Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

The hammer has fallen on Troop D.

LouisianaVoice has learned of a meeting in Lake Charles on Tuesday at which time state police were informed that they could consider the entirety of Troop D to be under investigation by State Police Internal Affairs.

We’re not certain of the reason for the latest IA scrutiny but we feel confident that it may be a not-so-thinly veiled message to troopers to cease talking to LouisianaVoice.

That’s what generally happens when events begin to make the guys at the top a little uncomfortable and the necessity to quell rumblings in the ranks becomes a top priority. The natural thing to do is to go after the messenger. Administration just doesn’t like whistleblowers.

It’s a time-tested formula that is pockmarked with successes and failures of varying degrees—but mostly, in the final analysis, abject failure. We’re seeing it with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and with Edward Snowden for blowing the cover off illegal surveillance on the part of the U.S. government. We’re seeing with Hillary Clinton’s email debacle. We saw it with Nixon’s plumbers in the Watergate scandal. We saw it with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski.

It’s been an ongoing crusade of the Jindal administration for five years now, including placing state offices off-limits to LouisianaVoice and singling out and ostracizing the wrong state employees as sources for some of our stories. In the end, it only made Team Jindal out to be even bigger fools.

Such tactics usually do blow up in the collective faces of the perpetrators, those with the most to hide. It has been our experience that the more the Jindal administration tries to keep the lid on unsavory activity, the more determined state employees become to serve as anonymous sources to expose unscrupulous officials and questionable activities. LouisianaVoice is getting more solid leads to stories these days than ever before. Another reason for that is that where Jindal has only contempt for state employees, we maintain that no one should have his dignity undermined by a superior or an elected official with an agenda.

Take the long-simmering situation over at Louisiana State Police Troop D in Lake Charles. Events that occurred five years ago are just now coming to light and the glare of that light should concern each of us about the leadership in the vanguard of the state’s top law enforcement agency.

The reason we’re only now learning of these events? Failure on the part of top administration to take decisive action in the first place but instead to attack those coming forward with information of inappropriate and even illegal activity within Troop D.

It would seem enough that State Police Commander Col. Mike Edmonson condoned but then denied his part in an effort last year to sneak a bill amendment through the legislature that would’ve added about $50,000 per year to his retirement. It was only through an anonymous tip that LouisianaVoice was able to break that story and Edmonson’s furtive financial windfall was subsequently aborted.

Perhaps it is the mesmerizing effect of too many photo-ops with the governor that has given him delusions of celebrity status. But now, as more and more sordid details are leaking out of Lake Charles, the long shadow of doubt is being cast over Edmonson’s qualifications—and ability—to continue to lead and command respect from Louisiana’s state troopers.

The matter of Capt. Harlan Chris Guillory is an excellent example. Edmonson, instead of suspending Guillory for violating State Police regulations on reporting the use of prescription medication, went after those who prompted the investigation of Guillory’s drug use, imposing much stricter penalties on the messengers than on the offender.

Guillory, in fact, was promoted in rank and made commander of Troop D following an Internal Affairs investigation of allegations of prescription drug abuse—allegations that ultimately were proved accurate.

Capt. Barry Branton, a supervisor with an unblemished record who approved a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) on Guillory was placed on administrative leave for several months and demoted in rank to lieutenant on July 20, 2010. The findings against him included making false statements to Internal Affairs investigators, failure to report suspected violations by a fellow officer, failure to conform to laws, improper dissemination of information, unsatisfactory performance, providing false information on departmental records and for conduct unbecoming an officer.

Branton appealed and ultimately reached a settlement with State Police. He agreed to accept a demotion to lieutenant but won a major concession by having his suspension expunged from his record and by receiving full back pay.

Lt. Chris Ivey, who first suspected a prescription drug problem on the part of Guillory and who initiated the PMP, was cited for unsatisfactory performance and for providing false information on departmental records.

Edmonson tagged Ivey with a 48-hour suspension without pay but he appealed and the State Police Commission overturned Edmonson’s penalty but did not award Ivey attorney’s fees. The story didn’t end there, however. Edmonson, determined to extract his pound of flesh, appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeal through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Instead of reversing the State Police Commission, however, the First Circuit not only upheld Ivey’s reinstatement but also awarded him $1,306 in legal fees.


