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Archive for the ‘Vitter’ Category

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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The best chance for Congress to at least partially mask the stench of Citizens United fell 11 votes short in the U.S. Senate last month, thanks in part to Louisiana’s two senators.

The vote for the Disclose Act, which would have forced independent groups to disclose the names of contributors who give more than $10,000 to them for use in political campaigns, died when it failed to receive the 60 votes needed for passage.

The vote was 51 to 44 in favor of passage.

As might be expected, Sen. David Vitter sided with the Republican opponents in voting against the measure that would have forced unlimited secret campaign spending out into the open.

What might not have been expected was that Sen. Mary Landrieu took a walk.

Just as puzzling was Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law in 2002, but voted against the Disclose Act.

Arkansas its votes between its two senators with Mark Pryor voting yes and John Boozman voting no but both Alabama senators, Jefferson Sessions and Richard Shelby, voted no. William Cochran of Mississippi voted against the measure.

Besides Landrieu, others who did not vote on the bill included Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. With the exception of Landrieu, all those not voting are Republicans. Kirk is out on extended medical leave after suffering a stroke last January.

Vitter could be expected to be protective of his source of campaign contributions, thus the motivation for his vote against the bill.

Since 1999, OpenSecrets.org reports that Vitter has received the following amounts from these sources:

• Health professionals: $1.67 million ($241,433 from political action committees);

• Attorneys and law firms: $1.1 million ($217,776 from PACs);

• Oil and gas: $1.03 million ($337,450 from PACs);

• Real estate: $853,886 ($90,000 from PACs);

• Securities and investment: $841,581 ($101,000 from PACs).

Individual contributions to Vitter since 1999, according to OpenSecrets.org, not surprisingly show that he shares three large contributors with Gov. Piyush Jindal:

• Edison Chouest: $230,654;

• Jones Walker Law Firm: $304,190;

• Adams and Reese Law Firm: $237,100.

Vitter also received individual contributions from:

• Koch Industries: $40,500;

• National Rifle Association: $237,100.

In all, Vitter received $24.54 million in campaign contributions since 1999. That included $17.9 million, about $12 million of which was in the form of large individual contributions. He also received $4.96 million in PAC contributions, records show.

Landrieu, it seems, is just as beholden to certain special interests.

The record of her campaign contributions go back a full decade further than Vitter because she has served longer. Since 1989, she has received $26.38 million. Some of her major contributors include:

Attorneys and law firms: $3.22 million ($448,420 from PACs);

• Oil and gas: $1 million ($479,205 from PACs);

• Real estate: $821,000 ($121,300 from PACs);

• Lobbyists: $865,656 ($43,108 from PACs);

• Leadership PACs: $669,000.

Landrieu also received individual contributions totaling:

• $288,854 from Entergy ($147,324 in PAC contributions);

• $80,699 from the Shaw Group (43,499 in PAC money);

• $88,598 from J.P. Morgan Chase ($39,498 in PAC contributions).

Like Vitter, Landrieu received the bulk of her contributions ($15.9 million) from individuals but again like Vitter, about 65 percent of those were large individual contributions, meaning that high rollers tend to pose more of an influence than the $50 individual donations. Almost $8 million of her funds came from PACs. That’s about 60 percent more than Vitter.

So it would appear that some elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, are a tad sensitive to letting voters know the sources of their campaign contributions.

As difficult as it is to admit, at least Vitter showed the courage of his convictions, however misplaced his values are, but voting against the Disclose Act.

Landrieu should be as forthright.

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For those who favor political irony with their morning coffee, this week was nothing less than a rip-snortin’ bonanza.

If taken at face value, Sen. David Vitter’s shameless endorsement of Gov. Bobby Jindal for re-election was just another spam email from one sleaze ball schmoozing for another in an effort to put up a united façade in order to promote a common political agenda.

