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Archive for the ‘Vitter’ Category

In our lowlights review for the first six months of 2014, we were reminded by State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard (I-Thibodaux) that we had omitted a major low point in Louisiana politics.

Accordingly, we will preface our second half with the June veto by Gov. Bobby Jindal of HB 142 by Richard and Sens. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) and Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central) which was pass unanimously by both the House (84-0) and Senate (37-0).

Called by Richard as the only “piece of legislation that would’ve done anything in the form of reform,” HB142 called for a reduction in consulting contracts. Richard said the bill also “would’ve provided transparency in the way the state hands out contracts” and would have provided savings that would have been dedicated to higher education.

“It just made too much sense to Bobby,” Richard said.

Jindal, on the other hand, said the bill would “hinder the state’s efforts to continue to provide its citizens with timely, high-quality services.”

Such high-quality services as paying $94,000 to a firm to assistant students to learn to play during recess; paying consulting fees to Hop 2 It Music Co. or to the Smile and Happiness Foundation.

Jindal also said the bill would “cause significant delays and introduce uncertainty to executing a contract” and would “discourage businesses from seeking opportunities to provide services to the people of Louisiana.”

Which now brings us to the second half of political news that could only occur in Louisiana.

JULY

Troy Hebert back in the news:

Three former ATC supervisors, all black, have filed a federal lawsuit in the Baton Rouge’s Middle District claiming a multitude of actions they say Hebert took in a deliberate attempt to force the three to resign or take early retirement and in fact, conducted a purge of virtually all black employees of ATC.

Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith, III filed the lawsuit on behalf of Charles Gilmore of Baton Rouge, Daimian T. McDowell of Bossier Parish, and Larry J. Hingle of Jefferson Parish.

The lawsuit said that all three plaintiffs have received the requisite “right to sue” notice from the U.S. Department of Justice pursuant to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints.

So, where are all those savings we were promised?

To probably no one’s surprise except a clueless Gov. Bobby Jindal, the takeover of the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB) by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana a scant 18 months ago has failed to produce the $20 million per year in savings to the state.

Quite the contrary, in fact. The OGB fund balance, which was a robust $500 million when BCBS took over as administrators of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in January of 2013, now stands at slightly less than half that amount and could plummet as low as an anemic $5 million a year from now, according to figures provided by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

There is no tactful way to say it. This Jindal’s baby; he’s married to it. He was hell bent on privatizing OGB and putting 144 employees on the street for the sake of some hair-brained scheme that managed to go south before he could leave town for whatever future he has planned for himself that almost surely does not, thank goodness, include Louisiana.

So ill-advised and so uninformed was Jindal that he rushed into his privatization plan and now has found it necessary to have the consulting firm Alvarez and Marcel, as part of their $5 million contract to find state savings, to poke around OGB to try and pull the governor’s hand out of the fiscal fire. We can only speculate as to why that was necessary; Jindal, after all, had assured us up front that the privatization would save $20 million a year but now cannot make good on that promise.

We can save, but we have to let you go…

The Jindal administration announced plans to jettison 24 more positions at the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) as a cost cutting measure for the cash-strapped agency but is retaining the top two positions and an administrator hired only a month ago.

Affected by layoffs are eight Benefits Analyst positions, three Group Benefits Supervisory spots, one Group Benefits Administrator, seven Administrative Coordinators, an Administrative Assist, two Administrative Supervisors, one IT Application Programmer/Analyst and one Training Development Specialist.

All this takes place at a time whe OGB’s reserve fund has dwindled from $500 million at the time of the agency’s privatization in January 2013 to about half that amount today. Even more significant, the reserve fund is expected to dip as low as $5 million by 2016, just about the time Jindal leaves town for good.

Completing the trifecta of good news, we also have learned that health benefits for some 200,000 state employees, retirees and dependents will be slashed this year even as premiums increase.

Neil Riser helps Edmonson revoke the irrevocable:

One of the single biggest state political stories of the year was the surreptitious attempt of State Sen. Neil Riser to slip an amendment into an otherwise nondescript bill ostensibly addressing procedures in handling claims against police officers that would have given State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson an illegal $55,000 per year retirement boost.

Events quickly began to spin out of control after Riser first denied, then admitted his part in the ruse and as retired state police opposed the move and public opinion mounted against the move, Edmonson, after first claiming he was entitled to the raise, finally relented and said he would not accept the increase.

Meanwhile, Jindal, who signed the bill, was eerily quiet on the issue despite speculation he was behind the attempt to slip the increase into the bill.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, just to make sure Edmonson didn’t go back on his word, filed suit to block the raise and a Baton Rouge judge agreed that the bill was unconstitutional.

The bill, which quickly became known as the Edmonson Amendment, along with the Office of Group Benefits fiasco, constituted the most embarrassing moments for a governor who wants desperately to run for president.

AUGUST

Selective—and hypocritical—moral judgments

Gov. Bobby Jindal weighed in early on the kissing congressman scandal up in Monroe. When rookie U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister was revealed on video exchanging amorous smooches with a female aide, Jindal was all over him like white on rice, calling for his immediate resignation.

Jindal’s judgmental tone was dictated more by the philosophical differences between the two (McAllister wanted the state to expand Medicaid, Jindal most assuredly did not) than any real issues based on morals as Jindal’s silence on the philandering of U.S. Sen. David Vitter who did a tad more than exchange affectionate kisses.

Edmonson Amendment spawns other state police stories:

LouisianaVoice, in its continuing investigation of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), learned that a number of DPS employees enjoy convenient political connections.