So while Internal Affairs investigators Kevin Ducote and Kelly Dupuy (wife of Edmonson Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy—which raises a whole new set of questions about impartiality and fairness of the investigation itself) prepared a 10-page report on Guillory’s use of prescription drugs, believed to be OxyContin, while on duty, a series of interviews produced an 80-page report highly critical of Branton and Ivey.

It was that 80-page report that sent a clear message to Branton and Ivey, whose concerns about Guillory were, in the end, validated. They were punished and demoted while Guillory was promoted from lieutenant to captain—and to Commander of Troop D.

And that same message went out to the rest of Troop D on Tuesday: Don’t rock the boat.

But don’t take our word for it. Here is that 80-page LSP BRANTON REPORT (It’s long and takes awhile to load, so be patient.)

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For political junkies and political reporters out there, this is just the ticket and it’s coming out party is tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8, just in time for Louisiana’s fall elections.

Freagle, a free political social network designed to connect voters and candidates to engage the way our founders intended, will debut in Louisiana on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

LouisianaVoice anticipates it will make regular use of the site in order to keep its readers updated on political candidates.

Freagle.com will provide a personalized political platform on which voters can customize their issue and election preferences in order to cut through the noise and spin of our current political dialogue to learn who is on their ballot and where those candidates stand on the particular issues they care about.

“Freagle is designed to connect voters to the candidates on their ballot and provide a simple mechanism for learning about where they stand and what they will do if elected,” Freagle founder and CEO Niki Papazoglakis said. “It also allows candidates to easily engage with voters on the topics they care about individually without expensive micro-targeting and polling.”

Freagle is currently operating at: http://www.freagle.com/ . The full site will be live on Tuesday.

Citizens who use Freagle can easily determine who is on their ballot, in their specific precincts. The site will use the voter’s address to automatically connect them to the races on their ballots, but voters also have the ability to manually follow races in other districts. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

“I hope that by making it easy and convenient for voters to be informed and engaged on elections and amendments, more people will turn out to the polls this fall and feel confident that the votes they cast are for the people and topics that best reflect their personal views,” Papazoglakis said. “Ultimately, I hope that Freagle is a catalyst to re-engage voters in this representative democracy and get us back to a citizen-led government.”

Freagle’s other features will include:

  • Simple means of comparing candidates. Election forums will allow voters to conduct side-by-side comparisons of the candidates in each race on their ballot and on individual issues.
  • On-Demand candidates’ debates. Voters can pose questions to all candidates in a race who subscribe to Freagle from the Election Forum wall rather than individually through other venues like websites, Facebook or Twitter and without having to be selected or have timed responses in live forums.
  • My Ballot tool. Voters can research and make voting decisions throughout the election cycle and print their choices before going to the polls.
  • Verification. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

Papazoglakis said Freagle would also be a valuable tool for the news media. “The media will have a simple place to track all of the elections from a single location including who has qualified in each race, where the candidates stand on the issues, and how they are engaging with voters, “ she said. “In addition, comprehensive campaign finance reports are easily accessed from each candidate’s profile.”

Freagle will feature a custom report from the state Ethics Commission that will have significantly more information than the standard download from the Ethics website, Papazoglakis said, adding that the site will also include all campaign contributions for each candidate.

News media outlets wanting more information about Freagle should contact Papazoglakis at (225) 615-4570 or niki@freagle.com.

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For a time, when Bobby Jindal or some other nut case Republican like Todd Akin opened their mouths, each utterance was more outlandish, more implausible than the last.

No more.

Even with Donald Trump, it appears we have reached a saturation point in absurdity with their inane rhetoric that plays to their constituency but does nothing to solve real problems. I mean, a wall constructed along our southern border? Seriously, Donald? When we have crumbling infrastructure (as already pointed out by Goldie Taylor, writing for http://bluenationreview.com/u-s-bridges-and-roads-are-failing-but-trump-wants-to-build-you-a-great-wall/), you want to build a wall?

It was kind of funny when Dan Quayle had a student add an “e” onto potato back in 1992. Reporters had a field day with that. Even though he was the incumbent vice-president under Bush, they lost that election to Clinton-Gore. The student, William Figueroa, then 12, spoke with wisdom beyond his years when he later commented that rumors that Quayle was an idiot were true.

Then there was that inconceivable claim by Todd Akin, the Republican running unsuccessfully for the Senate in Missouri back in 2012. Akin actually went on record as saying women who are raped cannot become pregnant. The full quote: “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

He was defending his anti-abortion position and while there are those who hold to the belief that life is sacred, that has to be one of the strangest defenses of a religious tenet on record. (There are some who, weighing the GOP’s general antipathy toward helping those less fortunate, say that Republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.) Akin was ahead in the polls at the time he made his ill-fated observation but that gaffe cost him the election.