But for those willing to peel back the layers and to look beyond the surface message, it was one knee-slapping guffaw after side-holding chortle as Mr. Family Values tried to keep a straight face while telling us of the mom and apple pie virtues of Mr. Transparency and Accountability.

It’s the kind of material worthy of Saturday Night Live.

Ron White, aka Tater Salad, of Blue Collar Comedy Tour fame, one of the best stand-up comics in the business, was never that funny on his best day. It was enough make us forget Rodney Dangerfield and to force Don Rickles into retirement.

The opening paragraph was innocuous enough, warranting only a derisive snort:

“Wendy and I want to thank you again for all of your friendship. Because we value it so highly, I wanted to pass on two important thoughts about our elections in Louisiana this fall.” (Thank goodness he got the spelling of elections right; it is Vitter, after all.)

The second paragraph elicited the first good laugh:

“You know, we really should stop and remember. It wasn’t long ago that the norm in Louisiana politics was blatant corruption and cronyism (like the present administration, perhaps?) interrupted only once in a while by failed reform or mere incompetence. That’s almost all I knew growing up here.” (Well, that explains trolling the red light districts.)

Then there was the first real zinger:

“Bobby is helping to change that.” (coffee all over my laptop.) “He’s honest and competent.” (Paper towels! Give me more paper towels!) “He wants to make government leaner and smarter, not more bloated and intrusive.” (So, explain to me again how bringing in Goldman Sachs and all those consultant contracts translates to “leaner” and “less intrusive.”)

“We must stay on this path.” (That would be the path to the Second Louisiana Purchase?)

“And second, to help Bobby become as engaged and bold as possible in his second term, we need a more conservative legislature, particularly in the State Senate.” (If he becomes any more engaged and bolder, we’ll be selling the Old Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge along with the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville.)

You may have noticed that he never identifies Jindal by any name but Bobby. The only way one would know that it is Jindal is by reading the subject line of the email: “Jindal for Governor, with a Conservative Legislature to Boot.”

Apparently they’re real buds.

Such good buds that while Jindal was gallivanting all over the Continental U.S. last fall to campaign for Republican candidates in congressional and gubernatorial elections, he steadfastly refused to acknowledge Vitter’s candidacy for re-election, let alone endorse him. Jindal somehow managed to completely ignore the fact that there was even a Senatorial election in Louisiana while at the same time vigorously campaigning for candidates in other states.

And therein lies the irony. Is this Vitter’s not-so-subtle way of sending a message that he’s a better man than Jindal and he’s demonstrating it by doing for the governor what the governor refused to do for Vitter a year ago? “While you were snotty to me, I’m taking the high road.”

If so, that would have to grate greatly with Jindal. To be publicly shown up by the man he must truly despise would have to eat at the governor.

Bitter irony for Jindal, side-splitting spectator sport for political junkies.

Vitter goes on in his email:

“To achieve this, I’d strongly encourage you to support a group I helped found—the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.” (Whew, for a second there, we were thinking about another group, but that would probably be illegal.)

“In just a few years, this group helped achieve majorities in the State House and Senate.” (Hmm, maybe it was that other group after all.) “But we can go even further [and with several Rinos or Republicans In Name Only, particularly in the State Senate, we need to]. With your help, we will. (Hey, David, how about FVINO? That would be Family Values In Name Only.)

“We’re one of only four states with major elections this year. (Got that spelling right again. Good boy.) So all of these victories can really help build conservative momentum for 2012 nationally as well.”

“Please join me in these important efforts. They will truly be critical in defining the Louisiana—and America—we leave to our kids and grandkids.

“Thank you again for your partnership.” (One thing you can say for Vitter: he’s not short on brass in assuming we have some sort of partnership.)

He goes on:

“If you can, please consider a personal contribution in any amount up to $2500 to the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.

“I am asking for a donation of up to $2,500 per election from an individual’s own funds, or up to $5,000 per election from a multicandidate PAC or a political party committee. I am not asking for funds from corporations, labor organizations, national banks, federal government contractors, or foreign nationals. (Well, Senator, just who do you think contributes to these PACs and political party committees?)

