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Archive for March, 2011

The nation’s “most transparent” and “most ethical” administration is becoming more transparent with each passing day but the ethical part is looking a little shaky.

A Hammond firm that has one $380,000 contract with the state and another to oversee a $20 billion claims fund resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 men last April and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico hosted a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday of this week.

The $1,000 is just to attend the event. If one wanted to be listed as a “host,” the ante was $5,000.

Worley Catastrophe Response, which also has had contracts with the Louisiana Office of Risk Management, was the primary host, and even made its Hammond training facility available for the event.

The Louisiana Code of Ethics, which apparently does not apply to elected officials, forbids state employees from accepting gifts from vendors.

But not to worry. Worley CEO Mike Worley was careful not to push the envelope insofar as the state ethics laws are concerned. He contended the event was on the up-and-up and that no ethics protocol had been breached because the function was held after business hours.

Apparently Worley’s contracts are rendered null and void after 5 p.m.—or at least placed in a state of suspended animation.

And, of course, Jindal ceases being governor “after business hours.”

Horsefeathers.

This is simply another case of Jindal’s twisting the rules to suit his needs and apparently those needs are all monetary. His campaign already has $12 million in the bank with no opponent in sight. The only candidate even mentioned thus far, Caroline Fayard, attempted to self-destruct in Bogalusa earlier this week with some off-the-cuff venom directed at Republicans in general. To say anyone, even Republicans, “eat their young” is a bit over the top and likely not to play well in north Louisiana.

But back to Piyush and his new take on the code of ethics. Remember: he was fined $2,500 back in 2008 for his failure to disclose $118,000 in expenditures by the state Republican Party on his behalf.

And now he allows a fund raiser in his behalf to be hosted by a firm holding fat state contracts. And he sees no conflict of interest.

Beautiful. Just beautiful. Sometimes even smart people learn slowly.

“People who support us are supporting our agenda and not the other way around,” the governor said. Now, if someone could just tell us what he meant by that ….

“I’m a resident of the state of Louisiana, and I support the governor,” Worley said. Apparently that overrides any silly old ethics laws. Erlichman and Haldeman supported Nixon, too, not that we’re drawing any comparisons.

Jindal’s press lackey Kyle Plotkin said the governor saw nothing inappropriate about the fund raiser. “Obviously, the governor is running for re-election, and he wants the support of all people in Louisiana,” he said.

Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell in February filed papers in U.S. District Court in New Orleans asking a federal judge to oversee the oil leak claims process.

Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck called the fundraiser a conflict of interest for the governor who he said “is essentially taking money from somebody who works for BP at the same time he’s supposed to be holding BP accountable.”

State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) was at a loss in trying to understand how Jindal did not see what Edwards said was a clear conflict in complaining about the claims process while attending a fundraiser at the headquarters of one of the claims adjusters.

He said Jindal should avoid any appearance of a conflict, regardless of whether or not he has an opponent. He added that because he has no opponent, however, “It may mean that he’s able to get away with it.”

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If Gov. Bobby Jindal is serious about his suggestion that state employees “do more with less,” he has an excellent opportunity to lead by example: he could ask his mom to step down from her state job.

The governor has been up front with his plans to outsource state agencies, thereby forcing employees of those agencies to retire (if eligible), seek other employment, or hope to catch on with the private sector company taking over the state agency.

The lucky ones get to retire. But many—some of whom have 20 years or more with the state—are still too young to retire and thus must scramble for a new job in a depressed market where jobs are scarce and when filled at all, go to much younger applicants. Don’t believe for a nano-second that there is no age discrimination.

Those are the ones who are truly caught up in the classic Catch-22 scenario.

When F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) took over the Office of Risk Management (ORM) last July, its contract stipulated that it take all ORM employees for at least one year. There is nothing in place to protect the state employees after that 12-month period. The privatization of ORM, by the way, was supposed to save the state $50 million over five years but FARA already is asking that its $68 million contract be amended by $7 million, to $75 million.

Jindal also is seeking to privatize state prisons and the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) but as yet has said nothing about outsourcing the Louisiana Workforce Commission (formerly the Louisiana Department of Labor).

Perhaps that is because that is where his mother is employed.