  • Dionne Alario, Senate President John Alario’s daughter-in-law, is a DPS Administrative Program Manager;
  • Alario’s son, John W. Alario, serves as a $95,000 per year director of the DPS Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission.
  • DPS Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux retired on April 28 from her $92,000 per year salary but the day before, she double encumbered herself into the position and reported to work on April 30 in the higher position of Undersecretary. Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis ordered her to repay the 300 hours of annual leave (about $46,000) for which she had been paid on her “retirement,” but Davis resigned shortly afterward and the matter was never pursued.
  • DPS issued a pair of contracts, hired the contractor as a state employee, paid her $437,000 to improve the Division of Motor Vehicles and ponied up $13,000 in airfare for trips to and from her home in South Carolina. The contractor, Kathleen Sill, heads up a company called CTQ but the company’s web page lists Sill as its only employee.
  • Boudreaux’s son-in-law Matthew Guthrie was simultaneously employed in an offshore job and was on the payroll for seven months of the State Police Oil Spill Commission.
  • Danielle Rainwater, daughter of former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater was employed as a “specialist” for State Police.
  • Tammy Starnes was hired from another agency at a salary of $92,900 as an Audit Manager. Not only was her salary $11,700 more than state trooper Jason Starnes, but she is in charge of monitoring the agency’s financial transactions, including those of her husband.

Thanks, retirees; here’s your bill for medical coverage:

LouisianaVoice was first to break the news that the Jindal administration was planning to force retirees out of the Office of Group Benefits by raising premiums astronomically and slashing benefits.

The news sparked waves of protests from employees and retirees alike, prompted legislative hearings at which Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols looked more than foolish in their attempts to defend the ill-conceived plan.

The entire fiasco was the result of the Jindal administrations foolish decision to cut premiums, which allowed the state to be on the hook for lower contributions as well. The money the state saved on matching premiums went to help patch those recurring holes in the state budget. Meanwhile, because of the lower premiums, the $500 million OGB reserve fund shrank to about half that amount as OGB spent $15 million per month more than it received in premiums.

All this occurred just three years after then-Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, in a letter on the eve of the privatization of OGB, promised the continuation of quality service, rates that would be “unaffected” with any increases to be “reflective of medical market rates.” More importantly, he emphatically promised that benefits “will NOT change.”

HHS_2013_SNPS_35_Day

OCTOBER

What premium decrease?

Contrary to the testimony of Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols that Buck Consultants recommended that the Office of Group Benefits reduce premiums for members, emails from Buck Consults said exactly the opposite. State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) had asked Nichols during legislative committee hearings who recommended the decrease and she replied that the recommendation came from Buck. All witnesses before legislative committees are under oath when they testify.

Surplus, deficit, tomato, to-mah-to:

Nichols “discovered” a previously unknown “surplus” of $320 million in mystery money that set off a running dispute between her office and State Treasurer John Kennedy—an argument that eventually made its way before the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

With a tip of our hat to cartoonist Bud Grace, we are able to show you how that surplus was discovered:

JINDAL SURPLUS SECRET

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Murphy Painter vindicated, Jindal humiliated:

Jindal’s attempted prosecution persecution of fired Director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter blew up in the governor’s face when Painter was first acquitted of criminal charges, costing the state nearly half a million dollars in reimbursement of Painter’s legal fees, but Painter subsequently won a defamation suit against his accuser.

Secret survey no longer a secret but “no one” more popular than Jindal:

A survey to measure state employee satisfaction in the Division of Administration (DOA) should be an eye opener for Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols and agency heads within DOA.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Iowa, R-New Hampshire, R-Anywhere but Louisiana) received some exciting news this week when a new poll revealed that no one was more popular among Republican contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

The excitement was short-lived, however, when the actual meaning of the numbers was revealed.

It turns out that in a CNN poll of New Hampshire voters, Jindal tied with Rick Santorum with 3 percent, while “No one” polled 4 percent, prompting Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert to joke that Jindal should adopt the slogan “Jindal 2016: No one is more popular.”

To shred or not to shred:

The controversy surrounding the sweeping changes being proposed for the Office of Group Benefits just got a little dicier with new information obtained by LouisianaVoice about the departure of Division of Administration executive counsel Liz Murrill and the possibly illegal destruction of public records from the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and the involvement of at least two other state agencies.

While it was not immediately clear which OGB records were involved, information obtained by LouisianaVoice indicate that Murrill refused to sign off on written authorization to destroy documents from OGB.

We first reported her departure on Oct. 14 and then on Oct. 22, we followed up with a report that Murrill had confided to associates that she could no longer legally carry out some of the duties assigned to her as the DOA attorney.

But now we learn that the issue has spilled over into two other agencies besides OGB and DOA because of a state statute dealing with the retention of public documents for eventual delivery to State Archives, a division of Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office.

Reports indicate that Schedler became furious when he learned of the destruction or planned destruction of the records because records should, according to R.S. 44:36, be retained for three years and then delivered to the state archivist and director of the division of Archives, records management and history.

NOVEMBER

Secret grand jury testimony of Greenstein made public:

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office, in an unprecedented move, released the 100-plus pages of testimony of Bruce Greenstein, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals but the testimony did little in revealing any smoking gun related to the state’s $180 million contract with CNSI. About the only thing to come out of his testimony was the indication of an incredible bad memory in matters related to his dealings with his former bosses at CNSI and a razor-sharp recall of other, more insignificant events.

Approval? We don’t need no stinkin’ approval:

The very first state agency privatized by Gov. Bobby Jindal was the Office of Risk Management (ORM) and after the state paid F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) $68 million to take over ORM operations and then amended the contract to $75 million after only a few months, the agency was subsequently transferred three times to other firms. The only hitch was a specific clause in the original contract with FARA that no such transference was allowable without “prior written approval” from the Division of Administration. The problem? When LouisianaVoice made an FOIA request for that written approval, we were told no such document existed.