But for the most consistent blathering of pure banal nonsense while on the campaign trail to oblivion, you have to hand the trophy to Bobby Jindal. No one does it better. The man obviously has never learned to heed the sage advice that when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.

From his European “no-go” zones to his letter to President Obama in which he attempted to press Obama to delete any mention of global warming in his upcoming New Orleans speech to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Jindal has been a most unfunny joke.

He has even gone so far as to criticize the use of private emails by Hillary Clinton while requiring his staff to use private email accounts and even passing a law that closed off any semblance of transparency for his office. Granted, U.S. State Department classified emails are a tad more serious than those of a governor but perhaps Jindal would’ve been wise to let that one slide.

Let’s face it, folks, he makes Quayle look like a towering intellect, Trump like the epitome of reason, Hillary like a paragon of honesty, and Akin like….well, never mind. We really don’t have a comparison for that one other than to observe that Jindal pleads ignorance on the subject of evolution because he is “not a scientist,” despite holding a biology degree from Ivy League Brown University that says he is.

On the one hand, Jindal tells us he hid in a closet with a flashlight to read his Bible while in high school so his parents would not know of his conversion from Hindu to Christianity. On the other, he tells his adoring audiences in Iowa, “One of the things my dad told me every day was, ‘You should thank God every day you were born in America.’”

So, Bobby, if that’s the case, why didn’t you just come out of the closet?

If we didn’t know better, we might well believe the entire presidential campaign for both parties is being scripted by Mel Brooks. And who knows? Maybe all we need to round out the race is Gov. William J. Le Petomane.

One thing about Bobby Jindal, though. When he gets on one of his asinine rhetorical crusades, you couldn’t drag him off with a team of Budweiser Clydesdales. Our hyphenated-governor (as in part-time hyphenated) wants to eliminate hyphenated-Americans. “We’re not Indian-Americans or African-Americans or Asian-Americans,” he insists. “We’re all Americans.”

Well, Bobby, all those Indian-Americans who poured cash into your gubernatorial campaigns in the fervent hope that you would be their voice have turned their backs on you because you walked away from them first. You have alienated an entire bloc of voters and they’re not without influence—or money. But their campaign money has dried up for you. Like it or not, they are were your identity. But you lost your 2003 race for governor because the good Protestants of north Louisiana wouldn’t vote for you because of your dark skin and that, admittedly, was a poor reason. So your solution was to whiten your image right down to your official portrait hanging in your office and in the Old State Capitol and preaching the white gospel of smug superiority.

Now you’re running around hitting all 99 Iowa counties saying things like, “Immigration without assimilation is invasion” and “We’re not a melting pot anymore.” You say immigrants should “learn English, adopt our values, roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

That last part would fall under your definition of “American Exceptionalism,” I suppose. That would be where we embrace such idealistic values as instigating the war with Mexico so we could grab South Texas and herd Native Americans onto barren reservations in the name of Manifest Destiny. Or maybe it was the provoking of the Spanish-American War or the manufacturing of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident so as to give us a reason to plunge full-bore into a civil war in Vietnam where we had no business being and where we sacrificed 58,000 American lives and millions of Vietnamese lives.

And speaking of Vietnam, our friend and fellow Ruston native, retired newspaper editor Bill Brown posed an interesting question on Facebook today: Why is it, he asks, that the same people who wanted so badly to send draft resisters to prison for breaking the law during the Vietnam war now want to defend a Kentucky clerk of court for defying the law?

Perhaps Jindal’s idea of “American Exceptionalism” extends to the quagmire we’ve gotten ourselves into in the Middle East. Refresh me: whose side are we on this week? I support our military but I can’t support the politicians who send young men and women into conflict to die for oil and Haliburton. That’s not my definition of patriotism. And when the wounded return, they’re discarded like last week’s newspapers. Don’t believe that? Google the problems and delays in obtaining care for wounded veterans at VA hospitals.

American Exceptionalism is just another term for tunnel vision or blind, unquestioning faith in the motives and morals of our elected officials who buy their way into office on the bankrolls of corporate interests, defense contractors, Wall Street and lobbyists while doing everything possible to destroy labor unions and social services. American Exceptionalism is spending enough on the trouble-plagued F-35 fighter jet to have purchased a $600,000 house for every homeless American or to send thousands of low-income kids to Harvard. American Exceptionalism is screaming to the mountain tops about socialized health care when the real problem is socialized wealth care.