Perhaps not, but a $45,000 per year state employee being outsourced (read: laid off) has to smart just a tad when doing a cursory web page search (link), clicks on “Louisiana State Payroll” on the top menu bar, and then types in “Jindal” in the box “Search by Name,” only to find that Gov. Jindal is paid $130,000 per year to campaign for out-of-state candidates, attend fundraisers for himself, and to promote his book—all while ostensibly serving as the governor of Louisiana.

The resentment must really smolder when the name Raj G. Jindal appears beneath that of the governor. Raj G. Jindal is the governor’s mother and she pulls down a cool $117,915 per year as an Information Technology (IT) Director 3 in charge of workforce support and training. We assume she is a valuable, capable employee. But that’s not the point here. It’s the perception, stupid (with apologies to Bill Clinton).

One might think the governor, as a show of good faith, would ask his mom, an employee of 30-plus years and certainly eligible for retirement, to lead by example, and step down to benefit someone who really needed a job. Even if she were not eligible for retirement benefits, what a PR move it could be for the governor.

One might think so. After all, should she opt for retirement, her retirement income in excess of $90,000 would be more than double that of the average salary of state employees still working full time ($44,338).

But then Gov. Jindal has never been one to display an excessive amount of compassion for state employees. Quite the opposite would, in fact, seem to be the case. He just doesn’t care. He has shown that in his actions time and again, from privatization, to behind-the-scenes efforts a year ago to dismantle the state Department of Civil Service and the Civil Service Board.

He showed it when he gutted the state’s ethics laws, all the while spouting his oft-repeated mantra in campaign appearances in other states that his is the most transparent, most ethical administration in Louisiana history.

He showed his disdain for minorities in the manner in which he replaced a white member of the Board of Regents for Higher Education with an African-American, all the while claiming the move had nothing to do with a lawsuit brought by Southern University students challenging the makeup of the previously all-white board. Yeah, right.

At least that move was pretty transparent.

He has shown nothing but contempt for public school teachers in the way his administration is hell-bent on destroying public education in favor of charter (read for-profit) schools. He must be very proud of the Recovery School District.

No, it’s not very likely that Raj G. Jindal will be asked to lead by example by doing “more with less.”

It’s just not in our governor’s makeup.

Instead, the governor will in all likelihood fall back on another line he uttered just before departing for yet another out-of-state campaign appearance last fall: “Quit whining.”

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When considering the motives behind the sudden push by Gov. Bobby Jindal to privatize so many facets of state government, one must pause and ask one simple question: if private industry can accomplish what the state has been doing for decades and do it more efficiently and at less cost, why are so many for-profit companies falling all over themselves to win the contracts?

The answer is just as simple. They see ways to make enormous profits.

If the math doesn’t work for you, you’re not alone.

But a March 17 story in Bloomberg Businessweek (click here for story) may have helped to bring into the focus the reasoning behind private industry’s salivating over running such state agencies as Group Benefits, Risk Management, state prisons, and even the state’s public education system.

A story by Bob Sloan, (click here for article) posted on the web on March 26, also shed light on the machinations of private industry’s involvement in prison administration. Neither story paints a pretty picture.

But first, some background.

The argument could be made that only one company submitted a bid on the twofold contract to serve as a financial assessment expert to assess the value of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) and to secure a private sector buyer for the agency that is presently sitting on a $500 million surplus, about $300 of which would go to the new purchaser with the remainder going to the state’s General Fund.

That’s true enough but then Wall Street banking firm Goldman Sachs helped to write the specifications for the state request for proposals (RFP) on the contract and was subsequently the only bidder on the $6 million project, it raised more than a few eyebrows.

That was enough to get the attention of the Legislative Auditor’s office, which promptly dispatched a team of auditors to OGB to look into that arrangement as well as the issuance of a $49,999.99 contract to Chaffe Associates of New Orleans to work up some preliminary assessment figures for Jindal in time for his presentation of his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

The Chaffe contract was exactly one penny less than the amount that would have required approval of the Office of Contractual Review. To date, Chaffe has not presented any studies nor has it billed the state for any services.

The Office of Risk Management was privatized effective last July 1 when F.A. Richard and Associates (FARA) of Mandeville began a five-year phase-in takeover at a “maximum cost of $68 million.” Now, barley nine months into its contract, FARA has already requested a $7 million amendment to a cost “not to exceed” $75 million.

