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This is just a quick note to let those know who qualified for signed copies of my first book, Louisiana Rocks: the True Genesis of Rock & Roll that we finally received the books from the publisher.

I spent the entire first half and most of the third quarter of the LSU-Arkansas game signing books, stuffing the mailers and slapping on address labels.

Those books are being mailed first thing Monday morning.

For those who also qualified for copies of my upcoming book about the Bobby Jindal administration, those will be mailed out as soon as the book is published and I obtain the copies.

For all of you who contributed to our recent fundraiser, I want you to know how much I appreciate your support. This will allow me to continue purchasing public records, doing even more travel throughout the state and even going to court when necessary to get state agencies to comply with public records laws.

Thank you.

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(Special to LouisianaVoice)


The Fund for Louisiana’s Future (FLF) is funded by David Vitter and his supporters. FLF shares staff and resources with the Vitter election committee. FLF has spent the bulk of its funds trash talking other Republicans.

  • FLF is a political organization registered with the Federal Elections Commission as a federal independent expenditure-only committee, commonly referred to as a “Super PAC,” and also registered with the Louisiana Supervisory Committee on Campaign Finance Disclosure as a state “political committee.” [1]
  • FLF is supporting David Vitter by bashing his opponents. The PAC produces no ads telling voters why they should vote for Vitter, only ads trying to damage the reputations of anyone running against him. (Note: The single exception is $3,000 for media buys for the Insurance Commissioner. This is the single instance of FLF saying something nice about a Republican.)
  • The single biggest contributor to FLF was “David Vitter for US Senate” to the tune of $950,000.
  • Charles Spies, the lawyer, who founded FLF and is now the Treasurer of FLF, is employed by Clark Hill in Washington, DC. Clark Hill has received more than 10% of all FLF expenditures to date or over $400,000. In 2014, Mr. Spies swore that:
  • FLF does not and will not make contributions to, or coordinated expenditures on behalf of, candidates or political party committees that all decisions concerning expenditures of FLF’s funds are made independent of any candidate, campaign, party committee, or their agents.[2]
  • Joel DiGrado, executive director of FLF is also Vitter’s communications director and the owner of Briefcase Strategies LLC. Briefcase Strategies LLC has received $96,357.03 from FLF so far in 2015.
  • Courtney Guastella (Callihan), ex-Finance Director for “David Vitter for US Senate,” is the current Finance Director for Vitter and the go-to person for various fundraisers for Vitter. Her home address is 6048 Marshall Foch Street, New Orleans. That just happens to also be the mailing address and registration address for FLF. Courtney has received $205,000 from FLF in the last few years for “fundraising consulting” as well as $145,000 from Vitter’s campaign. That comes to a grand total of $350,000 from the two organizations over the same period. Courtney is FLF’s highest paid individual consultant. (Remember that the FLF PAC and Vitter (campaign) teams are supposed to be independent and not collaborate. Yet the highest paid FLF staff person is also a six-figure consultant to Vitter’s campaign).
  • In April 2015, Nicole Licardi joined FLF and is now FLF’s Finance Director. Licardi has a long history with and is still a fundraiser for Bill Cassidy. Since April 2015, FLF has paid her $78,111.62 or about $12,000 per month.
  • As of November 1, FLF (Vitter’s hatchet boys and girls) spent one-third of all contributions to date or $2,342,343.71 on media across the state to belittle and trash talk Republican candidates Dardenne and Angelle (who, many agree, were the much better candidates). Vitter is now asking for their support. Breaking that down a little further and assuming their spending patterns continue:


More than half the $6 million contributed to FLF went for:

  • Lining staff pockets (Spies, DiGrado, Guastella, and Licardi – $1 million.
  • Trash talking other Republicans (Dardenne and Angelle) – $2.3 million.

FLF spent seven times the money slamming Republican candidates as opposed to slamming Democrats and others.

Does it make sense for good Republicans to contribute to an organization that spends the majority of their funds slamming other Republicans?


The bottom line is that obviously, sleazy money is corrupting the system and not giving Louisianans the choices they deserve. What ex-supporter of Dardenne or Angelle would vote for Vitter now?