As for Jindal’s admonition to immigrants to adhere to the other two conditions—“learn English” and “roll up your sleeves and get to work,” consider this:

Perhaps, in applying those principles across the board, we should all be speaking Iroquois, Apache, Comanche, Cree, Sioux and other native tongues while hunting bison and making birch bark canoes and respecting the land and our natural resources.


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Three news stories on the last day of July and first day of August raised more questions than they answered about Bobby Jindal’s personal and campaign finances and, at the same time, re-opened a controversy over the funneling of $4.5 million in state funds to a family member of one of Jindal’s campaign contributors at the expense of Louisiana’s developmentally disabled.

It was a pair of stories by CNN and Associated Press on July 25 and Aug. 2, however, that again reminded us of the insanity of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which opened the door for the corporatocracy and its affiliated special interests to usurp the democratic process from America’s citizenry.

The first story, on Friday, July 31, revealed that Jindal’s net worth was somewhere in the range of $3.3 million and $11.3 million. That’s a pretty big range, to be sure, but the federal financial disclosure forms are written that way—deliberately, most likely, to allow elected officials to comply with financial reporting laws while still managing to conceal their true worth.

The following day, August 1, two stories appeared in the Baton Rouge Advocate. The first, on Page 3A, announced that boat builder Gary Chouest, one of Jindal’s major donors—and a grateful beneficiary of legislative projects pushed by Jindal—contributed $1 million to Believe Again, a super PAC supporting Jindal. In that same issue of the Advocate, on page 3B was a story that a company headed by a Chouest family member who had received $4.5 million from the state in 2014 was being sued over money owed Andretti Sports Marketing by the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana and NOLA Motorsports Park. The owner of NOLA Motorsports Park is Laney Chouest and the amount in question is…$1 million.

More on that later.

It was the pair of stories by CNN and AP, however, which shone the glaring light of undue influence of PAC money, particularly in national elections. Julie Bykowicz and Jack Gillum, writing for AP, noted that it took U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz three months to raise $10 million for his 2015 presidential campaign but a single check from hedge fund manager Robert Mercer eclipsed that number with a single, $11 million contribution to Keep the Promise, Cruz’s super PAC.

Not to be outdone, billionaire brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who amassed their fortunes in the West Texas fracking boom, chipped in $15 million to Cruz’s super PAC, according to a July 25 CNN story by Elliot Smilowitz. Should we wonder which side of the fracking debate Cruz comes down on? If he wins the Republican nomination and is subsequently elected President, should West Texas residents, concerned about the quality of their drinking water or about their sick and/or dying livestock, even bother appealing to Cruz’s humanitarian side?

You can check that box “No.”

But back to Jindal and his unexplained wealth. A 44-year-old multi-millionaire can’t be found on any old street corner, especially a 44-year-old who has spent all but a single year of his adult working life in the public sector. Upon completion of his studies at Oxford University, he joined the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. for about 11 months. He left McKinsey to become a congressional intern for U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery before being appointed by Gov. Mike Foster as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at the tender age of 24. Four years later, he appointed the youngest-ever president of the University of Louisiana System and in 2001, he was named by President George W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation. After losing his first campaign for governor to Kathleen Blanco in 2003, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives the following year and was re-elected in 2006 before being elected governor in 2007.

In 2005, a year into his first term as a congressman, Jindal’s net worth was reported to be between $1.18 million and $3.17 million. A short year later, that estimate was between $1.3 million and $3.5 million, according to federal financial reports, ranking Jindal as the 118th richest of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. By 2015, ten years following that initial report, his net worth has tripled to $3.8 million on the low range or $11.3 million on the high range—all on a public servant’s salary of $165,200 per year as a congressman, for all of three years, and $130,000 per year as governor for less than eight years.

He listed on his financial reports, besides his salary, income from investments. But how does an elected official find the time to tend to the business of the nation or the state and see to the concerns of his constituents, engage in re-election fundraising, and play the market? Jindal, the avowed advocate of transparency, has never explained how his wealth was attained other than to quip, “I tried to be born wealthy, but that plan didn’t work.” As the son of immigrant parents, both state employees, he is probably correct in saying he was not born rich.

