Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

The Jindal administration two years ago attempted to influence parole officers and district judges throughout the state to refer violators to a private facility operated by a major Republican campaign contributor whom Gov. Bobby Jindal subsequently appointed to the LSU Board of Supervisors.

LouisianaVoice obtained a four-page memorandum through a public records request of the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) which indicates that state probation and parole officers were directed to funnel offenders into the Academy of Training Skills (ATS) in Lacassine.

ATS, owned and operated by Chester Lee Mallett of Iowa, LA. in Calcasieu Parish, is a 200-bed transitional work program ostensibly set up to provide employment and training in various industrial trades in order to return offenders to the work force. http://www.aattss.com/

On July 13, 2012, Jindal appointed Mallett to the LSU Board of Supervisors. He was previously appointed by Jindal to the State Licensing Board for Contractors in June of 2010. Mallett and companies controlled by him have contributed more than $30,000 to Jindal personally, $242,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party and $75,000 to the Republican Governors Association, of which Jindal is currently president.

The memorandum, from Barry Matheny, Assistant Director of Probation and Parole, to his boss, Probation and Parole Director Gerald Starks, was dated Oct. 3, 2011, and noted that DOC had amended its policy to include probation violators as eligible for the program. Forwarded to parole and probation officers throughout the state, it directed them to “get with your respective judges at your earliest convenience to make them aware of this alternative program.”

Matheny further said, “I would ask that you look at all technical violators…and see if (you) can get some offenders into this program.”

What followed was an outline of the ATS program which essentially was an endorsement of Mallett’s facility which does not accept state or federal funding but rather charges a housing fee to the residents, many of whom are said to work for Mallett’s construction companies.

ATS’s website says that salaries residents receive from job placements by ATS are kept in special accounts in residents’ names. Several former residents, however, have told LouisianaVoice that upon their release from the program, they actually owe ATS money. They said ATS “forgives” any outstanding rent balances owed. But when those who work for Mallett’s companies have to use their salaries to pay Mallett for lodging at ATS, Mallett is basically getting free labor in exchange for the lodging.

Moreover, the ATS website, which apparently has not been updated for some time, says it is certified by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the American Correctional Association (ACA).

The value of the ACA accreditation, however, is somewhat suspect in that the association has come under criticism that it routinely accredited facilities which experienced charges of abuse or poor conditions, according to a 2001 Boston Globe report. http://www.prisonpolicy.org/aca.html

One of ACA’s past presidents, Richard Stalder, while serving as Louisiana State Corrections Secretary in 1993, canceled spending on psychiatric counseling for troubled teens so that he could give out $2.7 million in raises to his staff.

By 1995, ACA had accredited all 12 prisons in Louisiana, passing the last two with 100 percent scores, all while the head of Louisiana’s prison system was serving as ACA’s national president—an arrangement some might consider a conflict of interests. That same year, however, more than 125 prisoners sued Stalder for mistreatment within the prisons and a month after it accredited the state prison at Angola, it was reported that about $32 million in repairs were needed for it to meet safety requirements. Prisoners with fractures were splinted and then not seen for months.

Stalder rejected all the claims, saying that he and his staff deserved “a pat on the back” but in June of 1995, Federal Judge Frank Polozola criticized Stalder for the way in which he ran the state prison system.

In 1998, the new Jena Juvenile Center came under fire for widespread problems, including a near-riot, poor teaching and security and physical abuse and in 1999 the juvenile facility in Tallulah was taken under state control after five years of repeated problems with private ownership despite its having received accreditation and a positive report only six months earlier from ACA and Stalder.

http://www.prisonsucks.com/ACA/ACAofficers.html

In 2010, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) trumpeted the re-accreditation of five of its private prisons by ACA. But what CCA did not reveal was that it had paid ACA more than $22,000 for those five accreditations, that CCA employees serve as ACA auditors, that CCA is a major sponsor of ACA events or worse, and that accredited CCA facilities had experienced major security problems. http://www.privateci.org/private_pics/PCIACApr.htm

(CCA, it should be noted, is one of several private prison companies that have made major contributions to the campaigns of Gov. Jindal.)

Despite the memorandum from DOC, most judges and district attorneys have shied away from ACS. One judge said he threw the letter in the trash can “as soon as I received it,” and a district attorney told LouisianaVoice he wanted nothing to do with the facility.

Both Mallett and his son are major players in politics, having contributed $670,000 to assorted state and national candidates—mostly Republicans—and Jindal’s Believe in Louisiana “527” tax exempt political organization which is little more than a political slush fund used to push Jindal’s agenda such as his failed state income tax repeal last legislative session.

Lee Mallett contributed the yearly maximum of $30,800 to the Republican National Committee on three separate occasions between the summer of 2011 and the spring of 2012 and son Brad Mallett also contributed another $30,800, records show.

Following is a partial list of contributions by Lee Mallett and nine of his corporate entities:

Academy of Training Schools

• Billy Nungesser (lieutenant governor bid), $5,000, July and August of 2011;

• State Sen. John Alario Jr., $1,000, September of 2011;

• Republican Party of La., $12,000, September and November of 2011;

• Jane Smith (who lost her State Senate race but was subsequently appointed Assistant Secretary of Revenue by Jindal), $1,000, October of 2011;

Air Vac Inc.

• Bobby Jindal, $5,000, September of 2010;

• State Sen. Dan Morrish, $1,000, November 2010;

• Chuck Kleckley (La. House Dist. 36), $2,500, Feb. 8, 2011;

• State Sen. Jonathan Perry, $2,500, February 2011;

• State Sen. Ronnie Johns, $2,500, May 2011;

• Billy Nungesser, $2,500, August 2011;

• Republican Party of La., $27,000, September and November 2011;

Best Buy Industries

• Billy Nungesser, $2,500, August of 2011;

• Republican Party of La., $27,000, September and November 2011;

Caddy Shack Enterprises

• Bobby Jindal, $5,000, May 2007;

• Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, $2,500, August 2007;

• Republican Party of La., $15,000, May and September 2008;

Mallett Inc.

• Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, $2,500, November 2007;

Mallett Buildings

• Republican Party of La., $25,000, April 2011;

Nature’s Best Inc.

• Dan Morrish, $500, November 2010;

• Bobby Jindal, $1,500, March 2011;

• Republican Party of La., $12,000, September and November 2011;

Progressive Buildings

• Dan Morrish, $1,000, November 2010;

• Bobby Jindal, $3,500, March 2011;

• Bobby Jindal, $1,500, April 18, 2011;

• Sen. Ronnie Johns, $2,500, May 2011;

Progressive Merchants

• Republican Party of La., $107,000, May, October, February, 2007, December, 2009, September and November 2011, and April 2012;

• Mike Strain, $2,500, August 2007;

• Bobby Jindal, $5,000, December 2009;

• Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, $25,000, June 2011;

• Billy Nungesser, $2,500, August 2011;

Lee Mallett

• State Treasurer John Kennedy $2,500, February 2007;

• Republican Party of Louisiana, $1,000, April 2007;

• Dan Morrish, $2,500, November 2010;

• S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, $3,500, April 2012;

Federal contributions

• Republican Party of Louisiana, $16,000, April 2007, June 2008, September and December 2010, and June 2011;

• Cong. Charles Boustany, $7,200, September 2007 and October 2011;

• U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, $4,600, September 2007;

• State Treasurer John Kennedy (U.S. Senate bid), $2,300, December 2007;

• Donald Cazayoux (La. 6th Congressional Dist.), $16,100, February and April 2008;

• Kennedy Majority Committee, $28,500, April 2008;

• National Republican Senatorial Committee, $28,500, April 2008;

• U.S. Sen. David Vitter, $1,200, June 2008;

• Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachman, $2,500, July 2011;

• Republican National Committee, $61,600, August 2011and March 2011;

• Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, $2,500, October 2011;

• Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, $2,000, November 2011;

• Republican National Committee Recount Fund, $30,800, December 2011;

• Cong. Bill Cassidy, $2,500, April 2012;

• Romney Victory Inc., $14,200, June 2012;

527 contributions

Lee Mallett

• American Solutions Winning the Future, $1,100, January and December 2009;

• Republican Governors Association, $50,000, October 2010 and February 2012;

Mallett Inc.

• Republican Governors Association, $25,000, June 2009;

Air Vac Inc.

• Believe in Louisiana, $1,000, March 2012;

Academy of Training Schools

• Believe in Louisiana, $6,000, March 2012;

Nature’s Best Inc.

• Believe in Louisiana, $1,000, March 2012;

Progressive Merchants

• Believe in Louisiana, $1,000, March 2012;

Progressive Buildings

• Believe in Louisiana, $1,000, March 2012;

Brad Mallett

• David Vitter, $3,100, June 2008;

• Republican National Committee, $30,800, August 2011.

Read Full Post »

Whenever Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks, be it on Fox News, CNN, to fellow Republican governors or at a rare press conference such as the one held on Thursday, his threefold purpose always seems to be to inflate weak ideology, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity.

His less-than-masterful tax plan for the state, which he admitted to reporters is like so many of his ill-conceived programs in that it actually remains a non-plan, might well be entitled “The Dynamics of Irrational and Mythical Imperatives of Tax Reform: A Study in Psychic Trans-Relational Fiscal Recovery Modes” (with apologies to Calvin and Hobbes, our all-time favorite comic strip).

It’s not certain what drives him to wade off into these issues (see: hospital and prison closures, higher education cutbacks, charter schools, online courses and vouchers, state employee retirement “reform,” and privatization of efficiently-operating state agencies like the Office of Group Benefits) but his actions are probably precipitated by deeply ingrained biological, psychological and sociological imperatives that have triggered a reduced functionality in the cerebral cortex (Pickles).

Or it could be some depraved attempt to inflict vengeance on society because his two imaginary childhood friends teased him and wouldn’t let him play with them.

And though he insists he has the job he wants, we can’t help but wonder if he isn’t even now casting a covetous sidelong look at the advantages of plundering (Frazz) in case his presidential aspirations fail to materialize.

The reason for all this speculation is brought on by his admission in that ever-so-brief (less than 12 minutes or six question, whichever came first) press conference Thursday that the administration does not have a proposal as yet to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes despite his well-publicized announcement that he wants to scrap state income taxes for individuals and corporations (especially corporations) in a “revenue neutral” way that would most likely involve increased sales taxes.

But he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

Are you listening, legislators? He doesn’t have a proposal yet. That means the onus is going to be on you and if he doesn’t have his way with you (as he has for the past five years—and you can take that any way you please), he’s going public with the blame game.

If everything goes south, you don’t really think he’s going to take the blame, do you?

He doesn’t have a proposal yet. Now we see where State Superintendent John White gets his prompts on running the Department of Education. White has not submitted a completed plan for any project begun at DOE since he took over; everything—vouchers, charters, course choice—is in a constant state of flux. He announces rules, retracts, readjusts, re-evaluates only to lose a lawsuit over the way his boss proposed to fund state vouchers.

Jindal doesn’t have a proposal—for anything. His retirement “reform” package for state employees was a disaster from the get go. Even before he lost yet another court decision on that issue in January, the matter of whether or not the proposed plan for new hires was an IRS-qualified plan—meaning a plan the IRS would accept in lieu of social security—remained unresolved.

He didn’t have a proposal: let’s just do it and see later if the IRS will accept it. Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.

Remember when he vetoed a bill two years ago to renew a five-cent tax on cigarettes because, he said, he was opposed to new taxes (it was a renewal!)? Well, now he’s considering a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But isn’t he the same governor who closed hospitals and prisons without so much as a heads-up to legislators in the areas affected.