And while considerable attention has been given the proposed privatization of state prisons, the privatization of public schools has managed to fly under the radar of the state’s citizenry—with the notable exception of public educators.

In the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the number of public schools in New Orleans has shrunk from 123 to four while the number of charter schools has gone from seven to 31, according to author Naomi Klein in her controversial book, The Shock Doctrine, The American Enterprise Institute virtually crowed, “Katrina accomplished in a day…what Louisiana school reformers couldn’t do after years of trying.”

Jindal’s more immediate concern at the moment, at least publicly, appears to be the auctioning off of state prison facilities. A Request for Information (RFI, not to be confused with an RFP) by the Department of Corrections to determine interest in attracting bidders on an RFP to be issued later for the sale of prisons in Winn and Allen parishes drew responses from six bidders, including Winn Parish Sheriff A.D. “Bodie” Little, LaSalle Management Co., dba LaSalle Corrections, of Ruston, Emerald Correctional Management of Shreveport, Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) of Nashville, TN, GEO Group of Boca Raton, FL, and Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, UT.

The Ruston-based LaSalle Management already operates prison facilities in Homer in Claiborne Parish, Richwood (Ouachita), Harrisonburg (Catahoula), Jonesboro (Jackson), Urania (LaSalle), Ruston (Lincoln), and Ferriday (Concordia) in Louisiana and four others in Texas.

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

CCA is the largest private prison contractor in the U.S. and currently has contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal clients, and 19 state prison systems.

CCA and GEO, the second-largest private prison contractor, together account for more than $3 billion in gross revenue annually, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek article.

The state currently pays local sheriffs in every parish $31.51 per day for each state prisoner housed in local jails. ICE, on the other hand, pays CCA $90 per day per person to house illegal immigrants.

Given the difference of nearly three to one, why would CCA, GEO and the others be so eager to offer bids in the range of $40 per day for state prisoners?

One answer is that they are in the business of making a profit and in all probability they have their eyes on federal detainees. The question must be asked: how long before the private companies, with federal dollars shining in their eyes, tell the state to take a hike?

Another possible answer is that CCA and companies like it go to great lengths to lobby federal and state governments to adopt ever-stricter punishment for non-violent criminals in an effort to maintain—and increase—America’s already high rate of detention. At $90 per day, it’s to the best interest of the private companies to keep as many prisoners as possible.

A third alternative is to cut staff, reduce the salaries of guards, terminate rehabilitation and vocational programs designed to move prisoners back into society.

The second and third alternatives would be in direct conflict with Jindal’s stated goal of rehabilitating and training prisoners in order to release non-violent offenders and thus, reduce Louisiana’s prison population rate, which right now is the highest in the nation which in turn, has the highest detention rate in the world.

The Bloomberg Businessweek article quoted CCA critic Bob Libal, Texas coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, an anti-private prison coalition as saying the company manages to skim better-behaved (read: cheaper to control) inmates from the general population, leaving government facilities to deal with the more violent prisoners.

Another factor that is never mentioned in any RFP or contract is the fact that no matter how many state prisoners a private company may take into its care, the cost of providing medical care for the prisoners remains the responsibility of the state.

CCA, according to the article, operates facilities throughout the southern part of the U.S., from California to Georgia. Low labor costs are a major factor in that clustering, the article said.

Judy Greene, a criminal justice expert at the Brooklyn-based nonprofit research group Justice Strategies, said the private companies save money at the expense of labor. “Labor is cheap, wages are lower, and benefits are few,” she said.

GEO is not without its critics, either.

In Mississippi, a state audit in 2005 noted that GEO has reduced staffing at Walnut Grove, a juvenile detention center that houses 1,200 inmates, to a guard-to-inmate ratio of 1 to 60, compared to the national norm of 1 to 10 or 12.

And while state prison employees erect yard signs in opposition to the prison sales and protest in Baton Rouge, the bottom line is they are going up against an industry with almost $5 billion a year in gross revenue and an administration that wants very badly to accommodate them in the interest of getting a few million dollars in up-front money to help plug a gaping hole in the state budget.