Edwards’ Last Hurrah:

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, one of the most successful, colorful and charismatic politicians in Louisiana history, lost—decisively. Republican Graves Garrett rode the Republican tide to easily hand Edwards his first political defeat, dating back to his days on the Crowley City Council. Some may remember when Buddy Roemer led the field in 1987, forcing Edwards into a runoff. Technically, though, Edwards did not lose that election because he chose not to participate in the runoff, thus allowing Roemer to become governor. But he would return in 1991 to win his unprecedented fourth term.

DECEMBER

Friends of Bobby Jindal seeking donations:

A new web page popped up seeking donations for the Friends of Bobby Jindal, raising speculations of an attempt at a higher office (president?) since Jindal can’t run for governor again.

The new web page cited a speech by Jindal at a foreign policy forum at which he called for increased military spending.

Gimme the keys to the cars:

The Public Service Commission (PSC) became the second state agency (the State Treasurer’s office was the first) to openly defy Jindal when the administration demanded that the PSC relinquish possession of 13 vehicles as part of the administration’s cost-cutting measures.

We have already examined State Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard’s attempt to cut consulting contracts which was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate but vetoed by Jindal.

But there was another veto that should be mentioned in context with Jindal’s penny wise but pound (dollar) foolish fire sale approach to state finances.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) managed to get overwhelming passage of a bill that called for more oversight of the tax break programs by the state’s income-forecasting panel.

But Jindal, who never met a tax break he didn’t like, promptly vetoed the bill, saying it could effectively force a tax increase on businesses by limiting spending for the incentive programs.

Only he could twist the definition of removal of a tax break for business into a tax increase even while ignoring the fact that removal of those tax breaks could—and would—mean long-term relief for Louisiana citizens who are the ones shouldering the load. And for him to willingly ignore that fact borders on malfeasance.

Another (yawn) poor survey showing:

24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion company, released a report which ranked Louisiana as the 11th worst-run state in America.

Louisiana, in ranking 40th in the nation, managed to fare better than New Jersey, which ranked 43rd, or eighth worst, something Jindal might use against Gov. Christ Christie if it comes down to a race between those two for the GOP nomination.

Louisiana had “one of the lowest median household incomes in the nation,” at just $44,164, the report said “and 10.7 percent of all households reported an income of less than $10,000, a higher rate than in any state except for Mississippi. Largely due to these low incomes, the poverty rate in Louisiana was nearly 20 percent (19.8 percent) and 17.2 percent of households used food stamps last year, both among the highest rates in the nation. The state’s GDP grew by 1.3 percent last year, less than the U.S. overall.

May we pray?

Meanwhile, Jindal prompted more controversy by having his favorite publisher and LSU Board of Supervisors member Rolfe McCollister run interference in securing the LSU Maravich Center for a political prayer event in January of 2015. The event will be sponsored by the controversial American Family Association and will not (wink, wink) be a political event, Jindal said.

And that, readers, is where we will leave you in 2014.

For 2015, we have an election campaign for governor to look forward to.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

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hyp·o·crite

noun \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\: a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.

hypocrite

[hip-uh-krit] /ˈhɪp ə krɪt/

noun

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

hyp·o·crite

[ híppə krìt ]

noun

Somebody feigning high principles: somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise

No matter whose definition you use, Gov. Bobby Jindal is 100 percent hypocrite.

The candidate who promised us an open and accountable administration promptly gutted the State Ethics Board within weeks after becoming governor in 2008.

The candidate who promised a “gold standard” of transparency has repeatedly relied on the vague term “deliberative process” to shield his office from that very transparency.

The candidate who touted the value of civil service workers turned on those same state employees at the first opportunity and began throwing the rank and file workers to the curb while at the same time protecting the highly-paid appointees.

The candidate who criticized the use of one time revenue for recurring expenditures has become a master of the art.

The governor who constantly told anyone who would listen during his first term that “I have the job I want,” has spent his entire second term running for a presidency that is so far beyond his grasp as to be laughable while barely giving a second thought to the needs of those who elected him.

All those qualify him to be labeled a hypocrite but the most hypocritical came last week when he called Rep. Vance McAllister an “embarrassment” in another of his regular appearances in Iowa. http://atr.rollcall.com/vance-mcallister-bobby-jindal-embarrassment/?dcz=

How the hell can this governor sit in judgment of McAllister, who was caught on video kissing an aide in his Monroe office while at the same time remaining mute on Sen. David Vitter’s consorting with hookers?

Let’s get this out in the open right now. We don’t for one minute condone McAllister’s behavior. But a kiss is just a kiss (does Casablanca come to mind with that phrase?) and so far as anyone knows, that’s all McAllister did.

Also, just to shed a little more light on the McAllister affair, let’s not forget who outed him. Sam Hanna, Jr. is publisher of a West Monroe newspaper, the Ouachita Citizen and it was the Citizen’s web page that first broke the story, complete with the grainy black and white video.

How is that relevant? Well, for openers, Hanna had endorsed State Sen. Neil Riser, McAllister’s opponent in last year’s 5th District congressional race. Riser was Jindal’s candidate in that race, even allowing a couple of his staff members to work in Riser’s ill-fated campaign.

Then there is John King, a West Monroe businessman you probably never heard of who as a teenager set several dumpsters on fire. He has been unable to obtain a pardon for that youthful if foolish indiscretion and consequently cannot obtain a permit for a firearm in order to take his stepson hunting.

Hanna, on the other hand, was granted a pardon by Jindal six years after his fourth DWI conviction. Hanna applied for the pardon in 2010 and it was granted a year later. King is still waiting after 17 years.

Asked why the governor granted his pardon, Hanna said, “I guess because I deserved it.” http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/5136552-148/wiping-the-record-clean

So, as soon as Hanna releases that damning video, Jindal and his attack dog Roger Villere, state GOP chairman, pounce. Villere, apparently reading from the same script employed last week by Hypocrite-in-Chief Jindal, said McAllister had “embarrassed” the GOP and Louisiana. http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/203211-la-gop-chairman-calls-for-mcallisters-resignation

Could it be that that embarrassment stems from McAllister’s refusal to toe the party line and to call for an expansion of Medicaid in Louisiana in order to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of low income families currently not covered? Surely not. Jindal and Villere would never be so crass.

