on LSU football tickets between 2009 and 2014.

In fact, 22 senators and 36 members of the House spent $577,839 on LSU tickets from 2003 to 2014, according to campaign expense records. The breakdown was 22 senators ($240,678) and 36 representatives ($337,161). LSU ATHLETICS

Buffington’s $20,548 was not the most spent on LSU tickets by a legislator, however. Not even close.

Nine others outspent her on tickets to Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. They include the $30,170 by Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), ($28,745 by Sen. Norby Chabert (R-Houma), $25,414 by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), $23,984 by Rep. Joel Robideaux (R-Lafayette), $23,026 by Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), $21,924 by Sen. Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan), $21,856 by Sen. Dale Erdey (R-Livingston), $21,680 by Rep. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero), and $20,942 by Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego).

Nor were tickets to athletic events limited to LSU.

Other expenditures will be explored in more depth in subsequent posts. To give you an idea of how legislators develop a sense of entitlement while denying increases in the minimum wage, voting down equal pay for women bills, rejecting Medicaid that would provide expanded healthcare to the state’s lower income citizens and generally falling all over each other in an effort to be front and center in sacrificing higher education and state hospitals at the altar of Bobby Jindal, here’s a teaser on other campaign fund expenditures:

  • Six senators and three House members combined to spend $46,417 on New Orleans Saints tickets since 2003; NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
  • Seven members of the Senate and two representatives combined to shell out $37,093 on tickets to New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans NBA basketball games over the same time span; NEW ORLEANS HORNETS  NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
  • Twenty-two members of the Legislature (11 each from the House and Senate) combined to use $35,494 in campaign funds for Sugar Bowl football and NCAA basketball tournament tickets; SUGAR BOWL  NCAA REGIONALS
  • Twenty-seven members (eight from the Senate and 19 from the House) paid out $61,606 for out-of-state travel (even though none of the members were seeking office outside Louisiana); TRAVEL
  • Members of the two chambers managed to spend some $380,000 on meals—much of that for campaign supporters and workers, which technically, would be campaign-related and permissible, but a sizable chunk of which appears to be for less noble purposes. RESTAURANTS  MEALS

The State Ethics Board has issued several opinions on campaign fund spending limitations over the years and some of those opinions have specifically addressed the expenditure of campaign funds for personal use. Those opinions, which would seem to prohibit use of funds for athletic events, etc., will be discussed in upcoming posts.

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