Isn’t he the same governor who rejected a federal grant to make boardband internet available to rural areas of the state but had no alternative plan for broadband?

Isn’t he the same governor who continues to resist ObamaCare at the cost of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding to provide medical care for the state’s poor?

He said he is looking at different ways to protect low- and middle-income citizens.

By increasing the state sales tax by nearly two cents on the dollar? By rejecting another $50 million federal grant for early childhood development? By shuttering battered women’s shelters and attempting to terminate state funding for hospice? By pushing for more and more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Louisiana citizens? By appointing former legislators to six-figure state jobs for which they’re wholly unqualified while denying raises to the state’s working stiffs? Yeah, that’ll really protect the low income people of the state.

“It’s way too early to make decisions on what’s in and out of the plan,” he said of the soon-to-be proposed (we assume) income tax re-haul.

Well, Governor, it’s your job to make decisions, to come up with a proposal to present to the legislature so House and Senate members may have sufficient time to debate the issues—unlike your sweeping education package of a year ago.

In your response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this week (not your disastrous response in 2009 in which the Republican Party subjected you to national ridicule), you said, “With four more years in office, he (Obama) needs to step up to the plate and do the job he was elected to do.”

That’s right, folks. You can’t make up stuff this good. The response is so easy that it’s embarrassing but here goes:

Pot, meet Kettle.

In retrospect, drawing on comic strip for inspiration when writing about Jindal somehow seems entirely appropriate.

Read Full Post »

It’s interesting to note that the very existence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes “model legislation” for lawmakers to introduce back in their respective state capitals rests on one ginormous paradox.

For example, consider this mission statement from ALEC’s 4th edition of its state economic competitiveness index entitled Rich States, Poor Stateshttp://www.alec.org/docs/RSPS_4th_Edition.pdf: “ALEC’s mission is to discuss, develop and disseminate public policies which expand free markets, promote economic growth, limit the size of government (emphasis ours), and preserve individual liberty within its nine task forces.”

Yet, for all its breast beating about making government smaller and more accountable, it’s curious and somewhat contrary to that theme that of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500, fully one-half are—or were—corporate members of ALEC http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2012/full_list/.

In fact, 31 of the 50 largest corporations in America helped pay the bills to wine and dine state legislators at seminars, conferences, planning sessions and annual meetings of ALEC delegates, including the 2011 annual meeting held in New Orleans at which Gov. Bobby Jindal was the keynote speaker.

Fallout over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, last February coupled with ALEC’s endorsement of the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law in that state which was linked to his shooting has resulted in the decision by some two dozen corporations to drop their ALEC memberships.

Among those who have bailed out are Wal-Mart, General Motors, General Electric, Bank of America, Entergy, PepsiCo, Walgreen, Dow Chemical, Marathon Petroleum, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola.

Some of those retaining their memberships, however, include Hunt-Guillot of Ruston, ExxonMobil (the largest corporation in the U.S.), Chevron, AT&T, Verizon, UnitedHealth Group, Archer Daniels Midland, Wells Fargo, Pfizer, Boeing, Microsoft, and FedEx.

ALEC’s “small is better” philosophy for government takes a sharp 180 when its corporate membership is placed under the microscope. While 50 of the 100 largest members of the Fortune 500 are ALEC members, that number drops precipitously in the ensuing blocks of 100.

For example, of the corporations ranked in size from 101 to 200, only 29 are ALEC members and for 201 to 300, the number is 17. For 301 to 400, the membership is 13 and for the final group, 401-500, you will find only seven who are ALEC members.

So while the lobbying group maintains that small is better, it appears that it goes after the larger corporate sponsors first and is increasingly disdainful of the smaller companies.

The 116 Fortune 500 companies who are members of ALEC combined for $4.5 trillion in revenues in 2011 and altogether realized net profits of $484.2 billion. Remember, that does not include the other 384 Fortune 500 companies—just the 116 ALEC members.

Just for the record, here are 50 ALEC members from the Fortune 100 with 2011 rankings, revenue and profits in parentheses http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2012/full_list/:

• ExxonMobil—(1; $452.9 billion; $41.1 billion);

• Wal-Mart—(2; $446.9 billion; $15.7 billion—terminated membership);

• Chevron—(3; $245.6 billion; $26.9 billion);

• ConocoPhillips—(4; $237.3 billion; $12.4 billion);

• GM—(5; $150.3 billion; $9.2 billion—terminated membership);

• GE—(6; $147.6 billion; $14.2 billion—terminated membership);

• Ford—(9; $136.3 billion; $20.2 billion);

• AT&T—(11; $126.7 billion; $3.9 billion);

• Bank of America—(13; $115.1 billion; $1.4 billion);

• Verizon—(15; $110.9 billion; $2.4 billion);

• CVS—(18; $107.8 billion; $3.5 billion—terminated membership);

• IBM—(19; $106.9 billion; $15.9 billion);

• UnitedHealth Group—(22; (101.9 billion; $5.1 billion);

• Wells Fargo—(26; $87.6 billion; $15.9 billion—terminated membership);

• Procter & Gamble—(27; $82.6 billion; $11.8 billion—terminated membership);

• Archer Daniels Midland—(28; $80.7 billion; $2 billion);

• Marathon Petroleum—(31; $73.6 billion; $2.4 billion);

• Walgreen—(32; $72.2 billion; $2.7 billion—terminated membership);

• Medco Health Solutions—(36; $70.1 billion; $17.8 billion—terminated membership);

• Microsoft—(37; $69.9 billion; $23.2 billion);

• Boeing—(39); $68.7 billion; $4 billion);

• Pfizer—(40; $67.9 billion; $10 billion);

• PepsiCo—(41; $66.5 billion; $6.4 billion—terminated membership);

• Johnson & Johnson—(42; $65 billion; $9.7 billion—terminated membership);

• State Farm Insurance—(43; $64.3 billion; $845 million);