It’s all about morals and family values. But still, there’s that matter of Vitter…Rhymes with bitter, sort of like Jindal rhymes with swindle.

Well, we know a little more about Vitter, don’t we? We know even if Jindal and Villere choose to continue to ignore the elephant in the room.

His name shows up in the D.C. Madam’s list of clients. Another prostitute, this one from New Orleans, also has claimed she also had trysts with the good family values senator.

Yet he remains untouchable to the party hierarchy and as things now stand, is the odds-on favorite to become Louisiana’s next governor?

Could things possibly get any more repulsive than to have that smirking, two-faced fraud as our next governor? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Jindal…

At least Edwin Edwards never pretended to be something he wasn’t. The last thing one could call Edwards is a hypocrite.

“Look, he originally made the right decision when he decided not to run for reelection,” Jindal said of McAllister in an interview with Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call during a visit to his home away from home on Saturday.

“I said he should have stepped down at the time,” Jindal continued to whine. “I think he’s making a mistake, I think he should, I think he should’ve stuck to his original decision and not go back inside and try to run again.

“I think it’s been an embarrassment to him, the district, and the state,” he added.

Well, we believe we could cite a few embarrassments Jindal has brought upon himself and the State of Louisiana.

His telling the 2012 annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry that teachers in Louisiana have their jobs by virtue of their being able to breathe is not only an embarrassment, but an affront to every school teacher in Louisiana, including the ones with the unenviable job of having taught him as a child.

His firing of anyone holding a different opinion than his is an embarrassment.

His signing of the Edmonson Amendment, an unconstitutional bill giving State Police Superintendent a $55,000 a year increase in retirement only a year removed from his effort to gut the retirements of state civil service employees is an embarrassment.

His constant legal setbacks in the Louisiana courts are an embarrassment.

His shameless abandonment of his duties as governor in favor of chasing the ludicrous dream of become President is an embarrassment.

The comedy of errors in hiring Bruce Greenstein as Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals only to see Greenstein become embroiled in the CNSI controversy is an embarrassment.

And the ongoing dispute with BESE and Superintendent of Education John White, which more resembles a name-calling schoolyard fight than a serious discussion of issues, is a true embarrassment.

Trouble is, all those are apparently only embarrassing to the state. Because Jindal has no moral compass, no real code of ethics and no sense of values, he continues on his merry way oblivious to reality and without a shred of self-awareness—or embarrassment.

Hypocrite.

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Well, the hue and cry over the transgressions of 5th District Congressman Vance McAllister appears to be finally fading to the back pages of the state’s newspapers.

With all the emotional maturity of a rutting high school sophomore, McAllister managed to attract the glare of a national spotlight that few freshmen in Congress manage—or desire.

McAllister was elected last October and sworn into office in November to fill the unexpired term of Republican Rodney Alexander. But despite his incredibly poor judgment, he nevertheless missed the chance to beat Democrat Donald Cazayoux’s Louisiana record for the shortest tenure in Congress.

Cazayoux was elected on May 3, 2008, to fill the unexpired term of Republican Richard Baker of Baton Rouge who callously left to head up a large hedge fund, in the process placing upon the State of Louisiana the financial burden of the necessity of holding a special election to name a successor for only six months at which time the winner would have run again. Cazayoux subsequently lost to Bill Cassidy who took office in January of 2009, giving Cazayoux only eight months in office. Assuming McAllister remains in office until his successor takes is sworn in next January, he will have served 14 months—almost twice as long as Cazayoux, who at least managed to leave office honorably and not in disgrace.

But as dumb as McAllister’s getting caught on camera deep kissing an aide in his Monroe office, it should pale in comparison to the deeds of the man who would be the next governor of Louisiana.

Because the act was captured on video and subsequently brought it into our living rooms in grainy black and white images, there was collective outrage and demands for his resignation from the upper echelons of the Louisiana Republican hierarchy, Gov. Bobby Jindal included.

He did, after all, kiss a woman who was not his wife, so off with his head!

But at the same time, we all know that U.S. Sen. David Vitter did a tad more than simply kiss a woman who was not his wife; he engaged in extra-marital sex with at least one prostitute—and most probably others, if their stories are to be believed, dating back to his days in the Louisiana Legislature. And why shouldn’t we believe them? With nothing to gain by lying about their exploits with the good senator, they certainly have as much credibility as Vitter.

Yet the Louisiana Republican establishment was strangely mute when it came to demanding that Vitter step down. Can you say two-faced, double-standard, duplicitous, hypocritical political opportunists?

Vitter, for his part, spent $127,000 in legal fees in successfully warding off efforts to force him to testify about his relationship with Debra Jean Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam. He even petitioned the Federal Election (gotta be care about that spelling) Commission to allow him to use campaign funds to pay for those legal efforts. Palfrey meanwhile, convicted of money laundering and racketeering, committed suicide.

Of course, we are acutely aware that the comparisons between McAllister’s crazy canoodling caper and Vitter’s hearty hooker habit have already been aired in abundance, so perhaps that’s enough said about the subject.

Instead, as our subject du jour, let’s discuss the conveniently all-but-forgotten Brent Furer.

Brent Furer was Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues (or maybe not, depending upon whom you choose to believe) who in 2008, violently turned upon his girlfriend when he discovered phone numbers for other men in her Blackberry, smashing her phone when she attempted to call 911. He then proceeded to hold her captive in his Capitol Hill apartment for 90 minutes, threatened to kill her, placed his hand over her mouth, threw her to the floor and cut her hand and chin with a knife. After he was arrested for the incident, it was learned that he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in Baton Rouge for drunk driving.