Just for sport, we did a quick search—all the way back to 1990—and found that David Vitter did indeed put his money where his mouth is—just not as much as he’s asking us to put.

Way back on Dec. 29, 2006, David Vitter gave a whopping $50 to the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority.

That’s it. Fifty bucks. Almost five years ago. $50.

That wouldn’t even get a brusque “get lost,” much less a friendly “hello, new in town?” from one of those Washington, D.C., hookers.

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Deep Throat , during the cloak and dagger pursuit of the Watergate story by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, at one point advised Woodward to “follow the money.”

Nearly four decades later, that’s still good advice for any reporter attempting to develop a cause and effect angle to any political story.

That’s what LouisianaVoice has been doing for some time now with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign finance reports and it’s a long, convoluted path with numerous twists and unexpected changes of direction. But a pattern does appear to be emerging from this work in progress.

Take for example Jindal’s oft-repeated stand on gay rights.

He has consistently opposed expanded adoption rights for gays and way back in 2003 he made it clear he had no time to meet with a gay rights group.

As governor, he even created the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family which was designed to “propose programs, policies, incentives, and curriculum regarding marriage and family by collecting and analyzing data on the social and personal effects of marriage and child-bearing within the state of Louisiana.” One of his first appointees to the commission was Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge, president of the anti-gay advocacy group known as the Family Research Council.

But there’s that $5,000 campaign contribution in August of 2008 from Paul E. Singer of New York.

Singer is an enormously wealthy New York City hedge fund manager and prominent Republican donor.

Together, he and two other right-wing Republican donors from the financial district contributed nearly $1 million to a new coalition of gay rights organizations in New York.

Politics, it seems, does indeed make for strange bedfellows. Okay, that was too easy but you knew someone was going to say it.

In last fall’s congressional elections, Jindal campaigned vigorously for Republicans in other states but avoided U.S. Sen. David Vitter like the plague.

Some felt that Vitter’s admitted trysts with prostitutes did not square with Jindal’s family value core beliefs. How then, does he explain the $19,000 he accepted from former Congressman Bob Livingston between April 2003 and February of this year?

Perhaps he calculated that Livingston was flying well below reporters’ radar. But remember, Livingston admitted his own dalliance with another woman just prior to the impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton.

At the time Livingston was poised to become House Speaker but resigned from Congress instead.

Not that Jindal goes to any great lengths to vet his contributors.

We’ve already seen that he accepted $11,000 from the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA) in apparent violation of state and federal prohibitions against political contributions by non-profit taxpayer-supported bodies.

Actually, that $11,000 figure is from the Legislative Auditor’s office but CNS has documented $22,000 in LHBPA donations from November of 2003 through March of 2009. Apparently, the state auditor only more recent contributions.

The top two administrators of the association at the time are now awaiting trial on 29-count federal indictments of fraud, election rigging, and other charges.

Then there is the $2500 donation made to Jindal in December of 2008 by HCA of Nashville.

In 1997, eleven years prior to that donation, HCA became embroiled in the largest Medicare fraud investigation in history. HCA ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines.

The CEO of HCA at the time was a man by the name of Rick Scott.

Rick Scott is now the Republican governor of Florida for whom Jindal campaigned extensively last fall.

Just last Saturday, the Florida legislature passed a $69.7 billion budget that included Scott’s sweeping program to privatize at least 16 prisons, numerous annexes, juvenile correction facilities, road camps, and work-release centers in 18 counties.

The Florida privatization plan will result in the loss of 1700 jobs in the state prison system as well as reduced benefits for those lucky enough to keep their jobs—all for a promise by the private companies of an annual savings of $40 million, a promise State Sen. Mike Fasano finds vague and unconvincing.

State Rep. Paige Kreegel said the core mission of government is to protect good people from bad ones. “When we shirk our core mission, we lost our legitimacy to govern,” he said.