A betting person wouldn’t give very good odds on the administration’s suddenly developing a conscience and changing its mind on this issue. The alliances run too deep, there’s too much money at stake, and like it or not, money is the fuel that runs the political machinery.

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Trying to obtain what are clearly public records from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office is somewhat akin to trying to nail Jell-O to a wall but CNS has succeeded in obtaining some information from his deputy executive counsel, albeit somewhat confusing and perhaps incomplete data.

Deputy Executive Counsel Elizabeth Baker Murrill provided the records while implying that the governor’s staff was doing Capitol News Service a favor in being forthcoming with the information because, she said, there was no legal mandate to “manufacture and compile information in response to a request.”

The Louisiana Public Records Act, however, says precisely the opposite.

Murrill also said campaign-related records “are not public records.” Jindal, however, was fined $2,500 in 2008 for failing to report more than $100,000 in campaign expenditures on his behalf by the Louisiana Republican Party.

In responding to the specific request by CNS for an accounting of the number of days Jindal was out of state during 2010 on personal campaign fundraisers, campaigning for other Republican candidates, or promoting his book, Leadership and Crisis, Murrill provided 17 separate emails from press secretary Kyle Plotkin detailing the governor’s itinerary.

While Jindal has been admonished for his frequent out-of-state trips by critics who say he should be spending more time in-state attending to the impending $1.6 billion budget deficit, he also has been just as active—maybe even more so—in his recurrent Sunday morning trips to Protestant church services, particularly in north Louisiana.

Federal laws forbid political activity on the part of churches and also prohibit fundraising activities in churches by political candidates. Violations could result in the loss of a church’s tax-exempt status but Jindal apparently is not shy about skirting the ragged edges of the law.

A visit to one north Louisiana church reveals just how far he is willing to go in flirting with IRS sanctions against host churches kind enough to allow him to “witness” to their congregations about his Christian conversion.

The identities of the town and church are relatively unimportant to the facts of the story, so we will save them that embarrassment. But the story, as told by a member of the congregation bears repeating. We’ll call him Sam for the purposes of this story.

The pastor one Sunday told his flock that they would be visited by the governor the following Sunday. “I decided right then that I was not going to miss the next Sunday,” Sam said. “The next Sunday as I sat and listened to the malarkey of his life story, I sensed something going on at the pew to my left. I looked and saw that a clipboard with a sign-in sheet was being passed around.”

The sheet, he said, contained spaces for attendees’ names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. “They weren’t one bit shy about it,” Sam said. “They were compiling information to key into a campaign data bank so they could call these people back later to solicit votes and campaign contributions.”

He said at the close of services, the pastor informed the congregation that Jindal would have a meet and greet session at the parish sheriff’s firing range. “I went to that, too, and that’s where the contributions were being solicited,” Sam said. “Big time. They were very open about asking for contributions.”

Sam admitted that he has never been a fan of Jindal. “I can’t stand him. But I have to give it to him: he’s slick.”

In-state travel notwithstanding, the emails provided CNS by Jindal’s office revealed 17 out-of-state trips totaling 30 days. The first trip was for three days, beginning on Feb. 19. On that date, he traveled to Washington, D.C. for the National Governors’ Association’s winter meetings and the Republican Governors’ Association meeting. He returned on Feb. 22.

He didn’t travel out-of-state again until Sept. 17, when he attended campaign rallies in Pensacola, Orlando, and Jacksonville for Rick Scott in his successful campaign for governor of that state. Jindal also attended fundraisers in Pensacola and St. Petersburg before returning to Baton Rouge that same day.

There were no trips reported by the governor’s office between Feb. 17-22 and Sept. 17. The April 20 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occupied much of his on-camera face time during that period and the leak was finally stopped on Sept. 19 just in time for his jaunt to Cincinnati on Sept. 20-21 to attend the Republican Governors’ Association Policy Summit.