• Dell—(44; $62.1 billion; $3.5 billion—terminated membership);

• WellPoint—(45; $60.7 billion; $2.6 billion);

• Caterpillar—(46; $60.1 billion; $4.9 billion);

• Dow Chemical—(47; $60 billion; $2.7 billion);

• Comcast—(49; $55.8 billion; $4.2 billion);

• Kraft Foods—(50; $54.4 billion; $3.5 billion—terminated membership);

• Intel—(51; $54 billion; $12.9 billion);

• UPS—(52; $53.1 billion; $3.8 billion);

• Best Buy—(53; $50.3 billion; $1.3 billion—terminated membership);

• Prudential—(55; $49 billion; $3.7 billion;

• Amazon.com—(56; $48.1 billion; $631 million—terminated membership);

• Merck—(57; $48 billion; $6.3 billion—terminated membership);

• Coca-Cola—(59; $46.5 billion; $8.6 billion—terminated membership);

• Express Scripts Holding—(60; $46.1 billion; $8.6 billion);

• FedEx—(70; $39.3 billion; $1.5 billion);

• DuPont—(72; $38.7 billion; $3.5 billion—terminated membership);

• Honeywell International—(77; $37.1 billion; $2.1 billion);

• Humana—(79; $36.8 billion; $1.4 billion);

• Liberty Mutual Insurance Group—(84; $34.7 billion; $365 million);

• Sprint Nextel—(90; $33.7 billion; –$2.9 billion);

• News Corp.—(91; $33.4 billion; $2.7 billion);

• American Express—(95; $32.3 billion; $4.9 billion);

• John Deere—(97; $32 billion; $2.8 billion—terminated membership);

• Philip Morris—(99; $31.1 billion; $8.6 billion);

• Nationwide Insurance—(100; $30.7 billion; -$793 million).

Of course, ALEC also pushes its agenda of lower taxes very strongly (who do you think helped write Gov. Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the state individual and corporate income taxes in favor of increase sales taxes? Surely, one would not believe he came up with that all by himself).

It’s no coincidence that Louisiana is pushing to ditch the state income tax at the same time as several other states, including Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina. Each state has read the ALEC playbook.

“Money is spent more efficiently by the private sector than by governments, so it is reasonable to expect that states with lower overall taxes have better economic environments than states with high taxes and more government spending,” the Rich States, Poor States report says.

Apparently the authors of that statement did not bother to review the histories of the subprime mortgage crisis, junk bonds, Enron, Bernard Madoff, Stanford Financial Group, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs), Tyco, WorldCom, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

Be that as it may, let us go back to ALEC’s mantra of lower taxes and see how that might apply to its corporate membership.

General Electric is the poster child for tax dodges. With $19.6 billion in net profits for the years 2008-2011, GE managed not only to pay no taxes, but got $3.7 billion in tax refunds.

Other ALEC members, their net profits and taxes/refunds for years 2008-2011 include: http://www.ctj.org/pdf/notax2012.pdf

• PG&E—($6 billion; $1 billion refund);

• CenterPoint Energy—($3.1 billion; $347 million refund);

• Duke Energy—($5.5 billion; $216 million refund);

• Con-way—($422 million; $23 million refund);

• Ryder System—($843 million; $46 million refund);

• DuPont—($3 billion; $325 million paid in taxes—10.8 percent, less than one-third the standard 35 percent tax rate);

• Consolidated Edison—($5.9 billion; $74 million refund);

• Verizon—($19.8 billion; $758 million refund);

• Boeing—($14.8 billion; $812 million refund);

• Wells Fargo—($69.2 billion; $2.6 billion paid in taxes—3.8 percent, barely 10 percent of the 35 percent standard rate);

• Honeywell International—($5.2 billion; $102 million—2 percent).

Some of the CEOs for ALEC member corporations received more in compensation in 2010 than their companies paid in taxes. Here are a few with salaries first, followed by taxes paid: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/08/31/ceo-pay-vs-corporate-taxes/

• International Paper: $249 million refund; CEO John Faraci received $12.3 million;

• Prudential: $722 million refund; CEO John Strangfeld received $16.2 million;

• Verizon: $705 million refund; CEO Ivan Seidenberg paid $18.1 million;

• Chesapeake Energy: paid no taxes; CEO Aubrey McClendon paid $21 million;

• eBay: $131 million refund; CEO John Donahoe paid $12.4 million;

• Coca-Cola: paid $8 million taxes; CEO John Brock paid $19.1 million;

• Dow Chemical: $576 million refund; CEO Andrew Liveris paid $17.8 million;

• Ford: $69 million refund: CEO Alan Mulally paid $26.5 million.

If you still believe that ALEC favors smaller government over, say, being able to exercise control over government taxation and spending, then consider the General Services Administration’s list of $69 billion in federal contracts held by these ALEC members in fiscal year 2011: https://www.fpds.gov/fpdsng/index.php/reports

• Boeing: $21.6 billion;

• Northrop Grumman: $15 billion;

• Raytheon Co.: $14.8 billion;

• Humana: $3.4 billion;

• General Electric: $2.8 billion;

• Honeywell International: $2.2 billion;

• Dell: $1.4 billion;

• IBM: $1.7 billion;

• FedEx: $1.6 billion;

• Merck: $1.3 billion;

• Shell: $913 million;

• Pfizer: $1.2 billion;

• UPS: $701 million;

• AT&T: $743 million;

It’s easy to preach small government and lower taxes but to achieve this, a lot of ALEC members would stand to lose a chunk of business with Uncle Sam.

And that doesn’t even include state and local contracts like the $18.3 million in state contracts currently held by ALEC member Hunt, Guillot & Associates of Ruston and the $11.4 million state contract awarded to Northrop Grumman.

Smaller, more streamlined and accountable government sound great, most would agree. But the implementation of changes across the board may well affect one’s bottom line and that, as they say, is when the cheese gets binding. It is then that we simply must follow the money.

