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Archive for November, 2015

The Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) has called a board of directors meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, LouisianaVoice has learned and the issue of the LSTA’s lobbying Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards to reappoint State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson “may be on the table.”

At the same time, LouisianaVoice has learned that some LSTA members are requesting withdrawal of their membership in the organization in protest to LSTA’s involving itself in first endorsing Edwards prior to his runoff election victory over U.S. Sen. David Vitter and more recently by the proposed lobbying of Edwards for Edmonson’s re-appointment.

Several members made it clear that the issue was not with Edwards, but over the LSTA’s involving itself in politics—particularly in doing so without polling LSTA’s 950 active members. The organization had never endorsed a political candidate at any level prior to its endorsement of Edwards. They said they likewise objected to the proposal to send a letter requesting that Edwards appoint Edmonson to another four-year term as State Police Superintendent.

Because there was no agenda posted for the Monday meeting, at least one retired LSTA member feels the lack of an agenda and the timing of the meeting (on the Monday following a holiday) may be an “extortion trick to get active board members who under their (LSTA’s) thumb to vote without putting an agenda out to the retirees.”

LouisianaVoice last week obtained a copy of an email poll sent mostly to members of Louisiana State Police (LSP) Troop L. The poll contained only a single question: “Do you want the LSTA to write a letter to the governor asking that we retain our current colonel?” https://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/25/lsta-proposes-asking-edwards-to-reappoint-edmonson-troop-i-members-demand-lsta-presidents-resignation/

That email was sent by incoming LSTA President Jay O’Quinn who is presently the Troop L LSTA Affiliate President. He will succeed Frank Besson in January. Besson was recently promoted to captain’s rank. No state trooper with a rank higher than lieutenant may serve as president of LSTA.

LSTA is a fraternal organization representing men and women of LSP and its membership is comprised of approximately 97 percent of the commissioned officers as well as a substantial percentage of state police retirees.

There currently are 950 active members and 550 retired members. Membership dues for active members are $30 per month and $15 per month for retirees (no dues for those ages 65 or over), giving the organization an annual budget of at least $400,000 just from membership dues.

Among the benefits enjoyed by members and retirees are life insurance coverage, dental and vision plans and eligibility for the Honor Fund and Benefit Fund for additional dues. LSTA also enjoys “legislative support” as an alternative to a state police union.

But growing discontent over LSTA’s first-ever endorsement of a political candidate and now efforts to lobby on Edmonson’s behalf have resulted in some members cancelling their membership. In addition, LouisianaVoice has been told there has been increased discussion of state troopers leaving LSTA en masse and forming a state police affiliate of the Fraternal Order of Police.

One source has indicated the endorsement of Edwards came down the chain of command from Edmonson, though Edmonson, in a telephone call to LouisianaVoice last week, denied that he had anything to do with it.

LouisianaVoice reported last week that some members of Troop I in Lafayette had reportedly demanded the resignation of both LSTA President O’Quinn and Executive Director David Young over the Edwards endorsement.

Young, however, was said to have been opposed to and to have advised against both the Edwards endorsement and the email poll promoting the sending of a letter to Edwards asking him to re-appoint Edmonson.

A copy of the minutes of the Nov. 17 LSTA Troop I Affiliate meeting reveals the simmering resentment among rank and file officers over the endorsement and subsequent proposal for the letter. Two major questions, which to date have gone unanswered, were posed to board members:

  • Can a vote be taken over the phone with there being no minutes?
  • If the endorsement was so important that the board members were called on the phone for an immediate vote, why wasn’t it on the agenda or brought up at the board meeting?

The minutes also reflect that members requested a copy of the letter asking Edwards to re-appoint Edmonson as well as a copy of the minutes of the previous board meeting, supposedly to learn if a vote was taken on the board’s actions.

Here is a copy of the LSTA BOARD MINUTES FOR NOV. 17, 2015

 

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Those Duck Dynasty folks up in West Monroe are riding their gravy train for all it’s worth, scoring a $415,000 tax break every time one of their sappy episodes airs, lavishing the kiss of death (disguised as endorsements) on unsuspecting politicians hoping to capitalize off their name, bashing anyone who happens to think or act differently, licensing merchandise, and demanding exorbitant fees for personal appearances.

Take Vance McAllister, the notorious kissing congressman endorsed by the Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family in his initial run against State Sen. Neil Riser. He won that race but was out a year later, disgraced by that grainy video of him swapping chewing gum with a female staffer who happened not to be his wife.