Both Kreegel and Fasano are Republicans.

Scott had his reasons for wanting to privatize, of course: 25,000 reasons, to be precise. GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based company, contributed $25,000 to Scott’s campaign in January, about the same time he took office.

GEO is the nation’s second-largest private prison operator is currently contracted to run the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder in Allen Parish.

The company contributed $10,000 to the Jindal campaign in separate $5,000 payments in 2007 and 2008.

Other private prison firms contributing to Jindal’s campaign include:

• Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) of Nashville, TN., the nation’s largest private prison firm–$13,000;

• Wackenhut Corrections of Palm Beach Gardens, FL.,–$10,000;

• LaSalle Management, formerly of Rayville but now headquartered in Ruston–$10,000;

• Emerald Correctional Management of Shreveport–$10,000;

• Waterproof Correctional of Shreveport–$2500;

• LCS Corrections Service of Baton Rouge–$2500;

• Richwood Correctional Center of Ruston–$2500, and

• Joseph Russell of Nashville, a member of the CCA board of directors–$2500.

CCA presently operates the state’s Winn Parish facility on a contractual basis while LaSalle runs state lockups in Claiborne Parish (Homer), Ouachita (Richwood), Catahoula (Harrisonburg), Jackson (Jonesboro), LaSalle (Urania), Lincoln (Ruston), and Concordia (Ferriday).

Emerald operates the West Carroll Detention Center in Epps and also operates facilities in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Wackenhut once ran the state juvenile detention facility in Jena but subsequently returned the facility to the state following claims of brutality by guards.

Abuse of juveniles by private prison concerns is not limited to Louisiana, of course.

Pennsylvania has been rocked by a scandal in which two judges funneled juveniles with only minor offenses into privately-run detention centers in exchange for monetary kickbacks from the companies.

All the controversy swirling around the private companies is of little apparent concern to Jindal, Scott, and Republicans in general, who appear determined to privatize state agencies.

If a little campaign money helps grease the skids, so much the better.

Prison privatization appears dead for this year’s legislative session but it’s pretty much a certainty that it will remain a high priority on Jindal’s agenda.

As we have observed before, he is half-right about his administration’s being the most transparent and ethical in state history.

He is certainly transparent enough but we’re still looking for the ethics.

And we’re continuing to follow the money.

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Okay, readers, LouisianaVoice is introducing a new game for everyone to play. It’s called JINDAL BINGO.

You play it just like you play regular bingo except instead of letters and numbers, Jindal catch-phrases will be called out and when you have a square that is labeled with the catch-phrase that is called, you cover it with a kernel of pure corn. The first person to complete a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line with five straight kernels is the winner. The prize, we’re sorry to say, is another four years of Jindalisms.

Okay, get your cards ready and let’s play:

We’re in the state 90% of the time

Transparency

Stop whining

I have the job I want

Do more with less

Will be forthcoming

Veterans’ medals

A great idea!

Privatize

Three things:

Leadership and Crisis

Absolutely

BP

Merge UNO and SUNO (No one in New Orleans voted for me anyway)

Berms

No pay raise for classified employees

More berms

Gustav

Merge Tech and Grambling? No way. North Louisiana loves me.

Screw up State Employee Health Insurance Contract

Blame the moratorium for everything

Will not take stimulus money

Took stimulus money but didn’t tell anyone

FREE SPACE: DID NOT ENDORSE VITTER

Most ethical administration

Student-based budgeting

Building a better Louisiana

Race to the Top. No, wait. TOPS. I meant TOPS.

Chicken plant

Vitter who?

North Louisiana Protestant church testimony

Veterans Honor Medals

Deep Water Horizon

Photo-op

Hands-on leadership

Accountability

Tax breaks

No tax increase

P.S. Please feel free to log on and add any other Jindalisms you can recall. We need as many as possible to make the game competitive.