Charter schools and vouchers, for example, would benefit investors who see a fortune to be made in private education—especially when most of that money would be paid by the state.

The continued growth in the number of private prisons (along with more laws that send more people to prison) would be quite a windfall for those operators who contract with state and local governments to incarcerate lawbreakers.

Elimination of personal and corporate income taxes in favor of sales tax increases would further lighten the financial burden of business and industry—and shift that burden onto the backs of low- and middle-income citizens.

The rejection of a federal grant to build a broadband internet system for rural Louisiana certainly benefitted commercial cable companies like AT&T which contributed $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation.

Likewise, relaxed environmental regulations endorsed by ALEC certainly aided member Dow Chemical which coincidentally kicked in $100,000 for the Supriya Jindal Foundation. Soon after that donation, proposed fines of subsidiary Union Carbide for allowing the release of a toxic pollutant and failing to notify authorities of the leak were dropped.

Or Marathon Oil, whose $250,000 donation to the foundation may have greased the skids for the awarding of $5.2 million in state funds to a Marathon subsidiary.

Instead of listening to the rhetoric of ALEC’s membership, one would do well to watch how certain specific proposals might affect that membership.

In other words, don’t listen to what they say; watch instead for what they do.

Read Full Post »

Sneaky. Duplicitous. Underhanded. Deceitful. Devious. Dishonest. Fraudulent. Mendacious. Untruthful. Despicable.

Those are just a few words to describe the latest tactic employed by Jindal-Teepell & Co. in the administration’s ongoing almost five-year campaign of deliberate misinformation, distortion and obfuscation in an effort to conceal the state’s business from the public.

We normally attempt to mix in a little humor, sarcasm and snarky comments when we write about Piyush, but his act is beginning to wear a little thin.

Between his flitting about the entire country while ignoring pressing problems at home, lying to the public, making himself inaccessible to state media (while courting Fox Network, CNN, and other national media) and running roughshod over state employees, legislators, and anyone else who appears even slightly hessitant to drink his Kool-Aid, he simply is no longer funny.

His coy response to inquiries about national political aspirations that he “has the job he wants” no longer sells.

His insistence that he has “the most transparent, open and accountable” administration in Louisiana history is nothing more than a blatant lie. And like Joseph Goebbels, he apparently believes that if he tells a lie, makes it big enough and repeats it often enough, people will believe it.

Some do. Many of his adoring followers appear to reside north of Alexandria. But those numbers are growing smaller as more and more the citizens of this state are beginning to peel away the layers of pseudo purity, honesty and sincerity with which he has camouflaged himself so as to hide the real Piyush.

This squeaky clean governor refused to return $55,000 in campaign funds illegally laundered through a bank in St. Tammany Parish. His (or Timmy Teepell’s) explanation was that the money was accepted in good faith, so it is Jindal’s to keep. We suppose if he deposited a campaign check that subsequently bounced, Teepell would also suggest that the bank should not look to the campaign for reimbursement because it was “accepted in good faith.”

The long and short of it is this guy cannot be trusted. He will say or do whatever is politically expedient which makes him no different than any other snake oil salesman. He has, it turns out, no moral compass, no conscience and no soul.

But when a governor—or any of his minions—touting his openness and transparency instructs his staff to use private email accounts when discussing state business so as to avoid disclosure under the state’s public records laws, something is terribly lacking in the overall character makeup of the man with whom we have entrusted the state’s leadership.

That’s the story broken by enterprising AP reporter Melinda Deslatte on Monday.

For those of you who still believe Piyush is straightforward and honest with the voters of this state, let’s recap Deslatte’s story.

The Associated Press, she wrote, received copies of emails not provided in response to public records requests that revealed non-state government email addresses were used literally dozens of times by state officials last summer.

The subject of those emails dealt with a public relations campaign for slashing $523 million from the state Medicaid budget.

Piyush can’t even be original with that practice; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had initiated the practice during her administration before her 2008 campaign for vice president. So did former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Both got busted.

And now, Mr. Clean is caught with dirty fingers. It is nothing more than a sneaky effort to circumvent state law and Piyush should be held accountable for it.

For 144 state legislators who have shrunk from confronting Piyush, this should serve as a wakeup call; after all, they were also being kept in the dark on this.

One would think closing state prisons without giving area legislators a heads-up would have stirred legislative grumbling.

One would presume that closing hospitals without informing legislators would create some type of legislative backlash.

One would assume that demoting four legislators from committee assignments would bring lawmakers together in a united front.

One would think that firing a university president, agency heads, rank and file employees, and physicians would provoke a public outcry.

One would be wrong on all counts; this, apparently, is a state of sheeple who either have their heads where only their proctologists can find them or just don’t give a damn.

Apparently the only ones who bother to keep informed and who care about what is happening are those directly affected: teachers who are constantly denigrated by an absentee governor who chose as his chief of staff/right-hand man one Timmy Teepell, a man who was home schooled and knows not one whit about what public school teachers go through in dealing with discipline problems, apathetic parents or inadequate classroom resources (that have to be made up out of the teachers’ pockets). Nor do Jindal-Teepell realize—or care—that many teachers remain at school long after the last student has gone home and who work far into the night on lesson plans and grading papers. In short, they don’t have a clue.

There also are college administrators and professors who see their budgets being chopped in half and students who see their tuition costs rising by 40 percent against already prohibitive student loans. And to think, this governor chose as his campaign manager/right-hand man one Timmy Teepell who never set foot in a college classroom and who names to the board of supervisors of the state’s flagship university a man who has one semester of college.

And there are those state employees who have been privatized out of their careers and who faced the very real possibility earlier this year of seeing their retirement benefits slashed by as much as 85 percent (and remember, state employees are not eligible for social security benefits).