Other trips listed by Murrill included:

• Sept. 24—Fundraisers in Fresno and San Diego in support of unsuccessful California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman: 1 day;

• Oc. 4—Fundraiser for the Georgia Republican Party in Atlanta: 1 day;

• Oct. 8—Fundraiser for his own reelection campaign on Oct. 8; campaign stop for successful U.S. Senate election campaign of Roy Blunt; later that same day, Jindal and family attended his brother’s wedding in St. Louis: 3 days;

• Oct. 13—Campaign rally in Tampa, Fla., for Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign: 1 day;

• Oct. 14—Fundraiser in Portsmouth, N.H., on behalf of John Stephen’s unsuccessful campaign for governor of New Hampshire. Also attended fundraiser in support of his own reelection. On Oct. 15, Jindal traveled to New York City to attend meetings of the Republican Governors’ Association: 2 days;

• Oct. 18—Fundraiser in Milwaukee in support of Ron Johnson’s successful campaign for U.S. Senate. Also traveled to Madison, WI to attend fundraiser for Scott Walker’s successful campaign for governor: 1 day;

• Oct. 21—Houston fundraiser for Bill Flores’s successful campaign for Congress: 1 day;

• Oct. 22—Pittsburgh fundraiser for Tom Corbett’s successful campaign for governor of Pennsylvania: 1 day;

• Oct. 26—Fundraiser in Hobbs for Susana Martinez’s successful campaign for governor of New Mexico: 1 day;

• Oct. 27—Newton campaign rally for Terry Branstad’s successful campaign for governor of Iowa; Milwaukee, WI, for fundraiser for Scott Walker; Homer Glen campaign appearance on behalf of unsuccessful Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady: 1 day;

• Nov. 14-23—New York City appearances on the Today Show and Fox and Friends to promote book, Leadership and Crisis. Several interviews scheduled before departing on Nov. 16 for San Diego for the Republican Governors’ Association annual conference; reelection fundraiser on Nov. 19 in Los Angeles; Nov. 20 speech at Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara before flying to Washington, D.C. for media interviews for his book. Return to Baton Rouge on Nov. 23: 8 days;

• Dec. 10—Reelection fundraiser in New York City: 1 day;

• Dec. 15-16—Two reelection fundraisers in Dallas; on Dec. 16 reelection fundraisers in San Antonio and Houston: 2 days.

The cost of all this travel? Well, it depends on where you go for answers. The report provided by Murrill indicates that $65,898.85 was spent for something. The printout itemizes 34 separate payments between Jan. 8 and Dec. 23but only three dates of those payments appear to match up with travel dates provided by Murrill.

The Associated Press, however, puts the cost at $134,000 with more than $75,000 of that amount for his own reelection fundraising appearances.

AP provided a factor that was not provided by Murrill, the cost of paying for state police protection during his trips.

At a time when statewide budget cuts have forced state police to cease training courses for new troopers, state law requires the governor to have police protection at all times, even while traveling for political campaign appearances.

One administration spokesperson said that police protection costs should not be factored in because the governor must have state police protection whether he’s traveling or in Baton Rouge.

That may be but one still has to wonder where the governor’s real priorities are these days.

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A routine opinion of the Louisiana Ethics Board has raised red flags over the involvement of former Commissioner of Administration Angelé Davis and an international public relations firm with a checkered past that wants a lucrative contract with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

Fleishman-Hillard, headquartered in St. Louis but which has more than 80 offices on six continents, apparently has partnered with Davis to take advantage of Davis’s state experience in efforts to secure a consulting contract with the board that could ultimately be worth millions of dollars.

Davis, who was appointed Commissioner of Administration by Gov. Bobby Jindal, resigned last August to accept a position with infrastructure and construction services company Arkel International of Baton Rouge. She served as deputy commissioner under former Gov. Mike Foster and headed up the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism under former Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu during the administration of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

She is still employed by Arkel, but attempts to contact her on Monday reached only her office voice mail.

Now, it seems, she has formed a company called the Davis Kelley Group to freelance efforts to negotiate with a consulting company seeking a government contract. Kelley is her husband, 19th District Judge Tim Kelley.

The Davis Kelley Group’s corporate papers were registered and filed on March 3, less than a month ago, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.

The business address of The Davis Kelley Group is the same as her and Judge Kelley’s residence, records show.

In Baton Rouge, any business run from a residence requires an occupational license. A check with the City Revenue and Taxation Office revealed no such occupational license has ever been granted to that or any other business at that address.

Davis is barred by state law from entering into contracts with state agencies for herself for a period of two years but the Ethics Board said she is not prohibited from contracting with a consulting firm that in turn is seeking such a contract.