This is no way to run our state.

Louisiana taxpayers were forced to contribute $70,000 in legal fees to FLF to help Vitter raise the cap on amounts of money from out-of-state interests. That amount was the legal fees awarded FLF after it won its lawsuit against the Louisiana Board of Ethics. FLF uses that money to denigrate good Louisiana public servants. Republicans contributing money to be passed to people to beat up on Republicans. In what world does this make sense?

This is the first in a series of three articles as we pull back each layer and trace each link. To demonstrate openness, next week we have decided to release our complete databases – the entire contents of all our databases – in machine-readable form, all the results, all the tools & techniques for, a user’s guide, a guide to contributors and expenditures entities and all our results free of charge to anyone who wants them. One week from today. Complete unfettered access and they can download the entire data set. No charge. No registration.

Anyone can do his or her own research.

This information was gleaned from publicly available federal records, Louisiana Ethics Board reports and other publicly available sources. Corrections and comments are welcome. The authors believe in a fair and open debate based on the facts. What could be easier?


[1] The Fund For Louisiana’s Future v. Louisiana Board of Ethics et al, No. 2:2014cv00368 – Document 38 (E.D. La. 2014)

[2] Ibid

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Editor’s note: While the bulk of media attention has been devoted to tomorrow’s race for governor, there are other races to be decided. Not the least of these are the races for eight seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. As in the past, a lot of out-of-state-money is being poured into the campaigns of certain board members. Baton Rouge resident Mark Joyce gives us his take on the BESE elections.

Guest Column by Mark A. Joyce

(Special to LouisianaVoice)

In the last month, I have been bombarded by political ads everywhere – radio, television, mailbox, phone. There is plenty of trash talk but not much substance. It would be funny if it not for the fact that this concerns our children’s education – 720,000 students statewide in Louisiana.

There is a tremendous amount of money being spent by outside interests on the BESE election. The question is who and why.

On October 8 it was reported in the Arkansas Times:

As of September 14, 2015, money from two billionaires from Arkansas and one billionaire from California constitutes the principal funding for Lane Grigsby’s efforts to preserve a BESE majority known for supporting charters and vouchers without equally supporting adequate oversight; supporting high-stakes testing without supporting timely, clear, comprehensive reporting of testing results, and for allying with a state superintendent known for hiding and manipulating data, refusing to honor public records requests, and refusing to consistently audit the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

On Oct 15, The Baton Rouge Advocate confirmed that this local political-wanna-be had formed a PAC—Empower Louisiana – and was reportedly “spending about $818,000 and has $1.2 million in the bank” and acknowledged that it was funded almost entirely by out-of-state operatives:

  • Alice and Jim Walton, both of Bentonville, Arkansas contributed $400,000
  • Eli Broad, of Los Angeles, donated another $250,000
  • Louisiana Association of Business and Industry donated $40,000

Out-of-state funded PACs are mostly limited to television, radio advertisements and direct mail and that explains all the trash talk on the media.

In the same article, the Advocate mentions the four candidates that are “acceptable” to the PAC: James Garvey, Holly Boffy, Sandy Holloway and Tony Davis. Let’s look at their reported campaign contributions (spent and on-hand) as reported in The Advocate:

  • Garvey – $230,459
  • Boffy – $107,145
  • Holloway – $87,606
  • Davis – $37,581

Almost a $500,000 is being spent for these four candidates to be elected to a school board! Remember, these are unpaid positions.

Let’s look at the locally supported candidates:

  • Lee Barrios – $7,141
  • Mike Kreamer – $15,317
  • Lottie Beebe – $14,209
  • Mary Johnson Harris – $8,810
  • Glynis Johnston – $3,246

That’s not quite $50,000 in funding for the locally supported candidates. That’s a huge difference! The out-of-state money is outspending you and me to the tune of a 10 to 1 advantage. No wonder we are being bombarded!

So, why is an out-of-state funded, political action committee spending over $1 million to buy a school board election in Louisiana and bragging about it in the press. Why do private interests want to control seats on a local school board?