Vitter took firm and decisive action against his subordinate when he was arrested on charges of domestic violence. Coming down hard, he suspended Furer without pay for five whole days. Superior Court Judge Lee Satterfield meted out punishment almost as harsh: he handed down a suspended jail sentence of 180 days, dismissed the assault and weapons charges, ordered 40 hours of community service and treatment for drug and alcohol dependency, and gave Furer a “harsh warning.”

While the attack on his girlfriend occurred in 2008, it did not become public knowledge until ABC News broke the story in 2010. Vitter, the forceful advocate for women and an outspoken opponent of drunk driving, had allowed Furer to remain on his staff for more than two years until the story broke and only then did Furer resign on June 23, 2010.

It turned out that was not Furer’s first brush with the law. And while Vitter denied any knowledge of prior arrests, Furer, in 2003, following his conviction for drunken driving, performed community service under the supervision of a New Orleans pastor who also just happened to serve as Vitter’s regional director in Louisiana. That the upstanding senator was unaware of that arrest would seem to be quite incredulous, to say the least.

In fact, Vitter twice allowed Furer to travel to Louisiana on the taxpayers’ dime for court appearances in Baton Rouge to defend himself from the drunk driving charges, claiming that his travel to Louisiana was for official senate business. One of those trips just happened to coincide with his scheduled court appearance.

Prior to the 2008 incident with his girlfriend, Furer, an ex-Marine, already had three arrests for driving under the influence and once for cocaine possession. In one of those drunken driving episodes, in 2003, police pursued Furer’s swerving vehicle as they observed what appeared to be Furer fighting with a female passenger (again with the fighting with women? Some tough Marine.). He continued driving after she exited the vehicle and was finally pulled over. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was .132 percent, according to the arrest report—more than one and one-half times the legal limit of .08 percent for intoxication. Furer was “very verbally abusive toward the police,” the report said.

But the ugliest incident—the domestic violence incident with his girlfriend notwithstanding—also occurred the same year as his attack on his date. It was in late 2008 when Furer was en route to pick up medication from a Washington area pharmacy.

Furer, a veteran of the first Gulf War, became involved in a road rage incident with another former Marine, Gregory Blake. Furer chased Blake through Washington streets in their SUVs. During the chase, Furer struck a motorcyclist, throwing him to the pavement and fracturing his femur, according to a lawsuit pursuant to the incident. (Furer’s insurance company eventually settled out of court.)

When police arrived at the scene, Furer played the tired old Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am? card by flashing his Senate ID as he informed officers he worked for Sen. Vitter, apparently in the mistaken belief that congressional immunity extended to staffers.

“That guy should not be working for the U.S. government,” Blake said when he learned of Furer’s employment.

In a classic blame-the-messenger defense, retired Marine Gen. James E. Livingston said poor Furer witnessed “unspeakable tragedies” while serving in Kuwait and even went so far as to say the story of the incident with Blake was “clearly politically driven and it’s unfortunate that some are willing to ruin the reputation of a Marine veteran for a political story.”

Wow. Or backwards, wow. Nothing about the reputation of Blake, the other Marine veteran, General? Just how a retired Marine general uninvolved in the events managed to become part of the story remains unclear.

Gen. Livingston, however, wasn’t finished. “When faced with Brent’s troubles, Sen. Vitter could have chosen political expediency and allowed Brent to flounder on his own in a time of need,” he said. “Instead, he tried to allow Brent the best opportunity to seek help and get better while never downplaying the severity of the charges.”

How very noble of the junior senator from Louisiana.

Keep in mind that the road rage incident in which an innocent motorcyclist was struck and injured by Furer occurred after Furer had attacked his girlfriend, during which he asked her, according to the police report, “Do you want to die?” Still, Vitter kept Furer on his staff until ABC News broke the story more than two years later.

In fact, Vitter even offered an incredibly lame defense of the entire affair, claiming the story was inaccurate by denying that Furer worked on women’s issues in any way—as if that excused the physical attack on his girlfriend—even though records clearly showed that Vitter was lying through his teeth.

Several Beltway guides clearly identified Furer as the women’s issues point person in Vitter’s office. Moreover, Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said when she was in Washington immediately before the story about Furer and his girlfriend broke, she was personally informed that Furer was Vitter’s contact person on pending domestic violence legislation.

Vitter attempted to say (read: lie) that Tonya Newman and Nicole Hebert were the employees in his office who were assigned to women’s issues. Newman, however, was identified by Legistorm, one of those congressional staff guidebooks, as alternately Vitter’s Chief of Staff and Communications Director while moving between Vitter’s personal office and his Banking and Urban Affairs Committee office. Hebert, meanwhile, worked out of Vitter’s Lafayette, LA., office as a liaison on women’s issues—not as Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues in Washington.

So, in consideration of all the events described here, including Vitter’s oft-stated support of family values, women’s rights and his opposition to drunk driving, weighed against his flimsy explanations, we must keep asking two questions as we barrel headlong toward the 2015 gubernatorial election:

Can we really believe anything that Misogynist-in-Chief Vitter says?

And can we trust a state Republican organization headed by Jindal and State Party Chairman Roger Villere who scream for McAllister’s resignation while conveniently ignoring Vitter’s far more serious betrayal of the public trust? Not to defend his brain-dead lapse in judgment, but the moment Jindal and Villere opened their hypocritical mouths McAllister should have called a press conference and issued a statement along these lines:

“I shall resign from Congress precisely 30 seconds after Sen. Vitter resigns.”

The silence from Vitter’s sanctimonious enablers would have been deafening.

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Last March, Piyush Jindal’s alter-ego Timmy Teepell (or would it be the other way around?) was a guest on the Jim Engster’s Show on Baton Rouge’s public radio station WRKF and in the course of that interview he denied any knowledge of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) agenda.