Then there was the entire Robertson family making nice with Bobby Jindal during the latter’s disastrous term as part-time governor and presidential nominee wannabe.

More recently, Willie Robertson made that painful but hilarious video with U.S. Sen. Dave Vitter in which Robertson tried to convince us (a) that the two had been traipsing about in the woods together (Vitter was in a camo top but was also wearing pressed slacks and a dress belt—not really conducive to stalking wildlife but apparently suitable for a cheesy video) and (b) to be sure and vote for Vitter who Willie said had made mistakes “but who hasn’t?”

McAllister first lost his re-election bid for a full term in Congress last year and this year lost in his attempt to unseat State Sen. Mike Walsworth in the Oct. 24 primary election. Meanwhile,  Jindal and Vitter last week tanked just days apart, underscoring the value of a Duck Dynasty endorsement.

By my count, that puts the Duck commanders at 0-3, which pretty much tracks Phil Robertson’s career as the Louisiana Tech quarterback back in the late ‘60s. I know. I was sports editor of the Ruston Daily Leader at the time and had the unenviable task of trying to write something positive about that Shreveport Thanksgiving Day game in 1966 when Phil completed more passes to Southern Mississippi defensive backs than to Tech receivers.

But now it’s been learned—if it wasn’t known already—that the Duck boys are mercenary money grubbers on top of everything else.

Recently, I accompanied my grandson to Louisiana Tech to tour the campus where he intends to enroll next year. We were paired with a couple from St. Charles Parish whose daughter also plans on joining the computer engineering program there. Her dad and I struck up a conversation during the tour and the talk soon turned to sports and politics as it generally does with men. An executive in the offshore oil industry, he made it clear he was a fan of neither Jindal nor Vitter.

When I mentioned the common affiliation the two had with the Robertsons, he grunted and related a story about how he was charged with obtaining a celebrity guest for the St. Charles Parish Catfish Festival a couple of years ago.

With the Robertsons riding the crest of their popularity, the choice was a natural one. He called them to obtain the particulars of booking one or more Robertson family members for the event.

“They wanted $100,000 as their fee, plus luxury hotel accommodations and luxury transportation to the Monroe airport and from Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans to the festival,” he said, adding, “We don’t even have a luxury hotel in St. Charles.”

I opined that the fee they were demanding told me one of two things: They are either full of themselves or they just didn’t want to participate.

“I think they were full of themselves,” he replied, “but if they didn’t want to do it, they sure got their way. I fell out with Phil Robertson right then and there.”

Apparently a tax break of up to $415,000 per show even as state colleges took repeated budget cuts just isn’t enough. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-04/-duck-dynasty-keeps-tax-break-as-jindal-cuts-louisiana-colleges

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JINDAL'S LEGACYWith appreciation to our mystery cartoonist

(Click on image to enlarge)

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The fallout from the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association’s (LTSA) endorsement of John Bel Edwards for governor continues with a succession of late-breaking developments, LouisianaVoice has learned.

An undetermined number of troopers from Troop I have reportedly demanded the resignation of LTSA president Jay O’Quinn and David Young, the organization’s executive director, over the endorsement.

Troop I, headquartered in Lafayette, encompasses 5,686 square miles and 8,586 highway miles in eight parishes: Lafayette, Evangeline, St. Landry, Acadia, St. Martin, Vermilion, Iberia and St. Mary.

“It’s not that I don’t support Edwards, because I do,” said one state trooper following last week’s endorsement shortly before the general election that pitted Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter against Democrat State Rep. John Bel Edwards. “I’ve never seen the state police turned into such a political machine,” he added.

As evidence of the LSTA’s morphing into a “political machine,” LouisianaVoice has obtained an email from O’Quinn to select state troopers in which he asked the membership to vote on a proposal that the LSTA write a letter to Edwards requesting that State Police Commander Mike Edmonson be retained in the new administration.

Such a letter would clearly fall under the description of lobbying, something state civil service employees are strictly forbidden from doing.

Edwards easily defeated Vitter by a 56-44 percentage point vote and will be inaugurated governor on Jan. 11.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has learned that the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association is also supporting Edmonson’s reappointment as head of state police.

O’Quinn only recently was elevated to the LSTA presidency after past president Frank Besson was promoted to captain’s rank. No one with a rank above lieutenant may serve as president of the association.