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Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education doesn’t seem to be very smart. But don’t worry, he appears to have plenty company.

Paul Pastorek, originally appointed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and retained by Bobby Jindal, is quick to blame the teachers of any school or school system that is shown to be failing.

But when test scores improve, guess who takes full credit? Okay, that was too easy.

But to repeat, he doesn’t seem to be very smart, especially for a lawyer, the occupational genus from which he was plucked to save Louisiana public education.

Taking the typical legal approach, Pastorek, without ever admitting actual culpability, earlier this month said he would repay the state $4,185 for dozens of private trips taken in a state vehicle by Paul Vallas, head the department’s Recovery School District. Both Pastorek and Vallas have insisted they were unaware that it was improper to take the Dodge Durango out of state on personal business, including several trips to visit family in Chicago. It was on one of the Chicago trips that Vallas wrecked the state car, the incident that led to the discovery of its out-of-state use.

What part of “improper use” don’t they understand?

In June, Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen resigned after it became public that she had furtively retired in August of 2009 without informing the Board of Regents, her bosses, only to be rehired after missing exactly one day of work. While entirely legal, the resulting flak caused her to become, in her own words, a “constant distraction.” The retire-rehire move netted her a $90,000 payout for unused sick leave and vacation time and entitled her to an annual pension of $146,400 on top of her regular salary.

It is still not certain as to who was responsible for “re-hiring” her. The Board of Regents is the hiring authority for the commissioner’s position and no member of the board has ever acknowledged knowing of her move in advance or indeed, for a full nine months after the fact. And she couldn’t very well re-hire herself, given the fact that she had resigned her position.

For questionable actions that may not necessarily be illegal but which have raised eyebrows for their apparent indiscretion, one need only pick a year. Take 2005, for example. In March of that year, Commissioner of Insurance Robert Wooley apparently felt his department needed a $40,000 special Harley-Davidson edition Ford truck, complete with heated seats, a camper package, diesel engine, red flames painted on the side, and a CD changer.

Wooley said he saw the vehicle on a car lot and wanted it so he traded in a year-old Eddie Bauer-designer edition Ford Expedition with only 30,000 miles on it. “I ain’t going to jail,” Wooley sniffed. “I sleep well every night.”

Edwin Edwards went to jail. So did former Commissioner of Elections Jerry Fowler and Commissioners of Insurance Sherman Bernard and Doug Green. Likewise Agriculture Commissioner Gil Dozier, three consecutive sheriffs in St. Helena Parish, and several judges in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Former Congressman William Jefferson appears headed for jail for corruption and Federal Judge Thomas Porteous just underwent a rigorous impeachment trial with the U.S. Senate expected to render its verdict by Thanksgiving. Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown also went to jail but on the flimsiest of charges, that of lying to the FBI in an informal interview.

Senator David Vitter and former Congressman Bob Livingston both became involved in extra-marital affairs. Vitter’s was with a prostitute and Livingston’s affair was revealed at the same time he was calling for Bill Clinton’s resignation over the president’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. Livingston subsequently resigned from Congress only to emerge as a major player among the K Street lobbyists in Washington.

Vitter was considered vulnerable until Chet Traylor, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, decided to run against him and in so doing ended up making Vitter look good by comparison. Not only did Traylor have an affair with a Winnsboro legislator’s wife, but after they married and she later died, he began an affair with his stepson’s ex-wife. Traylor, who initially was considered a viable candidate, ended up with about 7 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

In August, a federal jury in Shreveport convicted former State Senator Charles Jones of Monroe of tax evasion.

Just last week New Orleans Deputy Mayor Greg St. Etienne resigned. Hired by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to supervise the city’s chief financial office, he is accused of misuse of $500,000 in federal loans at a nonprofit organization he once ran.

Then there is Eddie Jordan, the man who put Edwin Edwards away.

