What is the difference between “Louisiana Believes” and Believe in Louisiana?
Basically, the former is a catchy slogan employed by the Louisiana Department of Education to promote a myriad of educational reforms initiated by Gov. π-yush Jindal while the latter is a 527 tax-exempt political organization about which precious little is known.
Believe in Louisiana appears to be little more than a tax-exempt propaganda machine for Jindal’s legislative package, particularly as it pertains to education. In fact, it would seem that not much originality went into coming up with the slogan “Louisiana Believes.”
The Academy of Training Schools, Nature’s Best, Progressive Buildings and Progressive Merchants, all located at the same address as several other businesses owned by Chester Lee Mallett of Iowa, combined to contribute $9,000 to Believe in Louisiana, founded by Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolf McCollister.
McCollister was Jindal’s campaign chairman in his successful 2007 run for governor and served as chairperson of Jindal’s transition team. Julio Melara, president of the Baton Rouge Business Report, was appointed by Jindal to the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District (Louisiana Superdome) Board in February 2008, a month after Jindal first took office.
Mallet, for his part, was recently named by Jindal to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Though not legally required to reveal the identities of its contributors, Believe in Louisiana, in a self-proclaimed nod toward transparency, lists more than 400 persons or organizations who contributed more than $1.6 million in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
Of that amount, some $512,000, or 32 percent, was contributed by persons or entities outside Louisiana. The largest such contribution was $225,000 by Advocates for School Choice of Washington, D.C.
Other major contributors to Believe in Louisiana include:
• Ashbritt, Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida ($75,000);
• ABC Pelican PAC ($25,000);
• FVE Investments of Alexandria ($25,000);
• Louisiana Manufacturers PAC of Baton Rouge ($25,000);
Even more revealing, however, is the list of expenditures by Believe in Louisiana.
Of the $1.5 million spent by the organization, $1.3 million, or 86.7 percent, was spent out of state.
That’s 86.7 percent of all expenditures that an organization ironically calling itself Believe in Louisiana spent out of state.
How is it that an organization can refer to itself as Believe in Louisiana while keeping only 13.3 percent of its costs in-state?
The best explanation might lie in the fact that of that $1.3 million spent outside Louisiana’s borders, almost $1.2 million went to an outfit called OnMessage of Alexandria, Virginia, and Crofton, Maryland.
Last October, OnMessage announced that Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s re-election campaign manager and his former chief of staff, was joining the consulting firm as a partner and head of its new Southern office in Baton Rouge.
To date, OnMessage has no Baton Rouge address nor does it have a local telephone listing. Moreover, Teepell has maintained a high profile in the governor’s office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol and even retains a reserved parking spot in the Capitol rear parking lot.
From Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, 2011 (after Teepell left the governor’s office), Jindal’s campaign paid Teepell more than $50,600 in four separate payments.
During that same period, Jindal’s campaign paid OnMessage more than $110,000.
In March of this year, however, Believe in Louisiana paid OnMessage $456,551, ostensibly for such expenses as media production, media buys and polling and research.
Skeptics might be prone to wonder why nearly a half-million dollars in polling, research, media production and media buys would be necessary six months after Jindal’s re-election. But not us. We would certainly never suggest that this was a ruse to disguise payments to Teepell. The most ethical administration in Louisiana history would certainly never stoop to such tactics.
Contributors to Believe in Louisiana who also contributed to Jindal’s political campaigns—with their corresponding contributions to Jindal’s political campaigns in parentheses are as follows:
• Allen Dickson of Shreveport: $5,000 ($77,000 by Dickson, family members and his wholesale pharmaceutical company);
• Aubrey Temple of Deridder: $5,000 ($15,000);
• Bob Perry of Houston: $50,000 ($15,000);
• Brentwood Health Management of Shreveport: $5,000 ($15,000);
• Brookwood Properties of Baton Rouge: $5,000 ($5,000);
• Centene Management Co. of St. Louis: $50,000 ($5,000);
• Central Management of Winnfield: $42,000 ($5,000);
• Dave Roberts of Prairieville: $10,000 ($10,000);
• David Voelker of New Orleans: $25,000 ($50,000 by Voelker, family members and Voelker’s companies;
• E.G. Beebe of Ridgeland, Mississippi: $20,000 ($20,000);
• Edward Diefenthal of Metairie: $100,000 ($30,000 by Diefenthal, his wife and his company, The Woodvine Group);
• Florida Marine of Mandeville: $10,000 ($5,000);
• Gary Chouest of Cut-Off: $20,000 ($91,500 by Chouest, family members and various businesses;
• Donald Bollinger of Lockport: $125,000 ($62,850 by Bollinger, family members and various businesses;
• Joseph Canizaro of New Orleans: $100,000 ($45,000);
• Keith Van Meter of New Orleans: $10,000 ($17,000);
• Lane Grigsby of Baton Rouge: $10,000 ($7,000);
• Lee Domingue of Baton Rouge: $100,000 ($7,000 from Domingue and his business, AppOne);
• Madden Contracting of Minden: $25,000 ($37,500);
• Nexion Health in 13 different locations: $3,250 ($71,000);
• Phyllis Taylor of New Orleans: $50,000 ($15,000);
• Robert Yarborough of Baton Rouge: $7,700 ($33,584);
• Rolfe McCollister of Baton Rouge: $4,100 ($21,000);
• Ryan Corp. or Dallas: $50,000 ($25,000);
• Southern Recycling of New Orleans: $10,000 ($25,000);
• USAA of San Antonio: $25,000 ($10,000);
• Bill Dore of Lake Charles: $100,000 ($25,000).
• Amedisys Medical Services of Baton Rouge: $25,000 ($11,000);
Besides the contributions to both Believe in Louisiana and contributions to Jindal’s campaigns, some of the contributors, professional associates or family members have been rewarded with plum committee and board appointments. These include:
• Lee Mallett, LSU Board of Supervisors;
• Yarborough, LSU Board of Supervisors;
• Charlotte Bollinger of Lockport, Board of Regents for Higher Education;
• Paul Dickson of Shreveport, University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors;
• Dave Roberts, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome) Board;
• Julio Melara of Baton Rouge, president of the Baton Rouge Business Report, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Board;
• Bill Windham of Bossier City, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Board;
• Aubrey Temple of Deridder, Coastal Protection and Restoration Financing Corp.