And to think, this governor announced that Teepell was leaving his administration in November of 2011 to head up the Baton Rouge office of OnMessage, a Virginia political consulting firm. Only problem is, OnMessage, a year later still has no local address or local telephone number and Teepell’s vehicle is parked on practically a daily basis in the rear parking lot of the State Capitol. Could he be running his private Baton Rouge OnMessage office out of the governor’s office? Hard to say because no one in the governor’s office is talking. But Jindal’s non-profit propaganda organization, Believe in Louisiana, has paid Teepell, through OnMessage, hundreds of thousands of dollars since Teepell supposedly left the governor’s office.

The emails were provided to AP by an administration official who, for obvious reasons, asked not to be identified. That makes us wonder if it could have been the same administration official who once told LouisianaVoice that Jindal was “dysfunctional.”

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, apparently backed into a transparent corner said, “Certainly we believe that conducting public business, even when using personal means of communication, is subject to public records law.”

How disingenuous can one be, given the fact that this administration has hidden behind something called the “deliberative process” since Day One?

The emails obtained by AP, however, were not included in the 3,800 documents and emails provided by the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in response to a request for information on discussions surrounding the health care cuts. So where was the public records law on that occasion, Kristy?

In one email exchange, Calder Lynch, a health policy adviser to DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein, instructed a communications employee to send certain types of items to Lynch’s personal Gmail account instead of his state government email address.

That should come as no surprise to anyone. It was Greenstein, after all, who at his Senate confirmation hearing in June of 2011 refused to divulge the name of the winner of a 10-year, $300 million state Medicaid contract.

It turned out that the winner was a company called CNSI, a company for whom Greenstein had previously been employed. Once the name of the company was released—and then only after senators all but threatened Greenstein with thumbscrews—Greenstein insisted that he had built a “firewall” between him and the selection process and that he had had no contact with the company during that process.

Emails—state emails, no less—however, revealed that Greenstein had been in constant communication with his former employer prior to and during the selection of the contract winner.

Such is the definition of transparency and accountability in this administration.

The question that remains now is just how much longer will the state’s citizens—and a mostly compliant legislature, complete with a lapdog House Speaker (neutered, of course) and equally ambitious Senate President—continue to let Piyush Jindal make a laughingstock of the state and a cruel joke of the strictly theoretical definition of the separation of powers, checks and balances and three branches of government?

Read Full Post »

First it was a federal judge who threw out Piyush Jindal’s voucher plan in Tangipahoa Parish because it posed a major setback to the parish’s current desegregation consent decree.

Then, last Friday, a state district judge, Tim Kelley, whose wife once worked for Piyush, said the method of appropriations to fund the statewide voucher program is unconstitutional.

Fast on the heels of Kelley’s ruling, fellow Baton Rouge District Judge William Morvant refused to throw out a lawsuit challenging the only part of Piyush’s far-reaching retirement reform proposals that survived the legislative session earlier this year.

In case you’re counting, that’s oh-for-three—not a good batting average for the governor who would be president.

Keep in mind that Piyush is the incoming chairman of the National Republican Governors’ Association.

Remember, too, that he thought he would be moving into that position in the hope that it would be the launching pad for his presidential aspirations. To do so, he needed to bring something substantial to the table.

That something was to be sweeping education reform. That was to be the centerpiece of his list of grand accomplishments, the bold-face type on his curriculum vitae.

Now, the status of both education and retirement reform are suddenly in jeopardy.

Suddenly the star of the errand boy of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) doesn’t shine quite so brightly.

What to do?

The obvious answer would be to teague someone. That practice, after all, has served him well in the past. No college president, attorney, doctor, agency head, legislator or rank-and-file state employee will dare rebuke Piyush lest he or she be shown the door.

There was a time when we would have run a recap of those teagued by this peevish little man, but the list has grown so long that it would take up far too much space.

On reflection, however, one must ask just what are Piyush’s alternatives?

Well, normally he could campaign against the re-election of judges Kelley and Morvant—except he already did the anti-judge campaign thingy in Iowa.

He can’t teague the federal judge; he was appointed by the president.

He can’t teague either of the state judges—Kelley or Morvant—because they were elected by voters of the 19th Judicial District.

He can’t teague Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney who so expertly represented the interests of the state in arguing on behalf of the voucher program because Faircloth was working under a contract that ends when all appeals are exhausted—about $100,000 or so down the road.

He can’t teague Angéle Davis, wife of Judge Kelley because she already resigned her position as Commissioner of Administration.

He can’t teague the legislator who introduced the education bills because they were not written by any Louisiana elected official but by the corporate honchos at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

He might consider teaguing Superintendent of Education John White since there are already unconfirmed rumors floating around that he is leaving soon.

But there is a far better option open to Piyush:

He could take a page from the playbook of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

It’s such a simple solution we’re surprised no one has thought of it before.

All he has to do is first invoke that obscure nullification clause which several states unhappy with last month’s presidential election are bantering about—the one that says states can unilaterally ignore a federal law they don’t like. Or even opt out of the union itself. Some in Texas are talking about splitting off and breaking the state into five separate states (pure lunacy, but a philosophy that dovetails nicely with that of the Tea Party).

Then, like Morsi, Jindal can unilaterally decree greater authority for himself, including issuing a declaration that the wrong-headed courts are henceforth barred from challenging his decisions.

(Come to think of it, such a move is not exactly unprecedented. President Andrew Jackson said of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the state of Georgia could not impose its laws on Cherokee tribal lands, “(Chief Justice) John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”)

After that, he could even take it a step further and, like North Korea’s late Kim Jong-il, bestow upon himself the title of “Dear Leader,” and, again like Kim Jong-il, commission a song of the same name in his honor.

Think about it. If he were to take that action, he could sell prisons, the old insurance building property, hospitals, roads, universities, the Saints and the Zephyrs, not to mention a few state-owned golf courses and state parks.