Jordan, who succeeded Harry Connick as Orleans Parish district attorney, became embroiled in controversy almost from the day he took office. He summarily fired all his white assistant district attorneys who promptly filed suit. A jury found in favor of the fired workers and awarded them $3.7 million.

Jordan also came under heavy criticism for releasing suspects in high profile murder cases and in one instance, a suspect sought by police fled to Jordan’s home. In 2007, he released a suspect in the murders of five teenagers, saying that his office was unable to locate a key witness in the case. The New Orleans Police Department promptly produced the witness, who was in their custody all along. Later that same year, Jordan resigned.

But those are the high-profile cases. It’s those lawmakers and agency heads who try to fly just below the radar who sometimes are exposed as guilty of at least questionable behavior.

Whether it’s a legislator voting in favor of a bill that would benefit him financially or a pair of legislators swapping out Tulane scholarships in order to circumvent the prohibition against awarding the scholarships to family members, there are numerous conflicts of interest that often go unreported. Many public officials simply ignored that stipulation and put entire families through Tulane with the scholarships. (The families of former Crowley Judge Edmund Reggie and former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu come to mind.)

But what could any more of a conflict than a legislator’s making it a common practice to sue the state? It would be akin to a member of the board of Wal-Mart, IBM, or Exxon suing their companies on behalf of clients who walk in off the street.

It’s assumed that legislators take an oath to protect the state fisc, or treasury, but that almost seems mythical these days. But don’t try to tell State Sen. Rob Marionneaux (D-Livonia) that. Not only does he sue the state on a regular basis, but he recently found himself in hot water when he attempted to negotiate a settlement between LSU and his client, Bernhard Mechanical. The State Board of Ethics said Marionneaux told LSU representatives that Bernard would accept $7.1 million from LSU and that he would secure a legislative appropriation of an additional $5.5 million.

The board further said that Marionneaux violated the law by not notifying the board that he was representing Bernard Mechanical. Marionneaux countered by saying he was not required to do so. He elaborated by saying the reporting requirement does not apply to lawyers who are legislators.

In June, however, even as the ethics board was investigating him, Marionneaux attempted to slip language into a bill that would eliminate requirements that he disclose his representation of Bernard to the board. The bill failed.

Perhaps then, it should be no surprise that Pastorek, who said he gave permission to Vallas to use the vehicle on the trips, said of the repayment, “I don’t think legally, technically, I have to, but my feeling is we need to get this behind us and move forward.”

A legislative auditor’s report said Vallas, who doesn’t fly, used the state-owned SUV for dozens of visits to family in Illinois and along the Gulf Coast from the time he was hired in July 2007 through April 2009. Vallas admitted to auditors that 31 of his 41 trips out of Louisiana were not work-related.

Vallas no longer has a state vehicle. Instead, he has been given a $2,200 per month car allowance in addition to his $252,689 yearly salary.

Considering the number of trips taken and time away from the office for Vallas, plus repairs to the Durango, Pastorek may have gotten off light with paying $4,185 (gasoline alone should have exceeded that amount).

If that’s not sufficiently magnanimous of Pastorek, a week later he graciously declined a pay raise after receiving a favorable review of his job performance by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education but not before making it clear that he had earned the increase had he opted to take it.

It may have come as a surprise that he was even eligible for a pay increase when state classified workers were denied raises by the governor earlier this year. Pastorek, as a political appointee, is unclassified or non-civil service. His salary is $287,907, plus a housing allowance of $57,240 and a car allowance of $31,800. A 6 percent raise would have meant an additional $22,616 in annual compensation for Pastorek.

All things considered, it’s probably no surprise that a writer for the Chicago Tribune rated Louisiana worse than Illinois in public corruption.

Maybe new Southern University President Ronald Mason Jr. knew what he was doing when he brought his own lawyer onto the Southern payroll even as the university was laying off 50 employees.

Mason came to Southern from Jackson State University in Mississippi and brought both his Chief of Staff Evola Bates ($150,000 per year) and Executive Counsel Byron Williams ($120,000).

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