As executive director of the organization, Young essentially serves a paid lobbyist for state police, a perk not afforded state civil service employees. He called the endorsement of Edwards “rare” for the organization, but others are calling it a precedent.

A separate source said that Young had nothing to do with the email and in fact was opposed to and advised against the earlier endorsement of Edwards.

And while state police are not civil service employees in the strictest sense of the term, there is a well-defined list of activities in which they are prohibited from participating. These include:

  • Soliciting votes or contributions for any political candidate, organization or cause.
  • Making political contributions.
  • Making a public political statement or address.
  • Wearing a campaign badge, ribbon, or insignia.
  • Distributing political campaign cards, posters or buttons.
  • Attending a social function which is designed as a fund raiser where a contribution or ticket is required, even if a ticket is offered to the employee free of charge.
  • Becoming a candidate for office, serving as a member of any political committee or taking part in the management of a political party or organization.
  • Publicly displaying political literature, placards, bumper stickers or signs in or on any personal property (except by non-civil service employed spouse on community property).
  • Actively participating in an effort to recall from office an elected official (other than by signing a recall petition).
  • Becoming a candidate for any state, parish, municipal or other political office (other than position of classified employee serving on state civil service commission).

 

O’Quinn, in his email to the membership, wrote:

As we move forward, I would like your input on a potential issue. We have a board meeting next week, and this topic may be on the table since it has been discussed before. Please reply via email and let me know how you vote. Also, please spread the word to other affiliate members so they can vote if they choose. My email is jayoquinn@bellsouth.net. I will take votes until next Sunday, December 6. I will then let you know the results and vote accordingly if this issue arises.

Here is the question. Are you in favor or opposed to the LSTA writing a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards asking Governor Edwards to retain Colonel Edmonson in his current position? Put another way for clarification: Do you want the LSTA to write a letter to the Governor asking that we retain our current Colonel?

I prefer email because it’s easier to keep track, but I won’t disclose how any single individual voted, nor are you required to vote at all. Please respond. Thanks.

Jay

 

“I am hearing that 85 percent of the troopers do not want Edmonson to stay,” our source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “I am also hearing (that) Edmonson asked for the LSTA to send the letter,” he added. (Edmonson recently was reported to have said those who speak to or comment on LouisianaVoice anonymously were “cowards,” but with several examples of reprisals already being reported, anonymity is understandable.)

The second source said the email, which was sent mostly to members of Troop L in Mandeville, was not composed by O’Quinn but that it originated with Edmonson and came down through the chain of command to be sent out over his name.

Edmonson, for his part, denied that he had anything to do with the LSTA endorsement of Edwards or that he initiated the effort to send the letter. He also said he had never called anyone a coward. “It’s no secret that I would like another four years at my job,” he said, “but I would never ask someone to write a letter like that or to do anything on my behalf. This has to be the governor’s decision and I would never attempt to influence him in such a way.”

“As for O’Quinn saying he won’t disclose how anyone votes, that’s a joke and it’s precisely the reason that very few troopers will even respond,” the first source said. “They know full well if they vote ‘no,’ it will come back to bite them.

“I hope Edwards won’t buckle to pressure in his decision on a state police commander,” he added. “Politics does not need to be a consideration in this process and this solicitation of a vote to send the proposed letter is blatant politics at its very worst.”

 

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The numbers just don’t add up.