But what he did do was coerce the Senate Finance Committee in 2014 into ripping $4.5 million from the budget for Louisiana’s developmentally disabled and reallocating the money for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish. It is that $4.5 million that has come into question in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

In order to bring the IndyCar race to Avondale, NOLA Motorsports created a nonprofit affiliate, or non-government organization (NGO), to apply for and receive a $4.5 million from the state to fund improvements at the track.

Andretti Sports Marketing subsequently signed a three-year contract to organize the Grand Prix beginning in 2015. Andretti, in its lawsuit, claims NOLA Motorsports Park used $3.4 million of that state grant to pay for improvements which did not leave enough to pay Andretti and other vendors. NOLA, on the other hand, claims it used only $2.6 million on improvements.

It should be a simple matter for NOLA Motorsports Park to verify the expenditure of every nickel of that $4.5 million state grant. After all, under rules enacted after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, any NGO that receives money from the state general fund is required to provide quarterly reports on how the money is used. Officials of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism verified that all required records were submitted by NOLA Motorsports. “We would not have released the money unless they were incompliance,” said one CRT official.

And even as the claims and counterclaims were surfacing in Court, Gary Chouest was plowing $1 million into Believe Again, reminding us to, well, believe again that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision snatched control of America’s elections, and necessarily, of the government itself, from its citizens and hand delivered that control to the corporatocracy and its well-financed lobbyists.

But let us not forget that while all those millions were being tossed around what with Gary Chouest dropping a cool million on Jindal’s super PAC and with opposing parties quarreling in federal court over payments to promote Laney Chouest’s $75 million, (did we mention it is privately-owned?) racetrack, the big loser in all this were Louisiana’s developmentally disabled.

With the lone exception of State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), the Senate Finance Committee, in taking its marching orders from Jindal, removed $4.5 million from the developmentally disabled in 2014—just a year after he vetoed a 2013 appropriation of extra funding to help shorten the waiting list for services for those same developmentally disabled.

State campaign finance records show that between 2007 and 2010—long before the 2014 $1 million contribution to Believe Again—members of the Chouest family and their various business interests contributed $106,000 to Jindal—all in the interest of good government, of course.


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On the eve of Bobby Jindal’s anticipated earth shaking announcement that he is squeezing himself into the clown car of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, I thought we should let our readers know that I am still on the job, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

As we wait with collective bated breath for word that Bobby is not only available but more than willing to do for the nation what he has done for Louisiana (God help us all, Tiny Tim), I remain cloistered in my cluttered home office, working diligently on my book, as yet untitled, in which I intend to fully document precisely what he has done for to Louisiana.

Among the topics to be covered are public education, higher education, health care, the state budget, campaign contributions, political appointments, ethics, privatization, his ALEC connections, the explosion in corporate tax breaks during his two terms, the lack of progress as reflected in myriad state rankings and surveys throughout his eight years as our largely absentee governor, the lack of transparency, his thinly veiled use of foundations and non-profit organizations to advance his political career, his intolerance for dissent (teaguing), his actual performance as compared to campaign promises as candidate Bobby, and his general incompetence.

I was asked on a local radio show if I could be fair to Jindal, given my personal feelings about his abilities as reflected in more than a thousand posts on this site. The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is I can—and will—be as fair to him as he has been to the state I love and call home. Because I do not claim to be objective (as opposed to the paid media who cling to that word as if it were some kind of Holy Grail), I am not bound by any rules that place limits on the expression of my opinions. I see what he has done, I understand the adverse effect his actions have had on this state, and I will offer my take on them for the reader to either accept or reject. If that is not fair, then so be it.

I have written about 60,000 words of an anticipated 100,000-word manuscript thus far. A couple of other writers have volunteered to contribute chapters, which should add another 20,000 words. I have a self-imposed deadline of July 1—give or take a few days—in which to have the rough draft completed. I also have several very capable editors poring over the chapters as they are completed. Their corrections, deletions, additions and suggestions will be incorporated into the final manuscript which is to be submitted to the publisher by late August.

The publisher originally gave me a publication target date of next Spring but recently moved the anticipated publication date up to January, with an e-book to be released possibly as early as this Fall.

That would coincide nicely with Jindal’s second ghost-written book, scheduled out in September.

There will be one major difference in our books: Mine will be based on his record while the source of his claims of balanced budgets and other wild, unsubstantiated assertions are certain to remain a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (with apologies to Winston Churchill).

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