As Tom Aswell would say, “follow the money.” Remember in 2010 when LDOE was sending student data to the politically active Hoover-Institute-run Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Our own New Orleans based, Research on Reforms (ROR) filed a lawsuit to discover just what data LDOE had released to CREDO. We learned that detailed, personally identifiable school information was being provided to CREDO by LDOE.  This impacted not only public school children since It turns out that LDOE was also sending quite a bit of detailed data on non-public students, their DOB’s, their teachers, their special education conditions, schools, etc.

Who funds CREDO? The funders are acknowledged on the Hoover Institution’s website:

In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. (Emphasis mine)

The people behind the PAC are the same people (and money) that wanted our kid’s school data. We fought them successfully then. They got their wrists slapped for attempting to gain access to this data for their personal benefit. We told then “NO” once; that should be enough. They could not get our children’s data though LDOE, so instead this time around they are buying candidates and attempting to buy our school board. I do not want these same people on our state school board nor do I want people who are beholden to them.

Even before the CREDO scandal, the Walton’s have tried to press their influence on Louisiana. Greg Penner, married to one of the Walton daughters, is on the National Board of Directors for Teach for America (TFA), and is a director of the Charter Growth Fund, a “non-profit venture capital fund” investing in charter schools. Turns out that Penner, who live in California, donated $10,000 to Kira Orange Jones another BESE member. She is said to have “[run] as the embodiment of post-Katrina reform efforts in New Orleans” reform efforts that have been focused on charter schools and school privatization. TFA still has a piece on its website how they do not endorse or support candidates (specifically naming Kira Jones) but the money trail between TFA and Jones has been well documented.

Who funds TFA? As reported in the Los Angeles Times, on July 31, 2013:

Walton is TFA’s largest donor, but the group has a diverse funding base. The Walton donation will cover about 20% of TFA’s expenses this year in the L.A. region.

To me it could not be more clear – our children’s future is more important that political partisanship. Everyone agrees – we need local control without undue influence from out-of-state political operatives. These people have agendas that are NOT in the best interests of our children. They can go back to California and Arkansas.

What does make sense?

I speak from the perspective of a Louisianan and a proud single father whose son received an excellent public education. I can support two candidates because they are local, have local support, and they have established records of working for us: Jason France and Carolyn Hill. Dedicated to our kids and not outside interests. Jason is the only candidate in District 6 with kids in the public school system. There are no PACs supporting these two, no corporations, no out-of-state billionaires, no unions, no businesses, no real-estate firms or technology vendors – no one but folks like you and me.

It’s time we all reached across the pew and the aisle and joined together to fight for our kid’s interest. The only way to beat big money and outside influences is through grass root operations. People talking with their neighbors – neighborhood by neighborhood. Let’s win our schools back.

You have to vote on Saturday. Your kids are counting on you.

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Friday is the final day of the second (and final) LouisianaVoice fundraiser of 2015.

To those of you have responded so generously, we cannot begin to thank you enough.

We are still a little short of our goal and we still need your support to continue. We work at gathering information from the time we arise in the morning until we retire at night and we travel the state in order to keep you informed of what those you have entrusted with running the state are doing. One recent trip took us to the State Capitol in Mississippi in pursuit of documents pertaining to an incident in that state that involve a high ranking state official.

Those contributing $50 to $149 will receive a signed copy of my first book Louisiana Rocks: The True Genesis of Rock & Roll. Anyone giving $150 to $249 will receive a signed copy of my upcoming but as yet untitled book about the Bobby Jindal administration due for publication in January. Those giving $250 or more will received signed copies of both books.

To contribute by credit card, simply click on the yellow “Donate” button below right. Or you may mail checks to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

P.O. Box 922

Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727

Thanks so much.

Tom Aswell


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“I’m doing my job that I was elected to do.”

—U.S. Sen. David Vitter, explaining his refusal to engage traditional campaigning and his refusal to participate in debates with other candidates as he attempts to remain in Washington while allowing his Super PAC, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, to purchase the governor’s election on his behalf.

“I have the job I want.”

—Bobby Jindal, on so many occasions during his first term that we all got sick of hearing it.

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