At stake is a share of up to $15 million of the BP Oil Spill Rebranding/Market and Perception Recovery Fund established to assist the state’s seafood market in its recovery from last year’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil spewed freely from the BP Deepwater Horizon well from April 20 to Sept. 19 before the flow was finally shut off.

The Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board has issued a 95-page request for proposals (RFP) for a consulting contract to assist the board in promoting Louisiana seafood.

The submission deadline for proposals is April 3 and the deadline for reviewing the proposals is April 19.

The top three firms will make their presentations on April 25 with the final selection of a consulting firm to be made later that week, according to the RFP.

In a letter dated March 21, the Ethics Board responded to Davis’s inquiry as to the propriety of her firm providing consulting services pursuant to a proposal anticipated to be submitted by Fleishman-Hillard.

“As part of your agreement with Fleishman-Hillard, if the contract is awarded to the company, you will provide consulting services and assist the company in its contract with the….board,” the letter said.

“You also stated that you would not enter into a contract with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and would not assist Fleishman-Hillard in any transactions with the Division of Administration, an agency with whom you terminated your employment relationship as Commissioner in August 2010.”

The letter informed Davis that she was not prohibited from providing the consulting services “in the manner described” if the firm is awarded the contract.

“Since you will not be entering into a contract with a state agency or assisting Fleishman-Hillard in transactions involving the Division of Administration, the Ethics Code does not prohibit you from assisting the company if it is awarded the contract…”

Fleishman-Hillard, founded in St. Louis in 1946, has enjoyed many lucrative federal contracts, beginning with a minor $39,000 contract in 1998. From there, the firm’s federal contracts ballooned to $33.6 million the next year.

Among the federal agencies that have awarded Fleishman-Hillard contracts are the Social Security Administration, the Library of Congress, the EPA, and the Department of Defense.

But all has not been rosy with the firm’s history.

In 2005, the City of Los Angeles sued Fleishman-Hillard for flagrant overcharges to the city’s Department of Water and Power between 1998 and 2004. In 2005, the public relations firm paid the city $5.7 million to settle the litigation after one former employee testified that she routinely billed about 10 fraudulent hours per week at a rate of $180 per hour. “You had to fake your hours or you weren’t billing enough time to be profitable,” she said.

The publisher of one trade publication blamed the pressure to overbill on Omnicon, the advertising parent of Fleishman-Hillard. He described Omnicon as being “manic about max hours being billed out to clients.”

Before that, in 1990, G.P.U., the New Jersey utility that owns the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, paid Fleishman-Hillard, its only outside PR firm, about $600,000 to supplement the company’s lobbying efforts. Fleishman-Hillard was retained by Standley Hoch, who left General Dynamics Corp. to become the G.P.U. CEO. In 1991, Hoch hired Susan Schepman away from Fleishman-Hillard. Only later was it learned that the two had an intimate relationship and Schepman had influenced Hoch to hire Fleishman-Hillard while she was a Fleishman-Hillard executive responsible for the General Dynamics account during Hoch’s tenure there.

In 2008, the firm secured a contract with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to “debunk the misconception that marijuana was harmless.” That was a full one-eighty from its position seven years earlier, in 2001.

It was a 2001 promotion that led to the real damage to Fleishman-Hillard’s credibility last year when the State of Ohio awarded the PR firm a $400,000 contract to run its campaign to reduce fatal drug overdoses despite the firm’s having once been a paid consultant for Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of one of the highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin. It was in 2001 that Fleishman-Hillard spearheaded a PR campaign to convince the public and regulators of the benefits of the drug while downplaying its dangers.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma and its three CEOs, Michael Friedman, Howard Udell, and Paul Goldenheim, pleaded guilty in federal court to misleading physicians and patients about the addictive and abusive qualities of Oxycontin.

So now it all comes down to this:

A former high official in the Jindal administration and wife of a state district judge is moonlighting to take advantage of her knowledge of state government in an effort to help secure a potential multi-million-dollar contract for a firm with a past record of overbilling, conflicts of interest, back-door deals, and questionable PR campaigns to promote a dangerous drug.

But, hey! It’s just another day at the office in Louisiana state government.

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