That water from Toledo Bend Reservoir? Sold. Gone to Texas and a few select political cronies are even richer than before.

And you only think you’ve seen a lot of corporate tax breaks, incentives and exemptions. Once he issues his decree, corporate taxes would disappear into that sink hole in Assumption Parish.

All state employees who aren’t fired outright (to be replaced by telecommuting administrative types from Florida, California, Alabama and elsewhere) would immediately forfeit all health and retirement benefits—except for friendly former legislators who, of course, would be elevated to six-figure salaries with full benefits.

The Department of Civil Service, public schools and the State Ethics Board would become distant memories for the nostalgic among us.

Of course, were he to take such action, he could always say his decision was predicated “by three things: one, to protect needed reform packages; two, to streamline government so at the end of the day, we can do more with less, and three, I have the job I want.”

Opponents could be expected to condemn his decrees as heavy-handed and dictatorial but what else would you expect from those who represent the coalition of the status quo?

Read Full Post »

Piyush Jindal loves to regurgitate reports that tell of Louisiana’s wonderful business climate (with all but non-existent corporate taxes, cheap labor and a glut of laid-off state employees looking for work, why would the climate not be pro-business?) but here’s a report we aren’t likely to hear him say much about or post on the state web page as is his custom when the reports are favorable.

Louisiana has the 10th worst-run state government in the nation, according to a study just released by 24/7 Wall Street, an independent research company.

While acknowledging that measuring the successful management of a state is difficult, 24/7, which each year conducts an extensive survey of all 50 states, considered data from a number of sources. These included Standard & Poor’s, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Tax Foundation, Realty Trac, the FBI, and the National Conference of State Legislators.

Once all the data were extrapolated, each state was ranked on the basis of its performance in all categories, the study’s methodology report said.

“A state with abundant natural resources should have an easier time balancing its budget than one starved for resources,” the study said. “Despite this, it is the responsibility of each state to deal with the resources at its disposal. Each government must anticipate economic shifts and diversify its industries and attract new business.”

Those are particularly damning observations insofar as Louisiana’s ongoing fiscal crisis is concerned. Massive budget cuts have gutted the operations of many state agencies. Higher education, for example, once received two-thirds of its budget from state appropriations and the rest from tuition. That is completely reversed today as tuition increases of some 40 percent over the past several years coupled with budgetary cuts now has tuition providing two-thirds of all revenue for higher ed.

Another general criticism of poorly-run states that well may have been addressed specifically to Louisiana and the Piyush administration said, “A state should be able to raise enough revenue to ensure the safety of its citizens and minimize hardship without spending more than it can prudently afford. Some states have historically done this much better than others,” it said.

Piyush has steadfastly refused to consider any efforts to raise additional revenue, including tax increases. Instead, he has consistently pushed for more liberal tax incentives for businesses, a policy that has cost the state up to $5 billion per year, according to official estimates.

The 24/7 report cites North Dakota as the best-run state in the nation, the first time it has received that distinction. As of August of this year, North Dakota was the second-largest oil producer in the nation because of the use of hydraulic fracturing in the state Bakken shale formation.

The oil and gas boom brought jobs to the state, whose 3.5 percent unemployment rate was the country’s lowest in 2011.

North Dakota and Montana (the 18th best-run) were the only states that have not reported budget shortfalls since fiscal 2009.

Louisiana, on the other hand, earned its 10th worst-managed state on the basis of having:

• The 26th largest budget deficit (14.3 percent);

• The seventh lowest median household income ($41,734);

• The third highest percentage of its citizens living below the poverty line (20.4 percent);

• The 10th smallest proportion of its budget dedicated to social welfare due in large part to a lack of tax revenue (and this was before the latest round of budget cuts, including Medicaid);

• One of the highest violent crime rates in the nation (New Orleans had the highest murder rate in 2011);

• The 20th highest debt per capita.

Louisiana’s ranking as the 10th worst-run state puts it just ahead of Mississippi, the 11th worst, the report indicates. Mississippi had the lowest median household income ($36,919) in the nation, the country’s highest percentage of people living below the poverty line (22.6 percent), and the country’s fourth highest unemployment rate (10.7 percent).

California, with the second highest unemployment rate (11.7 percent) ranked as the worst-run state in the nation despite having the 10th highest median household income ($52,287.

Following are the 10 best-run states and some of the factors that got them their high rankings, according to 24/7:

1. North Dakota (lowest unemployment rate);

2. Wyoming (sixth lowest percentage of families living below poverty line);

3. Nebraska (second lowest in both unemployment and per capita debt);

4. Utah (11th lowest unemployment rate, tied for 17th lowest percentage living below poverty line);

5. Iowa (7th lowest per capita debt, 6th lowest unemployment rate);

6. Alaska (second highest median household income, 4th lowest percentage living below poverty line);

7. South Dakota (3rd lowest unemployment rate);

8. Vermont (5th lowest unemployment rate, 7th lowest percentage living below poverty line);

9. Virginia (7th highest in median household income, 7th lowest percentage living in poverty);

10. Minnesota (13th lowest per capita debt, 11th highest median household income, 10th lowest percentage living in poverty);

….and here are the 10 worst-run states, along with some of the reasons for their less than desirable standings:

41. Louisiana (20th highest per capita debt, 7th lowest median household income) 3rd highest percentage living in poverty);

42. Florida (tied for 6th highest unemployment rate);

43. South Carolina (8th highest unemployment rate, 9th lowest median household income, 9th highest percentage living in poverty);

44. New Mexico (8th lowest median household income, 2nd highest percentage living in poverty);

45. Nevada (largest budget deficit in nation, highest unemployment rate in nation);

46. New Jersey (5th highest per capita debt, 4th highest budget deficit, 13th highest unemployment rate);

47. Arizona (3rd largest budget deficit, 13th highest unemployment rate, 8th highest percentage in poverty);

48. Illinois (11th highest per capita debt, 2nd largest budget deficit, 10th highest unemployment rate);

49. Rhode Island (3rd highest debt per capita, 3rd highest unemployment rate);

50. California (2nd highest unemployment rate, 18th highest percentage living in poverty).

Read Full Post »

It might be understandable if critics of Piyush Jindal were somewhat smug after revelations that he lobbied—practically begged—to be chosen for vice president or at least be awarded a cabinet position in the Mitt Romney administration during the Republican nominee’s unsuccessful campaign for president.