Another guest on Engster’s show, Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell, this week took Jindal, the legislature and the entire Louisiana congressional delegation to task for not displaying sufficient backbone to back Jindal down on his proposals to eliminate the personal and corporate income taxes in favor of a 3 cent state sales tax increase.

Campbell instead called for the passage of a 3 percent processing tax on oil and gas which he said would generate $3 billion a year “and let the people who can afford a tax pay it.”

When one reads ALEC’s 5th anniversary edition of Rich States, Poor States http://www.alec.org/publications/rich-states-poor-states/, one has to wonder at the veracity of Teepell’s claim. The annual report devotes 15 of its 125 pages to demonstrating how bad personal income taxes for states’ economies—and that’s before it even gets to the five-page chapter entitled Policy #1: The Personal Income Tax.

Even after that chapter, state personal income taxes are mentioned at least once on 64 of the next 75 pages.

Likewise, corporate income taxes are also discussed on 10 separate pages before Policy #2: The Corporate Income Tax, another five-page chapter. Corporate income taxes are then mentioned on 56 of the remaining 80 pages.

As if that were not enough, Rich States, Poor States also zeroes in on its favorite tax, the sales tax. “We find that sales taxes have a neutral effect on state economies and therefore are a far preferable means for a state to raise needed revenue,” it said in the first paragraph of Policy #3, entitled (you guessed it) The Sales Tax.

In all, sales taxes are invoked on no fewer than 74 of the 125-page report which boasts that ALEC’s tax and fiscal policy is “to prioritize government spending, to lower the overall tax burden, to enhance transparency of government operations, and to develop sound, free-market tax and fiscal policy.”

And Teepell is unaware of this agenda. Really?

“When policymakers choose the levels and types of taxes for their state, they must confront not only the possible effects on the state economy, but the volatility of tax receipts as well,” the report says. “When tax receipts are volatile, that usually means an abnormally large shortfall of revenues when times are tough and spending needs are the greatest.”

Incredibly, the report claims that revenue generated from sales taxes “is the least affected by the boom and bust cycle—in fact, sales tax revenue changes only half as much as revenue from personal and corporate income taxes do.

“Not only does the sales tax do less to inhibit growth, it is a steady revenue source even during a recession,” says the report.

Then, ripping a page right of the Milton Friedman playbook, the report says, “Progressive corporate and personal income taxes do far more damage to the economy than do other taxes such as sales taxes, property taxes and severance taxes. In addition, they (income taxes) are substantially less reliable than those other taxes. How’s that for sound tax policy?”

Well, certainly inflicting a regressive sales tax on Louisiana’s poor is considerably more reliable than corporate income taxes when one considers all the tax breaks, exemptions and rebates this administration hands out to the tune of about $5 billion a year to corporate contributors.

But to address the sophomoric question, “How’s that for sound tax policy?” we turn to another publication entitled Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity.

A joint publication of Good Jobs First and The Iowa Policy Project, The November Snake Oil report takes ALEC to task for its Rich States, Poor States publication which, as might be expected, is heavily weighted in favor of its corporate membership.

“We conclude that the evidence cited to support Rich States, Poor States’ policy menu ranges from deeply flawed to non-existent,” Snake Oil says. “Subjected to scrutiny, these policies are revealed to explain nothing about why some states have created more jobs or enjoyed higher income growth than others over the past five years.

“In actuality, Rich States, Poor States provides a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression and stagnant incomes and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity,” it said.

The Snake Oil report said that results actually reflect just the opposite of the ALEC claims. “The more a state’s policies mirrored the ALEC low-tax/regressive taxation/limited government agenda, the lower the median family income; this is true for every year from 2007 through 2011.”

Jindal was elected in 2007 and took office in 2008 and his policies, Teepell’s denial notwithstanding, have certainly mirrored the ALEC low-tax/regressive taxation/limited government agenda and the state’s infrastructure and education systems just as certainly have suffered under staggering budgetary cuts.

Louisiana’s average median household income of $42,423 for 2010 was the nation’s 10th lowest and 29 percent of Louisiana’s children live in poverty, second only to Mississippi’s 32 percent.

The state’s working poor already pay little or no income tax, so elimination of the state income tax would have no effect on them. A sales tax increase, however, would hit the poor the hardest because they would be paying the same taxes on diapers, clothing, cars, gasoline, appliances and automobiles as the wealthy. Accordingly, they would be paying a much larger percentage of their income in sales taxes than higher income families.

Campbell, a former state senator and an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2007, was elected chairman of the Public Service Commission last year.

Accustomed to being a political lightning rod for his candor, Campbell was in rare form on Engster’s show on Tuesday, saying that Jindal typically works for the benefit of big companies and corporations. “He’ll do anything he can to help those at the top end of the income bracket.”

Appearing to consciously avoid referring to Jindal as governor, he said, “Mr. Jindal knows the solution. When I ran for governor, I wanted to get rid of the income tax which I still think we ought to do. Progressive states like Florida and Tennessee don’t have state income taxes and neither does Texas. They seem to be doing better than us. But you have to replace it with something and Mr. Jindal knows what to replace it with but you couldn’t get him close to it.

“Mr. Jindal wouldn’t touch the oil companies and that’s where to get the money. We just need some politicians with some plain old-fashioned guts to ask ‘em to pay their fair share. I’ve never seen anyone stand up to the oil companies. We don’t have a congressman who’ll do it. Mary Landrieu won’t do it. David Vitter is joined at the hip with them and he absolutely won’t do it.

“Mr. Jindal would run out of the Capitol screaming if you asked him to touch Exxon with a tax,” Campbell said.