  • $130,000: The annual salary for the Louisiana governor;
  • 48,014: The number of broadcast TV ads for the four major candidates for governor through Nov. 16, 2015;
  • 24,007: The number of minutes of TV ads we were subjected to through Nov. 16 (at an average length of 30 seconds per ad);
  • 400: The total number of hours of TV ads for governor through Nov. 16;
  • 16.67: The number of days it would have taken you to watch every single ad through Nov. 16;
  • $17,333,920: The total cost of the 48,014 TV ads for the four major gubernatorial candidates (No wonder that Baton Rouge TV station fired the reporter who dared ask Vitter about his prostitution scandal; the station stood to lose lucrative ad revenue from the Vitter camp);
  • 13,654: The number ads purchased directly by David Vitter’s campaign (6,827 minutes, 113.8 hours, 4.7 full days of ads;
  • $3,816,660: Total cost of TV ads purchased by Vitter’s campaign;
  • 6,771: Number of ads purchased by Fund for Louisiana’s Future on behalf of Vitter (and make no mistake, while super PACs are prohibited from planning strategy or even consulting with a candidate, they can trash opponents freely and FLF trashed everyone but Vitter—3,385 minutes, 56 hours, 2.4 days);
  • $3,185,640: The cost of TV ads purchased by FLF through Nov. 16;
  • 9,259: Number of ads purchased by John Bel Edwards campaign (4,629 minutes, 77 hours, 3.2 days)
  • $2,675,600: Cost of TV ads purchased by John Bel Edwards;
  • 2,315: Number of TV ads purchased by Gumbo PAC on behalf of Edwards (1,157 minutes, 19.3 hours, .8 days)
  • $1,204,010: Cost of TV ads purchased by Gumbo PAC, the bulk of which was purchased after the Oct. 24 open primary;
  • 4,679: Number of TV ads purchased by Scott Angelle through Oct. 24 (2,340 minutes, 39 hours, 1.6 days)
  • $1,528,340: Cost of TV ads purchased by Scott Angelle;
  • 3,968: Number of TV ads purchased by Jay Dardenne through Oct. 24 (1,984 minutes, 33 hours, 1.4 days)
  • $1,285,380: Total cost of TV ads purchased by Jay Dardenne;
  • 7,368: Total number of TV ads purchased by smaller PACs (3,684 minutes, 61.4 hours, 2.6 days)
  • 0: The number of ads, the minutes, hours and days and the cost of TV ads in which any of the four candidates actually discussed their plans for resolving the multitude of problems facing Louisiana in public education, higher education, health care, prison reform, employment, coastal restoration and preservation, the environment, the economy, the state budget, or infrastructure.

And therein lies the real shame of the 2015 gubernatorial election.

With so much at stake for the state and with more than 16 full days of TV ad time in which to address our problems, not a word was said by any candidate about what he intended to do to turn this state around after eight years of the amateurish experimental governance of one Bobby Jindal that has brought us to the brink of ruin.

I repeat. Not a single word.

Instead, we were treated to a never-ending barrage of:

  • David Vitter is a snake for his tryst(s) with one or more hookers and is not only despised in the U.S. Senate but is largely an ineffective senator;
  • David Vitter betrayed his family 15 years ago but has been forgiven by his wife and has fought valiantly in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Louisiana’s citizens;
  • John Bel Edwards is joined at the hip with President Obama and desires to turn 5,500 hardened Angola convicts loose to prey on our citizenry;
  • John Bell Edwards has an unblemished record of achievement as evidenced by his graduation from West Point and his subsequent leadership role in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne and has fought Bobby Jindal’s disastrous programs for eight years.

As the voters of this state who have to make a decision tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 21), we are tired—tired of the negative campaigning, tired of the distortions of records and outright lies about opposing candidates, tired of the endless succession of robocalls that give us not a live person with whom we can debate issues, but a recording that pitches one candidate’s positives over another’s negatives. (It’s just not the same when we curse and scream our frustrations at a recording.) We deserved better from all the candidates. We got a campaign long on accusations, name-calling and finger-pointing and one woefully short on solutions.

And lest readers think I am directing all of my disdain at the gubernatorial candidates, let me assure you I am not. I have equal contempt for the legislature, PACs and corporate power brokers.

Consider for a moment how approximately $31 million (that’s the total cost of this year’s governor’s race when all media advertising—radio, newspaper, robocalls and mail-outs, along with campaign staff and assorted expenses—are factored in) could have been put to better use. http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/13971699-123/louisiana-governor-race-spending-close

True, $31 million isn’t much when the state is looking at yet another $500 million budgetary shortfall, but every little bit helps. These donors, so concerned about the governor’s race, could, for example, feed a lot of homeless people or purchase quite a few text books for our schools. I’m just sayin’….

Most of that money, of course, is from PACs, the single worst plague ever visited upon a democratic society. PACs, with their unrestricted advertising expenditures, along with large corporate donors who also manage to circumvent the campaign contribution ceilings, remove the small contributors and the average citizen from the representation equation.

And why do they pour money into these campaigns? For benevolence, for the advancement of good, clean, honest government.

You can check that box no. It’s for the same reason they pay millions of dollars to lobbyists.

If you really want to know their motivation, just take a look at the list of state contracts http://wwwprd.doa.louisiana.gov/latrac/contracts/contractSearch.cfm or the impressive list of appointments to state boards and commissions.

Our thanks to the Center for Public Integrity for providing us with the television advertising cost breakdowns for the candidates and the various PACs. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/10/01/18101/2015-state-ad-wars-tracker

 

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