Piyush, after all, kept feeding us that asinine line that he had the job he wanted and that he wasn’t interested in higher office. He even went so far as to say he would not accept a cabinet position which seemed odd, given that he had not been offered one.

The Daily Mail, a British publication which somehow seems to provide better coverage of Washington than our own media, has a story that quotes a Romney insider as saying Romney’s biggest post-election critic, one Piyush Jindal, “wanted very, very much to be Vice President.”

Of course, we in Louisiana who know him best knew that all along; he couldn’t wait to take the first flight out of Baton Rouge headed for the Beltway. We knew it, he knew it, the media knew it but still he tried to play coy with us, a tactic he is not very good at—in fact, is downright clumsy. Diplomacy is not his forte; never has been, never will be.

What he is good at, however, is taking Louisiana citizens—those who twice entrusted the state’s highest office to him—for idiots who were too stupid to see through that façade of sincerity, that veneer of humility, that false mask of concern for the people of this state.

None of it is—or ever was—real. We’ve been beating that drum for more than two years now and the message finally seems to be getting through. This guy is not to be trusted—not with our lives, our health care, our education (public and higher), our prisons, our taxes, our economy, and certainly not with all those political appointments to his campaign contributors.

• We sat idly by as he systematically undermined the state’s infrastructure by giving away billions of dollars in tax breaks, incentives, and credits to corporate entities.

• We have watched him rape public education in the name of reform, all the while, bringing in unqualified administrators at six-figure salaries, some of whom are allowed to work from their homes in other states.

• We have seen him abandon higher education to survive by its own devices (read: tuition increases which hurt those least able to absorb the financial pain).

• We have witnessed him as he turned his back on hundreds of thousands of Louisiana citizens in need of health care by implementing ruthless budget cuts to and in some cases, closing state hospitals and clinics.

• We have stood on the sidelines as he closed prisons after being thwarted in attempts to privatize those facilities.

• We have watched as he privatized state agencies, one of which amassed a $500 million fund balance while efficiently managing state employee health insurance claims.

• We have observed over and over how he has shamelessly courted the national media while ignoring requests from Louisiana media for interviews and comments.

All these actions (he refers to them as “reforms” when he appears on those frequent network news interviews) have cost thousands of Louisiana citizens jobs which in turn have cost them their benefits. He even boasts on those interviews of the jobs he has eliminated, failing to mention the has-been legislators he has appointed to six-figure state administrative jobs—jobs for which they are completely unqualified in every respect.

And, of course, when anyone disagrees with him, be it a state employee, an administrative official, a college president, an attorney, a doctor or even a legislator, he or she is immediately fired or demoted, a practice that has come to be known in Louisiana as teagued.

He has run up more than $100,000 in costs for state police security alone while flitting from state to state, from network news show to network news show, raising campaign money, promoting his book on leadership (what irony!), campaigning for other Republicans, and more recently, lecturing the national Republican Party on becoming more lovable, more touchy-feely.

But sometimes when one bites the hand that feeds him, it can bite back.

Former Romney aides have outed those “craven hypocrites” whom they say only days before the Nov. 6 election were in a virtual feeding frenzy over desired cabinet positions in the Romney administration that, it turned out, was never to be.

“I’m sure Gov. Romney is finding out now who his real friends are,” one aide was quoted as saying. “There were one or two well-known figures who were late committing to support him, who were the most eager to curry favor when it looked like we would win and who are now out there trashing the governor,” the aide added.

That would be our boy Piyush and Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich was late in joining the party because he was seeking the nomination in his own right. Piyush, you may recall, was lightning quick with his endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry before that ill-fated campaign cratered.

When the train wrecks formerly known as the Gingrich and Perry campaigns tanked, Gingrich and Piyush saw the Romney parade headed down the street and jumped in front, yelling, “Follow me!”

Romney former foreign policy adviser Dan Senor told MSNBC, “In politics, when you win, you are a genius and when you lose everyone calls you an idiot. But to see the way certain craven hypocrites are acting right now really sticks in the craw.”

Senor, by the way, is the son-in-law of former Louisiana Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown.

Senor said “leading figures” were cozying up to Romney in Ohio days before the election, trying to land cabinet positions.

Piyush made national headlines with his criticism of the Romney campaign within days of his loss to President Obama. He turned on Romney like a junkyard dog would attack an unsuspecting intruder.

And that may be more than an analogy; Piyush, the incoming head of the Republican Governors’ Association, obviously now considers himself as the titular head of the party and the one anointed as its official spokesman.

Who better, after all, to criticize than a sitting governor who won 67 percent of 20 percent of the vote in last year’s gubernatorial election? That’s right, the darling of the Republican Party could coax only 20 percent of the electorate to the polls as 80 percent of the state’s voters yawned themselves into a state of catatonic indifference. Of course, his $9 million in campaign funds bowled over an unknown school teacher from north Louisiana who had only about $25,000. What would one expect?

Still, she got 17 percent of that 20 percent turnout. He called it a mandate. We call it swatting a gnat with a meat cleaver.

So now, he lectures Republicans on how not to write off 47 percent of the voters but to strive to attract “one hundred percent of the votes.”

Does anyone else see the irony here?

But oddly, it’s not smugness we feel as we watch this little drama being played out in the national, indeed international, media.

Instead, it’s a continued sense of sadness and embarrassment for the state and its people.

We deserve better than petty, petulant Piyush.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,719 other followers