Campbell, a Democrat, then heaped praise on Louisiana’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

“The most honest governor by far, who tried to do the right thing, was Dave Treen. When he ran against Louis Lambert (in 1979), business and industry supported him but when he went after the oil companies, they all turned on him and put Edwards back in,” he said.

“He was absolutely right when he had the Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy (CWEL) and he wanted some kind of fee from the oil companies for tearing up our coast.

“I like oil companies for furnishing jobs,” he said. “That’s great. But we have let the oil companies absolutely take over our state, damage our coastline and never asked them to pay for it.

The BP spill, bad as it was, was miniscule compared to the damage oil companies have done to our coastline and all our congressional delegation wants to do is go ask Obama to pay for the coastal restoration and Mr. Vitter (U.S. Sen. David Vitter is the leading cheerleader for that. The government didn’t drill the wells and Mr. Vitter knows that but he doesn’t want to ask the people he’s close to to pay for the damage. And neither does Ms. Landrieu. You see the ads on TV praising Ms. Landrieu. Do you know who’s paying for those ads? The oil companies.”

“We need to ask the oil companies who are making billions to pay something rather than asking the people of Louisiana which has (one of the) poorest populations in the nation. Rather than asking people at the bottom to pay the big end of the tax, why doesn’t Mr. Jindal ask companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Shell to pay their fair share? Fifty percent of the coastal erosion in this state is caused by offshore activity.

“In 1926, when we put it into the constitution, we could tax only domestic oil. That was fine back then when 95 percent of our oil was domestic. Today, it’s 96 percent foreign and 4 percent domestic.

“We have to tax oil and gas coming into the state of Louisiana,” he said. “I agree with Mr. Jindal that we need to eliminate the severance tax because it has been dwindling anyway since the ‘80s. Instead of the severance tax, charge a simple 3 percent processing tax which would raise $3 billion a year.

Campbell said former Gov. Buddy Roemer wants to tax oil that’s still in the ground. “That won’t generate the money. I asked Roemer, Edwards and (Mike) Foster (about the 3 percent processing fee) but they wouldn’t help.

“I guarantee you it would pass by 80 percent. Mr. Kennedy (State Treasurer John Kennedy) knows that, Mr. Roemer, Mr. Jindal and especially Mr. (Dan) Juneau, the head of LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry), know it. Mr. Juneau cannot stand a processing tax because the people who pay his bills don’t want it.”

Campbell said, “It’s the LABIs of the world who represent the big companies doing business up and down the Mississippi. LABI is not worried about the Mindens, the Homers, the Farmervilles, the Ringgolds, the Mansfields or the Rustons of Louisiana. They’re worried about the Chevrons, the Dows, the Exxons. Those are the people who put up the big money.

“Legislators who consistently vote with LABI are not representing their districts because LABI could care less about them.

“That’s who Mr. Jindal is dancing to. That’s why he wants to raise the sales tax on the people. Don’t put it on the oil companies that make billions,” he said in mocking the administration line. “They can’t afford it. They might leave the state.

“How are they going leave the state when they have 50,000 miles of pipeline that deliver oil and gas all across America? And they have the Mississippi River! They can’t leave the state. We need politicians with backbone who’ll say, ‘Now listen, you’ve had a great day in Louisiana, but it’s over. We have crumbling roads, poor education, pollution, a torn-up coast and now you’re gonna pay your fair share. Now get out there and start crying that you’re gonna leave the state and we’ll see what the people believe.’”

At that point, Engster finally got to ask, “Are you a member of LABI?”

“Absolutely not. They don’t represent small business. They say they do but they represent the big boys. Never forget that. Mr. Juneau takes his orders from the boys that put up the most money. They don’t worry about the hardware store in Mansfield. They say they do, but they’re fooling those people. They represent the biggest of the big, nothing more, nothing less.

“That’s who Mr. Jindal represents. Look what he’s doing: raising the sales tax on the poorest people living in America—and make sure, by the way, to get rid of corporate taxes.

“You haven’t heard Mr. Jindal say one word about Exxon paying its fair share and you won’t because he’s in their back pocket.

“Mr. Vitter won’t say anything about fixing our coast because he’s in their back pocket.

“Ms. Landrieu won’t say that because she’s in their back pocket.”

LouisianaVoice did a quick check of campaign contributions and found that Campbell may have been onto something when he talked about a lack of courage by the legislature and the congressional delegation and Jindal’s being beholden to the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas interests contributed more than $1.5 million to 143 state candidates, including legislators and statewide elected officials since 2003, including Jindal, Kennedy, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Lt. Gov. and current New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain and former Secretary of Natural Resources and current Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

Moreover, oil and gas contributed more than $1.75 million to six of Louisiana’s seven congressmen since 2002 and $1.99 million to the state’s two U.S. senators since 1996.

The breakdown for the congressional delegation, with the dates each was first elected in parentheses is as follows:

Senate:

• Mary Landrieu (1996)—$940,174;

• David Vitter (2004)—$1.05 million’

House:

• Steve Scalise (2008)—$257,785;

• Charles Boustany (2004)—$641,605;

• John Fleming (2008)—$405,450;

• Rodney Alexander (2002)—$254,559;

• Bill Cassidy (2008)—$194,300;

• Cedric Richmond (2010)—$0

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This is about arrogance. More specifically, it is about the arrogance of two men, both from Louisiana and each elected to represent his constituents to the best of his ability.

And to that end, each has failed miserably while taking his individual insolence to new levels—in very different ways. One we have written about extensively in the past. The other, not so much, though perhaps he may well warrant closer attention in the future.

We are talking about Gov. Piyush Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

The first, Jindal, has repeatedly displayed his cowardice, his spinelessness, by taking actions to close state facilities without bothering to notify affected legislators of his plans in advance. He has consistently ignored the plight of hundreds of state employees he forced into unemployment by cutting services and corporate taxes, further exacerbating the state’s budgetary crisis.

Vitter’s vote on a Senate bill last week can only described as despicable and hypocritical.

We will get to him presently.

It was not enough that Jindal announced the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville and C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in Dequincy without extending the courtesy of a heads up to the legislative delegation in southeast and southwest Louisiana, the two areas affected.

But in doing so, he appeared to give little regard to or concern for the hundreds of employees at the two facilities who will be adversely impacted by layoffs or, in a few cases, transfers.

Then, on the heels of the announcement of the C. Paul Phelps closure The Baton Rouge League of Women Voters held a panel discussion to discuss Jindal’s continued privatization of state agencies, including the Office of Risk Management, the Office of Group Benefits, charter schools, educational vouchers, state hospital privatization and Medicaid cutbacks.

Invited to attend were representatives of the Jindal administration and proponents of privatization as well as four opponents, including an education coalition representative and Dr. Fred Cerise, former head of the LSU Health Care System.

One end of the head table was fully represented. On the other end, not a single person appeared on behalf of the administration. Cowardice. If an administration cannot publicly defend its actions—and make no mistake, Jindal never does—then that can only be described as cowardly.

Oh, they all had excuses. Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said he had to attend a State Bond Commission meeting. But that meeting was over before the panel forum began across town. Bottom line, no one from the administration could—or would—find the time to defend the governor’s program.

Of course, Jindal had plenty time to attend a Republican unity breakfast in New Hampshire a week before and agreed to participate in a Sept. 26 Leaders of Iowans for Freedom “No Wiggins” bus tour—a rally in opposition to the re-election of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins who voted with the majority to rule the state’s one-man, one-woman marriage law unconstitutional.

We have to wonder how our governor, who, metaphorically speaking, has more snakes than he can kill right here at home, can find time to involve himself in a supreme court race in Iowa. Does the state Medicaid budget’s gaping budget hole not keep him sufficiently occupied without his having to traipse off to Iowa? Isn’t the fiscal plight of the state’s colleges and universities of enough concern to deter him from having breakfast in New Hampshire?

Or could it be more than mere coincidence that the first presidential primary and party caucus will be in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively, in about three years? Could Jindal be that brazen, that disturbingly obvious? Well, yes. Could he really be that delusional, fooling himself into thinking he has a prayer? Yes again.

Piyush would be wise to awaken to the realization that Timmy Teepell is no Karl Rove.

LouisianaVoice has submitted a public records request to determine the cost of Jindal’s two trips including costs not only for Jindal, but for his security detail and any staff members who went along, including travel, lodging, meals and salaries—and including Jindal’s pro-rated salary for the days he is out of state.

Just for argument’s sake, let us say he made each trip in a single day. Giving his annual salary of $130,000, that would mean he should rebate the state a minimum $712 in salary while he was out of state attending to non-governor-type business—plus all the other expenses incurred on the trip for him and his entourage.

Now let’s talk about Vitter.

There was a bill up for a vote in the Senate last week. The Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 would have made it easier for veterans in the future to transition to civilian life.

With veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experiencing unemployment rates 3 percent higher than the general population, the bill would have put a lot of those veterans to work.

A majority (58-40) voted for the bill but that was two votes short of the three-fifths majority needed to overcome a budgetary point of order thrown up by Republicans.

Republicans said the bill violated the Budget Control Act by adding a program that would increase the deficit. Only five Republicans voted for the bill.

Vitter was one of 40 Republicans who voted no.

That’s correct. U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana), given a chance to vote up or down on a measure to help veterans, chose to vote down.

We’re talking about a $16 trillion deficit and the Republicans were quibbling over a budget item of $200 million per year over five years.

Given the propensity of Republicans to consistently vote for larger and larger appropriations for the Pentagon and military contractors and given Republicans’ support of two wars that have cost this country more than $4 trillion, a $1 billion appropriation to help our veterans re-enter the work force should not seem so unreasonable.

Given that most of these Republican chicken hawks have never experienced military service, it certainly is curious that they are so reluctant to lend a hand once these military personnel have sacrificed so much to defend the rhetoric of the pompous congressmen who while beating their collective breasts, are so quick, yea eager, to send them off to war.

It is heartless enough that military personnel with traumatic head injuries are unable to obtain adequate or timely medical treatment once they are no longer useful as fighters and as unwitting enablers of military contractors who milk the Pentagon budget of untold billions of dollars in unchecked cost overruns and outright fraud.

But when it came time to put his money where his patriotic, flag-waving mouth is, Vitter, rather than reaching out to the veterans, turns his back on them. What a coward.

And we thought his frequenting New Orleans prostitutes and cavorting with the D.C. Madam after all of his preaching about family values was hypocritical. That was child’s play, a victimless crime, as they say. His vote on the Veterans Jobs Corps Act dwarfed that transgression. There were thousands of victims of that callous action.

To demonstrate the Republican stance on American exceptionalism and righteous wars, one need look no further than to a statement made by Andrew Card, President George W. Bush’s chief of staff who, when asked about the timing of the March 2003 Iraqi invasion, dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom, said, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

There you have it. A half-century ago President Eisenhower said, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Despite that admonition, war—and the influence of that military-industrial complex—has become a marketing concept, a product to be introduced with the appropriately hyped mixture of patriotism, mom and apple pie, along with the oft-repeated need to defeat the newest threat to the American Way of Life, whatever that is.

And Vitter is right there with his fellow Republicans—until it’s time to help those who supported that policy—the men and women in uniform.

In 2003, he voted in favor of HR 1559, the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act. In 2008, he voted in favor of HR 2642 to approve funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan War—funding that has now exceeded the $4 trillion mark.

But in 2012, he and 39 other Republicans just could not bring themselves to waste a five-year, billion dollar expenditure to help military veterans return to the workforce.

We should be so very proud of our junior senator.

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